Archive for December, 2011

Flaw of the Day

December 29, 2011

Thibaut T-8622, a slight burry smear of ink outside the lines on certain leaves in this pattern. Also there were at least two short horizontal lines or smudges in the pattern.

Neither of these flaws was serious enough to be seen from a distance, so I went ahead and installed the pieces with the flaws.

Flaws & Defects – A Running Journal

December 27, 2011

People, I’m so tired of defects in wallpaper!

Some people say that I’m overly picky – I don’t think so. I think that when people pay good money for paper, they should get reasonably good quality. More and more these days, I find defects that make the goods unuseable.

This seems to be happening more and more, and I’m told that it’s partially because much wallpaper is being made over seas these days. (Can you read “China?” – Hello pet food and Corning Ware and other products whose quality has fallen when they started being manufactured outside the U.S.)

Throwing paper away because of a flaw can mean there won’t be enough to finish the job. Sometimes the company will replace the paper – but only if you catch it before cutting up the roll. Tough luck if most of the room has been hung, and a problem shows up in the middle of a roll.

And even if the company replaces the paper at no charge, it means the customer has to live with an incomplete room for the length of time it takes to hassle with the manufactur, sales rep, retail store, etc., until the new paper arrives and can be installed.

I send a lot of paper back, in hopes that the manufacturers will correct the problem, or at least stop selling the defective run. Often, however, they do nothing. Sometimes the bad paper ends up being sold as an inexpensive close-out to unsuspecting retailers. Many of these papers make their ways into compilation books (I will blog on this in the future) and are labled under different brand names.

Enough ranting. I decided to make note of the various flaws and defects as they come along. Here comes the first one…

Last week, I hung some “Ecochic” paper by Wallquest. I encountered two problems:

1. There were some tiny flecks of black embedded in the pale aqua paper, about half way through one roll, probably stray pieces of dirt or fiber that got into the machinery during the manufacturing process. One I was able to dig mostly out with my razor blade, and disguise the remnants by dabbing on joint compound, which would dry to about the color of the pattern on the paper. It was in a spot where it would not be likely to be noticed. The other black spots were very small and, from a distance, would not catch one’s attention.

2. The other defect was a groove gouged into the edge of the roll of paper. This meant that as the paper unrolled from the bolt, there was a small chip missing every few inches along one edge of the paper. This was small, but it was visible, and made for a poorly butted seam. I saved this roll for last, and luckily was able to hang most of the room without using this particular roll.

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Bradbury & Bradbury Job – Paste III

December 21, 2011

Well, my fascination with the various pastes suitable for this specialty paper has faded. In fact, I am a little disappointed with the way the paper and paste worked.

The dining room walls had three sections – a bottom, a middle, and a top, all seperated by dark woodwork molding, like plate rails.

The bottom section took “Bird & Anemone” pattern, in a gold color.  (B&B calls this “Aesthetic Green.” Sure looked gold to me. Go figure.)

B&B paper is not pretrimmed; this means it has the unprinted selvedge edge still attached, like fabric. It needs to be hand-trimmed. The strips for this section were about 5′ long, which meant double cutting (splicing) on the wall. This technique involves overlapping the sides of each strip, then using a very sharp razor blade to cut through both strips, being careful not to score the wall surface beneath. Then the unprinted selvedge ends of each strip are peeled away, the seam edges butted together and smoothed down, and excess paste wiped away.

The only thing is, the clay paste did not wipe away cleanly. It left smeary streaks on the paper. Now, this is the sort of thing that I see, and many other people do not see. Still, I was not happy with the way it was looking. To make matters worse, some of the seams had come loose (not due to lack of paste, but due to the clay paste not holding).

Worse yet, there was a noticeable dark line down the length of every seam. “Dark seams,” as the manufacturer calls them.

The finished walls didn’t look awful, but they didn’t look as good as I thought they should.

For the middle section, which took strips only 34″ long, I hand cut the paper dry, before pasting and taking it to the wall. This pattern was “Claire’s Willow” in the same colorway. Trimming the edges before taking it to the wall eliminated the scenario where the paper is overlapped, so no paste got on the surface.

But still a dark line showed up along the length of each seam. Not “real” noticeable, but still noticeable, especially since this pattern is very plain and doesn’t have much pattern to hide flaws. In addition, more smeary clay paste marred the surface, impossible to wash completely off.

I tore off this first section, and retried, this time double cutting the seams. Same dark seams. I ripped it off again. In despiration, I got my trusty Romans 880 paste, which a zillion paperhangers across the nation use for the majority of the goods they install – and got even worse dark seams.

Again, I stripped off the paper and scrubbed the wall clean. Now I got my Shur Stik C-11, the ultra clear paste used for delicate fibers like silk and grasscloth. I pre-trimmed each strip, and treated them like grasscloth – taking great pains to get no paste on the surface or edges of the paper. This is tricky, because you have to get enough paste on the edges to hold the paper, but not enough to squish out when you butt and seal the seam. (Standard pasting method is to brush or roll your paste way past the edge of each strip, to ensure you get enough paste on the edges.)

This paste is very “wet” and will leave splotches all over the paper, which eventually disappear as the paper dries. Takes a little faith, but it inevitabely dries and looks just fine. Usually. But not this time. Still dark seams! Even worse, there were a few blotches that never disappeared when the paper dried.

I came to work the next day, expecting to hang the final, upper section. But I could not. The paper I had done the previous day just looked horrible.

Time for a call to the manufacturer. I phoned B&B and asked for Tech Support. The lady sounded puzzled. Turns out they don’t have an official tech support department – because anyone there can answer any question about their paper. Gotta love a company like that!

So I talked to Beverly, who is the person most knowledgeable about the paper composition and pastes. She was a wealth of knowledge. Turns out, their paper always results in dark seams when pasted with Romans 880 or the clear grasscloth paste. But there was no explanation for the dark seams when using the clay-based paste they recommended. The Sure Stik brand I used is one they recommend. As for the smears of paste left on the surface of the paper, Beverly recommended scrubbing the paper well, and following that with a dry micro fiber cloth. None of this worked, BTW.

I had to redo the section I had hung the day before, and still had the upper third of the room, plus a border to hang. The border, if you remember from a previous post, required a special dry wheat paste that is mixed with water on-site. I asked if it were possible to use this paste with the Claire’s Willow pattern. (Whenever I have hung B&B paper in the past, this type paste was always recommended, and I have never before had problems with dark seams or paste smears or poor adhesion.) Beverly said yes.

What?! When I had called B&B months before, in preparation for this job, to get their recommendations for pastes and any other special instructions, I was specifically told NOT to use this clear wheat paste. We even debated abit about it on the phone. “But I have always used wheat paste on your paper in the past.” “No, we recommend clay paste, as it is the only paste that works with our paper.” Back and forth several times, and I was specifically told not to use the wheat paste.

Now it turns out that information was incorrect. Apparently, it is possible to use this paste on any of their papers. The main reason they don’t push it is that it’s a very wet paste that leaves scary blotches until it dries, and because it’s the weakest paste used in the industry, and they want to be sure their paper stays on the wall!

OK, so I stripped off all the paper I had done the day before, scrubbed the walls, and then reprimed, to be sure no paste residue remained that could get into the new paper. I dry trimmed the strips, got out my immersion blender and mixed up the box of paste sent from B&B, and carefully pasted and hung the paper.  Much better.

But still not great. There were still dark seams – not horribly dark, but still noticable, plus occasional blotches that did not disappear as the paper dried. This was very disappointing, to say the least. We had used an immense amount of very expensive paper, taken more days than we should have, and the room didn’t look as it should.

My clients could see this, but they happen to be about the sweetest people in Texas, so they didn’t complain. I, on the other hand, couldn’t stomach the look of it, and ended up ripping off the worst wall.

By this time, we had run out of paper. (Redoing a wall FOUR times, and redoing the entire middle section twice does eat up a lot of paper!) The clients had to order more paper, in order to have enough to do the top section, and had to pay outrageous postage to have it arrive 2nd day air. Unfortunately, I was booked with other jobs, and couldn’t get back any time soon to finish the room. The poor lady was considering cancelling their Dec 23 Christmas party.
But, I live something of a charmed life.  As luck would have it, I was able to juggle around two other clients, and this made it possible to go back to finish this job the day after the new paper arrived.

For the final section, the top, the Claire’s Willow pattern went at the bottom, and the Prairie frieze went at the top. The section was narrow enough that I was able to “railroad” the paper – meaning, run it horizontally instead of vertically. This meant one long horizontal strip for each wall, instead of many many short vertical strips – I was dead set on eliminating seams, so as to prevent any more of those awful dark seams.

I used the wheat paste for both the fill and the border, and it looked just fine. At least, when I finished cleaning my brushes and packing up my table and walked out the door at 10:30 p.m. that night, all looked well. I have every confidence that it looked as good when it dried and the clients took their first peek the next morning.

Once the furniture is back in, the original 1907 chandeliere is hung, and the room decorated for Christmas, the final effect will be stunning.  I hope to have a photo to post on my website,  In the meantime, you can get a preview by going to and looking up the pattern names.

Bradbury & Bradbury Job – Paste II

December 16, 2011

Interestingly, although Bradbury & Bradbury specifies clay-based paste for most of it’s patterns and colors, the roll of border chosen by these homeowners came with a day glow orange highlighted note – to use special paste for that colorway only.

For this color, which has clay incorporated into the ink, they want you to use wheat or cellulose based paste. !! This is what I used to use for all B&B papers, but now they recommend clay paste for most of their colors. (See my previous post on.)

The reason they want the plant-based paste for this particular color is because there is clay in the ink, and a clay-based paste would react negatively with the ink, causing flaking or bleeding or staining. So another non-reactive paste is recommended.

This is interesting on many fronts. For on thing, clay paste is very low moisture, and the wheat pastes are rather high in moisture, meaning that two very different pastes would work with the same paper. Also, I find it fascinating the amount of science that goes into perfecting and producing a product – the precise formula for ink, for paper, how they interact, etc. Not to mention the gal who answered my call to B&B, who was completely knowledgeable about their products and techniques.

They also sold the necessary paste – which is a good thing, because it can be hard to track down such a specialty product. Also, if you’re using their own paste, if there should be a problem, you can always go back to them for help.

Good product, good service, good company!

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Bradbury & Bradbury Job – Paste

December 14, 2011

When dealing with a high-end wallpaper such as Bradbury & Bradbury, it’s always a good idea to check with the manufacturer to see their recommendations for paste, primer, and other necessities. I’m glad I called B&B to ask about paste.

When I’ve done their papers in the past, it was always recommended to use powdered wheat paste, mixed on-site, or a similar product which is cellulose-based. I haven’t done B&B in a year or two, however, and their specifications have changed.

Now they suggest using clay-based paste – quite different product from the wheat or cellulose based pastes.

And – YUCK! I don’t like clay paste and don’t use it – have not touched it for nearly two decades, and I know other paperhangers who feel the same. It’s slimy, colored, stains, hard to wipe from surfaces, and just a mess to deal with putting up and then later when taking down a wallpaper.

However, it’s a “low moisture” paste and a very strong paste, so it does have its uses. Commercial installers working with very heavy goods usually use clay-based paste. And that’s what B&B recommended.

So, for the first time ever, I ordered a 5-gallon bucket.

And then told the homeowners that I sure hoped the big strong husband was home when I got there – regular pre-mixed vinyl wallpaper paste is pretty darned heavy in a 5-gallon bucket (40lbs or so) but this clay stuff had to be close to 60lbs!!

Anyway, the reason B&B recommends this earthy product for their paper is that they found it works best with their paper stock and inks. They said that the clay in the paste does not react with their inks as other paste formulas might, and won’t cause the ink to flake off and won’t stain the paper.

I did find that the clay paste did dry faster than my usual vinyl type, which meant a shorter “open” time – which is not a good thing when hand-trimming paper. It also was harder to remove from woodwork and from the suface of the paper, nor does it have the “slip” I am used to, so sliding paper into place and positioning as needed was more difficult.

On the positive side, it does hold well, which is important when doing those hand-trimmed seams. And it sticks well enough to the B&B paper that no VOV (vinyl over vinyl) paste is needed when doing overlaps such as in corners or when applying borders.

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Bradbury & Bradbury Job – Getting Intimate With the Room

December 13, 2011

In my last post, I mentioned going around the room wiping dust from the walls.

This reminded me of how many times a paperhanger goes over every inch of wall. During the various tasks required to strip, prep, and wallpaper a room, I’m going to touch every bit of wall many, many times.

Eventually I get familiar with everything – the wall with a bump in it, the corner that is not square, the section of baseboard that has a chip in it, the spot where food grease hit the wall that needs to be watched to be sure the primer has sealed it off to prevent bleed-through, the part over a cabinet where I have to open a door and “hook a toe” to keep my balance.

Once I’ve gone around the room several times, I have gotten to know every spot and idiosyncrasy quite well.

I call this “getting intimate with the room.”

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Bradbury & Bradbury Job – Dust

December 10, 2011

The old home was constructed with the typical horizontal bords, and originally had cheescloth-type fabric tacked to the boards, and then wallpaper pasted to the cheescloth; the standard method of the times (up through about the 1950’s, to be honest).

The new homeowners had thin 1/4″ Sheetrock installed over the horizontal boards, to give a smooth, flat wall surface. The joint compound covering the seams was then sanded, the walls were primed, and then, because primer “raises the grain” (lifted dust and hairs on the wallboard’s surface), were sanded lightly again.

So I walked into a room that was already prepped, with nice smooth, primed walls. But as soon as I looked at the walls, I noticed a very light layer of dust, left from the final sanding. Even though the walls had been wiped clean, a very fine layer remained.

Dust can be death for wallpaper. Well, that’s a little dramatic, but dust can cause a job to fail – because the wallpaper will stick to the dust, but not to the wall, and that means the paper can come away from the wall, especially at points of stress. With a paper like Bradbury & Bradbury, that needs to be hand trimmed, this often will happen at the seams – a tiny “pooch” or lifting of the seam, from floor to ceiling. Ouch!

So the first thing I did was to go around the entire room with a bucket of warm water and a sponge, wiping loose dust from the walls. The water and sponge are more effective at picking up dust, compared to wiping with a dry cloth. You should be able to brush up against a wall and not have any white powder come off on your hand or clothing.

Somewhat of a pain in the butt, but necessary to ensuring the end result will be perfect. (Actually, the whole process didn’t take more than a half an hour – and well worth the time.)

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Bradbury & Bradbury Job

December 8, 2011

This week I am working in a historic home in a small town an hour and a half west of Houston. The home was built about 1907, has barely been touched since then (meaning it’s in fantastic condition, with nearly all original features), and the homeowners are refurbishing it and keeping with the styles of the time.

For many people with historic homes, the obvious choice is Bradbury & Bradbury wallpaper. This company makes reproductions and recreations of styles popular decades ago – Victorian, Arts & Crafts, Art Deco, and much more. Please visit their site, and spend some time scrolling and clicking – selections and combinations are positively gorgeous!

I will make updates as this job progresses, and hopefully have photos to post on my website.

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Tile Guys and Wallpaper

December 6, 2011

Oh, how tile work can wreck wallpaper. If you’re having a bathroom remodeled, best to have “heavy” jobs, like setting toilets, retiling, installing shower enclosures, etc. done before the delicate wallpaper goes up. That reduces the chances of workmen or materials damaging the new paper.

Common problems with tile work in an area where there is wallpaper are:

1. grout or morter getting on the wallpaper

2. workmen’s finger prints getting on the wallpaper

3. sharp edges of tile, or tools, scratching or otherwise damaging the wallpaper

4. wallpaper being torn when old tile is removed, because tile is attached to the wall, and when it’s pulled away, part of the Sheetrock often goes with it – and that means the wallpaper is going along, too.

I got a call from a gal last week who needs repairs done after tile guys “tore the wallpaper and then secretly tried to fix it.”

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