Posts Tagged ‘adhesive’

Faking Perfection

July 20, 2019


Even though I carefully centered this trellis pattern on the dining room wall, due to the pattern being a teensy bit off-center on the strip, by the time it reached the right and left corners, the pattern was a tad off. Meaning that the dark vertical elements in this trellis design were about 3/8″ wide on the left side of the wall. But on the right side, the mirror-image elements were no more than 1/8″ wide, and tapered off to nothing at the top of the wall, due to a bow in the wall.

In the top photo, if you look at the bottom right corner, next to my ladder, you can see the difference in width of the vertical lines compared to those at the top of the wall, and at the left side of the room.

If the design had hit the corners in the curved parts of the trellis, no one would have noticed any slight difference in width. But since the pattern landed on a vertical motif that the eye expected to be 3/8″ wide, the right wall with it’s narrower or non-existent vertical motif was kinda noticeable. At least to me.

So I used my straightedge and a razor blade to cut some 3/8″ wide vertical strips. I then pasted these onto the appropriate place in the design. This made the Moroccan “lanterns” look a little narrower than they were supposed to be. But that is not nearly as noticeable as maintaining the width of those vertical strips at the left edge of the wall. See last photo.

I have done this with paper many times. But I was a little nervous trying this trick with a 3-D stringcloth material, because I feared the thickness of the overlay would be eye-catching. I also worried that the adhesive would not adhere to the strings.

But everything worked out nicely. The appliqués stuck without argument, and you really couldn’t notice the thickness of those tiny patches.

All this tweaking took about an extra 45 minutes. I think it was well worth it.

Historic “Lafayette” Bird Pattern in Galleria Area Powder Room

July 12, 2019


With a black granite floor, a black toilet, a dark wood vanity, and a dark granite countertop, adding black wallpaper to this under-the-stairs powder room seemed like a bold venture. But the gutsiness paid off – the finished room looks fantastic. And there is nothing dark or brooding about it.

In fact, the light color of the birds, along with the uplifiting feel of the vertical foliage in the design work together to give the room light and movement. Ditto the new paint color on the ceiling.

Sorry there is no photo, but this room, which is tucked under the stairway, has a deeply sloped ceiling. Originally, the homeowners considered papering the slope and the flat ceiling areas, too. But I told them that would make the room far too dark and closed-in. I suggested they pull a color from the wallpaper and dilute it to what I call a “whisper color” – almost white, but with just a whisper of color.

They could have gone with a light shade of tan (birds’ wings), green (plants), purple (birds), or salmon (birds, flowers). After consulting with the gal who sells the wallpaper (read below), they decided on a pale orangey-pink shade. I love the choice!

The ceiling does not look “pink.” Yet the hint of peachy pink adds warmth, while all the while pulls your eye up and adds a feeling of openness and even joy.

Fourth photo – the tan paint from the original faux finish wall treatment wrapped around onto the top of the backsplash. Once the dark paper went up, I didn’t want to have a gold stripe running around the top of the backsplash. So I used artist’s craft paint and a small brush to paint it black, to blend in with the granite backsplash. Once the wallpaper was up, to protect both the paint and the bottom edge of the wallpaer, I ran a bead of clear caulk along the top of the backsplash. This will prevent splashes of water that land on top of the backsplash from being wicked up under the paper – which could cause curling.

This historic “Lafayette” wallpaper pattern is by Thibaut Designs, and dates back to the 1800’s. In fact, it is 2″ narrower than most wallpapers, and I’m told that that is because it is printed with the same engraved rollers as were used back then. It’s a raised-ink printing process, and the material is pre-pasted. I experimented with a couple of pasting techniques, and found that the old-fashioned method of pulling the strips through a water tray resulted in even saturation and activation of the paste, and the flattest seams.

This paper 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 (inner loop Houston). (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.

Jungle Paneled Installation, Italian Product, for a Nursery

June 22, 2019


The top photo shows a sample panel of the wallpaper taped to the wall of the nursery. You can see the sharply sloping ceiling line to the right.

The mother-to-be fell in love with the jungle theme and the colors of this paper. She bought it on-line from an Italian company. Unlike most wallpapers that come in rolls, this product came in sets of panels, each of which was 27″ wide x 39″ long. In the second photo, you see the first three tiered along the left, and the next two strips positioned to the right. Other panels will be filled in above and below, and to the right.

Precious little information was available on how to install this product … and what there was came in Italienglish, which was little help. There was a brief on-line video, plus you could read the experiences of previous DIY clients in the customer reviews section. In such cases, you have to use the scant available information, along with your own experience, to decern an install method.

Turns out, this is similar to the old-school paper murals that come in panels and call for powdered paste. Except this company did not include paste (as most do), nor were the panels meant to be overlapped.

Luckily, I have sources for wheat, cellulose, potato starch, and other powdered wallpaper adhesives. These are mixed up on-site, are less aggressive as far as stickiness goes, and are more wet than the pre-mixed pastes used for most installations today.

More wetness, along with the particular type of paper these murals are printed on, means that the paper will absorb more moisture and can expand substantially. This is why most of these types of murals are designed to be overlapped at the seams. The seams of this product, however, were meant to be butted … which means that when that paper dries, it could shrink, and that could result in gaps at the seams.

Because the mural came in panels instead of continuous strips, the edges of the strips could not be lined up exactly perfectly, neither vertically nor horizontally. And this was exacerbated because each panel absorbed paste and expanded differently from the others, so there could be a difference in width or height between panels of as much as 1/8″.

This meant that there were some pattern mis-matches between strips. It also resulted in some seams overlapping. I left before the paper was completely dry, but I imagine there are areas where the some seams gap, too.

But I tend to overthink things, and fret about minute details that most people never see. The bottom line is, the accent wall looks fantastic, and will set a theme for the new baby’s room.

Note that this paper gets really wet when it’s pasted, and so you see a bit of blotchiness in the photos. This will disappear and the paper will be much lighter and brighter when it’s all good and dry.

The product is also not really technically a “mural.” But it comes in panels like many murals do, so I’m using that term for simplicity’s sake.

Besides the special paste, because this product was printed on a rather flimsy paper, I used a softer brush to apply the paste (as opposed to a roller), and I used a soft, long-bristled smoothing brush.
The video showed the guy using his hands to attempt to smooth the paper into place. If you looked closely, his finished wall had a lot of bubbles and wrinkles. My long soft smoothing brush was much more appropriate.

Updating – Busy to Calm and Quiet

February 7, 2019


The original viny pattern was hung by me 20+ years ago, in the dining room of a home in West U (Houston). (Still in absolutely perfect shape, I might add. 🙂 ) This was a very popular look back then – but the homeowners (who are now empty-nesters) were ready for an update.

They chose this tone-on-tone pattern in a fluid, uplifting design. It reminds me of a movie theater marquee back in the 1930’s Art Deco era.

This wallpaper has a slightly textured surface. It is made by York, and is in their Sure Strip line. It is designed to strip off the wall easily and with minimal damage to the wall, when it’s time to redecorate.

This product is pre-pasted, which means it has adhesive on the back that is activated by water. Since the paper has a textured surface, I didn’t want to run the paper through a water tray, so instead I sprinkled water on the back and then used my paint roller to spread the water to all areas of the back of the paper. I added a bit of clear wallpaper paste, to augment what was already on the back.

Booked and allowed to sit for 3-5 minutes in a plastic bag to prevent drying out, and it went up beautifully. Sure Strip is one of my favorite papers, both to work with and for longevity on your wall.

Mysterious Spot on Wallpaper – Air Borne Substances

January 3, 2019


If you look closely, you will see tiny tan dots all over this wallpaper. This is a paper wallpaper with a very light acrylic coating, that was installed maybe 30 years ago. The installer did a very good job – although he did not remove the previous layers (2!) of wallpaper backings, and did not use a primer.

I see spots like this almost exclusively in bathrooms – where you have enclosed spaces, toiletries, and humidity.

Since these dots are most prevalent around the upper areas of the room, I think they are stains from air-borne substances. However, an alternate theory is that they could be stains leaching through from the tan backing paper that was left on the wall, or possibly from the clay-based paste that was used for the installation.

Epounding:

My theory of air-borne substances is that if you spray something into the air, such as hair spray, air freshener, deodorant, or even onto a surface, such as glass cleaner, some of the substance becomes air-borne, hangs in the air, and eventually will come to rest on the walls. This results in perfectly round little specks on the walls. (See the Page to the right, “Care and Feeding of Your New Wallpaper.”

The stains could even be coming from cooking oils that splattered into the air, got sucked through the A/C ducts, and expelled into the bathroom.

Since this paper has just a light acrylic coating and no durable protective vinyl coating, most any substance floating around in the air would be able to land on the paper and penetrate into it, leaving these spots.

Don’t get me wrong – I MUCH prefer these thin acrylic-coated papers over thick vinyls and non-wovens. You just need to take appropriate steps to protect them.

Moving on…

Another possibility is because the installer didn’t remove the previous layer(s) of manila-type paper backing left from the original wallpaper installation(s), nor did he use a primer or sealer, it’s possible that chemicals from the old tan paper backing are leaching through onto the new wallpaper.

This is why art framers recommend acid-free mats and framing techniques. The same are available for wallpaper installations – but we’re getting into some pretty high-end topics now…

Getting back to our bathroom in Tanglewood (Houston).

Another very possible cause is the clay-based paste that was used to hang the wallpaper. I have seen many, many times, a “dirty,” tan discoloration coming through from underneath the paper, which I firmly believe is coming from the tan-colored clay-based paste that many installers like to use. I have many instances validating this theory.

The only discrepancy is that stains from the paste working their way through the wallpaper would not manifest as tiny, perfectly round specks, but as more generalized, mottled areas. Unless, the composition of the wallpaper included teensy dots in the paper fibers, intended to allow for porousity. Or humidity in the room forms miniscule droplets which land on the wall and then wick the tan paste up through the wallpaper. Which sounds reasonable to me. In fact, I like this theory a lot. And I really DISlike clay-based paste.

A final idea is that the wallpaper is just old. After 30 years on the wall, materials are bound to break down, humidity will take a toll, and it will be time for a change to a fresh new look.

Bottom line: Remove old wallpaper, properly seal and prime the walls, avoid clay-based pastes and instead use a clear wallpaper adhesive.

Check back tomorrow for more!

Disguising an Exhaust Fan Cover

November 26, 2018


I don’t like covering switch plates or outlet covers with wallpaper, nor things like air conditioner grills. They get dirty when hands touch them, no adhesive wants to stick to them, they just look better the way God created them. So don’t tell anyone that I did this….

This exhaust fan was oddly stuck smack in the line of sight, in the wall next to the toilet. (Most are mounted inconspicuously in the ceiling.) It just kept bugging me. Since the family was out of town and I had plenty of peace and quiet and time, I decided to give ‘er a go … I plopped down on the floor and spent a good 45 minutes with a handful of new razor blades and cut out all these tiny vent slits.

It looks good.

I hope it holds up. Wallpaper adhesive is not formulated to stick to plastic. But it’s all I had with me. I did use sandpaper to scuff up the surface of the plastic vent cover, and also used a bit of adhesive caulk – one of my secrete weapons – in a few areas that were reachable (couldn’t get down into the recessed areas). So hopefully there will be some chance for the paste to grab ahold.

The end result was worth the effort. Now you barely notice the exhaust fan.

Need a Little Reading Material in the Bathroom? ??

November 2, 2018


What fun wallpaper! This is very similar to grasscloth. But, instead of using natural grasses and reeds, this material is made of strips cut from magazine pages, rolled and folded into long narrow strips, and then sewed onto a paper backing. In some of the columns, you can actually read the words!

There is a similar product made from old newspapers – appropriately named “Yesterday’s News.”

I hung this in a powder room in a new, contemporary home in the Rice Military neighborhood of Houston. The homeowner, Cristin Wells, is an interior designer http://www.wellsdesignedhome.com/ who recently moved here from Chicago (not far from my hometown of St. Louis!), and brings her sophisticated playfulness here to the Bayou City.

This product is similar to grasscloth in that the seams are very visible. So I engineered the room to have seams fall evenly spaced on each wall, which we call balancing, and which gives a pleasing effect.

In addition, the material can be shaded, or paneled, which means there can be a noticeable color difference between strips, even if they come off the same bolt. In the third photo, you see how I have rolled the paper out on the floor, to check for shading / paneling, so the homeowner will be aware of this issue, and so I can plot how and where to use the various strips.

Indeed, before consulting with me, the homeowner initially purchased two bolts of paper; when I measured the space I told her that she needed five more. The additional bolts arrived in a different run. Run and batch and dye lot numbers are important – all bolts from the same run or batch were printed at the same time with the same batch of ink, and will generally be pretty much the same shade. Papers from a different run will be a slightly different shade, and will be very noticeable if placed next to one another on the same wall. This is true even with this recycled magazine page material – see the third photo – although instead of printing with ink, the ladies who manufacture this stuff (usually in China or somewhere in Asia) are grabbing handfuls of magazine pages. As you can see, color variations are still quite possible / probable.

In addition to the 10′ high ceilings, the room had a few features that made the install tricky. One was a deeper than usual vanity, which was difficult and somewhat dangerous to reach over to access the wall. This was also a “floating” vanity, which hung suspended on the wall with a short space underneath it that wanted to be covered with wallpaper. Contorting myself under a 30″ deep vanity into a 5″ high space to stick a couple of strips of paper to a rear wall that no one would ever see questioned my sense of reason – but I could not imagine leaving the wall unpapered, so I “got ‘er done!” Sorry, no photo.

Being a contemporary styled home, the window was recessed with a 1/2″ return,. This meant that I had to bring the paper to the edge of the window, and then wrap a mere 1/2″ around an outside corner. The paper was thick and didn’t want to make this turn, and, when it did, it didn’t want to stay stuck – it kept trying to lift up. Wetting the paper helped soften it so it was more agreeable to making these turns, and in some areas I also used a razor blade to make light horizontal slits in the material, right on the edge of the corner, to reduce tension and allow it to turn more easily. Sorry, no photo.

Speaking of making cuts … This stuff was thick and hard to cut, so it took a lot of pressure and several swipes to make many of the cuts, even with a brand new razor blade. When I trimmed the material horizontally at the ceiling and floor, the strings that held the folded magazine pages to the backing were cut also, and they came loose. That meant that there was nothing holding the folded magazine pages to the paper.

It turns out that each of those horizontal strips of folded magazine pages contained about 6 layers of paper, each folded accordion-style. Threads were sewn on to hold them to the backing. But once the threads were cut, the accordion-folded papers unfurled, spread apart, and pushed away from the backing. So when you looked at the ceiling or floor lines, you saw a puffy ridge running the width of the strip.

What I ended up doing was to go up to the ceiling and then down to the floor edges, gently pry apart the fanned layers, and use wallpaper paste to adhere them to one another. I had to get sufficient paste behind each of the six layers, for the entire 3′ width of each strip, press them back together, hold them until the adhesive tacked up – all without getting any paste on the paper or on the ceiling.

All of the above added a lot of time to this job, and I didn’t leave until 9:30 p.m. But the room looked great when I was finished. From its initial uninspired dull grey paint job to the colorful and quite unexpected recycled magazine pages covering the walls, this powder room has experienced a major transformation.

The wallpaper is by Seabrook, which has been purchased by York. Both are wonderful brands.

Updating a ’60’s Dining Room – But Staying True to Mid Century Modern

November 1, 2018

I love all things vintage, and have a keen fondness for old wallpaper in particular. So it really hurt to strip off this beautiful (albeit kitschy) mural – the original installed on one wall of a dining room in this 1960 home in the Timber Grove neighborhood of Houston.

The new homeowners, a young couple, had a more modern vision for the look of their home. This very whimsical “Franz” design feels both modern and mid-century at the same time. And, it perfectly mirrors the thin linear gold lines of the chandelier.

The wallpaper is by a company I had not heard of before – Half Full. It is based in California, and their products are reasonably priced. Unlike many “boutique” manufactures, the company was able to provide sensible product information over the phone, and I was pleased with the quality of their wallpaper.

The surface was printed with a clay-coated ink, and the substrate felt like a pulp material. Installation instructions called for a typical vinyl adhesive, and standard booking times. The material – particularly the edges – did tend to dry out a little too quickly, but a little additional pasting helped with that. There was no detectable shrinkage. I do wish they had printed this black design on a dark substrate, because, even though I used chalk to color the edges of the paper, the white paper backing did show through at the seams just a smidgeon.

From Humid Houston to the Sunny Shores of the Mediterranean

August 22, 2018


If you’re stuck in the city but long for the warm shores of an exotic land, what do you do? How about using a scenic wallpaper mural to fool the eye into believing you’re in Paradise?

I hung this on a wall in a garage in inside-the-Loop Houston near Montrose and downtown. It will be surrounded by automobiles, bicycles, lawn equipment, and all manner of “garage stuff” – but, boy – what a view! The homeowners plan to have a big party later this year, and will use the decorated garage as an extended dining area.

This is the typical, old-school, 8-panel photo mural that has been popular for decades. After the “palm trees swaying over a tropical white sand beach” scene, Mediterranean themes like this are the most popular. But these days, you can get just about anything, even custom made from your own photos, and sized to fit your wall.

Most of these murals are 12′ wide by 9′ high, but this one was 13′ 8″ wide by 8′ 3″ high. It was smaller than the wall all-around, so I placed it more or less in the center, and also balanced on the stairs to the left (not pictured).

The mural comes in eight panels, and is hung with four panels across the top, and four across the bottom. Unlike regular wallpaper, where the seams are butted, these seams are overlapped by about 1/4″. The top photo shows just four of the panels (two top and two bottom), rolled up and laid out on the floor. It’s essential to plot and double-check like this, before you grab pieces and paste them and go to stick them to the wall.

These murals are printed on a somewhat flimsy, plain paper type material. They come with special powdered cellulose paste. I’ve always used the provided paste with these murals. But since this was going in a garage and would be exposed to heat and humidity, I wanted something a bit stronger. The instructions mentioned that, alternately, a traditional pre-mixed wallpaper adhesive could be used. So I used my go-to, Sure Stick Dynamite 780 paste.

The 780 is not as liquid as the cellulose, so it wetted-out the material differently from what I was accustomed to. It is also more aggressive, so it was a bit harder to unfold the booked sheets; too much tugging could cause the delicate paper to tear.

The cellulose paste always causes bubbling. (These disappear as the mural dries. But, still, they are unsettling.) I was happy that the pre-mixed paste did not produce any bubbles, and also allowed the paper to be more stable, with fewer wrinkles and waves. The paper did expand once it got wet with the paste, as much as a full inch per panel, so even with the 1/4″ overlap at seams, it ended up being nearly 14′ wide.

This is a paper mural, and not very durable. The homeowners plan to use a sealant, or perhaps will cover it with huge sheets of Plexiglas, to protect it. How it holds up in the humidity and heat of Houston remains to be seen. They had a similar mural (different scene) up for close to 10 years. I didn’t hang it originally, but I did some touch up and repaste a few years ago. Eventually, though, it succumbed to the elements and had to be removed. This time around, I’m hoping that my use of a wallpaper primer, along with a stronger paste, will help keep the mural nice and tight to the wall for many years to come.

Covering an Air Vent

July 13, 2018

Digital Image


I really don’t want to make this post, because I don’t want people thinking that I can / will cover air vents. Because I don’t like doing them. But sometimes the homeowner wants it, and sometimes it really is the best look for the room.

For one thing, they are simply difficult to do – cutting around tiny spaces and narrow louvers set at weird angles.

But other factors come into play, too – Finding the right adhesive to adhere to plastic or metal vents. Finding an adhesive that will weather humidity and temperature changes, as well as on-again / off-again air flow. Is the wallpaper thin enough and pliable enough to meld to the multiple angles of the vent?

This vent took the better part of an hour to cover.