Erm, that’s a Chris de Burgh song in case you’re wondering.
So when I got the house it was all magnolia – which isn’t a bad thing, while it was obviously a doer upper it didn’t look completely tragic. The problem was the magnolia was painted over wallpaper and none of it was flat wallpaper, it was all either woodchip or anaglypta and as textured wallpaper is usually used to ‘paper over the cracks’, I thought it best to get it all off and find out ‘what lies beneath’.
Since I got the keys it’s been a relentless fight against wallpaper, the war may not yet be won but I think I’ve victories in all the major battles. This how the course of the action panned out:
Saturday: get the keys bought a wallpaper steamer and a stripper.
Sunday: stripped bedroom number two. Three walls of anaglypta wallpaper and one of anaglypta wallpaper and plaster. It seems like the wallpaper steamer sometimes causes the plaster to ‘blow out’ and then it falls off.
Friday: Ellie, Paul and I stripped the master bedroom (anaglypta again) – bits of plaster come off but nothing major. My suspicions about the wallpaper steamer get stronger.
Saturday: Paul and I strip the smallest bedroom (more anaglypta) – in a few more small areas bits of plaster come off. The plaster on each of the walls in this rooms seems to be different and that makes a difference to how easily it comes off. We make a start on the upstairs hall and the stairwell. The top layer is woodchip but in some places it’s over several other layers of wallpaper, the bottom layer seems to be lining paper which was painted over with gloss, truly adhering it to the plaster – it’s a nightmare, you need to to apply excessive force and just keep chipping at it as it comes away millimetre by millimetre.
Sunday: Paul and I continue on the stairwell. The two of us work for around 7 hours straight and we get most of it removed. There is much phaffing to get the best configuration of the ladder in a confined space as well.
Wednesday: Because I’ve bought a sideboard and it’s getting delivered the following day, I decide to start stripping the living room at 7pm at night. Three walls are anaglypta, so they take about an hour and a half and I spend the next three hours trying to strip just the chimney breast of woodchip, on top of several layers of paper. Including this rather charming floral number
Friday: I continue at the bottom of the stairwell and the downstairs hall. It’s more woodchip over more of that floral paper. There are wires everywhere in the hall (electric and telephone) and they appear to have been both wallpapered and painted over – not good. The paint on the ceiling also starts coming off with the paper and seems to be very loose (I’m worried there was a leak from the bathroom above). As it flakes off it keeps getting in my eyes. Some of the paint has also chipped off the woodwork and it appears to be a mid-brown colour, could be nice… Anyway, I just remove the wallpaper as best as I can and call it a night.
Saturday: I go get some dusk masks and some safety goggles. Then temptation gets too much and I go out and buy a heat gun (I spent an hour looking for Dad’s then gave up). I start with the banister / stair frame in the hall, it doesn’t go at all well, I end up hacking at it so much that I think it will need to be planed back down and I’m still left with green paint scum on the surface. The paint on the skirting board on the other hand just melts away – I make my way up a few of the stairs (peeling back carpet as I go) until the wires get too annoying. So then I tried a door frame, same, the paint just melts away. I do half a door frame and then start on the picture rail in the living room, it isn’t quite so easy and I end up charring some of the wood – I don’t have a very good shave hook either. By now the house is quite foggy and I’ve suddenly remembered that the paint probably contains lead, so I decide to call it a day.
Sunday: I decide to stick to safer tasks and avoid the heat gun until I’ve got a better idea of what I’m doing. As the paint on the ceiling has half come off I decide I’d better get rid of the rest – easier said than done. It takes me a good few hours (and a load of elbow grease) to get most of the rest of it off. Then I spent several more hours removing the remaining bits of glossed lining paper and flakes of woodchip from the downstairs hall, stairwell and upstairs hall. I’ve been picking up the wallpaper as I’ve been going along (two stuffed wheelie bins plus a few sacks which went straight to the tip) but I’ve not been too precious about it, however with the possibility of lead dust I decide to go around on my hands and knees and pick of all the larger remaining pieces and then give it a good hoover. Well the hoover is about as much use as a chocolate teapot – I give up, go home and order a shopvac, a proper respirator and a sander.
Tuesday: Wake up to discover I can’t lift my right arm past my shoulder. The wallpaper fights back…
So that’s the saga to date – there were times when I wondered if it might be quicker to wait for woodchip to come back into fashion. On the whole, all evidence indicates that the walls were fine when the wallpaper went up, they must have just liked it. How easy it’s going to be to get them back into a state where they can be painted though…