Monday, September 11, 2017

The Ultimate Scratching Post

Is this wainscoting made of wallpaper? Stenciled paint?
No, it's carpet!
There is nothing better to distract from one's sorrows than a new home project. And what better home project to distract me from the unexpected death last week of one of my beloved cats than to complete the installation of a long awaited and much anticipated full-length feline scratching post.

I have long known that the best way to keep a cat from scratching my furniture is to have a scratching post in every room where I interact with my cats. Many pet lovers know that our feline friends are not sharpening their claws when they annihilate our upholstery. They are marking their territory, much as cats do in the wild when they rake the trunk of a tree with their claws to say: "This is my area!" In most households, your domestic lion is also declaring: "This is my area and my human!"

The wainscoting in the stairwell of my 1862-era farmhouse in Baltimore County, Maryland, was wallpapered when I bought the house in 2001. I liked the idea of wallpapered wainscoting but I hated the wallpaper I had inherited with the house, so in 2012 when I converted a spare bedroom into a walk-in closet/dressing room and found myself with leftover beadboard wallpaper, I re-papered the stairwell. It was gorgeous. I loved it.
The cats had ruined my beadboard wallpaper wainscoting

Trouble was, so did the cats. While they'd never bothered the old wallpaper wainscoting, upon installation of the new, all three suddenly decided that the stairwell was an ideal place for scratching with their claws. In no time they had reduced my new wallpaper to shreds. No amount of spray-on deterrent made any difference, so I resigned myself to having an ugly stairwell.

In said dressing room, I had taken a bit of carpet left over from covering the floor and framed it low on the wall as a custom scratching post for the cats in an effort to keep them from scratching the new beadboard wallpaper in that room. It worked!  So when I remodeled my master bath in 2015, I incorporated a built-in carpeted scratching wall at the end of my double-sink vanity in an effort to keep the cats from scratching a beautifully upholstered bench I put next to the tub. That worked, too! The cats LOVED their custom scratching areas. They left my new wallpaper and upholstery alone.
I stripped the ruined beadboard
wallpaper from the wainscoting in
anticipation of the new carpet
So when I began to tinker with the idea of re-covering the wainscoting in my stairwell, I was suddenly struck by an idea: what if I covered the entire length of the stairwell wainscoting in ... carpeting?!! I would select the same kind of carpeting I had used for my dressing room: a short durable pile of extremely high quality, densely knotted fiber. I noted that since installing the first carpeted scratching wall in my dressing room five years ago, that pile has shown no signs of wear despite seeing daily clawing by multiple cats.

Richard Crafton and his son,
Dustin, created a stencil of
the wainscoting using
plastic sheeting
Finally, this summer, I got around to calling my favorite carpet man, Richard Crafton of Time Machine Carpet Repair in Baltimore City. Could he get some more of that carpet from my closet remodel in 2012?  Could he give me an estimate for installing it in my stairwell?

Once he got over the shock of my wanting to install carpet vertically on the wall instead of on the stair treads as he had assumed, Richard was totally on board with the idea. He and his son, Dustin, took careful measurements of the narrow wall space. When he learned that the carpet I wanted was no longer available, Richard sent me samples of carpet patterns he thought I might like instead.  I picked one I thought would fit the era of the house -- and we were off to the races.

Richard and Dustin returned a few weeks later with a large sheet of plastic, the kind that rolls of carpet come shipped in. They laid the plastic along the stairwell and traced its shape with a marking pen, creating a full-size stencil. For this wasn't an ordinary stairwell; it was a hand hewn, curving staircase with a notched alcove halfway up the stairs in the middle of the curve. Getting the dimensions right would be challenging.
While the carpet warmed in the sun,
Richard and Dustin made their final
cuts using the stencil they had created

The next time I talked to Richard it was clear he'd spent a lot of time engineering my installation down to the smallest detail.  He knew exactly how he wanted to lay the pattern so it would flow up the stairs in a way that would be pleasing to the eye. He knew that multiple cats would be pulling on the carpet on a daily basis, so he devised extra layers of adhesive and fasteners to make sure the carpeting would stay in place once it was installed.  He calculated exactly where he wanted the seam to be laid so that it would be as invisible as possible.

The father-son team worked carefully
to install the wainscoting perfectly
Today my new stairwell wainscoting was installed.  Richard and Dustin unrolled the new carpet and spread it out in my driveway to coax it flat in the sun. While the carpet was relaxing its curl, the two men made their final measurements in the stairwell and began to apply their adhesives.

In no time at all, it seemed, they were calling me to come look at the finished project. It was stunningly beautiful. I am thrilled. And the cats? I haven't heard anyone trying their claws out on the new pile yet, but just give it a few days. I'm sure this stairwell-length scratching post will draw their attention in no time at all. And if they never apply their claws to my new wainscoting?  So much the better. It's a win-win either way.

I love how my stairwell looks now!
Bravo, Richard and Dustin, for a job well done. I am so happy with how my stairwell looks and thrilled that the new wainscoting  will be impervious to kitty claws for years to come.

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