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Let the painting begin

Part 2 of a 5 part series on the renovation of the author’s cottage on PEI. Click here for part 1

Initially, my biggest concern about the painting was the sheer volume of work. Even though I was planning to take a week of vacation to do the painting, we knew I could NOT paint the inside of a house by myself in one week. While discussing if we should hire a professional painter to help Karl discovered that one of his golfing buddies had a sister in PEI who did house painting as a side gig. Two phone calls later and we had a painter named  Henrietta who lived an hour’s drive from the cottage. We decided she should stay with me at the cottage for the week and picked the week before Thanksgiving to do the painting.

Scoping it out . . .

Henrietta is a 60-ish year-old woman who stands no more than 5 feet tall. To say the least, she is a workhorse. She stopped by the cottage the day before we were going to start to take look at the job and decide which equipment to bring. Without her long-handled paint roller for walls and ceilings the painting would have been a much harder experience for sure.

She came back the next evening, suitcase in hand, and we spent a few hours making a plan of attack. Most of the interior was painted in one of three different shades of yellow. The walls, ceilings, radiators, stairwells, kitchen cupboards, stair treads, light switch covers, etc… all yellow. A basement bathroom painted navy, the upper bathroom’s ceramic-tile print wallpaper and the two-toned second bedroom were the exceptions. That bedroom also had border wallpaper at the ceiling. Removing this border paper would end up being far more than we bargained for. Clearly there was a lot to do.

The work begins . . .

We got rolling (pun intended) at 8:00 am the next morning, and each morning after. And each day we painted until around 1:00 pm before taking a full 20-minute lunch break. Henrietta was no slacker! After lunch we would paint until around 7:00 pm and then quit for the evening. If we stopped by 5:00 pm for supper, we would usually paint again for few more hours after dinner.

Henrietta painted all the ceilings. One of the shades, a dark yellow/gold hue, was particularly difficult to cover and took 3 coats of ceiling paint. Painting ceilings is not an easy task and thankfully Henrietta handled it all. We developed a routine – I would work on trim in one room and cutting in on the walls, she did the ceiling in another room. Then we would roll the walls in both rooms and swap rooms with the first tasks again.

We were initially planning to leave the bathroom wallpaper on as it was in good condition. But I felt it would look odd being the only wallpapered room in the house. Holding my breath, I pulled at a seam to see it was going to come off easily and it did! I removed it all in one hour and the walls remained bare until the spring bathroom renovations were finished.

A snag develops . . .

As the week progressed my worry grew. The amount of time it was taking to paint window trim, baseboards, radiators, shelving units, kitchen cabinet interiors, walls and ceilings, was really adding up. And then we hit an unexpected roadblock: a 6-inch wide strip of border wallpaper at the ceiling of the 2nd bedroom. Due to its heavy texture, painting over it was not an option. So I pulled at a corner and to my delight it also pulled off easily. This was definitely the way to go!

This easy removal continued for the entire first roll covering the first one and a half walls. As I attempted to peel off the start of the next roll at a seam, progress ground to an abrupt halt. It almost seemed like one roll was dry strippable and the second one definitely was not! Or for some other reason, it just wasn’t peeling off. UGH…. it was way too late to change our minds and paint over it. The first roll of border paper came off in pieces several feet long, but the second roll was coming off in pieces the size of a quarter, or smaller.

Finding a solution . . .

So I reached out to my good friend Google to figure out how to get it off. We ended up using a razor-edged scraper designed to remove paint speckles from glass. I would peel off the top printed layer, then soak the paper layer with a squirt bottle of hot water. After it sat for 15 minutes, I would use the scraper to remove the layer attached to the wall. To say it was painful, especially standing on a ladder with your head against the ceiling, would be an understatement.  

It was difficult standing at the top of the ladder working against the ceiling. Henrietta and I alternated working at the border paper and approximately 5 hours later the job was finished. It took another hour to patch up the scraper gouges in the wallboard, sand the patches, and clean up the sanding dust. While it wasn’t completely ready to paint until the next day it did eventually get finished. Looking at it now you’d never know border paper had been there.

It seemed much of the painting was still not finished when Friday morning arrived. Karl, our daughters and their boyfriends were arriving that evening for the Thanksgiving weekend. I knew we wouldn’t be able to do any more painting with that many people (and our dog) in the house. But by the time Henrietta left at 4:00, there were only a few walls left to roll in the basement which I knew I could do myself at a later time. I paid her for 55 hours of work over 5 days. The money (and pain) was all worth it. I’ve always said nothing can change the look of a room or a house as dramatically, cheaply and quickly as new paint can.

The big reveal . . .

Karl and the girls were shocked at the change they saw when they arrived. With the new colours, and a new living room couch I managed to find and have delivered in 2 days, the main floor was a total transformation.

Living room before
Living room after
Sunroom before
Sunroom after

It would be another two years before I considered it fully “finished”. A main floor bathroom in the sunroom, and significant amounts of art and other decor would be added in the months to come.

Next post – Spring (and the contractor) arrives.

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