The Wallpaper War

I obviously wasn't very proud of the wallpaper in the dining room, this was the only picture I could find of it. It was hideous. Off white with flecks of orange and green.

Defeat is near.  When Justin and I moved in to this house 6 years ago, it had 4 wallpapered rooms, plus one huge wallpapered hallway.  Not to mention the rooms without wallpaper needed attention too.   There are few things in this world I hate, but wall paper is definitely on that list.  It’s ugly.  It’s hard to remove.  It’s hard to put up.  Once it’s damaged, there is no fixing it.  But, mostly, it is ugly.

So I waged a one-woman war against that wall paper.  It has taken several years and multiple reinforcements  to defeat, but, we are now down to one room (the laundry room) left.  It may be awhile before that one gets attacked.

Just yesterday I declared victory on the dining room. The dining room was the longest fought battle to date.  I started scraping the paper back in September, in a flash of ambition, thinking I’d get it done before harvest got in to full swing.  Well, needless to say that didn’t happen.

So, A few Sundays ago, I resolved not to decorate for Christmas until the dining room could be put back together.  It was just the motivation I needed.  After church I started scraping.  Justin was in that house that afternoon, and started helping me.

He asked, “So when do you hope to be done with this?”

“I’m not stopping until all the paper is down.  You and the kids are on your own until then.”  I had been possessed.

“Yeah, right.  We’ll be here until 3AM.” Was his reply.

“Oh, that’s a challenge.  We’ll be done by 9 tonight.”  We are both the oldest siblings in our respective families.  This provides for some pretty competitive moments between the two of us.  It was on.

We started scraping and spraying water like our lives depended on it.  Over the course of this war, I have learned exactly what works:

Supplies needed:

You really don't need much to remove wallpaper. A hand pump sprayer, vinegar, a ladder, scrapers, hot water, and dish soap.

Step one:  Put down drop cloths or plastic sheets to protect the floor.  Consider covering up wood work (I never did this, and my wood work was fine.)  Scrape off what wallpaper comes off dry easily.  Don’t kill yourself.  Score what doesn’t come off.  Drag the garbage can along with you and throw away what you can.  Employ your 4-year-old to pick up what falls.

Step two:  Mix up hot water and one or two cups vinegar in sprayer.  Soak a 5×5 foot section of paper.  Allow it to set while you soak the next 5×5 section.  Come back to the first section and re-soak.  Repeat as often as needed.  The more soaked the paper the easier it will come off.

Step three (a):  Scrape paper off.  Re-soak tough spots as needed.  Throw bits in garbage as you go, makes clean up much easier.  Wet wallpaper is very sticky, and even adheres to surfaces as it dries, just keep this in mind.  The bottoms of your shoes and the ladder steps can get pretty gummy. You don’t need to scrape every single bit off.  But try to remove anything bigger than 1/2 inch squared.

Step three (b):  Sit down, put your feet up, and drink a beer (or glass of milk…whatever you’ve got in the fridge.) You have earned it!

Step four (a):  Wash the walls.  Mix up a hot water, dish soap, and vinegar mixture in the sprayer.  Spray the walls in manageable sections.  Use an old washrag or sponge and pail filled with the same mixture you have in the sprayer to scrub the walls.  Rinse your sponge or washrag often, and change the water in the pail often too.

Step four (b): Repeat step three (b) Admire the beauty of naked plaster.

Step five:  Clean up.  Pick up and dispose as much of the paper as possible.  For the little bits that make it into the carpet, it is best to let them dry for a day or two then vacuum them up.  Be sure to empty the vacuum’s bag or canister often.  You may need to make multiple trips and use an attachment to vacuum the corners.

Step six.  Patch any cracks in the plaster.  Apply painters tape to protect woodwork if so desired.  Sometimes I do this, and sometimes I don’t.  There are advantages and disadvantages both ways.  If you don’t have a very steady hand for trim work, then go with the painter’s tape.  Just make sure to remove it in a timely fashion, and still be somewhat careful when painting, or you’ll have a nasty mess on your hands.

Step seven: When patching plaster is dry, apply a good quality latex primer to all exposed plaster.  You can’t cheat and use the new paint with primer mixed in.  The plaster just sucks up too much and it won’t look good.

Step eight: When primer is dry, paint walls as desired.  I recommend Valspar Medallion with the primer in it.  It says it should be one-coat, but again, the plaster really sucks up the paint, even primered plaster, and you may need to touch up some spots.

And here's the after. FYI, my camera stinks and it really doesn't do the color justice at all.

So, there you have it.  Oh, and by the way, I totally won the bet with Justin.  All the wallpaper was down by 8:00 that night.  He should really know better than to underestimate me.  🙂

Another pic of the finished project, again, it's not really that pink. It's a deep, earthy sort of red. Valspar's "flaming sunset" to be exact.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. You are so lucky! That was our plan for the house, but it turned out that the wallpaper was holding the plaster up. Ugh.

    Your dining room looks great!

  2. Oh my! I was just having a conversation about wallpaper this morning-our house is covered in it. Covered I tell you, many lovely floral prints, some with a special shine on some flowers. Mercy! My job is to try and tackle some of the plaid kitchen with the floral border, it does take ever so long! I can’t wait to have clean walls with fresh paint…..mmmmmmmmm……….

    The home looks AWESOME! So satisfying, eh?

  3. Posted by Wayne on December 12, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    I really like step 3(b). Nice job!

  4. Posted by Sue C on December 14, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Way better Liz! Now I have to come down to see!

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