Wallpaper Removal is Bad for Your Mental Health

Why do the home improvement gods hate me? I have done nothing but worship on the altar of their divine greatness.

I watch TV shows celebrating their prowess, read magazines with the fervor of a zealot, spend hours on the Internet plunged deep into the teachings of renovation apostles and reverently walk the scared aisles of Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Trust me when I confess that I have been void of any transgressions that would warrant the wrath that has befallen me. But yet I have a tale of woe and it all started with me trying to save a little money.

 Let’s examine those last four words – Save. A. Little. Money. How many stories of desperation do you think have begun with that quartet?

My conservative estimate is to infinity and beyond.

In fact, there should be some kind of mental health evaluation for anyone who utters that phrase. Mainly, because so many bad choices could be headed your way you need to ensure you have the emotional strength to persevere.

Suffice it to say I did not.

The catalyst to my complete mental collapse was wallpaper, specifically the removal of hideous wallpaper in a bathroom that gave off a serial killer ambience.

I know I can’t do plumbing or electrical work but most certainly I should be able to remove wallpaper. According to the best online experts you get a spray bottle and fill it with hot water and the secret sauce – liquid Tide and basically go to town spraying and then lifting the wallpaper off with a large putty knife.

Sounds easy enough right? But when you live in an almost forty-year-old house where the wallpaper was put directly on the drywall this becomes a study in the dramatic mental decline of a fifty something woman.

The wallpaper had mated for life, like the macaroni penguins, with the drywall. I doubt a nuclear blast could have separated these two lovers.

When I did get a less than one inch  piece of wallpaper to finally surrender the backing still clung to the wall. It refused any attempt at removal, tenaciously embracing its one true love – the freaking drywall.

Now, this is when a sane woman would have realized that this was a job that was not going to end well. That same sane woman would have decided that the best course of action would be to hand it over to someone that was well versed in the many moods and glues of wallpaper.

I was not that person because the more the wallpaper fought me the more determined I was to get it off the wall.

Hours upon hours was invested in scraping off teensy pieces of the wallpaper. At one point I had to stop and wrap my wrists in athletic performance tape to have the radiocarpal strength to continue.

In my darkest and most desperate hours I took solace in a Halloween fun size bag of Snickers candy. Around 1 a.m. I found myself laying on the bathroom room floor covered in Snickers wrappers and wallpaper confetti. Had I fallen asleep? Passed out from excessive exposure to liquid detergent fumes? Or had a complete mental collapse. I’m thinking it was probably a combo platter of all three.

This is when I realized that I required a mental health intervention. The next day I called a professional – a contractor. He sent over a wallpaper guru who had had the paper off in under an hour.

I’d like to think it’s because I had already done most of the work, but that, I’m afraid, would be a lie.

My House Hates Me

home_improvement_hell_steinIf you want to have your heart broken all you need to do is buy a home that’s a fixer upper.

It’s like falling in love with that boy in high school and telling yourself he would be “just perfect” if only he would get a haircut and use some prescription strength acne cream.

The problem is the acne is just a visual distraction (kind of like a house with popcorn ceilings) that diverts your eye from an abundance of other, more egregious, problems lurking just below the surface.

You know you’re head over heels in trouble when your steamy home romance has you making excuses for all the telltale signs of upcoming disaster by deceiving yourself with the phrase, “but the house has such good bones.” As soon as you utter this you’re on your way to a messy, expensive beyond your wildest dreams, tear laden, love affair.

Not that being passionate about your home is a bad thing. Oh, trust me, you’ll need the ardor to fuel your delusional fantasy that the remodeling will come in on budget, be completed in a timely fashion, and not almost wreck your marriage.

If you choose to attempt to do some of the “fixing upping” yourself, well, all I have to say is, “my thoughts and prayers are with you in your time of need.”

Just remember when things go horribly wrong, it’s not your fault for thinking you can handle a “gut job” on your master bathroom. Nope, that blame is placed squarely on the load bearing support beams of any design show on HGTV.

Talk about being seduced. Is there anything that arouses your DIY lust like watching a home renovation program? They all start off with the most titillating of promises. The home they’re working on goes from sad to fab in less than 60 minutes.

Then there’s the foreplay of a renovation team devoting there undying due diligence, tile cutting prowess and gentle painting caresses to its transformation. The pinnacle of your DIY desire hits its peak with the reveal. After riding out that crest of home remodeling euphoria you’re all in to recreate the experience in your own neck of the cul-de-sac.

Sadly, it’s never the same in real life. Take the previously mentioned popcorn ceiling. Scrapping that gunk off looks easy enough. If you are to believe everything you see on TV all you apparently need is what looks like a spatula Sasquatch would use for flipping pancakes, a few squirts of a mixture of water and fabric softener, some limited arm movement and like magic the feta cheese sized stucco pieces gracefully disengage with all the artistry of the Sugar Plum fairy doing a pirouette from your ceiling leaving only smooth, sleek, drywall behind.

In reality, you’re perched on a ladder that’s seen better days, gripping the stucco spatula and using brute force strength, while cursing as you choke back tears, when the popcorn either won’t come off or you’ve pressed so hard you’re now going to have to get new drywall.

When the stucco finally does release it’s death grip it invariably either gets in your eyes and if you’re really having a bad day your mouth. Stucco, it’s what’s for dinner (at least it was for me).

A popcorn ceiling is nothing when compared to what seems like the easiest of all DIY tasks – wallpaper removal. In theory wallpaper is supposed to come off like it went on – in floor to ceiling sheets. But no, that is not the way it happens.

I’m telling you something weird went on in tin the 1980’s. I’ve done extensive research on this (and by that I mean complained to many) and I’ve yet to find a home built in that decade where anyone sized their wallpaper.

Did a swarm of anti wallpaper sizing zombies invade the region? Or was it some sort of conspiracy by the federation of Wallpaper Hangers to ensure their handiwork was an eternal monument to their craft?

For those of you blessed to not know what sizing wallpaper means let me explain. Sizing is a primer application designed to create the necessary base so that adhesives can stick AND, more importantly to anyone buying your home in the future, so that wallpaper can be removed with ease.

Gather in my friends and let me tell you a horror story about what happens when you don’t size your wallpaper. It doesn’t want to come off – ever!

In the tradition of grand romances the wallpaper has mated with the drywall for life. It clings with a tenacity heretofore reserved only for grumpy toddlers not wanting to let go of their mothers when they’re dropped off at preschool.

When you finally do liberate the wallpaper from the drywall it rips off in almost microscopic pieces about the size of an eyelash.

I’m not too proud to admit that one day last year, my husband came home from work to find me sitting in the middle of our laundry room floor, surrounded by mounds of wallpaper bits, sobbing.

I’m talking the ugly cry. I was in the midst of a wallpaper removal nervous breakdown because I was reduced to using TWEEZERS to get the wallpaper down!

But wait, there’s more, my saga continues. In other parts of my house not only is the wallpaper not sized, but somewhere in my home’s lineage a former owner painted over the wallpaper. It’s a home decorating screw you because it’s means it’s never, ever coming down.

Your one and only choice is something along the lines of new drywall. Cha and ching.

In fact, I think there should be some sort of residential remodeling court of criminal law that prosecutes “crimes against the home.”

Not sizing wallpaper should result in being sent to a work camp where you’re sentenced to a week of hard labor doing, you guessed it, removing wallpaper equipped with only a bottle of water and your fingernails.

And for those domestic decorating terrorist who dare to paint over wallpaper I don’t think it’s too harsh to go for the death penalty. Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but at the very least they should be banned from ever entering a Home Depot or Lowe’s and put on some sort of home remodeler watch list.

I’d love to be able to tell you that all the pain, suffering, and heartbreak of owning a fixer upper is worth it. But, alas I can’t. I’m still remodeling. Although, I see signs that someday, in the distant future, of being madly in love with my house.

First though, I have to get all the blasted wallpaper down. Yeah, I’m still peeling it off bit by tiny bit.

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂