By Chris Moesch
Home renovation shows are the rage now and in only an hour, professionals can change a simple Cape Cod family home into a charming log cabin with a loft and a wine refrigerator. Sometimes they add big brick fireplaces and sometimes they just make fun of them and rip them out.
No one will ever confuse my home with one of their success stories. I still have a textured ceiling in the kitchen because I’m too lazy to scrape it off. One of my projects, however, continues to keep me occupied so I’m going to write a book called “How to Redecorate an 8x8 Bathroom in Only Eight Years.”
Anyone who has ever owned a home knows that if you fix just one thing it starts a domino effect that will only stop when you are back where you started and the old stuff you replaced is suddenly in style again.
It all started with a leaky bathroom faucet. I thought it would be a simple enough repair but the faucet in question was actually built during the War of 1812 and couldn’t be replaced. It was the kind that was actually built into the sink, which of course, was also built in 1812. And the sink was pink.
I called a plumber who explained that even the handles of the faucet were irreplaceable so, of course, that meant a new faucet, which would have to be put into a new sink which would have to be set into a new countertop.
A few months later, the toilet leaked — it was also pink — and we had to replace it, which meant that the new toilet didn’t match the hole in the floor tile, so we got a new toilet and floor.
During all of this, I decided that the original rainbow sherbet-color wallpaper (textured!) should come down. Nothing in the world matches the 1956 bronze/black ceramic tile in the bathroom, least of all pastel stripes. I chose what was at the time (1992) a conservative dark green/maroon wide vertical stripe design with, of course, a border to complement the motif.
But when I took the rainbow wallpaper down, I was unpleasantly surprised to learn the secret of plaster walls. The secret? When you take down wallpaper, it takes off the paper, the backing, all paint and the first five or six layers of plaster that were applied when the house was built. On drywall, you can hide any and all flaws with spackling compound or Pepsodent. Let it dry, sand it and paint it. On plaster, however, you can spend the rest of your life as I have been — filling, sanding, swearing, filling, sanding, swearing.
Don’t try to hang a picture on a plaster wall. Or — stop the madness — a curtain rod! As soon as you lightly tap a nail on the surface, dust starts and continues to fall out, similar to what people in Pompeii must have noticed before the volcano exploded. If you persist and try to put a nail or a screw into plaster, all you’ll end up with is a 6-inch gaping hole that exposes wood, your aluminum siding and your neighbor’s pool. As I write this, the bathroom is sparkling clean but will forever remain an obvious do-it-myself project.
I laugh to myself when I think of the day that the house will once again be on the market. The new owners will say the same things we said when we moved in. “Can you believe they did THIS? Look at this out-of-date floor! Look at that cool textured wall in the bathroom!”
The secret of MY plaster walls? It’s Pepsodent. Brusher beware.
Chris Moesch lives in Kenmore in an unknown textured location.