The joys of homeownership

First-time home owners must have their status stamped on their foreheads. They're gullible, have stars in their eyes and think that a coat of paint will fix anything.

I remember that we had been living in our present abode only about a week before the paint brushes came out.

"I don't think I can live with this bedroom wallpaper another week," my partner, the Lady Marjorie, said one night from the other side of the bed. "This flocked design looks like some hippie's bad trip."

The next day I was down at the hardware store collecting all the equipment we'd need to strip wallpaper. There was a gallon of the caustic stripper itself, rubber gloves, buckets, sponges, scraping knives, an electric fan and, finally, drop cloths.

The instructions seemed simple enough. Just drench the wallpaper with the stripper, wait five minutes or so for the glue to dissolve and then peel off the paper. I stretched a drop cloth across on the floor in front of the first wall I planned to attack, pulled on the rubber gloves, picked up a sponge and started wetting down the wall.

The fumes from the stripper solution quickly filled the room, so I opened the windows and turned on the fan. This was not a job to be attempted during the dead of winter. It was getting a little breezy.

You've heard of smells bad enough to peel wallpaper? Well, I was beginning to think that was the method employed by this particular brand of stripper.

After we had waited the prescribed five minutes and then some, we started the peeling process. The wallpaper didn't come off in roll-wide sheets-no, it came off in three-inch by two-foot strips that require a lot of elbow grease.

"There's another layer of paper under this flocked stuff!" my partner discovered. "We're going to have to scrape that stuff off, too."

"Just a second," I suggested, my mind working fast at some method to somehow cut the workload shorter. 

"This second layer with the big flowers was quite popular during the Eisenhower era," I suggested. "Maybe we could just find some period furniture and do the room in that style?"

The Lady M rejected that idea.

Under the flowered layer was paint-over yet another layer of wallpaper. To get the painted layer of paper off, we had to rough-sand it; we then applied more stripper. Under that we found still more layers.

"What if we've bought a paper mache house?" I said. "What if, when I make this next scrape of the knife, I'm through to the outside?"

After weeks of scraping, we finally got the walls down to plaster. The moldings then had to be sanded, the cracks spackled and the light fixture changed. After a year of "off-and-on-again" work, we were at last ready to paint.

My partner came home with what must have been eighteen different sample paint chips-all beige. I couldn't believe there were that many shades of eggshell. The walls in that room were eventually painted a hue best described as "dusky rose."

When it comes to describing how we picked the colors for the outside of the house, I could go on for hours about how, after long study, they were chosen because they uniquely complemented each other-being that they are opposite shades on the color wheel.

But, truth be told, the colors were simply across the page from each other in the paint brochure.

When you've painted a house shades of gray, blue and red, one of the things you have to worry about is having the late Clara Peller roll up in front, crank down the window of her 1951 Plymouth and scream "Where's the BEEF?!" into your mailbox.

You might have thought that the place would have looked like a fast-food joint but, thankfully, it didn't.But painting is only the primer for new homeowners.

They also learn lessons about electrical repairs, woodworking and simple construction, as well as Toilet Mechanics I & II (our present house has two bathrooms with two completely different types of internal plumbing). These last two classes, however, only seem to meet at 4 a.m.

Like my friend at the hardware store says: "Buy an old house and you'll find that the only thing that works is the owners."

Gary McDaniel, a longtime Magnolia resident, is a regular contributor to the Magnolia News.[[In-content Ad]]