I always wanted tile in there

It seems wrong, somehow, to follow up the “I cannot take it anymore and I must vent or kill someone and venting seems less problematic” post with a story about my bathroom. But it’s all I’ve got.

[Except this: Thank you. Not even so much for the comments—though some of those were incredibly kind and I do appreciate all of you pretty people—but for just reading. I had no idea until I wrote about it just how badly I needed a bit of primal scream therapy or its blog equivalent.]

And now let us turn to even more important matters, like why I am afraid of wallpaper.

Once upon a time, many many years ago, my ex and I bought this house and declared that we would never move again. HAHAHAHA. We set about doing all of the things you typically do when you’ve taken up residence in a house that wasn’t custom built just for you; I painted Monkey’s room, we had a mudroom and a new garage added, we put down some new carpeting. You know how it goes.

The interesting thing about this house is that the previous owners were extremely renovation-minded, but they only lived here for a year before being transferred back to wherever they’d come from. Chicago, I think. Anyway, I guess the house was sort of a dump when they bought it. And so it was plain to see where their work had been done.

For example: The kitchen has beautiful tile on the floor, but wallpaper that appears to have been applied during the Carter administration. By toddlers. Drunken toddlers. The previous owners just didn’t get around to working on that, I suppose. And I have often turned to the walls in the kitchen and thought about redoing them, but then I curl up in a ball in the corner and rock until I regain my wits. This is because I’ve already done the Wallpaper Dance.

The children’s bathroom was redone by the former owners. The floor is freshly tiled and the walls are painted a cheerful yellow, adorned with festive frogs. (Do not ask me how I know the frogs are festive. They just are.) The master bathroom, however, was a carnival of horror when we bought the house. Tucked away in the far corner, perhaps we weren’t supposed to notice the shiny, shiny wallpaper and yellowed vinyl. But I did notice it, and I vowed to take care of it right away.

So we hadn’t been here very long when I started pulling down the wallpaper. And I pulled. And I pulled. And I discovered that there were FOUR LAYERS of paper on the bathroom walls, and the walls were riddled with holes, and of course the walls hadn’t been taped or prepped before the papering, so as I worked my way down to the last layer, I was pulling off as much wallboard as paper.

Eventually I had the walls scraped clean. I then patched the holes, and sanded, and applied sizing, and bought new wallpaper, and I was ready to paper.

Except that I wasn’t, because I decided that we should replace the flooring before I papered. Which seemed reasonable.

After over four years of naked walls, I finally spent $40 on some self-adhesive vinyl tiles and spent a day redoing the floor in there. It looks like crap. By the time I did it, the walls and floor had some water damage from a problem with the shower, and I still couldn’t paper.

Two years later, the water damage still hasn’t been fixed, the paper hasn’t been put up, and I wonder if I can plead insanity on those vinyl tiles.

I shower in that bathroom every morning, and none of it has bothered me enough to do a damn thing about it.

But—here’s the funny thing—this realtor friend of mine seems to think no one will want to buy my house with the crooked cheap vinyl tiles and mildewed naked walls. Crazy, huh? I mean, really, I think she’s just not appreciating my design style. (“Please describe your design sensibility.” “I think you could call it… modern apathy.”)

And I would sort of like to be able to sell my house next year, because it’s not going to fit on my roof rack, I’m pretty sure. Also, the wallpaper in the kitchen is slowly driving me insane.

So! What to do? I called up my favorite contractor to ask him to come take a look. I didn’t know if he would be able to cut me as good of a deal as he did when installing the sump pump, but I was hoping that I would again be able to flash the necessary sign to get a break on his work. I was in luck, actually, because right now the correct sign is “willing to pay for this before Christmas when everyone else is not at all interested in having contracting work done right now.” He can fix all the water damage, lay a tile floor, install a new shower door, and put up the wallpaper for a very reasonable fee, all things considered. So I’ve got my estimate, and now all I have to do is pick out the materials. And give him a pound of flesh.

Here’s the thing: I’m irritated with myself, now, that pretty soon my bathroom is going to be gorgeous and I’ll be sitting here with the knowledge that I could’ve done the work 6 years ago and actually ENJOYED it for a while. Instead, I’ll end up making it nice just in time to sign it over to someone else. And that just seems sort of silly.

I sure hope they like the new wallpaper.


  1. Patricia

    If only that wasn’t the way. The exact moment when you fix everything you wanted and get all the little things done that you’ve been putting off is the time you are selling the house and moving to the next place to put stuff off and not fix something to actually enjoy it.

    It makes me wonder sometimes how many people prep a house to go on the market only to fall back in love and continue to live there? Must only happen to my parents — cause that’s just crazy talk.

  2. Muirnait

    I bet lots of people do it. Not Mir though…cuz she went and fell in love somewhere else ;-)

  3. bob

    no, no, no. you need to get your glass half-full. you will now REALLY appreciate your pretty new bathroom for the next 6 months for having lived with the unfinishedness for so long. Happy, happy, not grumpy grumpy. and it is a sign that next summer is that much closer.

  4. Sara

    When we were selling our first home, we refinished the hardwood floors, and put new vinyl in the entry hall and kitchen. It looked beautiful. Then my husband spent the next couple of years (even after we were settled in our lovely new home) apologizing for not doing that work sooner because it was much cheaper than he expected and made the house look so much better. He has, apparently, forgotten that experience because the previous owners carpeted–CARPETED!!–the master bathroom floor. It causes unbridled terror every time I see it. I am ready to just walk on plywood. However, I have found it an effective punishment for my children. To wit:”If you don’t stop arguing right now, then you’ll have to go lay down on my bathroom floor! BWAHAHAHA!!”

  5. janie

    Isn’t that the way it always goes? We have just about finished everything we want to do in this house and my bedroom is finally gorgeous, an oasis even. Now my husband is talking about moving. Ugh. Enjoy it while you can. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy Otto than a new bathroom anyway?

  6. tori

    When we sold our old house, our realtor seemed to think people would want a refrigerator door that stayed closed without the use of a big rope tying it shut. We fixed it and then moved a few weeks later and I was also mad that I hadn’t fixed it for us. It’s amazing what you will do for other people but not for yourself! Enjoy it while you are living there. I bet being with Otto will be much better than a fancy bathroom anyway!

  7. Jane

    We’re at the tail end of a remodeling project that we rejected for 10+ years as being too extensive to be practical. It’s looks awesome, didn’t take all that long, and cost a pittance thanks to our own favorite contractor. After the beginning of the year we’re having him tackle our bathroom, which has always been one of the parts of the house I try not to look at too closely (think: paneling that’s supposed to look like tile). Now that I’ve read your post, I’m extra excited about it!

  8. sumo

    That’s always been an annoyance for me in regards to house projects. You might as well do them so you have time to enjoy them as opposed to waiting until you have to do them just to sell the house. That being said, I perfectly understand why they don’t get done. I have not done a ton of them. Our last house was a fixer upper, but we had no idea how much so. Termites! (not visible and maybe not present when we bought). Garage with water damaged beams which, oh yeah, also supported that corner of the house. (Also no visible signs when we bought). Only 1-1/2 out of 3 working (not finished, just functional) bathrooms (we had 2-1/2 working when we bought… we were working on the bigger issues! Like when the fire department caught our roof on fire. And watching TV and playing on the computer). Anyway, we actually did put a lot of time and money into the place, but we had lots more to go. We got kind of bailed out because a developer bought it so we didn’t have to finish everything. Now we’re in a brand new house with no restoration projects. Other than that leaky garage roof on the corner of the house.

  9. Katie

    We did the same thing in our old house. We had a list (long!) of things to do when we bought it five years ago and pretty much everything got done in the last 6 months before we moved and rented it out. Can we get pictures of your pretty shiny new bathroom?

  10. Niki

    Aha – you’ve stumbled on the reason that projects in my house take 11 years to complete – as soon as we finish, we’ll have to move. Our master bath was ripped apart 11 years ago when we bought this house. It’s mostly done, but no door, no closet door, no closet shelves, no molding – you get the picture. And though the kitchen desperately needs repainting, my dad (the contractor) keeps telling me not to bother – we’re going to rip it out “soon”, so why paint it now? He’s been singing that song for probably 6 years now. It’s like the cobbler’s children with no shoes. I can get him over here to start a project, but it never ever gets finished!

  11. Susan

    I want to see the festive frogs.

  12. carolyn

    From experience, i can tell you that things just work that way. You live with something and keep saying you’ll get around to it and then when its time to move, you finally do it, because the new owners definitely do not want to live with it. In the first house my ex and I owned, we finally got everything done when we put it on the market. It looked beautiful and we enjoyed it for approximately 2 weeks. Then, in the last house we owned together, we got everything done and divorced. I let him keep the house, because he was so “emotionally invested in it.” (his words, ugh!) and now I am living in my own house where I have plans, great big plans. I hope I don’t wait until its time to sell to accomplish those plans, but I have a sneaking suspicion that I will.

  13. Delton

    Isn’t that how it always goes? I’m on my 3rd house and have yet to get to enjoy the fruits of my labor for more than 2 years. Hardwood floors, carpeting, paint, a new furnace, a new bathroom that had water damage and had to be taken down to the studs and part of the floor replaced, new landscaping and a new lawn. These are a few of the many projects that I’ve left behind for others to enjoy. Oh well, it sounds like you’re off to a better place, so let that be your inspiration.

  14. chris

    Our last house I finally got closet doors when we we sold our house.

  15. Therese

    I’ll give you a new perspective. Ever heard of the mechanic’s car? How about the contractor’s house? We have lived in our house for about 22 years, and it’s still a constant project. I have a lovely whirlpool tub in my bedroom that has been sitting in its assigned spot for about five years. We finally got around to purchasing a faucet for it this spring but still no water in the tub. I have no trim, no closet doors….My husband’s theory is that he doesn’t get paid to work at home. I have told him numerous times I can write him a check as large as he wants, but he cannot cash it!

  16. Karen

    Yeah. Me too! Beautiful paint job in the living room, smooth lovely re-plastered walls thruout.

    For Sale sign on the lawn.

    I’ve discoverd the cure. I’m renting.

  17. Aimee

    Just think of it as a way of making the rest of the changerousness a bit more bearable. At least you can admire the wallpaper.

  18. Melisa

    Yeah, when we left Florida we also left behind a brand new $5000 air conditioning unit. It bit the dust one week before closing. Probably could have left it to the new owners, but we were afraid of being hit by the karma train.

  19. Caroline

    We got so lucky when we bought our place – it was a former model home with all the cool upgradews the builder offered, and the previous owners hadn’t done anything to screw it up. The only work we had to do was peel off a dinosaur wallpaper border in what became our office.

  20. carrien

    DO NOT bother to put wallpaper up in a bathroom you are moving out of, trust me. People will want to change it anyway, and it’s too much of a headache. Ask your contractor to recomend a paint that is appropriate for bathrooms, and just put up a good primer and a coat of some neutral color in a semi-gloss or whatever it is. You will thank-me later, trust me. Same for the kitchen, just paint. IT’s cheaper and easier to sell.

    (hubby contracts and does remodel upgrades for resale all the time.)

  21. Her Bad Mother

    Cautionary tale, there. For me. Need to make those changes NOW. Or, yesterday.

    Also, need primal scream, but that’s another story.

  22. Ruth

    Is your favorite contractor going to bring Oscar with him this time too? Because that cold shower suggestion from your Dad won’t have the same effect given the project this time…I know, the “Otto”matic reaction will probably be different this time, but if you still find the need to BLEACH YOUR BRAIN I’d love to hear all. How to succeed and survive to tell, that is.

    Reading those back posts was the most fun I’ve had in a while. Thanks. And if “Job” turns out to have learned his lesson and is now singing in the choir, you should share. Because Job got back double what he lost, and you’ve got Otto, who picks out gorgeous rings. And I could use an extra comforter…They always come in handy for that person on the couch…

    If I go on, I’ll be winning the qualifying rounds for the race to hell.

  23. liz

    could you have the contractor paint it plain white so that potential buyers can “see” what they could do with it. meaning, i know that you have lovely taste in wallpaper, but you wouldn’t want to lose potential buyers because they have horrific taste and can’t see past your lovely wallpaper. best to go with something very, very neutral. and boring. neutral and boring.

  24. Sheila

    When we were selling our last home, just the cleaning (and hiding things in the garage so as to promote the illusion of spaciousness) made me want to stay there a few more years. Why I can’t manage that day-to-day, I’ll never know. Oh, wait… the reasons are aged 8, 7 and 3.

  25. InterstellarLass

    I’ve been without a shower for about a month. In it’s place are wall studs. It’s driving me nuts. We have the materials, but I haven’t been able to light enough of a fire under my husband’s ass to actually get the work done. I wish I knew a Jesus contractor. We got taken to the cleaners just having the new shower basin put in. Won’t make that mistake again.

  26. Jenn2

    Here’s the thing. When we bought this house, the third bedroom had this hideous wood grain wallpaper with fish stickers everywhere. I hated it. With a blazing purple passion. So when I got pregnant with Big Red, I started taking down wallpaper. Only to discover that some previous owner had painted over wallpaper. So I get the layers thing.

    And I want to see the frogs!

  27. Daisy

    I’m with Carrien on the bathroom wallpaper deal. When we moved into our home, the bathroom wallpaper looked great — for about a month. Then, with regular use of that shower, it slowly began to peel at all the corners. Paint the bathroom a generic color; let the suckers, er, buyers paper it if they want to.

  28. Cele

    I’m with Carrien on this one, if you must paper go find some border, and be happy. :) quick fast painless.

  29. Terri

    Yet one more person with Carrien — pick a nice neutral paint for both the kitchen and the bath. Putting wallpaper up is a pain, and tearing it down is almost worse (although the fabric softener trick makes it infinitely easier). We’ve been in our house for 7 years and just finished (mostly) redoing our baths and kitchen. I took out the wallpaper and painted instead of repapering, and it has made a world of difference. We’re looking at selling in the next year or so, and I didn’t want to go through all the trouble of picking paper and putting it up, just to have buyers reject it. If they hate my paint job, then they can repaint with the color of their choice. :) Save your wallpapering for your new home! Although most of my friends here in GA are ripping out the paper and painting instead. Of course, we all have kids, and it’s much faster and easier to paint. :) Good luck!!!1

  30. Kestralyn

    Wallpaper is EVIL!!!

    I have one room left to peel and paint. Then I can work on the paneling, right?

    My favorite wallpaper experience was the rental house a couple of my buddies had in collge. The landlord said they could do whatever they wanted to with the walls in the living room, as long as they FINISHED the project. I was helping them (OK, I was the contractor, honestly), and discovered 60 years worth of wallpaper over paint over wallpaper over paint over… all peeling away from a concrete wall. But only in places! We just Liquid Nail-ed the peeling areas back to the wall and painted over it ;-)

    As a homeowner, I want to go back and smack the s&*( out of my college-aged self. But it worked!

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