Unpaper Me!

I started to tackle the faux-textured, tissue-papered walls in the family room. I figured it was going to be quite difficult, and I decided to start with with the one skinny little side entry wall.

Basically, the walls were, to the best of my determination, NOT primed. In the interest of frugality, I decided to start the project with a variety of on-hand scrapers, and a spray bottle of good ole water. Around the left corner of this wall is a painted wall in our back hallway. The faux finish continues and wraps around to the wall on the right side. I taped off the baseboard and used an old beach towel (which has always been a rag) I ran a small blade along the right side corner, about a foot up. I sprayed with water, waited about 10 minutes, then started to scrape.


The Sad Result
What happens when you’re too frugal. Don’t be too frugal.

What you’re seeing is further into the project. But, you can see that I gouged the wall in my zeal, and created a mess. No problem: I could patch and skim coat that area. Also, in my defense, the little side walls are never, ever flat and even, are they? They’re constructed, to start, with a bunch of drywall mud most of the time. I’ve seen drywallers do this many times.

It became quite clear that the water was not going to penetrate the glaze well, and that my scrapers were not the correct tools for the job. My next step was going to be using fabric softener, but I had a hunch my scrapers would yield the same results. I needed a tool that would keep the correct angle and scrape stuff easily. I needed something other than water to dissolve whatever materials had been used. And I needed something to help break the glaze barrier. I had $15 in Westlake Ace coupons, so off I went, and got these Big Girl Tools.

The Paper Tiger is a wonderful tool, when used correctly, and I owned one several years ago. Be aware, the blades that cut the surface of the paper, can also cut you! Do not, not, not attempt to see what they feel like, or leave them within reach of children or pets.

This tool must be used very lightly. Don’t press it against the wall. Just lightly roll it around the paper you’re trying to remove. It will score the top surface of the paper, or in this case, glaze, to allow the remover to penetrate to the adhesive and dissolve it. I had already let the wall dry completely from my mistake, but the tissue was still firmly attached to the area. So I gently scored the wall, this time three feet up.

Reviews for DIF wallpaper stripper are high all over the Internet. It actually stays where it’s sprayed! And it is supposed to penetrate the little holes made by the Paper Tiger and dissolve what it touches. WEAR GLOVES. I donned a pair (which I keep in my stash always) and sprayed up to where I’d scored through the glaze. I let it sit 20 minutes.

This is the tool I thought would make my wallpaper-removing life a breeze. It holds the blade at the correct angle, it’s lightweight, and it was under $10. As always, I got replacement blades. The “blades” aren’t sharp, btw. After the requisite 20 minutes, I used this scraper to remove the pasted-on tissue paper. But. The wall isn’t flat, so it missed the center part. I had to keep turning to find the correct angle for it to scrape, but that caused a little more gouging.

A total hour and a half and three applications later, I’m not liking the return on investment. I returned the unopened replacement blades, and cleaned then put the other items up for sale on Facebook.

I dug out the little sheet of info the former owners left us about the faux finisher. Although she is no longer in the area, and no longer in the business, she took about 20 minutes of her time to walk me through what she did, and what kind of fix would be in store. What a lovely person.

Tissue paper was dampened, crumpled, glued to the walls, then sponged with two colors of paint and a topcoat of glaze. The lack of primer is a big factor in this being a real pain in the behind to remove. The faux finisher said that she always, always would tell clients that this was permanent, and that they would have to live with it, or replace the drywall, before she started.

She suggested knocking back the big folds of paper with a scraper, then sanding down the texture, then applying a skim coat of mud, more sanding, etc. Still, she said, the walls would never be flat and smooth. Ever. She said if I wanted that, the best thing would be to replace the drywall.

So, I’ll be spackling the roughly 8″ x 36″ area of wall that is now damaged, texturizing it, priming and painting the whole little side wall to make it work. Replacing drywall for that huge room is not anywhere on my radar right now. I’m going to think about it and possibly revisit the issue over the winter (as I’d planned last winter). For now, I’m considering these ideas:

1. Knock back the big areas of texture, prime all the walls, and repaint.

2. Sand down as much as is reasonable, one wall at a time, then prime and repaint.

3. Just prime and repaint.

Well, I guess that’s one project off my list for now, and just a small repair project added.


Upcoming Projects

I had intended to do inside home projects over the winter — the long, excruciating, sub-zero winter we had here. That didn’t happen because when I got home from my old retail job, I had limited time, or was too tired to move. Let’s face it, I’m not a spring chicken anymore. And that wasn’t helping my gumption. Now I have time! And energy!

Project One: I am going to remove the tissue-paper wall treatment in the family room and prepare to paint. That tissue has been there since before 2001 when we bought this house. It catches dust. It is an outdated look. I would like a different color after all this time, and the texture is not going to help that. It has to go.

Dated wall treatment
So many dust-catching surfaces!

Here’s the plan: tackling one wall at a time, starting with a 7″ entry wall, I’ll work on this during the evenings while watching “my shows.” This entry area includes two other narrow walls, so it isn’t an overwhelming project to start. It gets lots of natural light, which it gets later and later now, anyway.

The starting point.

I will work around the room, systematically, removing window coverings and wall hangings for as brief periods as possible, to provide least disruption. I expect it will take several weeks. There is some big and very heavy furniture in other parts of the family room, which will be a factor in getting the job done. There is also some caulking around the baseboards, window mouldings, and built-in cabinets that will affect the job in those areas. I will access my patience and just plug away. After everything is removed, I’ll address wall prep and paint.

Because I am making my own schedule now, I am able to address this project in a purposeful way. I start next week, that’s the plan. (Only because this is a big birthday weekend at our home.) I’ll be gathering my tools and keeping them in a big bucket in the family room, so there’s not really any good excuse not to do it. “Let the games begin!”


Project Two:  The landscape edging throughout the property has been in dire need of attention for a very long time.

These are a few of my least favorite things…

Missing couplers, rising edging, failed “fast fixes.” Also this, indicative of maintenance and age.

Why is the bottom part of the edging missing?

I’ve calculated the cost for materials from Menard’s. I’ll be repairing and reusing as much of the original as possible. It will require some intense digging. So I will be working in small sections, one bed at a time. I might be working on weekends and evenings when DH can help me with the digging. This promises to be a season-long project, with materials purchased as needed.

Along the house on the side yard (same side as the sidewalk), I plan to extend the bed to allow for the growth of the plants there. It’s quite cramped right now, and cutting back the shrubs still doesn’t provide relief. Also, we’ve been talking forever about planting some screen plants in front of the dining room windows there, and extra bed space is definitely important for that.


Project Three: Oh, that retaining wall! It is on our radar in a big way. It requires a large fund. Until we pay off the yard loan from last year’s work, we cannot even think about contracting this out. I do visit the area and plan “what ifs” occasionally. I did pull up county records and find the property line; it is in our favor for the work that needs to be done, but I don’t think our next-door neighbor knows it yet. (He’s planning on having his fence replaced very soon, so this will come up.)


That’s it. That’s all I’m going to put on the agenda for this year. Yes, other things will come up, I know it. But these are my plans. One inside, one outside, one being saved for professionals. Works for me.