Saving Paper When Covering a Narrow Area

Digital ImageWhen I strip wallpaper, I like to observe how the previous guy did his job. Often I can learn things – good and bad. In this large master bathroom in the West University neighborhood of Houston, the previous guy did a pretty darned good job. This photograph shows a clever trick he used to save paper and to make his job easier.

This area is about 4″ wide, and lies above a door (you can see the molding on the right) and between that door and the shower on the left. I have begun stripping paper from the bottom and am moving upwards.

Usually wallpaper tears off in jagged pieces. But here you see that at the top, the strip of paper ends at a clean curved cut along a green stem of one of the vines. What the guy did is to splice in a strip of scrap wallpaper.

Why? To save paper. (And to have an easier time working in this area.) This brand of wallpaper is 27″ wide, but the space to be covered is only 4″ wide. If the installer had used a full 27″ wide strip 10′ long, he would have wasted 23″ of paper from the floor to the top of the door frame. That’s about 14 square feet of unuseable paper!

Instead, he cut his strips long enough to cover the area from the ceiling to just below the tops of the door frame. Then he took a piece of paper left over from some other part of the room, probably a long strip cut away when trimming alongside another door.

He used this narrow piece to cover the 4″ wide space between the shower and the door. In this case, he matched the pattern where the new, narrow piece joined the piece above. However, with this viney pattern, it would be possible to take a piece that does not perfectly match the pattern and position it so it fits in visually. No one will notice that there’s a blue flower where there’s supposed to be a red flower, and you get much more useability out of your leftover scaps of paper, too. In a pinch, you could even use several short pieces of left over paper, taking care to disguise any mismatch of the pattern.

This guy used a splice to join the two pieces – it’s what we paperhangers call a “double cut.” I would have done exactly what this previous installer did, except I would have avoided doing the double cut. A double cut is good because it splices two pieces together perfectly, with no bumps or overlaps, which can sometimes be visible. However, it’s extremely tricky to do a double cut on the wall, because you have to cut through two layers of paper, but NOT score into the wall itself. Slicing the wall can cause a weakness that can pull open later, as the paper dries and becomes taught and tight and puts stress on the seam/cut edge. In addition, there is the possibility of shrinking and gapping at the newly-created seam.

So, when I can get away with it without leaving a visible ridge, I prefer to overlap the two pieces. It can be minimized by cutting along a design element (such as a branch or flower, as in the photo, instead of making a straight across horizontal overlap), and then overlapping only a tiny area, such as the thickness of the vine’s stem (as opposed to a straight across horizontal overlap). This leaves the wall intact, and eliminates the worry of the two strips of paper shrinking and exposing a small gap.

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