Monday, March 14, 2011

Wallpapering and other tricks I have mastered

I went on a home improvement binge this last month.  Things I had put off needed to be done.  One was the dining room wallpaper.  While still in good shape, it didn't really match the newly painted kitchen.  Pulling it off would be easy, it was scraping off what was underneath, scrubbing, re scrubbing and then sanding was what would be hard, and not a job I looked forward to in any way, shape or form.  For some reason, known only to me anymore, and that danged if I can remember why, when we did the almost complete remodel of the house over 20 years ago now, I wallpapered nearly every new room.  I have since then slowly been removing that wallpaper every time a room is in serious need of a redo, or at least a refreshing.  And every time I have pulled down wallpaper, I have cursed and then sworn, NEVER AGAIN....
Just like painting, wallpapering is all in the prep work, and if you don't get the wallpaper gook or residue off, your paint job will have spots of what I like to call cottage cheese, so do it right, and that's what takes days on end of washing, sanding, spackling, and re sanding and having drywall spackle dust up your nose, in your hair and a fine coat of it on whatever is within a hundred miles, I swear, even if you have tried to close off the room. 
Therefore when I pulled this most reacent wallpaper down, I decided to re wallpaper this particular room.  There were a couple of reasons and the main one is that this room is open on two ends to two other rooms both of which were painted different colors and a third room could be seen from it and it was a different color.  I am physically incapable of painting rooms the same color.  Once I have done them, they are done.  I thought a wallpaper while more expensive than a can of paint, would tie the rooms together using similar colors. 
In the old days when I was a wallpaper expert, you would go to a home decorating store and bring home four or five wallpaper books.   You spent a few days going through them and deciding on the one you wanted.  You measured your walls and measured generously, adding in windows and doors even though those would not be wallpapered.  Most papers had a repeat pattern of some kind so you had to allow for that to match each long piece you hung at the top of the wall.  There was a code on the back of each paper you picked and I copied it down.  The wallpaper books were returned to the decorating store and then I would call my favorite wholesale wallpaper distributor, which were advertized in every home magazine I subscribed to.  They offered 35 to 40% off what the stores were selling it for which was never peanuts.  I always ordered my wallpaper that way and always had at least a single roll of paper left.
Well welcome, to the 21 century and the knowledge that I had not wallpapered in 20 years, so of course I went to the home decorating store brought home several books and spent the night looking at papers.  Found one I liked but the paper companies and the home decorating stores have gotten trickier by leaving the paper codes off many of the papers.  I had gone online and of course, there were several discount wallpaper sites. I had to do some "going through the back door" to find the code for the paper I wanted, mainly going to the site of the main distributor of the my paper and getting the code from that.  I chose an online site that gave the best discount for the paper I wanted and free shipping.  It was listed as a secure site and had a consumer ratings check. 
Now for those of you who have never ordered wallpaper, let alone put it up, the price quoted is for a single roll of wallpaper, measured in how many square feet are on that roll.  But it is sold only in double rolls.  You might as well double the price right off the bat when figuring.  My measurements showed I needed just over 4 double rolls.  Another single roll would have been plenty, but another double roll is what I would have to buy.  I had chosen a stripe paper, which meant no waste in matching, and in the past I had always been over generous in my measurements so I decided to go with just the four double rolls.  While shipping was free, its the "handling" charges with so many online sites that gets you.  A $15 handling fee but I saved over 40% on the paper prices so I was pleased that the room wallpapering job would be under $150.
The printout for the order said that my paper would be delivered in 7 to 10 business days.  That was fine as I was prepping the walls, though that just meant I was sanding down some of the very high spots and spackling over nail holes and such.  Halfway through the second week and still no wallpaper put up a red flag.  Added to that my VISA account had been compromised.  I ordered the paper on a second bank card I seldom use, and I was alerted that an online purchase had been tried with my account number from another state.  The bank alerted me that they had denied the purchase until verification from me.  I had made no such purchse and the only place that I had used that card was in ordering the wallpaper.  My credit card was issued a new number and card and the bank was very oblinging about handling it quickly.  Note to myself, use my paypal account when ordering from sites like that again if ever. 
After the bank card snafu I contacted the customer helpline and found that my wallpaper had not been shipped.  It went out that day and I received it, tracking it via UPS, 3 days later.  Lesson learned...
Now began the fun stuff of wallpapering.  I figured to knock it off in one day.  I thought, surely, its like riding a bike and I will remember it immediately.  Kurt and I did a plumb line the night before and with that I was ready to start.  Well, the next morning kind of got away from me, as most mornings do, and it was afternoon before I embarked on filling the dip tray, getting towels and rags for wiping up, and assembling my needed supplies, scissors, an exacto knife, smoothing bush, seam sealer, and rulers. 
The idea is to find the length of one long wall, add an inch extra for walls that aren't straight, and none of them are, and cut several sheets all at once.  I had a cutting board set up in the living room and found that my quilt cutting matt and an old blade in my rotary cutter was very slick for measuring each piece quickly and cutting it with a sharp edge.
That done it was dip the first piece, rolled paper side in, to the dipping tray and pulling it out again using the rod as a guide.  Easy enough.  My first hung piece took me probably 10 minutes of sliding , pulling off in parts, smoothing, sliding again, which required more pulling back and then having to smooth out several large bubbles.  You want to get all of the bubbles out and good wallpaper won't retain bubbles if they are smoothed out.  That means that wallpaper paste oozes out the sides, but them's the breaks.  Once it is smoothed out to your satisfaction, the rotary seam sealer seals the seams edges and that is a must.  High five myself I had the first piece on.  The second piece took even longer because now I had to align it next to the piece already up.  You don't want overlap, but it must butt up right next to the first piece or when it dries you will have a noticeable gap, as wet paper stretches a bit and when it dries it shrinks. I became aware early on that my walls really weren't very "plumb" as the second pieces' cut off top and bottom went at an angle.  It also took longer as you have to make sure the seams get all the oozing paste off.  After 3 long sheets and a good hour, I congratulated myself that I was getting the hang of this once again. 
By the time Kurt got home that evening, I had one solid wall hung and was heading over to a portion of the only other long wall I had.  By the time 9:00 p.m. rolled around that evening , I was a pooped wallpaper hanger and had about a third of the room done, maybe a bit more.  The room looked awful that night as bubbles showed up and many of the seams didn't looked sealed.  I went to bed hoping it would look better in the morning and it did.
The next day I determined to get after it earlier.  And I did.  It was mid morning when I went back at it.  Now came cutting pieces to fit around and under windows and under the shelf that ran near the ceiling on two walls.  I worked at my pace which was nice, and managed to get much of it done before dinner that evening.
After dinner I finished up the rest of the walls under the shelving, but towards the end of the night a realization swept over me that I would not have enough paper to finish the area above the shelves even using every partial piece I had left and fitting it together.  I knew that the .2 in the 4.2 double rolls I had figured would come back and bite me.  There was no sense crying over it, I knew I had to order more paper.  So on a Friday morning I got back on online and ordered it.  Of course, I had to repay a handling charge and the papers price wasn't quite as reduced as it had been, but "them's" the decorating breaks.  This time I checked right away to be sure the paper was shipped, and it wasn't until the following Monday, but I had it in my possession on Wednesday.  In one respect it was nice, as I could cut from the new roll and not have to worry about "piecing" leftover hunks that weren't the width of the actual paper and it not matching exactly. It was above a shelf where collectibles normally set so if I was going to piece anywhere that would be it, but this made it go much faster and look much better finished.  I ended up with about a single roll left of paper, just what I had originally figured. 
I let the paper all dry overnight and the next day I washed off the seams and applied seam glue to wherever the paper had not sealed on the edges, which is a common thing with wallpaper so you might as well have seam glue on hand.  The day after that I started putting things back in the room.  I liked the wallpaper and liked the effect, and I also think I hope I don't have to pull this down for another 20 years...
And the next room to be de-wallpapered won't be receiving new.  The old bathroom is receiving a re vamp of sorts and I think I'll try "painting" stripes on it.   Who knows maybe I'll find a new vocation..

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