Monday, September 13, 2010

Nana's Big Project

I started writing this post on May 31 -  but got so overwhelmed with it, I had to stop. There was TOO many things to write about. I have come to realize that "Nana's Big Project" is a book - or at least a handful of posts....

So - as I mentioned in a previous post about the end of this project - Nana has been itching for years to paint a big bedroom and adjoining bathroom, and another small bathroom in their condo -- all covered in wallpaper.

But Papa didn't want that done.

So when Papa leaves for a 3-week trip to the middle east, Nana decides the rooms need to get done now.  I check the wallpaper to see how hard it will be -- it is obvious the wallpaper wasn't put up properly and it is going to be a pain to get it off.

Nana decides that the solution is to paint over the wallpaper.

Me: No.

Nana: Oh come on Chino. It's good! The wallpaper is smooth! No one will see it!

Me: No. No. No. You cannot paint over the wallpaper Mom. I won't let you. It will look crappy and if you ever want to fix it, it will be an even bigger pain.

Believe me - I am all about taking shortcuts. Shortcuts are good. But when it comes to home improvement projects shortcuts are bad. Very very bad. I owe this perspective of course to my sensible husband who does not take shortcuts on anything... and once convinced me that we had to scrub the old masonite siding on our home with a brush and soapy water before we could paint it.

Nana: (looking pitifully at me) Well, who is going to take the paper down? You dad is coming in a week!

I know the answer to this question. I no longer have a dissertation to write as an excuse.

Me: Mom - I don't think you know what a pain taking down this wallpaper is. It is not fun and it is going to be a huge mess. Plus, the walls will probably have to be patched or textured. I mean, I can paint everything once the paper is down, but I really REALLY don't want to take down this wallpaper.

Nana: So we can't do it?

Me: I think we should get an estimate. I don't know that I can get it all done in a week during the evenings. So let me call a few places and we'll see.

We get an estimate.$1600 to take down the wallpaper, texture and paint only two rooms.  Mom says it is too much. My sensible husband who has never hired anyone to do anything thinks it is too much...

So I am guilted into doing it for her.

Paul: I'm not tearing down wallpaper. Don't ask me to. I won't do it.

Of course he won't. Why should he? She's my mother. Plus, he has done countless home improvement projects for me... Plus...

And he knows this will be hell.

Me: I'll do it. I'll ask the kids to help. It will be good for them to work.

It took six of us two full days to get the wallpaper down from two rooms. Six people working from 7 am to 10 pm. That is what a bitch this was. And I've taken down lots of wallpaper - so I'm not an amateur or anything. But it was awful. AWFUL. The people who had put it up, put it right on the drywall. Right on it. No plaster on the drywall, no primer on the drywall... nothin'. Just drywall. So you can just about imagine the mess. We did a good job of not damaging the walls too much - but then I had to spend half a day applying plaster all over the bathroom walls (yes, with a trowel and all).... and then we had to wait a day to sand it all down. We hadn't even started on putting plaster to fix the bedroom walls...

So I tell my mother...

Me: Mom, we are just going to do this bedroom and bathroom and leave the upstairs bathroom for another time. If we need to get it done before Dad comes home, there is no way we can get it all done. Okay?

Nana: Yah yah! Of course! I didn't know it would be so hard! Oh my Gad! I am so tired!

So what happens?

I come over the next morning to find her looking like death warmed over. She comes limping to the front door, hunched over....

Nana: Oh my Gad... I am so tired! I was working all night! I think I am going to die... Oh my Gad... I am so tired...

Me: Why?! What were you doing?!

Nana: Come see. Come see!

She brings me into the upstairs bathroom.


Nana: See! (She says with pride). See! I took down all the wallpaper by myself! It was so easy! They did this bathroom the right way. See how smooth the walls are!?

I stand there - speechless...

I am ready to cry.

Me: Mom! That's not the wall. That's not the drywall mom! That's is the paper backing on the wallpaper. We still have to take that off!


She looks at me shocked.

Nana: Noooo! It IS the wall. I took it all down! You are WRONG Chino (she says as she feels the wall)... You are wrong. THIS is the wall... come see. COME SEE!

Me: I grab a spray bottle of water, soak a small section and then use my fingernail. The next layer peels (grudgingly) off.

Nana: Oh my GAD! Oh my GAAAD!!! I CAN'T BELIEVE it! I CANNOT believe it. Ohh... I am so tired! My GAD! My bones are aching! I worked so hard!

I am standing there trying to contain my frustration.

Me: Mom (I say in a pleading voice). Mom. Why did you start another room? I said let's try to finish the other two first and I told you I would help you do this after we finished downstairs.

Nana: I didn't know! I didn't KNOW!

And exactly what does that mean? "I didn't know."  I didn't know what you said? I didn't know if I could believe you? I didn't know that you knew what you were talking about? I didn't know it was going to be that hard to take down wallpaper from THREE rooms!

Me: Mom. Just leave this - please? Please? You look tired and you shouldn't be up all night doing this. You're going to get sick or hurt yourself. Just go lie down and let me take care of this.

Nana: And I was SO dizzy! I was standing on the toilet (which she pronounces "tw-wall-let") looking up and I was so dizzy! For HOURS I was standing on the tw-wall-et! Oh my Gad... I cannot believe this.

Me: Yes, that's why you should lie down. No more. No more working. You sit and let me finish this.

Nana: And I was so tired. This is so hard. I can't believe how hard I have worked. I have worked so hard!

Really? Really mom? YOU have worked so hard? Why do I want to scream?

After she rested for about an hour, she found me in the downstairs bathroom, covered in plaster dust working to sand the walls down smooth.

Nana: Oh! You are almost finished!

A scream would really help me right now.

Me: No mom. We are not almost finished. After we sand this, we need to prime the walls. Wait for the primer to dry, then we can paint them. THEN we can replace your vanity.


Nana: Oh, so did you already finish the upstairs bathroom?


Me: No mom. I haven't done that yet. I am still working on this bathroom. We still have to finish the other bedroom too.


Nana: I didn't know it would be so hard.

Me: Yeah. Stuff like this is hard.


Nana: Okay - let's hire someone. I don't care how much it costs... let's just do it.

Now. Now we are going to hire someone.

Me: It's going to cost a lot mom. The walls are really in bad shape. They will have to repair the walls and still remove the rest of the paper upstairs and...

Nana: Okay... I know. Whatever.

So - I make a call back to the guy who gave us the original estimate. The new one is less... but not much.

They finish the rest of the damn project in two days -- paint and all!

Nana: I should have had them do it from the beginning.

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