Improper Prep Leads to Failed Wallpaper Job

February 7, 2018


The new homeowners bought an adorable 1920’s home in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston, and inherited a dining room with a beautiful wallpaper pattern – that unfortunately had not been hung properly. The wallpaper was curling at the seams, peeling away, and literally falling off the wall. It is taking chunks of a white substance along with it.

It’s hard to determine exactly what is causing the failure, but the first issue is that the underlying wallpaper was not removed. Since wallpaper has an acrylic coating, it does not provide a secure foundation for the new paper to adhere to. In some cases, it’s not possible to remove the old paper, and then the seams should be floated over, and the old paper should be primed so it will have a surface that the new paper can grab ahold of.

Here, it looks like the walls were either not primed at all, or were primed with a flat wall paint. Some of that paint is letting go of the old wallpaper and pulling away from the wall, which allows the new paper to fall off.

Ideally, that striped ’90’s paper should be stripped off, along with any other layers of paper underneath. But it looks like some of the underlying paper was floated over, and that makes it particularly difficult to remove.

I suspect there are other issues going on, so it will take some time and exploration to decide what will be the proper approach for removing the beige paper and then prepping the walls, before the new homeowners’ new paper can go up.

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Wallpapering a – Doorbell?

February 6, 2018


In the top photo, you see the mechanism for a doorbell. I have hung grasscloth wallpaper behind it, and then replaced the doorbell.

I don’t like to put wallpaper on things other than walls, but I have to admit, the plastic cover to the doorbell, which had been painted with some blah flat wall paint, was sad and, well, unattractive.

So I primed the plastic housing and then worked with the stiff grasscloth to get it to wrap around the oddly-shaped box. It took a little persistence to get the grasscloth to stick to the curved box.

It was worth the effort. Once the housing was placed over the dingers, you could barely make out the shape of the cover.

Keeping Paste Off The Bookshelf Cubicle Paint (see previous post)

February 4, 2018


In yesterday’s post (below), I talked about pre-trimming pieces of grasscloth, so that two sides and one corner would fit neatly into the bookshelf cubicle’s back. That left me needing to trim excess paper off just two sides (plus the three attached corners).

I measured and pre-trimmed my pieces so that there would be only a 1/2″ excess that needed to be removed. That’s not very much, but, still, paste was on the back, and it would get onto the surrounding wood and paint. It’s easy enough to wipe the paste off of enamel paint. But in the case of grasscloth wallpaper, you really don’t want to get the surface wet (from the damp rag wiping paste off the painted wood), because it can stain, bleed, or lose color.

So I used strips of this cool blue plastic tape that is sold by a colleague of mine, Steve Boggess, a fellow member of the WIA (Wallcovering Installers Association), who imports it from Japan.

In the top photo, you see it applied to the back of the pasted piece of wallpaper. Two sides of the piece will butt against the walls of the cubicle, but the two sides that will overlap onto the painted walls will need to be taped. This tape will prevent paste from getting onto the painted walls.

In the second photo, you see a wee little bit of the tape peeking out from behind the grasscloth. In the third photo, I have made my trim cuts and am removing the excess grasscloth. The blue tape is coming along with it. It’s important to get all the tape off – if not, there will be no paste exposed to the wall to hold the grasscloth onto the wall.

The blue tape is expensive, and it adds extra time. But it saves time by eliminating the need to wipe paste off surfaces. And it keeps both paper and other surfaces absolutely clean and paste-free.

Grasscloth in Tiny Bookshelf Cubicles

February 3, 2018

This neutral-hued grasscloth sure warms up the look of these display shelves, adding both soft color and texture. The homeowner’s books and decorative items stand out much better.

None of the shelves was removable, so I had to cut and install TWENTY FIVE separate pieces of grasscloth wallpaper for the backs of these bookshelves.

To minimize trimming inside those small, tight cubicles, I took careful measurements and then pre-cut my pieces. I used a straight edge, razor blade, and one of those “self-healing” cutting mats that are used for sewing and crafts. The mat was marked both vertically and horizontally in inches (and graduations) and had easy to see right angles.

I cut all my pieces a mere 1/2″ larger than the dimensions of each cubicle. I used the craft mat and straight edge to cut a right angle in the upper left corner of each piece of grasscloth. I could position this in the upper left corner of each cubicle, which also butted it up perfectly against the top and left sides of the cubicle.

Then all I had to do was use my razor knife to trim the grasscloth on the right and bottom sides, to fit into the cubicle.

I spent a full four hours priming, then measuring and labeling each cubicle, and then cutting and pre-trimming each of the 25 pieces of grasscloth. Look at the photo of my measurements!

All this effort paid off, because every single piece of material went into its cubbyhole perfectly, and required trimming on just two sides (instead of four). The install still took a full eight hours. But it was fun and challenging, and a different work-out for the brain from hanging paper on tall, flat walls.

This grasscloth wallpaper is by Thibaut. I forgot to take a photo of the label, but it was a really nice paper, and, even though I had only one seam (in the TV niche), for once there was no issue with shading or color differences – in fact, that one seam is all but invisible. I hung this in a living room in a townhouse in the Rice Military / Camp Logan neighborhood of Houston.

Starburst Medallion in a Heights Dining Room

February 2, 2018


This dining room with four large windows in the Houston Heights was not dark to begin with, but once the white paper with its metallic starburst medallion went up, the room really became BRIGHT!

This wallpaper is printed on a non-woven substrate and was intended to be a paste-the-wall application. But I found that pasting the paper worked better. The manufacturer is Thibaut.

Difficult Decision

February 1, 2018


Here is a large powder room (with shower!) in a new home in the Houston Heights. One wall inside the shower enclosure was under the stairs, so it had a short sloped area. There was also some vertical wall – but it rose higher than the crown molding that ran around the rest of the room. The dilemma was which surfaces should be covered with wallpaper?

Paper the horizontal wall up to where it meets up with the sloped wall? Paper the sloped wall? Paper both? Paper neither? Choose a coordinating color and paint one or more areas?

In the end, I chose to run a horizontal line between the crown molding on the left and the molding on the right, and then stop the paper at this line. It doesn’t cover the whole wall space, but from down on the floor, your eye doesn’t catch this.

And I think it looks much better to maintain the horizontal line of the paper ending at the bottom of the crown molding, so it is homogeneous all the way around the room.

This wallpaper is by David Hicks, for Cole & Son, and is called Hick’s hexagon.

A Long Pattern Repeat = A Lot of Waste

January 31, 2018


This wallpaper pattern has a long repeat (the number of inches that go by between one design element and the next time it appears further down the wall) that did not sync up well with the wall height. In addition, it was a straight across pattern match (the same design motif is at the top of the wall on every strip). Both these situations eat up a lot of paper.

That means that you have to unroll and cut off a lot of paper before you get to the particular element of the design that you want at the top of the wall. In today’s case, with a 24″ pattern repeat, I was throwing away about 22″ of paper for each strip that went up on the wall.

By the end of the day, there was quite a pile of it. You can’t tell by the photo, but that roll of 22″ scraps is about equal to a full single roll, possibly more, of wallpaper.

This is a good reason to always buy a little extra paper.

Workin’ On Ridding A Wrinkle

January 30, 2018


Even though this is a brand-new house, erected by a skilled custom builder, all of the walls, floor, and ceiling were off-plumb / unlevel. That’s not such a big deal when working with a wild abstract pattern or a typical floral. But when a geometric wallpaper pattern like this is applied to out-of-kilter walls, the resulting pattern match is going to be very visible.

In the top photo, the wall to the left is bowed. Trying to get a straight strip of wallpaper to fit into the crooked corner resulted in two very large (24″ high) wrinkles near the floor. That makes it difficult for my next strip of wallpaper to butt into the corner tightly, and to match the pattern, and still maintain its straight edge on the right side. This edge has to stay straight, because subsequent strips of wallpaper will be butted up against it.

My solution was to make some vertical “relief cuts,” following along the design motifs (top photo), from the baseboard up to the point where the wallpaper begins to torque out of shape. Because the wrinkles were so big, I had to make two vertical cuts, instead of just one, to ease the resulting pattern mis-match out over several inches, so it would be less noticeable.

When smoothed back into place, you could not see any pattern mismatch at all. (second photo)

Tight Trellis Forms a Muted Backdrop in a Heights Sitting Room

January 29, 2018


Here is an example of a bold pattern that doesn’t feel heavy at all. Because the design motifs are small, and because the color palette is kept to just two colors, the overall effect is not overwhelming. Instead, it creates the perfect backdrop for the light sconces and other furniture (not pictured) in this sitting room in a new home in the Heights neighborhood of Houston.

This wallpaper pattern is a classic, and is made by Schumacher, who has been manufacturing wallpaper for more than a hundred years. Look closely, and you can see the “raised ink” texture to the paper. The interior designer is Stacie Cokinos, of Cokinos Design. She works primarily on new-builds or whole-house remodels. Her look is fresh and crisp, but with a lot of warmth and living for real life tossed in.

Hick’s Hexagon in a Houston Heights Powder Room

January 28, 2018


This large powder room (it has a shower!) in a new home in the Houston Heights originally had all-white walls (like the rest of the house). Interior designer Stacie Cokinos suggested wallpaper to warm the room and add personality. The homeowner had never used wallpaper before and was skeptical, but she tentatively agreed.

What a wonderful choice this turned out to be! The wallpaper defines the space and transforms it from timid to bold. But, because the color palette is limited, the feeling is not chaotic. The color coordinates beautifully with the dark brass wall sconces. Previously, the white woodwork blended in with the white walls. But now the dark color of the wallpaper makes the beautiful door moldings stand out.

This is a popular pattern, and I’ve hung it, or variations of it, a number of times. The design is by David Hicks and is made by Cole & Son, a British company. It’s a non-woven material, and is meant to be applied by the paste-the-wall method, but I had better results with pasting the paper.

The interior designer is Stacie Cokinos, of Cokinos Design. She works primarily on new builds, and mostly in the Heights neighborhoods. Her look is spacious, clean, and crisp, with a little fun tossed into the mix.