Got a Call for a “Wallpaper Disaster” Today

Digital Image

Digital Image


Monday: This evening, I got a call from a friend who is a member of the Masonic lodge not far from my house. It seems they are renovating a room – and hope to have it finished in time for an awards luncheon on Saturday. That would be four days from today. They intend to strip wallpaper, paint the walls and a heavily textured ceiling, pull up old carpet, and lay a new laminate floor. And it’s a BIG room.

The top layer of wallpaper was vinyl, and stripped off easily and cleanly. But this bottom layer, which is the original paper from when the lodge was built in 1952, was not cooperating. They had soaked it, used a solvent, and tried scraping, but the paper wasn’t budging. That’s what you see in the photo – some original paper, some scraped off with backing and / or paste left on the wall, and some bare plaster. So my friend called and asked if I could take a look.

I was curious, because this type of wallpaper usually comes off relatively easily, once it is soaked and the old paste reactivates. Especially since the walls appeared to have been properly sealed, which makes removal later easier.

But once I got to playing with it, I realized that the old wallpaper had been coated with a sealer, before the new vinyl was applied. In other words, the original installers did a good job by properly sealing the plaster walls (you don’t see many buildings in Houston that have authentic plaster walls!), and then the next crew did a good job, too, by sealing the original wallpaper before applying the vinyl wallpaper. (Actually, they should have stripped off the original paper, but perhaps they were unable to do so, which sometimes does happen.)

But the sealer kept water from penetrating into the paper and reactivating the paste. So the lodge guys could have soaked the walls all day, but not accomplished much. (They were also using a squirt bottle – my bucket of warm water and a large sponge soaks much more area much faster.)

Sometimes, it’s time to call uncle. If the paper won’t come off, take proper steps to prepare it so you can go over it. So what they’re going to do is skim-float the wall with joint compound, which means they will be troweling on a thin layer of a plaster-like substance. Once that is dry (overnight), they will sand it smooth and then wipe off all dust with a damp sponge rinsed clean frequently. That will leave a very smooth surface, with none of the ridges from the torn wallpaper showing, nor any cracks in the plaster.

To create a uniform surface under their new paint, it is important that they float the entire wall, even areas that do not have torn wallpaper, because their new paint will soak differently into the various surfaces of the wall – plaster, wallpaper, wallpaper with a sealant over it, residue from wallpaper paste, etc. Skim-coating the entire wall, including corners and edges along ceiling and moldings, will create a perfectly uniform surface, that will yield a uniform finish on the new paint.

Before painting, the newly smoothed wall will need to be sealed, and I recommended Gardz by Zinsser. It is a penetrating sealer that soaks into porous surfaces, such as new joint compound. (It is also wonderful – in fact, designed – to seal torn drywall, to prevent bubbling when a water-based product is applied.)

I know you can hang wallpaper on top of Gardz, but they will have to ask the paint store guys if they can paint on top of it, or if it will need a paint primer first.

It’s a lot of work, but the guy there whom I talked to seemed up for the challenge – he was knowledgeable, energetic and enthusiastic, and I got the impression that he didn’t have a day job and so could invest some serious hours at the lodge, getting the room into shape.

They promised to give me an update, later in the week.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: