The front porch on the tea room was in pretty rough shape when we bought it. Peeling paint and broken glass were the least of the problems. Those storm windows were attached to rotting wood. If you wiggled one window, 3-4 would move because they were only anchored at the top. The header across the front was sagging because there was no support in the middle. Worst of all, the floor was rotten and buckling in a couple of places.
I promise, I don’t hate trees. I spent far too many years on a dry, windy, treeless prairie to hate trees. But I do hate trees that create navigational difficulties, pose a risk to buildings and power lines, obscure a driver’s view of oncoming traffic, or hide the front of a business. Which is to say, there were a lot of trees at the tea room that had to go.
If there is a job more tedious and messy than removing wallpaper, I don’t want to know about it. I spent days, with the help of a friend who used to install wallpaper, and the occasional, half-hearted help of my children, getting that stuff off the plaster walls. It was hot outside, and the A/C wasn’t working.
If you’re wondering why we bothered removing the wallpaper, the answer is that some of the walls were still in good enough condition that we hoped to keep the plaster intact. In the end, we were able to keep about 3/4 of the plaster walls with a bit of patching and crack repair.
We tried a combination of methods, including pulling the wallpaper off in sheets (only kind of worked for some patches of the painted wallpaper) wallpaper stripping gel, a stripping tool, a steamer, and a car washing sponge with hot soapy water. The latter worked the best. It was also the biggest mess. For plaster walls, you have to keep the wallpaper soggy until it softens up enough to scrape easily, with long strokes of the stiff putty knife. As soon as it becomes work (you shouldn’t have to chip away at the wallpaper, it’s awfully hard on your body), get out the sponge again. I’m not even going to pretend to have a clue about removing wallpaper from drywall. Somehow, I don’t think saturating the wallpaper would be a good idea for drywall. It might be easier to just move.
I mentioned in Part 2 that there was a loooot of wallpaper under all the brown paneling. Some of it was beautiful, some was awful, and most of it was stuck like concrete, despite being damaged and stained. I thought I’d share some photos of the various papers we found (and painstakingly removed).
Melanie Holsti believes in the power of good food and hospitality to change lives.