It wasn’t until we had lived in this house quite a while that I realized our bedroom walls were a mess. What I initially thought was textured plaster turned out to be many layers of painted wallpaper. Wallpaper seams were showing through, both horizontal and vertical, leaving a crisscross pattern on the walls. The weird faux plaster texture was irritating mostly because I knew real plaster was lurking underneath.
In some areas, the mess of layers bubbled away from the wall itself and started cracking, making the whole room look like something worse than a junky college-town rental. The ceiling was even more scarred, with multiple sloppy crack repairs. With cracks running through the middle of the patches as well. How’s that for irony?
For years, this project was not a high priority, but after staring at the cracks and the seams for so long, I just couldn’t stand it anymore. I knew there were secrets lurking inside these walls, and I wasn’t disappointed with what I found.
Stripping wallpaper has such a bad reputation, and that fear of work makes people do stupid things like try to “hide” wallpaper seams beneath more and more layers. If you take away anything from reading this, then let it be this:
Don’t paint over wallpaper. Literally, or metaphorically. Deal with your problems, don’t just cover them up or pass them off.
Instead I was left to deal with three layers of wallpaper, a few layers of paint, a skim coat of wall texture (an attempt to cover up those wallpaper seams, no doubt), attempts to patch plaster cracks on top of the wallpaper, and a few more layers of paint. A full sixteenth of an inch of crap stuck to the walls with varying degrees of actual sticking to the walls. Honestly, this was even more than I expected to find.
Some parts were like peeling a hard-boiled egg and came off easily in large strips. Other parts were like chiseling stone, chip by chip. I probably hauled out more than 100 pounds of paint chips.
The wallpaper itself came off like nothing at all using only hot water. It was thin and uncoated. No thicker than newsprint. All those subsequent bad decisions could have been avoided if someone long ago had given up an afternoon of their time and stripped the wallpaper before painting.
On the upside? This house’s gift to me is beautiful, bare original plaster walls. People like to complain about plaster walls, but I love them. I love their coolness and their stone-like finish. They make a house feel solid.
This project has been a labor of love. If not love for a project itself, then for the house. Our house is not fancy, and we are definitely not fancy, but we all deserve better than 86 years of poor decision making. The whole removal process took at least 20 (maybe 30?) work hours of intensive scraping. And I haven’t begun to repair the cracks, prime, or paint yet. More to come!