Monday, February 3, 2014

Kitchen Facelift Pt. 1 - Removing Old Wallpaper

A lot has been happening at Breezehome...

Kitchen - Closing Day

After two weeks of trying every Pinterest idea to remove the wallpaper backing in our kitchen, Brad and I had gotten through about half of it.

After two weeks of wallpaper removal

To say this was discouraging would be to make light.

Now, I'm no rookie.  When I was in high school, my parents enlisted me to remove the cobalt blue hearts on their kitchen walls using a wallpaper steamer they had purchased.  It was tough work, but the steamer made it possible to remove large strips at a time, and it went relatively fast.

Our situation is a little different.  Because the actual wallpaper facing is already gone, the backing that's left behind is thin and flimsy, which means when it gets wet, it tears like a cheap paper towel.  So, no whole-sheet removal.  The best solution I found online (from multiple sources, no less) was to use fabric softener, but even this only helped speed things up marginally.  So, I kept my head down and chipped away a little at a time.

Last Friday, while sharing my wallpaper woes with my parents, they suggested I try using their old steamer.  I know it sounds silly that I hadn't done so already, but it honestly didn't sound like the right solution.  Don't ask why.  Sometimes, when you're feeling that defeated, every new idea sounds like another rainbow to chase.  Anywho, I figured if they were offering, it'd be worth a shot.

Boy, was it ever.

We went to the house the next day, and finished the job in about 2 hours.



Holy crap.

To celebrate, we ordered our first ever pizza at our new house, and basked in our accomplishment.  It looked something like this:

Oh so happy!

Aaw.  Look at that happy face.

That's Pepperoni, Sausage, and Green Pepper, for those keeping track.  And yes, we ate the whole thing.

Here's how we made this happen:

How to Remove Stubborn Wallpaper Backing:


Large spray bottle
Liquid Fabric Softener
Hot Water
Wallpaper Steamer, Clothes Steamer, or any other handheld steaming device
Plastic Putty Knife
Rubber Gloves

1. Pour Fabric Softener into the spray bottle.  I used about 1/4 cup in a big, 32 oz. Rubbermaid bottle.
Fabric Softener + Hot Water

2. Fill with Hot Water.  Shake it up a bit to mix.
Just enough to wet it down

3. Spray the surface of the wall with the solution.  Use just enough to wet it down - you don't need to soak it, you just want to saturate it enough to get the fabric softener working to loosen the glue, and to keep it from drying out when the heat of the steamer gets to it.

Removing some strips by hand as I steam
4. Use the Steamer to heat the wet surface.  Don't rush this step.  You might need to steam the surface for a full minute, depending on how large an area you're covering.  But the longer you steam, the more quickly it comes off.  So, you're actually doing it in about the same amount of time, but you're saving yourself a huge amount of energy.  Make sure you wear rubber gloves here so you don't scald yourself when the steamer drips.

5. Immediately scrape the surface with the Plastic Putty Knife.  It should come off in long strips, and you may even be able to pull a bit off by hand as you're steaming, which makes the scraping go more quickly.  Use the rag to wipe left over drips and debris off the wall, and make sure you wipe down the blade of the putty knife between sections to help keep it clean and sharp.


* Make sure you use a PLASTIC putty knife for this!!!  A metal one might gouge your wall and leave lots of patch work for later.
* The tool you see Brad using in the above picture is a paint shield, used for painting trim, etc.  Since we had it on hand, we gave it a shot, and had quite a bit of success with it.  We generally used it in the larger areas, and used the putty knife for smaller areas or tight corners.  Work with what you've got!  Any port in the storm, I say.
* We found it helpful to work in patches about 1-2 square feet.  Any bigger, and you risk drying out.
* The steamer will not do a very good job of wetting the surface down for more than a few moments - it's primarily for heating the glue to make it pliable without drying it out, so I don't recommend doing to do this without a spray bottle.  You could try following the putty knife very closely with the steamer, which worked for me, but it still wasn't as fast as working in larger patches (and it was also more tiring).

Et voilĂ !  Easy peasy.
Tada!  Oh how... beautiful?
Now it's time to deal with the mess left behind.  I mean, good god, what happened to these walls before that paper went up?!?  I hope it's nothing a good coat of primer won't fix.  We shall see...

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