Peeling Back Layers

It’s a random sum

There’s something about stripping wallpaper that to me is very therapeutic. The downside is that it can be immensely hard work when there are numerous layers and RSI sets in. Multiply the layers by the number of rooms to strip and the total here becomes at least fifty, perhaps seventy. I don’t know what that number means – it’s a random sum – but that’s what we’ve got. Yesterday that total equated to around about a year’s solid work for me

But today that number has been considerably reduced, courtesy of one of the roof guys who saw me labouring away and brought in a stripping product for me to try. I tried some last night and can confirm that the sum will now be divided by perhaps ten, meaning that naked walls will be achievable in about six or seven. I started again this morning after a coffee

The effectiveness seems to be due to not only the product, but the application using a pressurised spray (‘vaporisateur’), the type you sort of jump up and down on to build up pressure

When we were kids there was a product that was regularly applied to prevent greenfly in the garden, not only by our parents but by us, very willingly, because it seemed so much fun to use the spray thing. It was called, enchantingly, Killa Spray. Therefore, before anyone gets too precious about using spray substances to remove wallpaper without proper mask/ overalls/ ventilation I would suggest that any damage was already done back in the seventies

So, the concentrated product is enormously diluted with water (we’re back to wallpaper stripper now, I very much doubt that Killa Spray still exists) and is used to soak the paper economically and evenly. A few minutes later a scraper will just lift the paper cleanly. Voila! C’est fait!

I admit that I am not so tough, I do wear gloves because my hands are like beacons of abuse right now. But I am also really enjoying removing wallpaper in its truest purest form as therapy

IMG_8092And as you can see they’ve left some spare paper in case I change my mind!

When Wallpaper Becomes Something Else

Think Father Ted and Dougal knocking out the dent

Yesterday’s small ‘outline’ in the plaster has turned into something much larger. Think Father Ted and Dougal knocking out the dent in the car, if you have seen that episode. So as I continued to chip away it morphed into a very large outline, some 160cm or more across, and, having checked the crack in the room above, it is definitely relates to either this ‘feature’ itself or the way it was dealt with during the remodelling of the 19th C

A friend living locally thinks it is unlikely to be a fireplace because it is too large for the room. She may be right, but it leaves us back at square one. As I don’t want to remove all the plaster and bricks without taking advice, it’s very hard to get a decent photo


Perhaps we’ll fully uncover whatever it is and expose it, as an unspecified feature behind a double bed. Or we may just cover it back up again. At very least I’ll ask the builder if it needs a lintel or something to stabilise the wall before re-plastering, and hopefully I won’t find myself in next door’s bedroom, apologising

On verra…





How Strong is Wallpaper? and Other Questions

Can anyone who knows French/old houses, please help me?

I am working under the assumption that wallpaper cannot hold up a three-storey house: not even if there are five or more layers of it. I hope I am right, because:

I’ve been working in a first-storey bedroom we call the ‘big cupboard room’. At some point the room height has been reduced by about 100cm to borrow enough height to squeeze a room above it, leading to a low void, like an eaves cupboard. The room was originally the same height as the salon (390cm). The original moulded cornice is still visible within the void next to the later room on the second floor, and shows that the division between the bedroom and the ‘big cupboard’ is an original 17th Century feature (perhaps a salle de toilette?), and not a later change as we had assumed

(I only know this from crouching in this void, armed with a torch to get a better look at the cornices. A weird little space with a rough seat/bench built onto the wall, it contains huge cobwebs, a cast iron saucepan lid and a couple of very old mummified shallots. Strange? I thought so)

Into the void. Something’s hanging from the ceiling mid-pic. Only just noticed

How is your spacial awareness doing so far? I know, a diagram might help

Anyway, the original tall double doors are still in place in the ‘big cupboard room’ in keeping with a higher ceiling. But was the entire first floor of that ‘house’ once two high-ceilinged rooms with mouldings and tiled floors? This makes me wonder if it was not originally a house, but a commercial premises of some sort

Now the paper stripping comes in: the plaster in this butchered room is bulging along the adjoining wall to next door. A crack has broken through all the layers of wallpaper, and there are at least five, probably six layers (have I just answered my original question?)

I’ve removed some paper the original plaster shows an outline about 75cm square, by the looks of it, filled in before any of the layers of paper were applied. The rough filling is dropping out and someone has later (badly) skimmed over it. I scraped away to get a better view of the indent. I might have said that it was a window, but the house is part of a terrace of houses and this is an adjoining wall. Plus, a window would not be so close to the floor of this room and right up against the fireplace

It’s a terrible picture and I’ll try to get something better, but the top of the indent is roughly 1/4 of the way down and the bottom 3/4 of the way down the photo. The right edge lines up pretty much with the mantelpiece. The crack is not visible here


So what could this unwanted ‘feature’ be? It’s definitely original to the house