Removing the Glue from the Wallpaper of Life

I’m exhausted and sore all over.  Yesterday my husband and I spent more than seven straight hours removing wallpaper from the dining room.  It was the original wallpaper when the house was built, so I would have thought that after thirty years, it would have been screaming to be taken down. But it was rather attached to those dining room walls. The first three hours we spent steaming the paper off. The next four we sprayed the walls with glue remover and scrubbed and scrubbed, and scrubbed some more. Getting the glue off the walls was worse than the paper removal.

After scrubbing until my shoulders ached and my arms were ready to fall off, my husband said, “The second scrubbing will be easier.” Second scrubbing? I simply nodded and didn’t say a word, but though I made sure my face did not betray my feelings, inside I was thinking, you’ve got to be teasing me! Only teasing wasn’t the word that was in my head. Since I didn’t say it aloud, I don’t think it actually counts as swearing. I thought I might build a case for the walls not needing a second scrubbing, but when I leaned against the wall and my shirt stuck to it, it was a dead giveaway that there was still glue on it.

It wouldn’t be so bad if we could put some color on the walls now and be done with it, but now we have to spackle and sand and then put two coats of primer on. Besides sanding the walls, we have to sand all the trim, the chair rail, and the crown molding and paint all that plus the ceiling. When that is finally done, then and only then can we put the color on the walls. Since we can only do most of this work on the weekends, my downstairs will be torn up for at least four weeks. Maybe more.

We will be living like this for a long, long time.

View from the dining room into the living room where all the dining room furniture is.  We will be living like this for a long, long time.

When we are finished with our redecoration of the dining room and have moved the furniture back in, we will be so glad we took on this monumental task. But right now…not so much. Maybe there is a lesson in this. I’ve been stuck in certain behavior patterns for sixty-four years now and thought it might be time for a makeover. Thinking about that wallpaper makes me see that there’s too much old glue for a redo to be anything less than another monumental task.

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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24 Responses to Removing the Glue from the Wallpaper of Life

  1. Robin says:

    I haven’t dealt with wallpaper since helping my mother when I was a child. I don’t remember it as being particularly fun after the initial start so I congratulate you on a job well done. And with no mention of divorce, it’s REALLY well done. 😀

  2. Al says:

    Look on the bright side, psychologists say that the sternest test of a marriage is working with wall paper. You guys passed! We did too. Fortunately, we were both very bad shots.

  3. Dianna says:

    Ugh…. I can relate. We removed lots of wallpaper when Motor Man and I were married and we redecorated. Unfortunately, we didn’t know about steamers until AFTER the job….!

  4. Jiawei says:

    Been there done that. When we first moved into our town house, I was determined to strip the wallpaper, glue and thought I could do the paint job, too. But it proved to be too big of an endeavor, finally chickened out and hired a professional to do it all. A ton of money was spent but the end result is beautiful! Good luck with everything! You’ll be proud of yourselves.

    • Coming East says:

      I wish we could afford a professional, Jiawei, but the money we save by doing it ourselves can be used for other updates that we can’t do ourselves. I know it will look beautiful when it’s finished. I’ll take a picture.

  5. pattisj says:

    We won’t have wallpaper again, either. Now what do I do with that Paper Tiger?
    I hear there’s a truckload sale on granite counter top. 😉 You may be required to remove it from the interstate, however…,0,2926304.story

  6. Amy says:

    It made me very dizzy, you reminded me the house we had in Paoli, two layers of wall paper. I cleaned it by myself, but I was a lot younger…

  7. Been there done that…ugh. Ours was so bad my husband had to re-sheetrock the entire downstairs, a week before I was due to have our son! I will say I LOVED the finished product.

    • Coming East says:

      Isn’t it amazing how damaged the walls can be from taking down wallpaper, LWTTD? Ours will need a lot of spackling, but nothing as major as what you experienced. I think builders like to put wallpaper up because it hides a lot of imperfections in the walls.

  8. Shary Hover says:

    We’ve moved a lot and each time, one of my musts in a house has been no wallpaper. Realtors tried to tell me it’s an easy fix, but clearly, they’d never removed it themselves. I will never ever ever hang wallpaper. Fingers crossed that the rest of your project goes smoothly.

    • Coming East says:

      We were saying the same thing, Shary. We will never put wallpaper up because it is so awful to remove. If we hadn’t liked this place so much when we bought it, we would have run the other way because it had five rooms with wallpaper plus the front entry. Now we only have the downstairs bathroom that still has wallpaper, but it is a small room. Guess we’ll do it after the dining room.

  9. It will be so beautiful when it is done. You will sit and have dinner with friends and feel such joy not only in conversation and food, but for your surroundings. You will sit and be able to look at the walls knowing it is exactly the way you wanted them. As for your personal make over, I am certain the glue is not as stuck on as you think. Loved this post and the lessons to be learned from it. DAF

  10. dorannrule says:

    Now I’m looking at the walls and thinking, “Hmmmm – that crack adds character.” 🙂

  11. I feel your pain. Removing wallpaper is the worst job. In my mind, I have committed to redoing my kitchen…. it was last done in the early 60’s before I lived here. I just need to get started!

    • Coming East says:

      Does your kitchen have wallpaper, 50’s? Nothing dates a kitchen like old wallpaper. When we removed ours and painted the kitchen a soft yellow, what an improvement! However, to get to that point was painful. I say tackle it!

  12. Good for you! A good friend of ours used to say: I never promised to love, honor and redecorate.
    We took a week off from our honeymoon to redo the floors in our first apartment– only to then move three months later due to an unexpected job transfer. I’m not the DIY type, admire those that can!

    • Coming East says:

      I would love to just pay someone to do all this redecorating, Grandma, put it is so darn expensive. We figure that if we do this kind of work ourselves, we might have money to pay for someone to do the work we can’t, like putting new kitchen counters in next year.

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