The Dining Room Becomes A Music Studio: Wallpaper Removal

Last night, Nathan and I dug into our first remodeling project on the new house.  Since I’ll begin giving all my cello and piano lessons from home in mid-August, transforming this room is top priority.  After a long day, we were finally both home around 8:30 pm.  Hudson went down for the night.  Nathan and I quickly ate leftovers from the cookout we had over the weekend.  By quickly, I mean no-time-to-warm-them-in-the-microwave and just-sit-on-the-kitchen-counter-while-you-eat.  Needless to say, we weren’t all that thrilled about beginning our project so late.  We had to get it done last night because we’re having carpet laid today, and the piano is being delivered tomorrow.  Stressful is our style.

Removing Wallpaper

Here’s the before picture of the room, minus the cat-stained blue shag carpet we already tore out.  I’m sure you’re sad you missed seeing that.  By far, this is the yuckiest room in the house.  But, by far, this is a way easier remodel than our old house.  That was remodeling.  This is just peeling wallpaper, putting in a light fixture, taking out old trim, putting up board and batten, putting up new trim, having carpet laid, changing out the cream outlets/switches for white, and painting.  No big deal.

Removing Wallpaper

Here we are in the process of peeling off the wallpaper.  As you can see, the top layer of paper came off super easily.  I’ve peeled a lot of wallpaper and it never came off in big sheets like this.  The backing and glue were still on the wall after the top layer of paper was peeled off.

To remove the backing and glue, we tried using a clothes steamer, but that didn’t get it wet enough.  After that, we tried rubbing a mixture of water and dish soap into the backing with a towel, and it started to peel off, but in teeny-tiny bits.  Then, my genius husband brought in a grout sponge, and we rubbed the water/soap mixture into the paper backing with that.  It was magic.  I would wash a wall thoroughly, then Nathan would come behind a couple minutes later, and the backing would peel off in huge sheets.  This little sponge made all the difference-you can find one here for $1.97.

After the backing was removed, there was still the issue of the glue.  Again, with a towel, it was hard work, but removing it with the sponge was so easy!  I would wipe down a section, leave it for a minute while I wiped down another section, then come back and wipe the first section again.  That’s all it took!  From start to finish, this project took less than two hours, including sanding the walls where the chair-rail had been, and cleaning everything up.

Removing Wallpaper

 This is what the room looks like right now.  I can’t wait for the carpet layers to come today and cover up that nasty vinyl tile flooring!


The Downstairs Bathroom – Our Progress So Far


Our bathroom started out as a graffiti-covered, wood paneled, low-ceilinged, weird, old-porch-converted-to-bedroom.  Classy.

Since we started working on this room, Nathan:

-put in the new window

-tore out the paneling

-tore out plaster and lathe

-tore out the old ceiling

-tore out the flooring

-tore out the old wall, making the bathroom bigger and the laundry room smaller

-framed in the new walls, doorway, angled hallway, shower, and vaulted ceiling

-hung drywall, taped the seams, mudded the seams, sanded the seams

-ran new wiring, added a bunch of outlets and added ceiling lights

-put in all new plumbing

-painted, which turned out to be the wrong color, so we have to repaint

-laid tile on the floor

-spent a week fitting the shower walls with a waterproofing material and laying the pan and curb for the shower floor

-laid tile in the shower

-grouted the tile in the shower and on the floors

-installed the bathroom cabinets (well, the cabinet maker did this)

-installed the faucets

-installed the toilet

-connected all the plumbing so the toilet and faucets work!


This is the shower when it was framed in and partly drywalled.  Look how much taller that ceiling is  now!


Toilet corner!

Yes, we know it is right next to the window.  It is at the back of the house, and blinds will be going over it pronto.  The original plan was for this to be the laundry room.  You were going to have to walk through the bathroom to get to the laundry, which was not ideal.  We just couldn’t figure out a way to have a hallway without wasting a bunch of space from the already fairly small rooms.  But then, Nathan came up with our angled hallway, and then the bathroom could be back here, which was great.  Downside: we had already installed the giant laundry room window, and it wasn’t going anywhere.


View of the shower, toilet corner, and raised ceiling.



In this picture, Nathan is kneeling on the shower pan and spreading a cement-like material on it.  After that, he covered it with an orange cloth-like material that waterproofs the shower.  He also did the exact same thing for the walls, I just don’t have any pictures of it.  I am SO glad I didn’t have to do this job.  It looked frustrating.  He had to thinly spread the cement stuff, attach the orange waterproof material, make sure the cement material was a uniform thickness, and squeeze all the air bubbles out from under the orange material.



Wow!  Suddenly everything started to come together!  Nathan and some friends laid the cement board and then the tile in three weekends.  When I measured to order the tile, there was actually more on the walls of the shower than the whole bathroom floor.  And, that angled seat was a real treat to tile.


I found these vanities at Pottery Barn and loved them, but wasn’t sure about the quality, i.e.- how much I was paying for the Pottery Barn label.  So, our cabinet maker recreated them.  I LOVE them, and we are so excited to have counter space after the past nine months of sharing one tiny pedestal sink in our upstairs bathroom.


I promise that underneath all that grime from the wet saw, the tile is really pretty.  I love the rectangular shaped tile that Nathan picked.



After we clean up the bathroom, we have to install the shower heads, wire up the rest of the outlets (Nathan did a few of them last night), install the ceiling lights, put in the door, and trim.  We’re getting so close!  I’ll keep you updated as we make progress over the next couple weeks.

How To Survive A Remodel (While Living In The Mess)

Leah: Adopt an “It’s Okay” attitude.  “Turtle living in the basement?  Can hear a herd of mice running around in the kitchen ceiling?”  “It’s okay!”  “Water from the upstairs bathroom is pouring through the pendant lights in the kitchen?”  “It’s okay!”  “It’s a 5-foot jump into dirt out the front door?”  “It’s okay!”    “I spent my whole morning hurrying around to clean the house before I left, and when I came home this evening, the teeny-tiny piece of drywall you cut out left a thin coating of white dust on EVERYTHING?!?”  “It’s okay!”

Nathan: Don’t let your wife overwhelm you.  She will talk through ten projects in two minutes.  Those ten projects will take thirty days to finish.  Start to tune her out when she talks about the house.  Only take note of her ideas if she repeats them everyday.  That means she actually wants them.


Leah: Offer your husband a helping hand with his projects.  Watch him cut the 9-foot opening for the triple window in the kitchen.  Help him out when the header (a heavy, 9-foot beam) for the window needs to be installed.  As you hold the heavy beam up, be sure not to mention that you can’t hold it much longer.  Instead, scream as your arms give out and drop the beam on his head.
Leah: Take advantage of  your sister-in-law’s offer to help out on the house.  Unload heavy items you purchased together into the old garage on the property.  Let her shut the old, manual, single-panel garage door.  Watch and laugh as she somehow shuts herself into the garage.  Pull really hard on the garage door, the only exit, trying to open it up.  Go get other sister-in-law to help open the garage door.  When that doesn’t work, call uncle to help.  Call other relatives to come look at her through the stationary windows as she is locked in the garage.  Take lots of pictures in 100 degree weather until her uncle can get her out of the garage.
Nathan: We didn’t have a working shower for a month when we moved into our house.  We had to go to our relative’s houses to take showers.  During that time I made a scientific discovery.  Well, it’s more like a formula: angriness = dirtiness^3 + C where C is a constant = how much time Leah had to spend at the house on that day. What it boils down to is this: “Clean wife, happy life.”
Nathan:  Listen to your wife when she finds a cute puppy online and tells you that it would be a great idea to get a puppy.  Everyone knows the best time to get a new pet, especially a 7-week-old puppy, is two days after you move into a house without a bathroom, running water and basic kitchen appliances.

Leah: DO NOT think through what it means when your husband tells you the bathroom might not be finished when you move in the house.  DO NOT be shocked when you realize that since the new toilet is not working yet, you will need to use a bucket.  DO NOT check the bucket you choose for cracks or holes.  DO NOT be surprised the next morning when you wake up in your new home, walk into the bathroom and wipe out on your shiny marble tile because your bucket leaked all night.