Archive for June, 2020

No, Virginia, These Walls Are NOT Ready For Wallpaper!

June 20, 2020


This powder room in a townhouse in the Galleria / Tanglewood neighborhood of Houston has been remodeled. When the old vanity countertop was removed, the drywall was torn.

When the old vanity, which had spanned from wall-to-wall, was removed, it revealed the original wall behind it, complete with heavily-textured paint.

The contractor made a half-hearted attempt to smooth the torn drywall. But he didn’t even attempt to cover the textured bottom portion.

Seriously? Does anyone think that wallpaper can be applied over walls in this condition?!

Mirror Tar Bleeds Through Wallpaper – Prevention

June 18, 2020



The owner of this newish home in the Woodland Heights (Houston) had her handyman remove the powder room mirror and its surrounding built-in wooden frame. Mirrors are often adhered to the wall with mastic, a tar-like substance. When the mirror comes off, some of the tar residue invariably remains.

In the top photo, you can see where removing the mirror took the blobs of mastic along with it, as well as round sections of the drywall. But there are small smudges of tar still remaining on the wall.

The problem is that tar (among a lot of other substances) will bleed through wallpaper (as well as paint, and a lot of other materials).

There are stain blockers like my beloved KILZ Original Oil Based, BIN shellac based, or others, that are designed to block these stains. But I don’t trust them. For water, rust, blood, wood sap, etc., yes. But for oil-based substances like tar, I want more assurance. The best way to prevent bleed-through is not to cover the stain, but to remove it.

So I take a Stanley knife and cut into the drywall and then peel up the top layer of drywall, taking along the offending tar residue.

So now the dangerous tar is gone. But you’re left with torn drywall. This is bad for several reasons. For one thing, you have an uneven surface that will look bad under the new wallpaper (or paint). And since the top, protective layer of drywall is gone, any moisture (such as from wallpaper paste or from latex paint) will penetrate into the torn paper layer – which will swell and cause bubbling.

All of which looks pretty bad under wallpaper or paint.

So I used the product Gardz to seal the torn drywall. It is formulated to soak into the paper; then it dries hard and acts as a sealer and moisture-blocker. It won’t block stains, but it will prevent moisture from penetrating the paper and causing bubbling.

Once that was dry, I skim-floated over the entire area with joint compound. It looks rough in the photo, but once it’s dry, I’ll sand it smooth. Then I’ll give it another coat of the penetrating sealer Gardz. See last photo. Once that is dry, I’ll cover it with a coat of Roman’s Ultra Prime Pro 977 wallpaper primer, when I prime the other walls in this powder room.

All of these various products do take a while to dry, especially the joint compound as thick as I applied it. So I went to this job site a few days before the install date, to do the initial prep, so it would have plenty of time to dry before I come back for the final prep and wallpaper hang.

Warping Wallpaper – Grasscloth

June 17, 2020

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.

Serena & Lily Silvery Grasscloth on Master Bedroom Accent Wall

June 15, 2020


Every wall of this brand-new home in the Houston ‘burbs is WHITE. The homeowners have opted to warm up their master bedroom – as well as add a little dazzle – with this silver metallic-backed grasscloth by Serena & Lily.

I have striped on the wall with a similar-hued paint, where the seams will fall, so any gaps between strips will not show white wall primer.

Note that with grasscloth, there is no pattern to be matched, so you will always see the seams. The S&L grasscloth I have hung has been pretty homogeneous in color, as you see above, so not much paneling or shading as with other brands and posts I have done.

Still, this was NOT an easy install. See future post(s) for info.

The home is in the brand new Pomona subdivision in Manvel, south of Pearland, both a bit southeast of Houston.

Flower Bomb on Teen Girl’s Bedroom Accent Wall

June 14, 2020


They tell me the 13-year-old girl who uses this bedroom has a BIG personality. Well, here is a wallpaper pattern bold enough to match that!

The pattern is called “Flower Bomb,” and is by Milton & King, a British company.

It is a non-woven material, so could be hung using the paste-the-wall method, which was nice because I didn’t need to haul in my big pasting table. The material is designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece, when it’s time to redecorate.

The new home is in the Pomono community south of Pearland / Manvel / Houston.

Serena & Lily Feather in Guest Bathroom

June 13, 2020

Serena & Lily’s “Feather” – a very popular design. In fact, besides today’s install, I have three other clients considering using this pattern.

S&L makes nice paper, and I enjoy hanging it.

This home is in a new subdivision called Pomono, in Manvel, which is south of Pearland (southeast Houston).

Marvel Comics in Kids’ Bathroom

June 12, 2020


Here’s a finished look at yesterday’s install. It’s in a bathroom adjacent to a bonus room / play room / bunk room for this family’s four young sons.

See yesterday’s post for information about this non-woven wallpaper material.

This wallpaper pattern is by York Wall, 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, especially during this time of COVID 19.

The home is brand new, and is in the new Pomona development south of Pearland in Manvel (southeast Houston).

Fiberglass Fibers in Non-Woven Wallpaper

June 11, 2020


I have just measured and torn a strip of wallpaper off the bolt. See those fuzzy whiskers at the torn edge?

This paper is made of non woven. I’m told that it has a high fiberglass content. And what you’re seeing in the photos is strands of that fiberglass.

Why put fiberglass in wallpaper? There are many advantages to the non-woven wallpapers.

The fiberglass strengthens them. Among other benefits, this makes it possible to pull intact strips off the wall when it’s time to redecorate.

Because there is no traditional paper content (cotton, wood pulp), the material is dimensionally-stable. This means that it won’t expand when it becomes wet with paste. This means that your measurements will be accurate. And that there is no booking time – so you can paste a sheet and put it on the wall immediately. It’s rare to worry about a non-woven shrinking or gapping at the seams as it dries.

Color Variations in Background

June 10, 2020

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Look closely and you can see vertical stripes of color variations in the background of this wallpaper. It was very minor, though, and blended somewhat with the vertical flower stems, and was not visible from a distance.

Using a Uni Tool

June 9, 2020

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I first saw this tool at the 2013 paperhangers’ convention, and it was lust at first sight. Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to buy one. It was designed by a member of the paperhangers’ guild (the Wallcovering Installers Association), and serves a number of purposes. The lady’s name is Eunice, so we call her tool a “Euni (or Uni) Tool.”

I’ll spare you the technical details and just focus on what I use it for mostly, which is a straight edge guide for double cutting wallpaper (splicing two pieces). There is a non-slip pad under the left edge, the pointy end allows you to get right up to the ceiling, and then you use the right edge as a guide when cutting. Today I used it when cutting through two layers of wallpaper, and also used it to cut through one layer, by butting it up against the next strip and then resting my blade against the edge of the trimmer.

In the bottom photo, you can see what a nice, tight seam this made.