Walls: wallpaper over slats? What to do?

fuzzyJune 27, 2006

(Forgive me, I'm posting several questions today after a second look at a 1916 foursquare that I really, really would like to buy. But I don't want to do something stupid, so I'm asking here.)

The house we're considering buying, a 1916 foursquare, has most of its rooms currently covered in 1960s paneling. According to the owner, who grew up in the house from 1960 on, there are 1" oak boards under the wallpaper downstairs-- not plaster. Upstairs, there are wooden slats covered with wallpaper (probably crumbling to bits by now)-- covered by cheap ugly wallboard covered with flowerdy wallpaper.

The paneling and wallboard must go. But what do I do with the boards underneath? I imagine plastering would be ungodly expensive IF I could even find a plasterer in this small town. Would I have to drywall? What did you do, or would you do, in this situation?

Thanks in advance!! (I am LOVING this forum.)

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It sounds like the downstairs is beadboard...DO NOT tear it out. It is beautiful when stripped , sanded and then repainted. My neighbors used a heat gun and the paint peeled off in sheets, finished with chemical stripper, sanded and then painted creamy white. It is breathtaking. The upstairs sounds like they covered directly over the lathe. If you look at my kitchen demo pics in the kitchen forum (posted this past weekend) you will see what the lathe looks like. You will need to remove it and then put in the firring along the sides if the old studs so you will have a clean plumb line to sheetrock to. Believe it or not I knew nothing when we bought this 1890 bungalow 4 yrs ago....I still have lots to learn. Good luck.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 8:29AM
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We have a whole kitchen full of beadboard, painted--walls, ceiling, wainscoting.... It is SO much more interesting than just plain old wall board.

Ours is nailed directly to the wall studs and some horizontally run nailers. I wouldn't get rid of it, ever.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 8:39AM
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Breathtaking...you are so lucky. All we had left in our home after the PO's modernized was in the builtin china cabinet in the dining room. We sanded and painted it. It is beautiful. Hope fuzzy does get this .

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 9:18AM
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Fori is not pleased

We drywalled. We had unfinished 8 inch tongue and groove walls running horizontally. They weren't especially flat.

If you worry about authenticity, plaster apparently won't be any more authentic than drywall, so don't feel bad if you end up drywalling. If you'd like to really preserve the character of the house, go ahead and repaper it. You'll have to stretch muslin over the walls and attach the paper to that to be authentic...or get one of the newer options, like the thick paper available in wallpaper shops. Then you paper over that. Probably need some special glue to attach to the fabric.

Anyway, it's something you can deal with in several ways. Don't worry about it if you like the house. It's definitely not a dealbreaker!

Any chance the owner would let you peel back a tiny bit of wallpaper downstairs to see what's underneath?

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 2:36PM
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Trailrunner- nobody's said the word beadboard to me, just that it's 1" thick and oak. I'd LOVE it to be beadboard, though. I'll call and ask the owner tonight if she knows.

(your demo pics are fun, by the way! Love those chimneys.)

On the slats upstairs-- if it is lath, I'm familiar with that, as we owned a paster-and-lath house before. The idea of tearing it out down to the studs to prepare for drywall is overwhelming. But I guess the demo would go pretty quickly.

(Convincing my husband that we should take that on may be tough.)

Vivan31- beautiful kitchen! The ceiling is the only place where I can see the beadboard, but I love it.

fori- I want the house to keep its structural authenticity, but not to the point that I want 1916-era wallpaper. I want to be able to paint.

So, downstairs, I will need to rip out paneling/wallboard (in some areas), remove wallpaper, wash and possibly sand down the walls.

Upstairs, we may need to rip out all that lath and hire a drywaller (probably also rewiring and insulating the walls while we've got them open like that).

I'm feeling more than a little wary of all this. Someone needs to do it for the sake of that beautiful house. But me??? Why do I think I'm capable of this?!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 4:49PM
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Why would you need to take out the plaster? It's fairly easy to make that look good again. Is there something wrong with the walls upstairs?

Thanks for the compliment on the kitchen. The rest of the walls are just like the ceiling and I'm so thrilled that it was still there.

The other good thing is that you never need to find a wall stud to hang heavy stuff.

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 5:35PM
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yeh the chimney that is behind the sink is going to be covered by sheetrock as that is where my Chicago hinged wall faucet will go and the soapstone sink. The other one is now uncovered and it is really a nice big one. We have reconfigured the mantle and will sheetrock upto but not over the chimney and use it to emphasize the Mediterranian aspects of this house. I sure hope you can save the oak walls....strip/sand/paint. They will be so beautiful It would be great if you would post pics...we all love to see each others projects ! Caroline

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 5:51PM
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Hi Fuzzy,
It was a typical practice in the south to put the sheathing of the house on the inside, and then finish it with wallpaper hung over very thin muslin fabric. The siding was typically nailed right to the studs outside. This is a pretty substantial way of building, and you are at least able to wire and plumb without worrying about destroying plaster. When the reno is complete, you can finish the interior with 3/8" drywall right over the sheathing. The thinner sheetrock is acceptable since it's over solid boards. You are also able to abut the trim in some cases, making it unnecessary to remove/reinstall it.
Make sure that it's not a "box" house before you buy!!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2006 at 8:58PM
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Casey- Thanks for the info. It'd be lovely to not have to rip out all those lath strips. The house is stucco on the exterior, and it's still in good shape with just a few patches needed.

What do you mean by "box" house? Do you mean one of the Sears-type kit houses? I've never heard that those were a problem... fill me in!

Vivan- there IS no plaster upstairs. There's thin paneling covered with flowerdy wallpaper on the top layer. Below, according to the owner, is wallpaper on top of "slats"-- presumably the lath that is nailed to the studs. My dilemma involves getting a finished, paintable surface to work with on the walls-- what's there is not paintable (rough seams, finish nails would be visible) and could not easily be made so.

This is so helpful!! Thank you.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 12:02AM
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A box house means one that has no studs in the walls- There are vertical 1x12's for the "structure"- they are wallpapered inside and have regular wood weatherboards outside. Box construction was very popular in rural Arkansas (and other deep-southern temperate states) til WWI.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2006 at 11:30PM
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Thanks, Casey. I'll verify, but I'm pretty sure there's no way it could be that.

We have a painter coming out to give me an estimate on painting the exterior and interior... I think I'll be able to get more info/a peek at what's under the layers then.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   June 29, 2006 at 9:56PM
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We had a whole home reskimmed and several rooms needed to have ceilings pulled down. We stuck with plaster and didn't go drywall. It doesn't make sense to me what they did but you can certainly have plaster or drywall over the existing.

Nothing is ever plumb in an old house so I don't know how much more it would gain you to rip it out completely.

We go down to the studs in bathrooms for obvious reasons.

    Bookmark   July 4, 2006 at 9:11PM
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"Nothing is ever plumb in an old house" That isn't true of all old houses.

When we first wallpapered the living room of our 150 year old stone farmhouse, we found that the walls are plumb. I was amazed that when we turned the corners, every new plumbline was parallel to the wallpaper strip coming around the corner. It was true of the other walls as well. Now the addition is another story...

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 6:14AM
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Our entire house sounds like it was made like you are describing! Here are a picture of the 'walls'

"there are 1" oak boards under the wallpaper downstairs-- not plaster."

Then in our case was lath and plaster overtop. Our house is older (1850's) so we figure those were the walls until some later date when someone decided to put up plaster.

We have ripped down to the planks, and in some cases removed them and are putting proper framing (the planks, while cool are very smelly and make it difficult to wire/plumb) However in any rooms that P.O had drywalled overtop the planks, we will leave them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Our 1

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 11:38AM
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Thanks for the peek! Is that white beadboard nailed onto the planks?

...The painter and I walked through the house again this week-- it is muslin stretched over planks with wallpaper (on the bottom layer). One upstairs closet still has the original layer showing. It's neat, but in very bad shape.

I think I'm going to have to have a drywall guy come and do an estimate on doing the upstairs-- and probably the downstairs too. (sigh-- I cringe to think of what this could end up costing us)

    Bookmark   July 5, 2006 at 11:44PM
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