Livin’ La Vida Living Room: Tearing Down the Walls

Now you’re probably wondering why we are calling this project “Livin’ La Vida Living Room”– mostly because there were times this project was going to drive us insane. For us taking a huge leap on the project was kind of crazy since we didn’t even know if 1) our skills could pull it off or 2) it was going to look good in the end. Plus we like ourselves some Ricky Martin.

Who doesn’t like watching that?

As I started putting together our tools/materials, I realized it would be easier to itemize what you will need for each phase in that post and then do the total with costs at the end– especially since we are well over 50 items used. Here’s what you are going to need to prep the walls:

  • Steamer
  • Plastic Putty Knife (2)
  • Spackle
  • Electrical Box
  • Drywall
  • 14/2 Electrical Wire
  • Wire Cutters
  • Sanding Blocks
  • Shop Vac
  • Screwdriver — philips and flathead
  • Drill

Tearing down wallpaper is never a fun task, it’s tedious and boring– frustrating too. There are times when you starting weighing the pros and cons of ripping down the walls to the studs and starting all over with new drywall. Unless you have unlimited funds, I don’t suggest this step. Wallpaper removal isn’t hard, just time consuming.

And messy.

And manicure ruining too.

After dewallpapering the dining room, we learned the best way to do it– peel off the top layer with our hands and then use the steamer for the paper left on the wall. We started this process weeks before our Toolcation date. Whenever I walked past the room, I’d peel a strip or two off.

D1 layers

Don’t follow this method. It takes forever and then you’re scrambling the week before your toolcation to remove all the wallpaper. Set aside a chunk of time for a few days and work on it that way.

D1-peeling

Once we had the textured paper part off of the walls in most spots, we removed all the vents and outlet covers. Next came the fun part– using the steamer.

When using the steamer, I recommend having a cold beer close at hand.

Why a cold beer? You see the hot water from the steamer has a habit of dripping on the user. The nice cold beer feels great against the burn. Plus, drinking the beer makes this project seem less tedious.

D1-peeling

If you are wondering how long this took us– about 6 hours to remove all the paper with the steamer. It’s time consuming but it’s easy to do. Hold the steamer against the paper for about 20 seconds, move it, and scrape with the plastic putty knife where the steamer was. We let all the little bits fall to the floor and stay there until they dried. Sure it created a mess but it made picking up the paper much easier. When the paper was dry, it was much, much easier to pick up. I wasn’t sad to see the paper in the trash bag.

D1--pile

Don’t do this if you had hardwood floors. If you do, be sure to put a covering down on the floor first.

Next up is the sanding and spackling. We recommend purchasing the sanding blocks because they are much easier to work with than sheets of sanding paper. Your goal of sanding is to make the walls nice and smooth. There were spots on the wall where the wallpaper peeled up the coating/paint on the drywall. You have to spackle those spots to ensure a nice flat wall for when you paint. Sure it might not look bad unpainted but it will be a huge glaring spot when it is.

D1--spackle

I’m not going to lie, this phase also took forever. You sand the walls with a lower grade sanding block and work your way up to a higher grade to ensure a nice finish. If you think that the flaws won’t show up after painting, they will and the paint will make even more glaringly obvious.

I bet you didn’t think it was going to take this long to prep the walls– I didn’t either. If you are wondering how long– probably five hours or so since it’s a pretty big room.

Our last step in prepping the walls involved moving two outlets a few inches. You see, our grand plan for this room involves having two bookcases on either end of our long wall. The bookcases edge landed on the outlet– on both sides.

Yes, at this point we were thinking the DIY gods were hating us.

Moving an outlet can be an easy task, for us one was easy and the other was a nightmare.

We’ll start with the easy one. First you remove the outlet to see the wires. If you have enough slack with them, it’s easy to install a new box and move the wires. Greg removed the old electrical box and was able to move the wires a few inches to the new box. He cut a hole in the wall and installed the new blue electrical box. If you are installing an electrical box please note the store sells two types next to each other– new construction and old construction. You most likely want old if you are updating your home.

Ugh. Now it’s time to tell you about the bad outlet.

Let’s just say the wall looked like swiss cheese. Our original plan was to have one outlet inside the bookcase in case we wanted to wire an electronic through the bookcase. After cutting our first hole in the wall, we (ok, Greg) realized, the wires could not move far enough in that direction. But to reach this decision we had to cut an even larger hole where the current box was. The box needed to come out help free the wires due to how the builders wired this house.

Then we decided to move the wires to be outside the bookcase. Greg cut another hole (#3) to insert the new box. First he threaded the wiring through (another hot mess of three sets of wires) into the box.

D1--wire2

Do yourself a favor and bring the wires into the box before attaching the box to the wall.

We were almost successful. Sadly, we could not connect the ground wires together. So back to the drawing board Greg went. He decided to reinstall the old electrical box and put the wires back there and then connect a new strand of wires to it and lead that to the new box/third hole.

Sounds like a good plan? It was until we made it to Lowe’s. Do you know how many types of wire there are? We had the option of two and were unsure of which one to go with since the pictures of the items they work for were unclear. Good thing they supply a DIY electrical book to review.

20121210-201525.jpg

In the end, we bought both types 12/2 and 14/2 with the intention of returning the unused wire.

After Googling a solution, we used the 14/2 just to be safe. It’s better to go up than go down. Greg connected it to the old wires and then strung the new wire to the new box and hooked everything up.

Side note: Please turn off the power to the outlet before attempting any sort of electrical work.  I like my readers non-crispy fried.

It worked!!

We shop vacced the floor as part of our celebrations.

D1--shop-vac

Ok, not as part of our celebrations but as a way to keep the room clean and make the next stage easier.

Next up– our new friend Billy.

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