Thursday, September 29, 2016

Wallpaper Removal. Is It Worth It?

Or More Like What Worked and What Didn't.

One of the first and most daunting tasks a lot of people face when they first move into an older home is what to do with the wallpaper. For most people, living with it just isn't an option. Wallpaper preferences are not only deeply personal, but trends come and go so quickly, it gets outdated pretty quickly.

When we moved into our 1974 house, there were six different wallpapers in the house and I wasn't going to keep any of them.

1. Rip off what you can.

Sounds like common sense, and it really is. If it's possible, do it. Some of the wallpaper in our house had been there so long and the air so dry, that it was practically falling off the wall as it was. THAT was awesome! In the living room, where an entire "focal" wall was papered, it came off in huge strips--like a quarter of the wall at once. My son and I had so much fun!

But even if it doesn't come off in large pieces, it's easier and cleaner than anything else.

While monotonous, pulling off pieces was highly satisfying when you get a large chunk. I started to feel like I was playing Minesweeper. In the picture above, you can see by the shadow that it isn't stuck, so I would tug on that part, and sometimes I'd get a big piece to come off, and others it would be disappointingly small.

What didn't come off easily, I tried to pry off with a scraper. NOT a good idea as it left pits and scratches and even huge gouges. Which meant that I would need to repair the wall before painting it.

2. Spray with Mixture of Laundry Detergent and Water

I wasn't very exact when I mixed this up. You could probably find a "recipe" somewhere online if you're worried about it, but I think I did about equal parts liquid laundry detergent and water in a spray bottle. After letting it sit only a few minutes, the liquid penetrated and the wallpaper was easily scraped off the walls.

The biggest problem with that--there was an awful residue left behind. I ended up washing it with a mild dish washing liquid and water mixture until the sticky was gone, and then rinsing with pure water. It took a little work to get rid of the slippery soapy feel and the sticky wallpaper paste residue.

3. Roll-On Wall Texture Paint

Looking for an easy way to texture the walls where I'd removed the wallpaper, I decided to try out wall texture paint. Instead of adding texture to the paint, I purchased a pre-mixed roll-on texture. I wouldn't recommend it. We tried to apply it with both the recommended texture roller, which made for very close, very rough peaks, and a regular paint roller, which still looked awful.

Not sure what I did wrong, but the texture paint didn't create an appealing look.

Not only that, but it didn't stick well at all. (Which may have been due to the laundry detergent trick.)

So I just tried to scrape it all off the wall so I could start over.

4. Forget What I Said and Do This Instead!

What I learned from this project was that the easiest solution is to rent a hopper and texture over the existing wallpaper. Period.

When we realized how long this process had taken just for a small bathroom (out of three) and one focal wall when we had entire entryway and breakfast room still to go, we knew something else needed to be done.

Enter hopper and texture. As in the kind you mix yourself and spray onto the walls. We rented a hopper from our local home improvement store, bought some of the dry texture, mixed it up, and were on our way.

Well, okay, so it wasn't quite that easy--we had to do a lot of prep. Most of the time it took us to do this project was in masking off light switches and wall outlets, as well as draping windows and doorways. And of course, you need to protect your floors as well, except that we were planning on replacing our carpet, so we only had to protect the floors in a couple of the rooms.

Prepping for texture. That took the most time.

The hopper was easy to use and it only took a few hours to do all the rooms versus the days I'd already spent trying to remove the wallpaper in the two rooms I'd started on. It was so worth it!

Be warned though, it is a very messy, fun, two-person job--which is why I didn't get pictures taken. Sorry about that. But it was so nice. My husband sprayed and I followed behind, lightly knocking down the texture with a knockdown knife. One tip about using the knife, you will need to make sure you wipe if off every time and look out for build-up that can leave lines in your texture.

One thing I loved--we didn't remove the wallpaper border, but with the texture, you couldn't even tell one was there under the texture.

The same wall in previous pictures.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Adventures in Insulation

We'd never done it before, though we've lived in several houses that could have used it. But in this 1974 house, it couldn't be ignored. The house had almost NO attic insulation left. What was there had compressed so much, it only measured a couple of inches in most spots. As in two inches--nowhere near where it should be.

So we decided blowing in attic insulation would be high on our priority list in renovating this house. We moved in at the beginning of the summer, and in Texas, there was no way I was going to send my husband up into the attic in the sweltering heat, possibly to never find him alive again. (And I wasn't volunteering myself, that's for sure!) We did, however, want it done before winter.

Phase one of the project involved my husband installing an attic pull-down ladder. Instead of expanding the woefully tiny attic access that only the circus tall-man could have slipped his skinny little body through, he chose to create a new space where the ladder could be easily accessed and sturdily attached to the ceiling joists. (Later he did trim out the hole so it doesn't look quite this rough.)


Once we had comfortable attic access, we scheduled the day for blowing insulation. The first Friday evening in October, we prepared everything we needed. By purchasing the insulation from Lowe's, we were able to borrow the hopper free of charge for 24-hours (with a ten package minimum purchase, which was about a quarter of the amount we used). Using charts we found online and in the store, we calculated the number of "bales" we thought we needed for the size of our home and the existing amount of insulation, and loaded our garage for an early morning.

Not having any idea how long this little project would take us, we got up at dawn-thirty on a cool Saturday morning and hoped we wouldn't make too many enemies in our neighborhood with our racket. We hooked up the hopper--which consisted of plugging it in and dragging the hose up the attic ladder to the furthest point in the attic.

My job was easy: making sure the hopper didn't get low. So basically, I just fed the monster all day long. It was noisy and dirty and completely boring. Pretty much almost as soon as I opened the plastic and pulled off chunks of the insulation (which came off rather easily) and dropped them into the churning hopper. I was pretty happy with the insulation we chose. It was clean and easy to use, and the hopper never got stuck.

My husband's job was just a tiny bit harder, but mostly on his knees and his head. His mission was to wrangle the hose, angling it over our cathedral ceiling and into each crevice, while simultaneously making sure not to fall between the ceiling joists. All the while, he needed to remember to make sure his head didn't get snagged on the roofing nails that jutted out like a medieval torture device.

It took approximately 7 hours and 39 packages of the GreenFiber R-13 to R-60 to insulate our home. One of the easiest (says me, who only had to stand there) and most effective projects to date.

You Will Also Need:

Make sure each of you also has a good air mask and goggles (personally, I would spring for the anti-fog variety so you can actually see what you're doing).

And a MUST for the person in the attic: a headlamp for hands-free light!

Tip I wish we'd been smart enough to consider:

Make sure to do any electrical work BEFORE doing this. We are still planning to install recessed lights in the kitchen. Now hubby will have to dig through his hard work in the attic to get access. Eh, but why make it easy on him, right?