Odd Blistering with Grasscloth

I’ve been installing a ton of grasscloth in recent years. People like the coarse texture, natural fiber, and retro look. This went in the sun room of a ’50’s ranch-style house, so it fit the home’s style perfectly.

I usually (if not ALWAYS) insist on doing all wall prep work myself. In this case, though, the clients wanted to do it themselves, and, since there was relatively little work to be done, I agreed. Wish I had stuck to my rule, and done it myself.

The room had typical ’50’s era paneling, which meant joints between boards that could show under the wallpaper. The clients had tried to fill in the cracks, but the seams still showed quite a bit. In addition, whatever primer they used had a somewhat rough texture, for some reason, which left the surface not as smooth as it should have been for the wallpaper to grab a hold onto.

I noticed problems from the beginning. My very first strip went up perfectly. But when I went back to inspect it 15 or so minutes later, there were a few bubbles under the paper. I puzzled over whether this was from a bad reaction with the primer that the client used (I always use oil-based KILZ, but I doubt that they did, even though we discussed this.), or if, due to the wall’s rough texture, the paper was not able to get good overall adhesion, leaving air trapped in the recessed areas of the wall surface that expanded as time went by, causing the paper to blister.

So I tried using more paste than usual, hoping to fill in any recessions or depressions on the wall’s surface. This was only moderately successful… As I continued around the room, I continually checked strips I had already hung, and found that many, if not most, of the strips were bubbling in the same manner as the first. Some of them I was able to brush out, some were too dry to peel back so I had to inject paste underneath, and some simply would not disappear. These I hoped would shrink and flatten as the paper dried.

In addition to that, even though people THINK that the rough texture of natural grass fibers on the wallcovering will disguise flaws, those joins in the original paneling that were not filled in properly during the prep stage DID show up under the new grasscloth.

I can’t say I was completely happy with the finished room. And it reitterates once again, that I must always INSIST on doing all prep work myself.

The flip side of this is, most people don’t notice the things that I do. The clients were genuinly pleased with the room, and never saw any blisters or ridges under the paper. I’ve learned that most people see “the big picture” and don’t really notice the little details. And, to be honest, the overall effect of the new wallcovering was gorgeous.

In this case, that was a good thing!

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