Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Building a home office: Part 1 - Wallpaper and Popcorn

My wife is a photographer and she is anxious to get into her new home office. It is actually more of a studio than just an office, approximately 242 square feet, including 25 square feet of closet space. The room is located above our two-car garage. The previous owners were nice enough to wallpaper and put acoustical texture, AKA "popcorn", on the ceiling. My wife is not a big fan of either, meaning I had my work cut-out.

The first rule of "popcorn" is that it is usually applied to cover up flaws in the drywall. Rarely would anyone put popcorn on a ceiling because they like the look, at least from my experience. Lucky for me popcorn is pretty easy to remove. All you have to do is spray it with warm water, adding a little wallpaper stripper if you like. Let the water sit for a few seconds and then scrape off the popcorn with a large putty knife. I would probably go over the same spot twice , once to knock down the majority of the popcorn and a second time for a smoother finish.

As a side note, if the popcorn has ever been painted - good luck as it will be much harder to remove! In my case, there was no paint over the popcorn so it came right off. Also be sure to remove everything from the room and cover anything left, including the bare floor, with drop cloths. I prefer plastic drop cloths because actual cloth will soak-up water or paint and allow them to pass through the material, possibly staining the floor or furniture underneath.

After the popcorn is gone, you can go back and repair any drywall as required. I was lucky and the majority of my ceiling was in good shape. I patched up a few rough spots in the seams but otherwise it looked pretty good. I did discover some "artwork" on one part of the ceiling. It looked like some Spanish writing in a word bubble, coming out the mouth of a sun-glassed face, smoking a joint. I guess one of the drywall hangers thought the room needed a signature piece.

Once the drywall repairs were made, I tackled the wallpaper. I should mention that my wife's brother helped with the wallpaper removal. I showed him a few secrets and he did a great job. He also helped me paint later in the story.

When removing wallpaper, you want to lightly score the top layer of paper but not so deep that you damage the drywall. Spray the scored paper with the warm water/remover solution and let it sit for a minute. Repeat this process two or three times. After waiting the final minute, you should be able to peel off the top layer of wallpaper with ease.

Usually the wallpaper will separate into two pieces, the top layer with the print will come right off but the glued portion will often remain on the wall. DO NOT SCORE THE GLUED PORTION. Just repeat spraying and waiting. After a few tries, you should be able to scrape off the remaining paper with a wallpaper scraper. I do not recommend using a putty knife, get a real wallpaper scraper for this. They are designed not to gouge the wall but to instead float across the surface. This will save you a lot of time making repairs to the drywall.

After making any repairs to the walls, I always recommend wiping the ceiling and walls down with your mixture of water and remover. This will hep remove any remaining dust and glue residue. Allow the walls to dry well and then be sure to prime them with a good-quality primer. I always use Kilz but there are other brands that work just as well. Try to get a low-odor primer if possible as they can smell pretty bad. Also, avoid getting primer on your skin as it is hard to get off later. It is not like water-based paint. Primer is not meant to come off easily.

Most primers are water-based but we had dark, stained woodwork in the room that my wife wanted to paint white. In that case, water-based primer will stick but may flake off if hit with any force. For a better result, lightly sand the woodwork and paint it with oil-based primer. That will form a more durable finish and require fewer touch-ups down the road. In my case, I sanded the wood but used water-based primer anyway. I put five topcoats of white satin paint so the finish is fairly thick and durable. Besides, her office will not get a huge amount of traffic to risk damage to the finish.

Allow the primer to dry for a few hours and reapply if needed. A good job with your primer will mean fewer topcoats, especially if you are painting bare dry wall. Once the primer is dry, you can proceed with painting the walls. We bought clearance paint from Lowes, spending about $8.00 for a gallon of the main wall color.

Here is a tip...If people get a custom color made and do not like it, Lowes will not make them purchase it. Instead, the paint is put to the side and sold on the cheap. You can get high-quality paint for a fraction of the price, that is assuming you find a color you can live with. In this case, we went with a khaki green.

It took two coats to paint the lower walls and three coats for the ceiling. I am probably going to paint one more on the ceiling because I can still see a few rough spots where the popcorn once resided. I am using a heavy-nap roller to put a small amount of texture back on the ceiling. It is nowhere near as extreme as the popcorn but it does help to cover some of the flaws. Each coat looks a little better than the first. Keep in mind not to skimp on your brushes and rollers. Buy the best ones that you can afford. The more expensive brands are less likely to shed and leave debris on your walls.

Now that all of the paining is done, I went ahead and cleaned up my work space and prepared to install the new, laminated floors that my wife picked out. But that is another story...

No comments: