After spending the past week stripping wallpaper from our kitchen, I have become something of an involuntary expert on the subject. If you’re considering taking on such a project, the best advice I can offer is to throw out all your old scrapers, scorers and steamers. You’d be surprised how much easier it is when you decide to just douse the wallpaper with kerosene, set it ablaze and rebuild.
Of course, you may decide you’d rather do things the hard way, actually removing the wallpaper without destroying the house around it. I haven’t figured out how to do that yet. People will tell you wild stories, passed down through the generations, of wallpaper that just pulls off, like you’re unpeeling a giant floral banana. This type of wallpaper probably exists in places where the streets are paved with gumdrops, but in the real world, the average sheet of wallpaper has been applied with more paste than resides in the collective digestive system of our nation’s kindergartners.
We should have known what we were getting into. A few years ago, we rented a steamer from Home Depot to remove some small pink borders in our old house, thinking that, worst case, it would take about an hour to take them all down. We slid head first into the rental department twenty-four hours later, exhausted and totally steamed.
Maybe we felt cocky this time around because we had our very own steamer. Turns out that, while it costs about forty bucks to rent a steamer for the day, you can buy one outright for fifty. Also, buying two four-piece McNuggets off the dollar menu is cheaper than buying a single six-piece. I’m afraid I just told you everything useful I’ve ever learned.
Before steaming a wall, you have to go over every inch with a scoring tool that pokes tiny holes in the paper. Never has so much scoring produced so little fun. But at least my wife Kara bribed me with food to get the job done. “I’ll cook if you strip,” she said. I rarely get solicited to strip, so I immediately set about stripping harder than I’ve ever stripped before.
Our steamer had this orange label stuck to it: “WARNING: This machine produces live steam and/or scalding hot water which could cause severe bodily injury.” I think it should have been a guarantee instead of a warning. After I started attempting to take the wallpaper down, I realized that I was really giving myself the third degree. The third-degree burns, I mean. I’m pretty sure that my wedding ring is now soldered to my finger.
When I mentioned this to some of my married friends, I found out that other guys take their rings off when they’re performing manual labor. That seems like it’s breaking a sacred trust. You should only take your wedding ring off when it’s absolutely necessary, like when you want to spin it like a top on a restaurant table or flip it like a coin as you walk over a storm drain.
My buddy Allen explained to me that he never takes his ring off because, “If you wear through your wedding band, that means you’re free.”
I don’t know about that, but I do know that it’s probably a whole lot easier to just decide that you like having a million repeating berries and flowers plastered around your kitchen than to actually do something about it. Why anyone has put up wallpaper since the invention of paint, I just can’t understand.
But somewhere, somebody is putting up wallpaper right now, hopefully not in a place that you or I will ever live. For every sheet that comes down, one must go up. It’s required to keep the universe in balance.
You can steam Mike Todd off your walls at firstname.lastname@example.org.