making trades | 1970s home renovation

by | Jan 23, 2023 | 1970 home renovation, My House | 49 comments

As I have been working on stripping wallpaper with my one-tank-a-day method, Jeff has been questioning why I don’t get a quote on having the work done.  The steamer would be heating up, he would suggest it, and I would bristle.  It’s not that I didn’t want to have the work done while I was doing things that were more interesting, exciting, fun, and NOT scrubbing off wallpaper glue, but, tedious as it was, it was something I could do myself.  We were already having to hire out so many things that were beyond our capabilities or DIY comfort level, so I felt like if I could do it, I needed to.

steaming off wallpaper | miss mustard seed

I was also concerned about the quality of the work.  This wallpaper was very easy to remove.  It simply peeled off in all but two rooms and below the chair rail in the kitchen.  Removing the wallpaper wasn’t a problem.  It was completely removing the glue so it would be ready for paint.  I just didn’t feel confident that I would find the right company that would do it as carefully as I would.   I was imagining trying to prime over the walls and having the paint bubble up from glue that was left behind.  So, I stubbornly pressed on.

Jeff tried again and made a proposition from a different perspective, “How many paintings could you do in the time you are stripping wallpaper glue?”  I didn’t even need to do the math.  I knew exactly his point and that he was right.  My time could be better spent doing something that only I could do and I could easily balance out the cost of hiring the project by making a trade.

Paintings for wallpaper stripping.

As I stood on a ladder with a steam-soaked arm and a sticky paint scraper in my hand, it seemed like a pretty good trade.  So, I started to do a bit of research.  If you want to have wallpaper stripped, the best companies to call are those who do painting and wallpaper installation.  Not all painters/wallpaper hangers will do it, since it’s such an unpleasant job, but many of them will.  I sorted through a few companies that came up in a basic Google search and found a painting/handyman company with good reviews and an active Facebook page that showed a variety of projects and recent work.  I felt confident enough with their online presence, which looked authentic and positive, to call and request a quote.

I decided I would ask for quotes for the three spaces that feel most overwhelming to me and are becoming a bottleneck to getting other projects done – the dining room, hallway, and Marshall’s room.  The dining room walls are in the worst shape.  When we peeled the wallpaper off the upper portion of the walls, it also pulled off some of the paint, leaving a chipping/flaking texture behind.  The walls need to be primed and painted before we can start building and installing built-ins, which means my books will be parked on wire shelves until then.  It seemed like so many steps and forever away.  Marshall’s room has pink rose wallpaper, which makes me feel terrible for him every time I see it.  It’s pretty paper, but not for a 16-year-old boy’s room!

pink floral wallpaper | 1970s home renovation | miss mustard seed

And the hall?  Oh, the hall goes on for miles. Getting those three spaces done would be a huge weight off.  I could just start painting the walls and trim.  There wouldn’t be a thousand steps that had to happen first.  Even that idea made me happy.

long hallway with green wallpaper | miss mustard seed

The owner of the company came out that evening, checked out the project, and gave me a quote.  It wasn’t cheap, but it was definitely in line with what I was expecting.  We went a little deeper into the quote, which would include stripping the wallpaper, completely removing the glue, patching any holes, and priming the walls so they were ready to paint.  This would be perfect.  We decided to think about it overnight and, in the morning, decided it was worth it.

The crew was able to start the next day, which is crazy fast in this market!  I think I caught them between jobs.  It sent us into a bit of a flurry because we needed to remove all of my books from the dining room and move the rest of the furniture to the middle of the room.

dining room furniture moved for wallpaper removal | miss mustard seed

ironsotne on a wire rack | miss mustard seed

We got it all done, though, so the crew could start the next morning.

dining room furniture moved for wallpaper removal | miss mustard seed

Three people started attacking the walls, peeling off the paper, sanding off the glue, and spraying the stubborn bits.   They are making progress that is blazing fast compared to my pace.  It is glorious.

stripping off wallpaper | miss mustard seed

stripping off wallpaper | miss mustard seed

When I peeked in on their progress on the pink flowered wallpaper in Marshall’s room, those tiny bits of damp paper littered all over the floor told the whole story.  This paper was a struggle to get off, but they kept at it.  It took three people five hours, but they got all of the paper and glue off and are now working on patching, sanding, and priming today.  (Look at those nice, bright recessed lights, though!)

stripping off wallpaper | miss mustard seed

Most of the paper in our house peels off pretty easily, just leaving the glue behind.  This paper, though, needed to be saturated, left to soak, and then scraped off.  The downside is it’s messier than just peeling off sheets, but the upside is the glue seemed to come off mostly with the paper.

stripping off wallpaper | miss mustard seed

stripping off wallpaper | miss mustard seed

I have to tell you, I have felt like a weight has been lifted.  Instead of feeling guilty about hiring something I could do myself, I feel liberated from it.  Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I feel a renewed excitement about getting to paint some walls and make real headway on the project list.  Wallpaper stripping and glue scrubbing are still in my future, but it feels more manageable now.  I have a few kitchen walls to finish, but the rest will be completely removed during the kitchen renovation.  The guest room walls are covered in wallpaper, but I plan to just remove the paper and hang new paper, eliminating the need for thorough scrubbing.  Both bathrooms are still sporting wallpaper as well, but I feel like those are reasonable for me to do and there really isn’t a rush to get those spaces done since bathroom renovations aren’t going to happen anytime soon.

If you’re someone who likes to do things yourself, you understand how hard it is to decide to hire something that you can do.  It almost feels like cheating for some crazy reason.  I have no problem hiring out work that requires special skills and knowledge that I don’t have and I don’t have any interest in learning.  It’s hard to justify paying someone to do something simply because it’s tedious or will take a long time.  But, I have learned over the years that there are some projects or some seasons of life when it’s just better to pay someone to do it.  It can be a very good trade to gain time, and energy, more time for work, more time for family, or simply more time to not battle wallpaper paste. I hadn’t really looked at it in terms of what could be traded until Jeff posed that question to me.

I share this to let you know that I don’t do it all and I hope it will be an encouragement to you that you don’t have to do it all either.  Sometimes holding onto doing a project yourself becomes more of a liability than an asset.

So, obviously, I’m not paying the crew in paintings.  They would like to be paid in good, spendable dollars.  But, I have calculated the number of paintings I need to create and sell in order to cover the costs of this project.  And, for me, time at the easel is much more enjoyable than time removing wallpaper.   So, I have been painting away, filling my drying shelves and I’ll have details about an original art sale soon.

I know it might come as a disappointment, but I’ll likely only write one or two more posts about stripping wallpaper instead of a complete book of all of the methods, liquids, and techniques we threw at the walls.  I’ll be able to get on with things that will be more exciting, like putting a new color on the dining room walls and planning built-in shelving to create a library.  But, before I do that, I need to get back to the easel and do some more paintings…

49 Comments

  1. Cathy R

    Something happened to me on the way to turning 70.
    I embraced the trades coming to my home to do stuff.
    I’ve never had a “cleaning lady/service” but I’m so onboard
    hiring painters, tilers, slipcover makers….

    Reply
    • Jo Ann

      I’m so glad you commented! I’m 76 and at the point where I want someone else to do my cleaning. It’s something I should do myself, but I want to spend my time on FUN projects–not cleaning!

      Reply
      • Carolyn

        Thank you ladies for commenting. I am on my way to 80 in several weeks. You are making me “feel okay” about hiring out. Thanks again!

        Reply
        • Kay Hess Grogg

          Oh, Cathy R. Jo Ann, and Carolyn. I’m right with you three as I’m looking at stripping wallpaper with lots of borders with paper, in my kitchen, hallway and breakfast room. My daughter talked me into letting her friend clean my house and it’s nice, at 70, to have a clean house even if it’s just for a few hours. lol

          Reply
          • Dianne

            At 76, I am right there with you girls. Love hiring professionals now and appreciating them so much. I still do a lot. I tackled the same project a year ago; wallpaper removal, scraping, steaming, priming and painting…so hard. I would rather be doing art now too!

        • Mayanna

          I am 83 and have never had a cleaning person. I would feel I would have to clean before they arrived. I have to confess I would love to have my bathrooms cleaned everyday. I have always been a DIY person. I was my dad’s “boy” and learned a lot hanging out with him, so when something needed painted or repaired, I was not afraid to try. Sometimes my lack of height and strength got in the way, but I’m not afraid of getting on ladders either.

          Reply
          • Jo

            I’m 74 and have had a cleaning lady for about 6 years. I used to feel like I had to clean before she came, but not anymore. Is it done the way I did it? No. But…I don’t have to do it. It’s worth everything to me to not have to clean.

      • Leslie C

        I have found that money can buy happiness when it buys you “time” for the doing the things you enjoy doing in life. Plus you are helping someone else earn a living.

        I still do a lot of my DIY projects, but appreciate the ability to hire it out when there’s an option.

        Great decision Marian 😊0k

        Reply
    • Carswell

      I’m not 70 yet, I’m turning 65 this year and I absolutely am embracing having the trades come in and do things I no longer have the inclination or stamina to do myself. I’m currently preparing three rooms for paint and wallpaper and I’m really looking forward to getting to the stuff I want to do – which is the fun stuff.

      I painted my living room a few years ago – it took me four days. Granted I painted the ceiling as well, but compare that four days with the single evening the walls took me the time I did it previously. That was a bit of an eye opener.

      I want to decorate and enjoy my house and if hiring out the scut work is the price I pay then so be it.

      Reply
    • SusanIrene

      I’m 75 and it must be a generational thing. We have to teach our daughters and grand-daughters not to feel guilty about hiring something to do what they can do so their time is better spent doing other things.

      Reply
  2. Beckie High

    Where did you find the rug in your dining room?

    Reply
    • Lori F

      That’s an Annie Selke rug.

      Reply
  3. Patricia Kasparian

    I’m so happy for you to have some of that tedious work done by others. We paid a painting company to do our entire house’s interior months after moving in in 2018, tons of prep was needed and they said they’d never used so much caulking on any job ever! Yes, it was expensive, but with a LOT of construction going on and loads of stuff to do ourselves on a 1775 house that seemed to need everything (sill replacement, new floors, a kitchen added), it was one thing we were able to see accomplished right away. We lightened up all of the colors in the house and I can’t tell you how that cheered us up and created a vision for the rest of the house! We do loads of stuff ourselves, but sometimes it’s just worth it to have professional help that can save you time, another precious commodity.

    Reply
  4. beverlee

    First of all Jeff needs a prize! He loves you! The rest is wonderful, but that is the best!

    Reply
  5. Teresa

    Marian,
    I think Jeff had the right idea! While I know this is a project (although not fun) you could tackle, this would require alot of time and labor when you could offset the costs by doing what you do love. Like you mentioned, the wallpaper removal isn’t the hardest part, it’s the sanding, repairing and priming of the walls that requires so much attention.

    Back in November, we had our stained wood wainscoting and trim painted as well as the walls. We had a professional painting company that was doing another job for a neighbor come in and the crew of three completed the job in 4 days. It wasn’t cheap either, but it was well worth the money. We had debated on trying to do the job ourselves, but knew it was going to be very labor intensive with sanding, priming and prepping and decided in the long run it was worth spending the money. Your house is going to look amazing once all the rooms are painted and old wallpaper gone.

    Reply
  6. Cath Gibbs

    Not only do you have the instant gratification of the wallpaper stripping etc. done, but you have also saved time and energy for projects that no one else can do. Someone else might be able to load all the furniture back into a room or put books or your ironstone collection on shelves, but it won’t have the artistic look you need. And that creation process takes mental energy.
    A friend and I stripped wallpaper, prepped and repainted a house I was selling. There was wallpaper in only three rooms and I think I would rather eat dirt than do that again!

    Reply
  7. Ramona J

    Go, Jeff! He’s a keeper!
    I can’t wait to see those freshly painted walls!!!

    Reply
  8. Darleen

    So glad Jeff helped you come to that devision. I worried you might compromise your shoulder if you did all that yourself. I found that repetitive motions caused me problems and stripping, washing, steaming and scrapping wallpaper n paste is pretty repetitive and some us have a tendency to just keep going until jobs done….Seemed a bit worrying. Glad you got the help

    Reply
  9. Victoria

    Given shoulder surgery and foot healing you may well not only have ‘wasted’ painting time, but crippled yourself so that you’d have an extra recovery period before being able to do the fun stuff.

    Soooo much easier to tell you that then take it on board myself!

    Reply
    • Michele M.

      I agree – healing one’s body (if one may call it that in moving while recovering, still) is way way more important than doing hard manual labor. I always joke and say I am allergic to hard labor. Never in a million bazillion years would I EVER strip wallpaper. EVER. I am glad you have Jeff to talk you out of such guilty feelings. You do so much – you hire out whenever you are able to and create! Life is short. Plus it helps those companies stay in business too. Winner winner chicken dinner.

      I think you are entirely too hard on yourself. Tell guilt to fly away, no need for it, esp in this case. And yay another art sale in the future – see? We’re all still winning by this decision, haha.

      Reply
  10. Kate

    Hello Miss M., I so enjoy reading about your house…I empathize with anyone who has this dilemma with wallpaper removal, glue that won’t budge and paint that is bubbling and popping off. I purchased a 1928 Tudor revival home wallpapered top to bottom. I spent to hours/days/years removing this and repairing and prepping plaster walls for painting. In your previous post I told you about fabric softener to remove glue. To fix the walls where the paint has popped you need to have washed the walls, then mix a product called “Durabond” with drywall compound and apply with a putty knife, when dry sand the area to achieve a level thickness, then apply an oil based primer to stabilize the substrate and then apply your choice of topcoat paint. I restored that house with the help of resources from the Smithsonian and “This Old House”. That is how they directed me. Not a quick fix but authentic to the materials used and to the integrity of your home.

    Reply
  11. Lorie Pirtle

    Well I’m usually not one to say “I told you so” but….. Seriously though I’m glad you got that out of the way. I know I would rather til a garden with a plastic fork than strip wallpaper again.

    Reply
  12. ellen

    Look at it this way. You are providing income for people who need the work. Plus, you are saving your body from possible injuries from being so exhausted. It’s a win win for everyone!

    Reply
  13. MARY-ANN (FROM CANADA!)

    Marian, your dear Jeff is wonderful and I’m so glad that he found a way to convince you to hire out the removal of the wallpaper, glue, etc. I’m so happy for you that this has been done!

    Reply
    • Christine Irvine

      I have always considered this philosophy. It’s a trade off. Also, we keep trades people employed, which is important.
      By the way, your dining set is gorgeous. I know you’re thinking of getting rid of it, but I wish you could maybe also find a professional to fix the problems with it. I have a similar set I bought 20 years ago, and paid $200 back then, so yours is a steal. I’d hate to see it go unused or to the dump.

      Reply
  14. Babs

    Great decision with a wonderful outcome! Sometimes money saved isn’t really getting you where you want to be. You have shaved off time (weeks?) spent working rather than enjoying your completed home.

    Sounds like you are in an area with competent help available. Might as well take advantage of them.

    Reply
  15. Amy

    As I have gotten older my husband has finally (after years of trying) convinced me to put a value on my time. So, as much as I hate to ask for help or hire someone to do something I am perfectly capable to doing. I have started hiring help when it becomes more cost/time effective…or when I admit I will pay for it physically the next day. Even shopping for things. I used to spend hours trying to save $20 or $30 dollars. But, the time I spend shopping for the “best” deal actually ends up costing me more, if I put a value on my time. It is a hard lesson for this stubborn, cheap, self-reliant woman 😉

    Reply
    • Mary S

      Great post, Amy. I’m 73 and slowly deciding I need help cutting my grass and other things that require me to be on a ladder. The bruise is still healing. Thankfully, no broken bones. I’m starting to get it!

      Reply
  16. Mary S

    Well, you did bite off a lot to do… I painted the entire interior of this house 4 years ago when I moved in here. The furniture wasn’t in the way so it didn’t seem so bad.

    Now, I’ve decided I needed to lighten things up. So 6 gallons and 18 days later it’s finished. The fellow acorss the street helped me with the very high places and he used a 16 ft. ladder.

    But, the big thing is I fell off an 8 ft ladder and still have an enormous bruse on my left bicep. I thank the Lord nothing was broken. I’m 73,,, stubborn and always think I can do it. Well, I’ll not rush into the next project if it requires my feet to leave the floor! Good decision, Marian. Besides, you still have more opportunity to peel paper in the future… but I like to say, the “big” stuff is done. Look forward to seeing those finished and painted rooms.

    Reply
  17. Karen Kinnane

    Dear Miss Mustard: Great, sound decision! Barry and I are real DIY. Want some elderberry jelly? Plant the bushes and harvest your own berries. Restore an 18th century house? We did it all. Now at 74 I hire tradesmen to do some of the work and it allows me to enjoy doing more interesting and many times more lucrative things. It’s an emotional struggle to hire help but I give in eventually! All this work you are painstakingly doing and paying to have done makes me marvel more and more at the shelter magazines flogging the most strident wallpapers on large areas of houses. These in your face, strong colored patterns are going to age out so quickly and then the owners are going to pay the price to remove the unappealing (to me) papers. We’re not talking a nice classic toile here or rosebuds and ribbons in a Victorian style boudoir, but that really bright, splashy modern stuff.

    Reply
  18. Helen

    I spent at least 40 hours removing painted grass cloth from a previous family room. We had just moved in with a limited renovation budget so I knew it was either me removing the grass cloth or living with it. I feel your pain! I enjoy following your progress!

    Reply
  19. DianeH

    Best house decision EVER!
    When we moved into our home, every room was covered in wallpaper just like yours. I never want to see sticky bits of paper on me, the floor,tools and everything else again.
    And your still painting, the fun way where your talent and time are best spent. Hold on to Jeff, he’s a keeper!

    Reply
  20. Irene Kelly

    Well I’m on my to age 79 and for years my sister (who has had cleaning ladies forever) has been encouraging me to try them. And I have a team that I have loved their service for a few years now. All I do in point and they clean Love it ! My famous saying is we have someone for everything here ! I am scheduling a professional organizer to help me with my craft room and my office. Cannot wait to see the finished areas of your home.

    Reply
  21. Norma

    Marian, please tell me where I could find a light , like yours, which is above your painting.
    Thank you.

    Reply
    • Marian Parsons

      The light in the kitchen in the first picture? If so, that is a vintage fixture that came with the house.

      Reply
  22. Jen C

    Good for Jeff that he persevered in convincing you to hire someone to remove the wallpaper. I’m sure you felt a sense of relief when it was finished and now you can forge ahead with other projects. Renovating is a big job. We are renovating two bathrooms that have been on the list for a few years. While we are waiting for the flooring and tile to come in we are supposed to be painting the ceiling, walls, and trim of one of the bathrooms but unfortunately we both became sick so everything has come to a standstill. We also used to do as much renovation ourselves that we could but now we hire out to the trades.

    Reply
  23. mary

    We DIY people have a difficult time letting others do what we know how to do but you have made a very wise decision!

    Reply
  24. Cheryl

    Good for you Marian!! We all need to feel less guilty about things like that!

    Reply
  25. Peg

    We bought a new to us house in the mid-90s, wallpaper throughout the main floor and basement. We stripped wallpaper for months and agreed we would NEVER buy another house with wallpaper, even if we liked both the house and wallpaper. Years later I walked out of a house we’d gone to see that my husband loved, but it had wall-to-wall wallpaper. He was disappointed, I was adamant and would not back down (he got over it). It still holds true today. To me, wallpaper ranks right up there with window blinds and mammograms. No thank you.

    Reply
  26. Mary Anne

    When you say “Yes” to something, you are saying “No” to something else. Sometimes you have to remember to weigh what is getting the “No”!

    Reply
  27. Pakster

    Yay Jeff! He showed you a real world example of microeconomics: opportunity costs.
    I learned this lesson way back when I lived in NYC. I realized that I could hire out my laundry and make more money working overtime on the weekends instead of sitting in a laundromat waiting for my clothes to dry.

    Reply
  28. Cynthia Johnson

    Good for you Marian.. it can be hard to ask for help and even harder to accept it! Way to go Jeff!! You both have worked so hard .. I hope the road ahead feels a lot lighter.

    I’d love to know if the rug below the dining room table is still available?

    Enjoy a bit of extra time and painting 🙂

    Thanks you.for all your shares!
    Cynthia

    Reply
  29. Addie

    HA! Gee Jeff, where did you get that idea? In the comments of your January 18th post, “My top 3 tips for getting things done” I wrote in the comments EXACTLY this. You could be painting and doing very well at selling the paintings to make up for the cost of hiring professionals for this awful job. With the BIG plus of enjoying yourself while painting.
    Sometimes ya just gotta go with it when it is so unpleasant of a job and the need to move forward outweighs it all.
    On to the fun stuff!!!

    Reply
  30. sandi m

    So much food for thought from all the comments. Jeff is a keeper!! and so right about trading. Looks like you found a great company. That’s always been my problem, finding someone I can trust, not charge a fortune and do a good job.
    Your shoulder and foot will thank you a million times over, too! 🙂

    Reply
  31. Kris

    Marian, as a therapist, I have to say that I was wondering how wise it was for you to put additional stress on your foot as well as your shoulder by doing the wallpaper removal yourself. The repetitive motions, the odd positions …. let’s just say that I’m glad that you have such a smart husband. You aren’t saving money if you re-injure yourself.

    I’m happy for you to get this long and hard job done by professionals, but I’m especially happy that your son doesn’t have to live with pink flowers any more. 😉

    Reply
  32. Mary

    That’s wild my house was papered in every room and I got tired of it so I stripped it all off but I didn’t have to clean glue off the walls I just painted them and their fine!

    Reply
  33. Katherine

    Lots of hugs for Jeff for being such a considerate, sensitive and caring spouse. Wonder how long you would have kept at it if Jeff hadn’t offered you a different “logical” perspective.

    Reply
  34. Patricia NACE

    Marian,
    Your home is going to be beautiful. I too had wallpaper stripped off and what a joy it was not having to do it myself. How did you handle the tile in your hallway I have the same tile and it is awful.
    Thanks,
    Patricia

    Reply
  35. Kim

    One point I haven’t heard discussed so far is the wear on our bodies when we do this work. Our joints don’t stay young forever and this type of work is really bad for hands, wrists, shoulders – you get the idea. I’ve had both Basil thumb joints removed and repaired, which is a long healing process. Think about not being able to use one of your hands for weeks and up to a year for full recovery. I especially started to notice, at your age, pain in both hands and shoulders after removing wallpaper from our entire house, like your house it was covered and had areas with double layers, some painted over. I also fractured a foot from standing on a ladder for too many hours. A common thing I notice among female DIY’ers is the heavy lifting they do. Think pelvic floor damage and bladder prolapse. So, in a nutshell, it’s good to stop and consider how you want your body to feel and function over a lifetime before proceeding with projects. Believe me, it’s not worth the sacrifice.

    Reply

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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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