I'm contemplating making this the title of my next novel. I
often wonder why people decide to own a home. Oh I've heard the
arguments pertaining to NOT throwing rent money away and the
joys of having an "Investment" and all the other upside
arguments that are made for the joy of home ownership. I agree
that some are valid and coherent in their logic and I would
further agree that for some people having a house is a wonderful
thing. For me, this weekend, owning a house was anything but
My wife had been on my case for nearly a year to take down some
wallpaper borders in our family room. Now I actually liked the
borders and was therefore reluctant to accommodate her request
and successfully stalled this project for twelve solid months.
This, alone, was a masterful display in the art of dodging that
would make any procrastinator proud. Alas, like all good things,
this too had to come to an end. It was time to paint that room
and it was time for the borders of those happy Mallard Ducks to
meet the landfill.
Mistake 1. I set up a timetable for the job and shared it with
my wife. Lesson for all us married guys; never, ever set up a
time table because your spouse will actually hold you to it and
nag you incessantly once you fall behind.
I was able to peel off the water proof decorative covering and
was left with the ugly brown backing that was stuck to the
walls. No problem I thought to myself (Stupid me). I hoped in my
truck and was off to the hardware store. I bought a bottle of
solvent that claimed to remove this stick on mess easily; $9.95,
plus a new scraper, $12.55. I paid for my stuff and made my way
home. I sprayed this awful smelling stuff on the wallpaper
remains and screamed in agony as the backwash came back and
fried my eyeballs. After ten minutes of rinsing my eyes under
cold water and gagging from the smell I decided that it would be
prudent to don some goggles and perhaps open a few windows. I
waited the required amount of time and got to work.
Well, things weren't going well, the backing wasn't coming off.
I scraped and scraped but only succeeded in getting a numbing
ache in my arm and shoulder. I reread the directions to make
sure I didn't forget something. After a few minutes I assured
myself that I wasn't that stupid and tried again. Same results,
an aching shoulder and not much progress to show for my efforts.
At this point I had gone through the entire bottle of solvent
and had no success. I decided that if I used a step ladder I
could probably get better angle while scraping this baked on
Mistake 2. Force, ladders and physics. For every action there is
an equal an opposite reaction. I climbed on the step ladder took
a few deep breaths and forced the scraper into the backing then
promptly fell over backwards landing on my posterior. I
literally pushed myself off the ladder and landed with a
resounding thud that shook the entire floor. Now the litany of
colorful metaphors flew like dandelion seeds in the wind scaring
my 14 year old daughter and convincing my wife that everybody
would be safer if they left the house, which they did.
I took a few deep breaths and walked off the pain from my fall.
I studied the problem and tried to think of a rational solution.
I figured the solvent I purchased wasn't strong enough, so off I
went back to the True Value Hardware store. I found another gel
solvent that was recommended by a clerk, $12.95 and happily went
home snickering. I would prevail against this hideous backing or
die trying. I sprayed this gel, literally soaking it with this
blue gooey substance. After about five minutes my hands started
burning, not the mild tingling, but like I had stuck them in my
wood stove. My fingers and palms were turning dark red. I ran to
the bathroom and began frantically washing my hands in cold
water. After fifteen minutes of soaking my hands in the bathroom
sink filled with water and ice cubes my fingers stopped burning.
Well, I emptied the sink and melted the ice. I figured that if
this stuff would melt flesh, the backing was as good as off the
walls. I'd be back on schedule in no time and have the room
painted before the sun set.
I looked up at those pesky brown stripes imagining those little
particles of paste dissolving in hideous agony from the blue
death I had imparted. It was about this time that my throat
started burning a bit causing me to open a few more windows. The
moment of truth had finally arrived. Like some mad axe murderer
I approached my foe with scraper in hand. I expected the backing
to peel off like orange rind and was stunned when all I scraped
off was a mess of blue goop that started burning my fingers
again. I won't repeat the language I used to express my dismay
at this turn of events; fortunately nobody was in the house to
be on the receiving end of my vile rant.
I glanced over at the clock, four hours had passed, and I had
less than half of one wall partially removed. I looked into the
kitchen at the two gallons of paint, the brushes and rollers
knowing that I should be half way through painting at this time.
I looked back over at the border backings and began to panic. My
wife would be home in slightly under an hour she was having
company and had planned on showing off her newly painted room.
She was going to come home and find a room full of blue acidic
goop covering the walls and not too much else in the way of
measurable progress. I ignored the pain and attacked the wall
with a new sense of desperation; fear of my wife's wrath. I put
all of my strength (as much as the ladder would allow) into
scraping this backing off my walls. I ignored the burning
sensation and continued to force more and more of this paper off
the wall. After forty minutes, I was dripping with sweat and my
shoulders and arms were screaming like I just went ten rounds
with Muhammad Ali. I rinsed my hands off and grabbed a tall
glass of water.
I took a ten minute breather before getting back on the job.
That's when I noticed, to my absolute horror that the blue goop
had dried, and dried into a rock hard shell. The over spray that
had dripped down the walls was now rock solid and seemingly
impregnable, I shook my head and muttered, at least it didn't
burn anymore. The walls were a disaster. There were streaks of
solid blue running down white walls with blotches of blue goop
saturating an ugly brown border backing. As per my usual, I had
succeeded in making a bad situation worse. At this point I heard
the garage door open and knew my wife had come home. Now it
would all hit the fan. She walked in expecting to see a painted
room and saw brown and blue nightmare. She simply glared at me
awaiting some rational explanation of what I had done during the
last several hours. I pleaded my case in between curses. I told
her I didn't give a flying explicative if the room ever got
done. To further emphasize my case I tossed my wallpaper scraper
like a throwing knife and embedded it into the far wall. I went
back into the kitchen and grabbed my jacket, I was leaving to
get a cup of coffee and cool off.
I had my Pumpkin Spice Coffee and after a few sips, things
seemed to be right with the world. I stopped back at the
hardware store and explained my predicament to another sales
clerk. I pointed out the product I had been sold and was
informed that it was one of the strongest consumer grade
solvents available. I agreed with him, displaying my chaffed red
hands as proof of his claim. I asked if there was something
stronger. He nodded and disappeared into the back room. Two
minutes later he emerged with a small bottle of a product that
needed to be mixed with hot water. I bought this and a
razorblade scraper; total purchase $17.86.
I arrived home and heated a pan of scalding hot water. I dumped
the water into a bucket and began to sponge the blue mess I had
made earlier. To my relief it was dissolving and some of the
paper actually began to fall away from the wall. I used the
razorblade scraper in an attempt to get a better bite under the
backing forgetting that sheetrock is mostly paper. Yes, I tore
out some huge chunks of the wall during this process, but I did
get a lot of the paper removed. I would have to patch the wall
once I finished, if I ever finished. At this point I was tired
and frustrated. The room wasn't going to be painted tonight and
I really didn't care all that much anymore. I was frustrated and
tired and didn't have the energy for Border Wars anymore.
I awoke Sunday morning and went back at it, assuming that I'd
be ready to paint by noon. I repeated my first mistake by
relaying this plan to my wife. I got the snicker and the look of
doubt as she took the kids out for the morning. After two more
hours of razorblade scraping and using this industrial strength
solvent that stunk like decomposing road kill, I had managed to
put several deep gauges in the walls and finally remove the bulk
of the backing. I patched the walls and went for a coffee run
while everything dried and the house aired out from that gawd
To finish this long rant, the room was finally completed around
9:00PM Sunday night. To my amazement it looks pretty darn good.
The fact that I have several cuts from the razorblade scraper,
burnt hands and fingers and aches in both arms and shoulders not
withstanding. This whole weekend fiasco set me back $53.31 in
solvents and supplies along with another $40.00 bucks in
environmentally friendly paint. I looked at the room this
morning and wondered why people put themselves through this
torture. Is owning a home worth all this agony? Next week
there'll surely be something else that needs to be repaired,
repainted, raked, mowed, cut, trimmed, replaced or assembled. Is
this what it means to be a homeowner? Damn, no wonder Condo's
are selling like hotcakes up here. My wife wants the hallway
painted next weekend. I smiled politely and told her where the
brushes and rollers were, I want no part of that project.