Stripping a Different Animal Type of Border

Digital ImageDigital ImageDigital ImageDigital ImageThe task for today was to strip this wallpaper border. When I first looked at the job, I assumed it was a typical pre-pasted solid viny paper, which are pretty easy – or at least the procedure is simple – to remove. All you do is pull off the top vinyl layer, which usually comes off in large pieces, and then soak the backing, and it usually comes away from the wall easily with either just pulling, or with light scraping. It’s the same process with regular papers, but it works best if you wet the top printed layer first, before attemting to remove it.

But this paper was NOT being agreeable. The top inked layer was coming off in 1/2″ squares – not good when you have 45 linear feet of 10″ wide border to remove. Once I got that layer off, the backing was easy to soak, and it loosened pretty quickly and cleanly. You can see the progress in the first photo. It’s just that that top layer was so arguementative!

After a half-hour’s work removed only about 6 square inches, I realized that the paper was not a typical wallpaper, but one of the higher-end British papers, which are printed on a type of pulp paper stock. These papers have only a very light coating on them, so water will eventually work its way into the paper and back to loosen the paste.

So I went around the room several times to just wet the border, without attempting to strip any of it off. I also took a razor blade and cut into it horizontally, to create more openings for the water to work its way into. See Photo 2.

This worked well. Eventually the water soaked through the layers, and most of the border then stripped away from the wall in one piece, including the rubbery glue that was on the back.

What was left on the wall was the joint compound that the original installer had used to smooth the surface, to cover the wall’s original texture. I would have primed this, but that was not done by the previous installer. It worked to our advantage, though, because the unprmed / unsealed joint compound reactivated quite easily with water, and I was able to actually scrub it entirely off the wall, leaving the exact same texture that was there originally.

This means that when the homeowner goes to paint the wall, the entire surface will be uniform. If the joint compound had been sealed and would not wash off the wall, there would have a 9″ wide band around the top of the walls that was smooth, in contrast to the rest of the wall space that was lightly textured.

What you see in the third photo is all these various stages in one shot.  The top layer coming off, the brown backing layer, which starts out tan and gets darker brown as it absorbs water, the white rubbery glue, the white joint compound, the joint compound that changes to grey as it gets soaked, and the finished bare yellow wall with the texture revealed once again, after the joint compound was scrubbed off.

The final photo shows how the whole border – top printed layer, pulp backing, glue – came off in large chunks once it was soaked enough.  In that shot, you can see the white joint compound waiting to be wetted and then scrubbed off.

The only not-good thing about this job is that, in stripping off the border, water is used, and it’s impossible to keep some of it from dripping down the wall. Since much of the water was mixed with the joint compound, due to scrubbing the compound off the wall, that left a slight streaking visible on the walls. The homeowner wsa not originally planning to repaint the walls, but now will do so, to hide this.

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