Warping Wallpaper – Grasscloth

Well, this was a first for me. I can’t say that I remember having a grasscloth that stretched and warped out of shape this badly.

What’s odd is that, after I pasted and booked the wallpaper, it was perfectly lined up and flat. It was only after the paper had sat for the resting period, and then I unfolded it and took it to the wall, that it started warping out of shape.

My first strip laid against the wall nice and flat, but did not line up against my laser level’s red beam, moving to the left the farther down the wall the strip went. The subsequent strip to its right, naturally, would not butt up against the first strip. However, this second strip did line up against the laser plumb line, on both the right and left sides. So I left it on the wall.

But I had to tear off and discard that first strip.

I had problems with many of the strips. As you can see, there was major warping and wrinkling. I was unable to smooth out most of these warps.

Some of my colleagues have suggested that my trimmed edges were not straight. And I admit that I sense that my ($200!) straightedge is not true (perfectly straight). But a 1/8″ discrepancy over a 9′ drop should not result in wrinkles of this magnitude.

I think that the substrate that S&L is using is absorbing moisture from the paste unevenly, and thus creating the warps and twists.

The only way I could make this work was to do a double-cut (spliced seam). I smoothed the grasscloth onto the wall as best I could, even though both the right and left edges still presented wrinkles.

I carefully pulled away from the wall the left edge of the previous strip (having applied extra paste, to keep everything wet and “open”). Between that edge of the strip and the wall, I placed a “Boggess Strip,” (invented by a fellow WIA member) which is a thin strip of 2″ wide polyethelyne plastic, that will protect the wall from my razor blade.

Now hanging the next grasscloth strip, I then covered the underside of the right (wrinkled) edge with blue plastic tape (also invented by the same WIA genius member). This would keep paste off the surface of the strip I was overlapping it onto. Then I smoothed the paper onto the wall, allowing the right side of the strip to overlap on top of the previous strip, by 1.5″.

I worked out wrinkles as best as I could, but some insisted on remaining. I then took my EuniTool straightedge (invented by yet another WIA member), and used it as a guide, along with the red light line from my laser level, and a new, fresh razor blade, to cut a straight, plumb line between the edges of the two strips.

The grasscloth was thick, and I had to press really hard to cut through both layers. The Boggess strip prevented scoring into the wall. This is important, because an un-intact wall can delaminate under the stress of drying / shrinking wallpaper, and this can cause the seams to pop open.

Back to the double-cut. Once the cut was done, I removed the plastic Boggess strip from the wall, and the protective blue plastic tape from the edge of the grasscloth, as well as the two excess strips of paper that I had just cut off. (Do a Search here to see pics and read more about the double cut / splice process.)

I could then smooth the newly-cut edges of the two strips together.

All this takes a lot of time.

I still had more strips to hang – and each required the same procedure. You only have so much “open” time before a piece of wallpaper starts sticking to the wall and cannot be jacked around with anymore.

I had to jump to the left edge of the current strip I was working with, and add a Boggess strip behind it. And then I had to paste and book my next strip, and apply some blue tape to the area that would overlap the previous strip. Wait a few minutes for it to book and absorb the paste.

Then repeat the double cutting procedure used on the first strip.

All this caught me off guard, and it threw off my engineering of the wall and my planned width of the strips. It also took a lot more time … I spent 5 hours hanging just these 5 strips.

Bottom line – I got ‘er done … But I am definitely NOT going to recommend Serena & Lily grasscloth to future clients.

And I am VERY grateful to my WIA colleagues for inventing tools and gadgets that help with these tricky situations, which I’m glad I bought and had stashed in my van, and for sharing their knowledge and experiences so I knew what techniques I might try.

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2 Responses to “Warping Wallpaper – Grasscloth”

  1. Mary Says:

    Hi Wallpaperlady, I came across this post while researching a grasscloth issue. I have a custom grasscloth wrapped mirror in my dining room. I noticed tonight that it has developed a few wrinkles/bubbles. It’s only a few months old. I’ve contacted the vendor to inquire about troubleshooting help. Do you know why it might be bubbling? The room has consistently been 72 F and it located away from windows/heater vents. The grasscloth is Thibaut grasscloth (T3665 Windward Sisal Blue, 2 yards). I’m also curious if this bubbling might be fixed by a professional wallpaper installer, or furniture repair person? Would love and appreciate your thoughts! Best, Mary

    • thewallpaperlady Says:

      Hi Mary. Thanks for reading my blog!
      And thanks for providing info on the paper and the room conditions – you’d be surprised how many people don’t think of that.
      Yet, a little more information would be helpful. When you say the mirror frame was “custom-wrapped,” do you mean that it was purchased from a store or vendor that way? Or did you have a wallpaper hanger apply the grasscloth? If the latter, then you should contact that person and see what he/she recommends.
      If it was purchased from a company already wrapped, it will be harder to get service.
      It’s hard to guess what might be the cause of your problem.
      I’m guessing that it has to do with one or more of four main issues …
      ~First, how was the surface prepared? Wallpaper won’t stick to a glossy surface. Most mirror frames will be metal or an enameled or lacquered material. Before applying paper, these should be sanded at minimal and also optimally primed before the wallpaper is applied.
      ~Second, what adhesive that was used? Not all wallpaper pastes will stick to glossy surfaces. Alternately, there are a variety of spray adhesives out there, and each will have a different ability to cling to different surfaces, including both the mirror frame and the grasscloth itself.
      ~Thirdly, as you already guessed, humidity and temperature conditions and fluctuations will affect both the ability of paste to adhere, as well as the grasscloth material itself’s absorbing moisture and expanding and contracting.
      ~Last, well, really, grasscloth isn’t a good product to ask to wrap around turns and bends. It’s hard enough to get it to want to wrap around one corner of a room. But hoping it will wrap around the multiple turns and angles of a picture frame is really stretching the scope of what the material was designed to do.
      Sorry there is not much good news up above there.
      If you want to keep this mirror with its grasscloth covering, you should definitely not contact a furniture guy. It is not in the scope of what he is trained to work with.
      A wallpaper installer would be the best bet.
      If you don’t know of anyone in your area, you can visit the website of the WIA (Wallcovering Installers Association) and find their “Find An Installer” link, to find someone in your area.
      Let me know how it turns out.

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