home repair

Removing Wallpaper

February 19, 2014

I don’t know about you, but as Harry Homeowner* I have hung – and removed – all the wallpaper I ever will. I’m over it. I don’t care if it’s “coming back” in style or not – it’s never coming back in my house. That said, there is still wallpaper in my house to be removed. But I’m not doing it.

However . . . for those of you still young or poor enough, with an urge to do it yourself, it’s pretty simple.

Here is the process:

1. Cover surrounding surfaces — floors, baseboards, countertops and any other exposed areas.

DIF2. Get a wallpaper removal solution (such as Zinsser DIF gel) from your local hardware store. Follow the instructions on the label and mix the solution with warm water into a pump-up sprayer or bucket.

3. Apply the mixture generously with a sprayer or a sponge on the wallpaper.

4. Give the solution about five minutes to set. Then, apply a second coat. When it comes to the wallpaper being saturated, the wetter, the better!

5. Wait 25 minutes for the second coat to soak into the wallpaper. This will allow the solution-water mixture to loosen the glue holding the paper to the wall.


6. Start from the top of the wall and slowly peel off the wallpaper in a downward motion. Wallpaper comes in two layers, a decorative layer and a backing layer. Simply repeat steps 3 through 6 for the backing layer. If a layer of wallpaper does not come off, add some more water to it, wait a little while and try again.

7. Excess glue can usually be taken off with more solution-water mixture and a sponge, hand towel or stiff brush.

If you find that there are sections where the wallpaper is not peeling off, use a perforator such as a Paper Tiger to aerate the section. Then, reapply a good coat of solution-water mixture, let it soak and attempt to peel it off again. If needed, use a flexible putty knife to scrape off difficult areas, but only as a last resort.

*Harry Homeowner was a trademark of Hechinger Company, back in the day. Now it’s used as a term for perpetrators of really bad do-it-yourself projects.


Fun in Ocean City

February 19, 2014

KitchenSaverSo, a whole week in Ocean City! Sun, sand, surf . . . uh, no.

I’m helping Ken from KitchenSaver reface the cabinets. Actually, rebuild them, considering all the extra work being done. And I’m not really helping, just being here to answer questions and sort through the inevitable problems as they arise.

For instance, what to do with the pipes that weren’t supposed to be where they are? We closed off one cabinet that was unreachable from the kitchen and planned to open the back of it from the other side of the counter, only to find that the pipes to the sink come in from the OUTSIDE wall through the counter space behind the cabinet. Thus we have, in the middle of the new opening, a set of PVC pipes just itchin’ for a nickin’.

HoleThis photo was taken AFTER he carefully cut out the 2×6 the pipes ran through, which would have also inhibited the cabinet access.

Then, the under cabinet lighting the electrician was planning to install was not the under cabinet lighting everyone else was expecting. Thus we had to figure a workaround to incorporate the new lighting. Fortunately, Ken has seen just about everything and can figure out what to do.

Yesterday, after Ken finished his workday, I got to do the “fun” stuff! If you’ve ever removed a “popcorn” ceiling – yeah, you know what I’m talking about – you know how much “fun” it can be. It’s easy. Just wet the ceiling with a water sprayer, then take a large drywall knife (6-8” putty knife) and scrape it down to the drywall! Comes right off . . . all over everything, including you. Or in this case, me. And the new floor. And the new kitchen counter.

Now, I’m no dummy. I covered everything with plastic before I started, and I held up a trashcan with one hand while I scraped with the other. Even so, it fell on me, and of course I walked in whatever missed the trashcan. I left white marks everywhere I walked. Even though it doesn’t stain, I hope we can clean it all off the new floor before Janet sees it.

After that, I got to install two corbels under the new counter. We (meaning I) had not expected to need these, but my recollection of the counter width I had ordered was not exactly in accord with reality. Thus instead of a 5” overhang on a 16” counter, I have a 9” overhang on an 18” counter. It’s all good – except if one intends to lean on said overhang, one better dang sight have something underneath it.


So with Loctite Power Grab Construction Adhesive, my trusty drill and some 3½ inch screws, I set forth on my next adventure. The Power Grab was for the underside of the counter. Ordinarily when one installs corbels, they go on before the counter and use keyhole screws in the back. But these had to be screwed in from the front, so the Power Grab was insurance. I predrilled holes in the corbels, attached them to the bar and underside of the counter with Power Grab, then started screwing them in . . . when the phone rang. Naturally it was a client. Always at a critical moment. I decided it would be best to let it go to voicemail.

I finished screwing them in (to studs of course) and they look pretty good. I have to fill in the screwheads with some caulk and do a little touchup, but they look great and not too obtrusive. More importantly, the counter won’t fall into anyone’s lap.




Here’s the gist of a great post from LifeHacker on important improvements for your home.

If you own a home, chances are you’ve got a long list of renovations and upgrades you’d like to do on it. (From painting to refinishing floors, it never ends!) When it comes to saving money and preserving the value of your home, however, some home improvements are more urgent than others. Here are three high-priority improvements you should consider doing as soon as possible.

First, understand that these projects aren’t sexy. They are, however, improvements that will save you the most money in the long run, just in terms of resale value and keeping your home from falling apart. Once you’ve tackled these basic improvements, you can focus on the more fun kinds of upgrades like redoing the kitchen or adding on a bathroom.

energygovProject 1: Get Rid of Drafts

Usually experts recommend insulating your home and sealing windows and doors as preparation for winter, but no matter when you take on these tasks, they’ll always pay off. By getting a good seal on your windows and doors (or replacing them with more insulated ones) and adding insulation in key areas like your attic, you’ll not only keep heat in when it’s cold out, but also keep your house cool during the other seasons. You’ll want to seal all the air leaks, both obvious and less obvious (like outlets and switches) for both a money-saving and a comfort upgrade.

If you change the entry door and replace windows, you’ll not only likely see energy improvements, you’ll also improve the look of your home and recoup much of the cost when it comes time to sell the house. Remodeling Magazine’s 2013 report says that changing the entry door has an 86% return on investment and replacing vinyl windows has a 71% return on investment.

Keep in mind also many utilities will offer a free energy audit to help you identify where you can save money, and Energy Star also offers personalized energy-saving recommendations. You can even get tax credits for upgrading your insulation, windows and doors, air conditioning, and more.

energystarProject 2: Update Your High-Energy Appliances

In a similar vein, you’ll get the most bang for your home improvement buck if you upgrade inefficient appliances in your home. The top energy suckers in the home are heating systems, air conditioning, hot water heaters, dehumidifiers, and refrigerators, according to Energy.gov.

There are easy ways to adjust the energy usage of these appliances, such as installing a programmable thermostat and running appliances at night. At some point, though, you’ll have to decide between repairing your home appliance or replacing it. Here’s LifeHacker’s guide on which appliances are worth upgrading and when.

clogged-gutterProject 3: Clean Your Gutters and Look for Structural Problems

Water is often the cause of the most expensive home repairs, so while the snow is melting and the rainy season is approaching, it’s time to stop the leaks and control the water around your home.

A few leaves and twigs in your gutter don’t sound that dangerous, but gutters are the first line of defense against water problems in your basement, cracked foundations, rotten wood fascia, leaking roofs, wood-destroying insects, and other serious problems. So, first, clear the gutters or have a handyperson do it for you, and install gutter guards to prevent future water damage. Now’s the time to also take a walk around your home and look for any foundation cracks, mold or mildew in the basement or other areas, loose shingles or other roof issues, any other signs of water damage, and pest issues.

Water-based problems are often costly to repair, but maintenance/prevention can be do-it-yourself cheap. DIY gutter cleaning, for example, costs only your time and comfort getting on a ladder.

If you’d like reminders for these essential tasks (and others), LifeHacker has a home maintenance calendar you can import to your own Google Calendar.



Driveway Cracks? Seal Them Up!

July 20, 2012

How serious are those cracks in your driveway?  Proper sealing will prevent water penetration which is especially important because our area experiences seasonal freezing and thawing. Nothing can destroy a driveway faster. Driveways should be inspected annually and cracks less than ½ inch should be sealed with a polyurethane caulk, designed to bond with concrete, […]

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A/C Busted? Good Luck.

July 19, 2012

Fraudulent air conditioner repair contractors making the rounds have become just as relentless as this summer’s heat waves. A little while ago, the Today Show set up hidden cameras in a house in New Jersey. Several certified air conditioning experts first verified the home’s central air conditioning unit was in excellent working condition. Then they […]

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How’s Your Honey-Do List?

July 11, 2012

Do you have a long list of honey-do jobs? If you’re like many homeowners, a lot of those won’t get addressed until  it’s time to sell the house, if at all. In hot real estate markets, you can sometimes ignore the fixes—remember bidding wars over properties that needed work? Well, today sellers are looking to […]

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