Home Renovation: How To Remove Woodchip And Skirting Boards

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If you didn't already know, myself and Lloyd have bought a house! A very old, old house in need of some love and coaxing into the modern world to keep on standing strong and tall for many years to come. You can read all about our reasons for buying an older property, and the very start of this "journey through renovation" HERE.

From the week we got the keys, we had around 6 weeks until we had to move out of our current rental property, which means we have until the 31st of October to ensure that the building and structural side of the renovation is done and dusted, before we get our furniture and fluffy cat guys in to live properly.

At first it seemed a daunting task. It meant coordinating builders (who rarely seem to pick up their phones) to come in at times which were complimentary to each other, taking the odd day off to meet said builders for endless quotes and statements of work, as well as excel spreadsheet monitoring of the budget ticking down. It's a big, scary thing initially, but when you actually start ripping the place apart, it becomes very, very exciting.

Weekend 1: Double Layer Woodchip Fiasco

The thing with the 1960s onward is that woodchip wallpaper was one heck of a trendy thing. SO trendy in fact that the owners of this house fancied popping on two laters of the stuff to all of the downstairs rooms (bar the toilet and kitchen).

This kind of wallpaper is thick stuff, and infused with (believe it or not) chips of wood to give it texture. To get this kind of thing off easily needs a pretty fun technique using chemicals, and tigers...(bear with me).

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Wallpaper Remover and "Tigers"

The chemical and gadgets above are life savers (and I’m honestly saying that).  The DIFF Wallpaper Stripper is a friendly mix of glue thinner which is harmless enough for you not to need to ventilate your room or wear a mask to apply it to walls, however you may want to wear safety goggles if you use a sprayer to apply it, as it can splash back a little in your face. Never nice.

This stuff basically goes on to your wood chip wallpaper, and dissolved the adhesive from the underside. You can almost hear it as you leave it to do its thing. There is on VERY key action you need to take before applying it though, and that’s to run a “Tiger” or two across the walls to fill it full of teeth marks.

The “Paper Tiger” I’m referring to is one of these three stemmed, hand held, little sharp buggers with almost rotary blade feet which you wheel around on the woodchip to score it load, so that the DIFF stripper solution can seep in and get to work. This does require some pretty nimble arm strength, so be prepared to work up a bit of a sweat. BE WARNED THOUGH: We are on our second pair of these guys. If you're doing work on multiple large rooms, you're going to have some of the "feet" fall off. They're flimsy. That's the only downfall...

Once the paper is scored, you can then go ahead and apply the stripper solution to the wallpaper, either with a pump action sprayer, or a sponge. I suggest sprayer, personally. It’s not only a tonne of fun, but you can spray up high without needing a ladder, and it’s just genuinely a super quick method to get drenching.

The solution needs to be given a good 15 minutes on each wall after application to be ready for the satisfying scrape session!

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I swear…whatever magic goes on under that paper is the truest blessing. There were two coats of woodchip on many of the walls, and in around 80% of instances the paper just glided off with a wallpaper scraper.

The rest of the time there were some quite stubborn sections which needed another “Tiger-ing” and a quick spritz of chem, but then that was off in another 15-20 minutes or so again.

In just a single weekend, Lloyd and I had managed to de-chip our two large reception rooms, with the exception of some very high sections of the wall which required a step ladder (which sadly at the time, we didn’t have. We had to finish those bits the weekend after. No biggie).

I’d say it took us around 4 hours each day – so 8 hours total to strip the downstairs back to plaster. And those are not tiny rooms either. VERY impressed.

Of course, now you begin to see the results of your labour, and realise that there really is no going back now…

I was pretty excited by one room actually, which we stripped back to reveal a bold yellow wall, with one section bearing the names of the previous family! I actually sent a picture of this to the previous owner’s daughter who told me the story behind it. Apparently their great uncle “George Henry Taylor” (or GHT here) simply thought it a fun idea to paint everyone’s name on the wall for fun, with no other reason behind it really. Karen is the owner’s eldest (and only) daughter, and Pauline and David were the parents (owners).

I was pretty desperate to find some kind of sentimental treasure somewhere, so you can imagine my excitement when this showed up!

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Preparing for the Builders.

After the wallpaper comes the meaty bit…looking at any disasters underneath. There are but a few.

Due to the age of the property, there was no damp course installed. This means that any water that would get into the walls would stay in the walls, and cause damp. It was apparent that this was a thing when you:

  1. Feel that part of the wall is actually cold and damp feeling.
  2. Notice bubbles in the wallpaper from where it had been wet once, and then dried out.

The only way to keep this house from potentially having damp again in the future, damaging itself in the process, and shortening the lifespan of the very walls around us, we need to have a damp course installed. There’s more on this in my previous post HERE.

This is no simple job, and to get it done requires full removal of plaster back to bare house brick  up to a level beyond where the damp course needs to go, all of the necessary work to fulfil the job done therein, and finally replacement of fresh plaster over the top.

To prepare, we decided to remove all skirting boards where the work needs doing ourselves, which was a simple job for Lloyd to take a mallet and chisel to the things. Some could sadly not be salvaged for replacement after the work, because unfortunately where they had been affected by damp before, the wood had rotted. We will need new ones. Sadly this is the kind of thing you can’t really factor in until you get stuck in and see what’s going on in the squishy bits.

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So that's about the stage we're at now really!

  1. Wood chip wallpaper removed from downstairs living spaces.
  2. Skirting boards removed ready for damp course work.
  3. Carpets loosened ready for laminate and carpet replacements.
  4. Roof tile replacement, lining, and guttering/soffit refit to UPVC (currently in progress. See HERE for more on that).

Still left to do:

  1. Damp course installation.
  2. Demolition of old fireplaces.
  3. Replastering.
  4. Kitchen refit.
  5. Bathroom refit.
  6. New flooring throughout.
  7. Two new toilets (there are two separate loo rooms).
  8. Painting (2 reception rooms, 4 bedrooms, bathroom, kitchen, 2 toilets, stairway and upstairs corridor).

Feels like quite a way to go, but I can most certainly see the end goal, regardless of the rubble. It's a really great feeling actually! I can see why people get sucked in to property development.

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