(I've mentioned before that our apartment occupies the bottom floor of a house built in 1903. As renters, with a dilatory and somewhat uninterested landlord, it's difficult for us to strike the right balance when it comes to things like painting. We want very much for things to look as nice as they can, but are reluctant to put too much effort into a place that is not our own. There is also, I'm ashamed to say, the sneaking feeling that if the landlord doesn't care, why should we? On the other hand, we have to live here - and he doesn't.)
So there we were with ever-more-curling wallpaper. I tried to ignore it. I reminded myself of the unimaginable horrors that can lurk under wallpaper in an old house - spots, stains, water damage, holes. Who knew what the previous tenants had hidden with that paper?
But I finally realised it had to go.
Our landlord was perfectly happy to pay for painting materials if we would provide the labour, so after much agonizing over colours (trying to think what would look best with grey wall tiles, an avodado-green stove, and a brick-patterned linoleum floor), we stocked up on all the necessaries: wall cleaner, paint, roller, tray, brush, painter's tape, tarps. And last week the ordeal began.
The first part, removing the wallpaper, was rather fun. Years of steam from cooking had loosened it to the point that it peeled away pretty cleanly. Any residue came off very quickly when spritzed with water. And the imagined horrors proved largely nonexistent - apart from one very spotty, damp patch where a leak had occurred years before, the walls were in fairly decent shape.
The spotty damp patch was scrubbed and scraped and allowed to dry. Then I spent a day washing the walls and ceiling. As this involved use of a product called TSP (trisodium phosphate), a highly effective but caustic cleaner, I had to wear heavy rubber gloves, large goggles, and something that looked like a WWII era gas mask. (The mask was very good at blocking all sorts of vapours, oxygen apparently included. I kept having to lift it up to breathe.)
I thought my legs were in good shape from cycling, but that day of climbing up and down, up and down, up and down a stepladder, bucket and brush in hand, made them pretty sore. And cleaning a ceiling is surprisingly awkward. They say conductors have strong hearts from working with their arms raised above chest level - if so my heart must definitely be stronger than it was a week ago.
After cleaning, the walls were allowed to dry for a day or two before spackling all the various holes and scraped areas. (Isn't "spackle" a fun word? Kind of a cross between "sparkle" and "cackle".) Then came the priming of the spackled areas.
Finally, after days of prep work, it was time to paint. (Or almost - I still had to tape all the woodwork edges, cover the refrigerator, and tarp the floor. That took the better part of a morning.) At last I cracked open the can of paint and had at it. And after more hours than I can count spent climbing up and down the stepladder, this time with paintbrush or roller in hand, the work was complete.
The beautiful old doorframes stand tall and dignified in their fresh new surroundings.
|Looking from the kitchen into the dining and living room|
And I've gotten a serious workout - all my joints (except my ankles) are sore. (How do painters avoid repetitive strain injury?) I can honestly say now that I would rather ride my bike 70 miles - several days in a row - than prep and paint a room in an old house. I haven't been on the bike for over a week, thanks to this paint job, but plenty of calories have been burned notwithstanding. And I'm so glad it's done! :)
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Do you like to paint rooms? If so, which is more fun - the planning or the painting? The anticipation or the reality?
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