I'm showing some physical signs of the cumulative stress of the past few weeks, so today I decided to spend several hours in hard physical labor working on my Summer project (rehabbing the guest bedroom in our historic Victorian house). Today I tackled more of the wallpaper. It isn't the hardest wallpaper removal job I've ever attempted (that prize goes to our old house in Chicago where former owners had tacked down seriously peeling wallpaper with carpenter's glue). But it is a very close second.
The most consistent hits on this blog come from people looking for advice on how to write an effective EEO complaint (I usually get at least a couple of hits a day on that topic, which is a sad statement about the world we live in), and the second most popular hit is people looking for advice on how to remove wallpaper(on average at least a hit a day on that topic). Today I was using the secret wallpaper removal fluid, fabric softener mixed roughly 1 part fabric softener to 1 to 3 parts water (more or less...it isn't an exact science). I've tried pretty much every technique on earth to remove wallpaper (where the wallpaper in the various projects dated from virtually every decade the 20th century had to offer). Fabric softener works the best.
If the wallpaper is the modern kind, usually you rip off the topmost layer, which reveals the backing that is stuck to the wall. Wet this with the solution and let it soak for about 10 minutes. Then scrape off as much as you can and put more solution on what is left. Repeat the process until the wall is clean. Wipe down the wall with clean water before you prime it. If the wallpaper is older (or el cheapo stuff) you may need to use a scoring tool on it because the top layer doesn't separate from the backing. This kind of wall paper is what we have on the borders in that room. It is awful. Patience is the key to taking down this kind of wall paper...score it, wipe on the fabric softener solution, let it soak for 10 minutes, scrape, wipe on fabric softener, wait, scrape, wipe on fabric softener, wait, scrape (and so on). If the wall paper is old fashioned fabric wall paper, it is particularly easy to take down with the fabric softener solution.
Make sure you remove all the old wall paper paste from the wall. I remember watching a "This Old House" episode where they went to the home of a woman who had seriously peeling paint. It turns out she had removed wall paper in the house and had painted without making sure all the wall paper paste had been removed. Normally when TOH visits people's houses they give them a hand getting started on their home project. This time however the TOH host looked stunned that the woman could have done something so dumb and gave his best advice to fix the problem (lots of scraping). You will have a mind-numbingly-difficult mess to deal with if you don't remove all the wall paper paste before you paint the wall. The wall will likely never look flat and smooth again. All because you didn't take the time to scrub down the walls properly.
I've been taking it a wall at a time in there. Today I discovered two of the original gas lines into the room that apparently fed wall sconces (see the dark circle in the plaster in the first picture below). Unfortunately former owners tried to sort of plaster over it and now there is a lump there. I need to get one of those decorative pipe escutcheons to put over it to fake cap it (it won't actually be connected to the pipe because the pipe has been hacked off, but it will cover the bump in the wall). I never thought I'd use "escutcheon" in a sentence.
When I ripped down some wallpaper in a corner I discovered that the owners who had put up the wall paper had signed the wall (2nd picture below). It is difficult to read in the photo below, but it reads "Margy Koehler, Ramona Lawson, Jan Houlihan, 2nd Sept 1989, The Three Stooges Helpers". Now I know when the bubbly brown vinyl wall paper was put up. I don't know if the hideous light fixture in there dates to the same time (see 3rd picture, below) but it is soon to be no more.
The walls are in remarkably good shape. The only real problem I've found is a crack above one of the windows. It hadn't been patched properly and the plaster used to patch it simply fell off. We'll fix it right.