My wife and I have been happily married for over 20 years. We have had maybe two or three major fights. She’s an amazing woman, and we have an incredible relationship. So, when I say “major” that usually means when I have said something stupid or forgotten something. In this wallpaper installation example…it was a mix of both.
The setting was the powder room of our first house. I didn’t even know what a powder room was, but I knew it was small, there was a toilet in it, and that she bought wallpaper that was probably worth $300 in value for this tiny room. At the time and still to this day, that was an enormous amount of money. It was not a big house, but we loved it. In those days, you needed 20% of the value of the house to put down as a deposit. We were stewards with our money, and we saved and saved to put down the deposit for over 2 years. At the end of the day, we didn’t easily have another $300 for a home improvement project.
When the $300 wallpaper arrived, I remember handling it like it was some precious china doll. The thought of screwing up and re-ordering was leading to a very heightened discussion on how to hang the wallpaper. In 2000, the internet was not the treasure trove that it is now. The ridiculous instructions that came with it seemed to be in three point font.There was a 1-800 number attached, but of course they were closed on Saturday. We were left on our own to hang the $300 wallpaper.
The first thing we had to do was buy the proper “sizing” materials from the hardware store. This was the 3rd trip to the store. The first two trips were to the wallpaper store to buy the right wallpaper we could agree upon. The walls needed to be primed or sized prior to wallpaper installation. Once that dried, it was time to glue the wallpaper and install it. To properly glue it, we needed a special wallpaper trough and, of course, a special applicator, a special glue/water type substance, and a special sponge.
Well, to make a long story short, once all of these special items were purchased (at least two more trips to store) my blood pressure was soaring and tensions were high. It was time to hang it. We quickly learned we had no idea what we were doing. It turned into a helpless mess as one of us had to hold it up while the other lined up the floral pattern using the age-old technique of standing behind your spouse screaming at him/her to move it up or down as the special glue oozes everywhere. The pattern must connect, and one must keep the pattern steady. Otherwise, all of your friends will suffer from seizures as they use your bathroom. Oh, I almost forgot, someone gets the distinct responsibility to take a special razor sharp knife (5th trip to store), and calmly, yet precisely, cut the paper around every window, door, light switch, or break in the wall.
My strong suggestion: never attempt this activity without clear expectations on costs, installation procedures, and the time needed.
To remove wallpaper, it is almost even worse. First you have to determine if the previous installation even did a sizing or primer on the walls. The only way to do this is to grab some of the loose pieces and see how it pulls. If they didn’t prime it, the wallpaper will come off one small strip at a time. This is the equivalent of painting an entire wall with a 2” paint brush.
Our process for wallpaper removal is old fashioned elbow grease, water, and a scraper. There are heating guns and machines out there, but most of the time it can be easily removed. Once it’s removed, the real work begins. Roswell and Lawrenceville is where we see the most wallpaper jobs, and most of them require flat surface walls at the end. We need to prime, mud, sand, prime again, and then possibly mud some more to re-build the smooth wall. The painting is easy. The smoothing or skimming of walls is what takes a lot of time. Bubbles might appear in the mud after we have primed, so it takes a lot of time to get it just right. It also makes a good mess as drywall dust gets into the air and lingers for a week or two. We do our best to clean up after ourselves, but usually customers have a full house cleaning after a Five Star Painting visit.
There have been times that we were able to paint over wallpaper, but we don’t suggest it and usually end up taking it down regardless.
If you have a wallpaper problem hanging or taking down, we suggest contacting a professional company like Five Star Painting. You buy the paper, and let us worry about the rest.
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Contributed by Scott Specker, owner Five Star Painting of Alpharetta