Archive for June, 2018

A Quarter Inch Can Make A Difference

June 21, 2018


When you measure a room that is to be covered with grasscloth, instead of figuring how many square feet need to be covered, it’s a better method to count the number of strips you will need.

The standard width for grasscloth is 36″. For this bathroom, I counted up how many strips of 36″ wide material I would need to cover the walls.

The only thing is, despite the manufacturer’s labeling, the material was actually 35 3/4″ wide. And the bigger problem is that two of my walls were exactly 72″ wide. If the wallpaper had been the traditional 36″ wide, I would have needed only two strips and would have had only one seam on each wall.

But that quarter-inch shortness in width meant that I would need three strips. I hated to cut that third strip of paper, because we were short on material, due to it having come in two different runs (read previous post).

In the end, though, it all worked out, and the room looks great. It’s a good thing that I checked the run numbers. And that I also didn’t assume that everything was as it usually is. I’m glad I measured the width of the grasscloth before I started to plot out how I was going to hang the room, and definitely before I went and cut up any of the paper.

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Two Bolts, Two Runs, Four Walls – Engineering to the Rescue

June 21, 2018


Re my previous post … The area to be papered was small, but the whole job was complicated because the grasscloth arrived in two different runs. Run refers to paper that was all dyed / printed at the same time, with the same batch of ink. Different runs will be slightly different colors. The second photo exaggerates that color difference a bit, but still, it was pretty noticeable. That’s why you need to be sure that all your wallpaper is from the same run.

Somehow, Quality Control fell through on several levels, and I ended up with four walls to cover, a scant two bolts of paper, and two different color shades.

If two strips of wallpaper from two different runs are places side-by-side, you will see a big difference in color, which is what we call paneling (do a Search here for more pics and info). But your eye won’t notice a slight color difference if the two runs are kept on separate walls.

So my challenge today was to figure out how many strips I needed of what lengths, to cover which walls, without mixing either of the runs on the same wall, all the while bearing in mind the length of each bolt of paper and how many strips I could get out of each.

It took a bit of measuring, plotting, pre-planning, and engineering – which, to be honest, I actually enjoy – a lot. 🙂 In the end, I was able to cover all four walls without either of the two runs touching one another on the same wall. Once the room was done, you would never have known the paper had come in two different shades. The overall look was very homogeneous.

Wet Wallpaper Can Look Scary

June 19, 2018

Digital ImageDigital ImageSee the color difference between the two strips in the first photo? And see the darker line at the seam in the second photo? Not to worry…

You are not seeing two different runs on the wall… the color difference in the first shot is due to the first strip is drier than the second one.

In the second photo, water has entered the paper through the edge, causing a darker color.

In both cases, once the paper dries, it will be uniform color. In fact, the manufacturer was on the ball enough to mention this in the instruction sheet.

That was important, because there is a phenomenon called “staining” or “blushing” caused by some pastes interacting with some wallpapers. It can look pretty much the same, but it won’t dry and disappear. Avoiding certain pastes can help prevent that.

All the same, we paperhangers can be mighty nervous until the paper is good and dry.

Budget-Friendly Solid Vinyl Wallpaper is NOT a Good Choice

June 19, 2018


This is an economical pre-pasted, paper-backed, solid vinyl wallpaper. As you can see, it has not held up well. Humidity exasperates this situation, but it can happen in any room … the seams allow humidity to get into the paper backing, which swells with the moisture. This causes the paper backing to push away from the wall, which causes the vinyl top layer to curl back. Sometimes the two layers even delaminate (detach from each other). These are not “loose seams,” and cannot be glued back down.

Please stick with paper wallpaper, or the newish non-woven materials. And stay away from these solid vinyl “bargains.”

Do a search here to read more posts on this subject.

Someone Hung Wallpaper over Textured Walls

June 19, 2018

The texture on this wall is not heavy, but it can still be seen under the wallpaper. In the second photo, I am stripping off the wallpaper, and you can see the wall texture underneath.

I removed the top vinyl layer of the wallpaper, then removed the paper backing. Then I skim-floated and sanded the wall to smooth it (no picture). Follow up with a primer, and the wall was smooth as a baby’s bottom and ready for the new wallpaper.

Subtle Pattern, Shimmer Brighten a Dining Rooom

June 17, 2018


This dining room in the Oak Forest neighborhood of Houston was originally painted grey, and the walls pretty much blended in with the paneling and window moldings. Boring. The wife wanted something a little more dramatic – but the husband wasn’t going for it. So they found this wonderful compromise.

The pattern is so subtle that it can’t be seen in the two distant shots. But you can see how the lighter color is brightening up the room, and how the contrast between the walls and trim show off the pretty moldings in the room.

It’s a pearlized silver ink on a white ground in a triangular geometric pattern. This pattern is meant to be a background, rather than stand on its own. There will be some large artwork, or perhaps a showy mirror hung on the walls, which will become the main focus.

This wallpaper pattern is by Thibaut Designs, and was bought from my favorite source for good quality, product knowledge, expert service, and competitive price – Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or dorotasouthwestern@hotmail.com. She is great at helping you find just the perfect paper! Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.

Interestingly, this house is an exact clone of a home a few blocks away, where I hung wallpaper last year – yes, in the dining room!

Difficult Hang Today – Lots of Work to Get Good Seams

June 17, 2018



I don’t recall ever having seen a wallpaper product labeled “heavyweight paper” before. I wasn’t thrilled with this stuff. It was thick, and that made it difficult to work with. I prefer thin papers because they form to the walls better. This paper didn’t have any coating on it, so it is not any more durable than a thinner paper, so I don’t see the reason for the “heavyweight” treatment.

And any time you apply paste and the edges of the paper curl backward (Photo 1), you know you are in for a tough install.

The room was already prepped, and it was just 9 single rolls on an easy top of a dining room – no tricky moldings to trim around, no toilets to reach beind, no awkward spaces to situate the ladder in… It should have taken 5-6 hours. Instead I toiled for 12 hours.

I hung three strips, and wasn’t happy with the two seams between them. They pouched just a little and would not lie down flat. (Photo 2) With strong light coming in from the windows, the seams looked bad. There was no way of knowing how the seams would look once the paper was good and dry. But for now, I couldn’t stand the look, and I didn’t want to leave the homeowners with these pouchy seams.

I removed two of those strips, refreshed the paste, and kept them “open” by placing them in a plastic trash bag so they would remain useable (we didn’t have a lot of paper to spare). I ran to the truck and got supplies so I could double cut new seams (splice on the wall). I needed a special trim guide, and a special polystyrene padding strip to protect the wall so that the razor blade wouldn’t score into it (which could compromise the surface and lead to delamination of layers … too complicated to get into here, but you can do a Search and read previous posts on this subject).

From then on, instead of using the factory edges for seams, I double cut. Double cutting involves padding the wall behind where the seam will be, overlapping the new strip onto the old strip while carefully matching the pattern, and then using the handled straightedge and a sharp new razor blade to cut through both layers of paper. Then you peel back the paper at the newly cut seam and remove the two thin strips of excess paper that were just cut off. Then you remove the plastic padding strip.

Now you can put the edges of the freshly cut new seam back together. Because they were cut into each other, they will fit together perfectly. But because the padding strip has some thickness, the two newly cut edges are now a teeny tad wider than needed, so you’ll have to do some finessing to get the seam to butt together, instead of pouching up just a bit.

Because one strip of pasted paper overlapped onto another, once the excess paper strips are removed, there will be paste residue left on a 1″-2″ edge of one of the wallpaper drops. This has to be washed off with a damp microfiber rag, and you will have to rinse the rag and wash the wall several times to get all the residue off.

And all of this has to be done on a time frame, because while you’re working on one seam, the edges of the next are rapidly drying out, which is a whole new can of worms.

My finished double cut seams were perfect. (Photo 3)

But after I had worked my way around the room a bit, I looked back at the first wall, and saw that, as the paper dried, it shrank just a little. This left a visible gap between the two strips. (Photo 4) This gap isn’t visible from a distance, and it’s not visible if you look at the walls at an angle. But if you are standing three feet away and looking head-on, you will see the gap. I think it’s too much.

Oh, and, one more thing … the paper was easily marred if it was touched by any bit of metal. (Photo 5) Scissors, straight edge, trim guide, even the metal eraser housing on the end of my pencil would leave a grey mark if it happened to rub against the wallpaper. Most of these marks would wipe off, but not all of them. And wiping the paper leads to abrasion, so you want to avoid overdoing it. I worry about how the wallpaper might be marked up when the homeowners innocently go about hanging their art and mirror.

Considering what the homeowners paid for the wallpaper and installation, I think they should have a better outcome than this. This paper is manufactured by Thibaut. Thibaut makes many types of wallpaper, and most of them are lovely to work with, and they perform well. It makes you wonder why they would use this “heavyweight” stock, which produces a less-than-desireable outcome.

Smoothing Textured Walls

June 16, 2018


I like walls to be nice and smooth when the wallpaper goes up, first so the texture doesn’t show under the new paper, and second so the paper has an intact, flat surface to grab ahold of. When homes have textured walls, I skim float them with joint compound (which we calls mud) to smooth them.

To skim float, I use a trowel to spread the smoothing compound onto the walls. In the top photo, the upper portion of the wall has been skimmed, and you can see the compound drying around the edges and in high areas. It goes on grey, and when it’s dry, it will turn white. The second photo shows the box that the mud comes in, enclosed in a plastic bag, to retain its moisture.

To help speed the drying process along, I set fans up blowing on the walls, as you see in the second photo. I have three fans, and they will be positioned differently for maximum air blastage. Having the air conditioner cranking away and the house fan on also help to circulate air and pull humidity out of the air. In small powder rooms where the door can be closed and the climate supervised closely, I get a space heater going, which also helps pull humidity out of the air. For stubborn areas, I get out the heat gun – it’s like a hair dryer on steroids. 🙂

Once the mud is dry, I sand the walls smooth, then vacuum up the dust that falls to the floor, then wipe residual dust off the walls with a damp sponge, and then finally prime the walls. For this application, I use Gardz, a penetrating sealer which soaks into the joint compound and binds it together, and which is also a good primer to hang wallpaper on. Sorry, no photo of the Gardz or of the finished wall – but you can Search here to find previous posts.

Counting Shadows On The Wall

June 15, 2018

Digital Image

Digital Image


Here is a paper that has been in a master bathroom in a home in River Oaks for many years. This wall faces a wall of windows.

The dark areas you see in the photo are where a piece of art was removed from the wall, and, below that, where two towels had hung on towel racks (the rods have been removed and you are looking at the support brackets).

The picture and the towels kept sunlight away from the wallpaper, while the unprotected areas faded due to exposure to sunlight from the window.

Some wallpapers are dubbed “fade-resistant.” This one was not. This particular brand is printed on what we call pulp stock, which is usually a British product, and the inked layer has no coating, so it is not likely to hold up well against light or water or abrading or the likes.

I also think that the previous installer’s methods might have influenced the fading of the paper. The paper was hung directly on Sheetrock, with no primer. The drywall could have leeched into the wallpaper, causing discoloration. A primer would have prevented this.

The installer also used clay-based paste. This stuff is really sticky, but I think it’s icky – it is slimy and hard to wipe off woodwork, and it has a tan color that I have seen work its way through wallpapers, including grasscloth, many, many times.

If paste stains are bleeding through wallpaper, perhaps they are pulled more, or perhaps less, toward a source of light -and it could differ if it’s sunlight or a light bulb, too. And an obstacle such as a framed picture or a towel hanging from a bar a half an inch away from the paper block some of that light, and that could all have an effect, too.

And remember that towels are often damp, and that dampness hanging next to, or even touching, the wall, could cause changes to the paper and the paste and the surface below.

Just musings. When I look at existing wallpaper, or strip off some other installer’s work, I always am fascinated by the surface, the methods, etc.

Rubbery, Problematic Smoothing Compound

June 15, 2018


I was stripping wallpaper by peeling off the top vinyl layer and then soaking the paper backing to reactivate the paste so the paper could be removed from the wall – and ran into this.

It looks like the previous installer smoothed the wall (which is good), but used a latex spackling compound instead of the more typical joint compound. The latex became wet from the water I was using to soak off the wallpaper, and began to pull away from the wall.

This is all bad, because it leaves a bumpy mess on the wall that will show through the new paper. But worse is that it is an unstable surface for the new paper to try to hold on to. When wallpaper paste dries, the paper shrinks and puts tension on the surface below, particularly the seams. If the surface is not solid, the layers can actually come apart (delaminate) resulting in curled or gapping seams.

This is not “loose paper,” and cannot simply be glued back down. The different layers inside the wall are actually coming apart, and will require a lot of work to make the wall sound again.

Once the paper was off and the wall was good and dry, the layers seemed to adhere to each other better, and the wall felt more solid. The way I treated it was to roll on a coat of Gardz, which is a penetrating sealer that binds things together. It did a good job. Then I skim-floated over that with joint compound, which, when sanded, would leave a nice, smooth surface.

One more coat of Gardz on top of that, and the wall was sound and ready for wallpaper.