Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 08.26.14
Stanstead, Quebec


House of strippers

What I learned at the hardware store this week -- besides the realization that a career as a paint-colour namer is my roller not taken -- is that late August is not the time for home renovations that I thought it was.

Things don't start heating up home-wise until September, my local hardware guy told me. That's when folks wake up in a post-Labour Day haze and say, "Oh, crap! Summer's over and I still haven't glazed my gazebo!"

Here at the Murray house, where we always buck the trend, we've been working all summer on the semi-regular task of painting our downstairs, if by "semi-regular" you mean "every 20 years or so."

When we first moved into our home, we looked at the living room wallpaper and said, "That's got to go." We just didn't specify when. Eventually, we stopped noticing the frou-frou rose vines and the navy blue runner. It became like, well, it became like wallpaper.

But this past weekend, with great delight and the occasional maniacal laugh, we peeled off that old wallpaper and only some of the plaster with it. As with every other aspect of this painting project, we anticipated there might be surprises, but we were undaunted -- in for a penny, in for a pound of Polyfilla.

It started when our 23-year-old returned home for a brief sojourn. Emily has energy, so when she asked, "What can I do?" I semi-jokingly replied, "Well, you can paint the TV room." I should have stopped there, but then I added, "You could start by stripping the paint off the arch between the TV room and the dining room."

We knew there was nice wood under that arch. We could see it where kids/animals/toys/drunks had nicked the paint off over the years. There was also the fact that the archway was decorated in early period Pokemon stickers. The prospect of removing those stickers was yet another motivation not to paint. (As if I needed oneā€¦)

So Emily headed to the hardware and loaded up on strong chemicals, goggles, and rubber gloves, which sounds like a fun night out, but in this case saw her get to work stripping years of paint.

We learned as we went. We learned that Emily is keen but messy and that paint stripper also works on hardwood floors. We'll get around to repairing the burn marks, probably in about twenty years.

We also learned that it takes many cans to strip an archway, but once you got the hang of it, it can be enjoyable. Or maybe that's just the fumes talking.

We decided to also strip the door frame into the TV room because we sure loved that bare wood. And when we had finished that, we decided to do the kitchen door, and this is when it stopped being enjoyable.

I don't know if years ago they used special NASA-grade paint for kitchen woodwork, but this door frame required much straining, grunting, and sweating, which also sounds like a fun night out but I can assure you was not. Was lead-based paint actually a coat of lead, because it sure felt like it.

I would have preferred to have stopped after this door but there was one final one, equally tough. Like I said: in for a penny, in for a porpoise. (Sorry, that might be the lead-based paint talking.)

In the meantime, with the stripping under way, we started painting as well. It was time; the children have grown up, there are no toys smashing into the walls, there are far fewer drunks than there used to be. Plus, we had the momentum and a line of credit at the hardware.

We chose our paint colours within five minutes, despite the countless options. And it was then that I realized I had missed my calling as a colour namer. Put a random adjective and a food/nature noun together and you have a colour: "Pugnacious Mango," "Reticulated Bog," "Alaskan Praline," "O'Reilly Bile."

We finished the TV room and dining room and, after a pause, have moved on to the living room. I've already forgotten what the wallpaper looks like thanks to the Honey Cream and Polynesian Blue, although as I write this it's still mostly Half-Assed Spackle.

We have plans to do our kitchen and, because the paintwork has hit the staircase, the upstairs as well. Deb and I are on our own, though; Emily left us two rooms ago and the other kids have dedicated their summer to watching what feels like 97 seasons of "One Tree Hill." I fear the fumes and lead are affecting their decision making.

But we're doing it, all because our twenty-something daughter was bored. And they say millennials don't get things done!