Removing Backing to Make a Patch

Digital ImageWhat you are looking at is a scrap of solid vinyl wallpaper with its yellowy paper backing (left), and with the backing removed (right).

Workmen got paint on the walls of this client’s bath. She has convinced herself that replacing the two damaged strips is the best avenue; for several reasons, I would rather not strip off the existing paper and replace them … Color difference between what’s been on the wall for 12 years and what’s been in storage, using virtually all the paper she has left, when there may be a greater need down the road, it’s really tricky to remove one strip without damaging the one next to it, and it’s equally tricky to get a new wet strip to mesh perfectly with an existing dry strip (wallpaper is meant to be hung sequentially all at the same time), not to mention lugging my big work table up three narrow flights of stairs.

So I want to try patching over the paint stains. On a paper with a pattern, depending on the pattern, you can cut around a vine, for instance, and simply paste it over the corresponding pattern on the wall. This paper has no pattern, so it’s a little more difficult to make the patch disappear. Additionally, since the paper is a paper-backed solid vinyl, there is the issue of the patch being thick and showing by sticking up above the existing paper. Besides the thickness, there is the white color of the paper backing being visible around the circumference of the patch.

So I took some scraps home and played. This type of wallpaper is a strong sheet of vinyl bonded to a somewhat fuzzy manilla paper type of backing, something like thin construction paper. I thought that if I could get the vinyl to seperate from the backing, I would have thin enough piece to use as a patch. When you strip this type of paper from a wall, usually the vinyl coating comes off in largish pieces, and leaves the backing on the wall (which then needs to be soaked off). That encouraged me to think I could seperate the vinyl from the backing.

I soaked the scraps for two days, to get the backing really saturated and loose. I was able to peel some bits of paper away, but there was still most of it left bonded to the vinyl. Then I used various scrubbies to remove the paper. The green scrubby attached to a kitchen sponge got too gummed up, but I had success with a good old fashioned kitchen pot scrubber – the kind that looks like enlarged nylon net.

It took a lot of gentle scrubbing, but I was able to get virtually all the fuzzy paper off. Now the remaining vinyl is thin, and should make a nice flat, invisible patch. With the paper backing gone, I am left with a sheet of vinyl, which doesn’t stick to ordinary wallpaper paste (too slick). So, I will have to use “vinyl-over-vinyl” paste, made to stick to both the exposed vinyl backing of the patch as well as the vinyl coating of the paper on the wall.

I have great hopes for this, and am sure it will work well and look better than removing and replacing two 9′ strips. I hope the client likes it, too… as I mentioned, she is pretty set on having the two strips replaced. In her mind, what she sees is nice, clean wallpaper replacing the damaged strips. In my mind, I see a seam that quite possibly won’t be flat and perfect, if I am forced to remove the stained strips and put new wet paper next to the existing dry paper.

Let’s hope the patch looks super, and changes her mind.

To be continued…..

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One Response to “Removing Backing to Make a Patch”

  1. thepaperhangerwallelf Says:

    Looking forward to how this works out. I’ve done this on small repairs and it works well. I’ve also used this procedure to minimize a glaring mismatch at a kill point.

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