This is a story about removing the wallpaper from our large dining room, in our Italianate Victorian house. It was tedious, and it seemed like I would never finish it, but it was well worth while.
Do We Still Need Dining Rooms?
Do you have and use a separate dining room? In our 130 year old house we have a nice large dining room. It is large enough that we can open the table to seat 12 or so, and there is enough room for more furniture. Currently we have our vintage cottage grand piano in the room as well.
The truth be told, the dining room is one of those rooms that gets used for other things. Ideally it would be used for nightly family dinners, but we tend to use it for all holidays and visiting family dinners. Any visit at all from our kids these days will bring out the good dishes, not to mention an after dinner board or card game!
In day to day use though, our dining room is a laundry folding room, a seed starting room, a homework and blogging room, a room for extra stuff that I don’t know what to do with, and a crafting location. During the early days of the pandemic, when the universities shut down suddenly, we had up to four young adults writing papers and doing exams ’til all hours in the dining room. There were other rooms to work in – but everyone likes to be in the very centre of the house!
Once school was done for the semester, the three boys, who had been apart at different schools for a few years, began playing computer games together. The neighbours commented as they walked their dogs late at night and saw our boys huddled together in the dining room at how studious they were….. No, they were gaming with enthusiasm.
But back to the dining room……
What I have learned about using my dining room, is that I appreciate having this big extra room – where I can keep and bring out all of my china and linens and silverware whenever I want. That’s one of my pandemic lessons. Enjoy the family visits and make them as special as possible when they happen ……- Or maybe it’s just me getting older ………..
My Dining Room Attracts Clutter
However, in my case – if I have extra tables and buffets, “things” will tend to gather there. Books, hats, unmatched socks, fishing rods, photos to be sorted and so on. So for me, less surfaces are better! My dining room always naturally attracts clutter.
Deciding to Remove the Wallpaper
When we were planning to sell our house last year, this room became home staging central – where things being put away in storage or things that weren’t part of the home staging vision went. It was a disaster. Just as we were about to list – I decided to remove the wallpaper.
It was inoffensive wallpaper, sort of a beige sponge panted pattern, over plaster walls. Half of the family loved it, some didn’t notice it, but I found that it made the room dark. This 30 foot long room has high ceilings, dark hardwood floors and furniture and only two windows.
The real estate agent didn’t want me to remove the paper, because she thought correctly that the job would take a long time. The homestager mistakenly said that the room would improve without the wallpaper, and that was enough for me. I love beginning and finishing destructive, messy work. I just don’t like the middle part.
If you watch those HGTV shows, someone always zips out the power tools to steam off the wallpaper. There is usually an edit when they bring out the steamers and cut to days later and the wallpaper is gone.
Or better still, they knock down the walls and replace the wallpapered plaster with drywall. I think that half the time they knock down the walls because they don’t want to scrape wallpaper. Then they find asbestos behind the walls, and mysterious plumbing issues.
Not up in here! The plaster walls underneath were cracked a little, and we had them pre-tested for asbestos. So I was ready to scrape the wallpaper off.
In this house, we had previously removed the wallpaper in one upstairs bedroom, and in the living room. The family knew the drill. It was going to be a mess.
How to Remove Wallpaper
Sometimes you get lucky removing wallpaper, and it just pulls off easily. In our house, the wallpaper was glued to plaster walls. Every inch of it needed to be scraped. In some parts there are multiple layers of wallpaper. It may seem like an endless, difficult project, but wallpaper removal can be done. There are alot of videos and articles about the easy and best way to remove wallpaper. There is no easy or best way. It is just diligence and whatever works.
I generally take one wall at a time, starting from the top down. You can use an electric steamer to help remove the wallpaper. These can typically be rented from a home improvement store.
You can also use wallpaper remover sprays available at your home improvement store.
You can pre-score the wallpaper with a special scrubby tool.
A metal putty knife is generally recommended to scrape the wallpaper.
As I said previously – whatever works for you is what you should do. Try it all. For me, I use a spray bottle (an empty Windex bottle) filled with warm water. My favourite scraping tool is actually a sturdy metal spatula (My husband’s favourite hamburger flipper – sorry honey).
I have tried all of those other tools and sprays, but the spatula, warm water spray, and my fingernails are what works for me.
I do my best to cover the floor with a drop-cloth, and use my trusty stepladder. I then spray the entire wall once over with warm water, and start pulling at any loose corners or edges of the wallpaper and pull, pull, pull.
Then I spray some more, pull some more and then scrape with the spatula. It’s important to keep the floor dry, and clean up the peeled wallpaper was you go, because when it dries, it sticks to the floor and gets tracked through the house.
The wallpaper scraping took about 3 days of intermittent work, and then we filled in the plaster holes and cracks, and painted the room with a paint and primer latex in an off white. The room was brighter and seemed even larger, and we cleaned it up and put the table and chairs back in.
I sorted and packed up lot of my china and crystal and put them into storage. But guess what? Everything is back home from storage now – and I have mostly put them away.
It was very worthwhile to scrape off the wallpaper and re-paint the room, and it was really helpful to edit the contents of the room. When we are not having a dinner, the room still gets used for laundry sorting, etc. – but why not? I feel happier now when I’m in this room, and that’s what it’s all about.
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