Posts Tagged ‘bubbles’

Strange Bubbles in Drying Wallpaper

September 21, 2021
Air bubbles appearing as this wallpaper dries.
Smoothing brush, and plastic smoother.

It’s not uncommon for vinyl wallcoverings to develop bubbles as the paste dries. This is called “off gassing” and it happens because the vinyl is impenetrable and there is nowhere for air to escape.

But these days, most paper products – such as this one – allow air to pass through, and dry nice and flat with no bubbles or blisters.

One thing to keep in mind is, virtually always, these bubbles will disappear as moisture evaporates and the the paper and paste dry and shrink taught. So the less fiddling you do with it, the better. (And exception would be large bubbles, which should be addressed.)

One way to treat bubbles is to chase them out toward a seam, using a tool such as the plastic smoother. You can also use a pin or razor blade to poke a tiny hole in the paper to let the air escape. It helps to do this in a part of the pattern, and not in an unprinted area, to disguise the hole.

I also like to understand why something like this happens. If you know what caused it, you have a chance of preventing it the next time.

I primed the wall with my usual primer, so I don’t think there would be issues with moisture being trapped between the primer and the wallpaper. But then again, you never know what is inside the wall – many walls have been painted multiple times, and some layers may not be compatible.

Another cause could be the plastic scraper. The bristled smoothing brush uses a more gentle action to push the paper into place. The scraper could actually overwork and stretch the paper. In fact, if you use the scraper to try to push bubbles out to a seam, you end up creating more bubbles.

I use the plastic smoother mostly for seams, and not so much for smoothing a full strip into place. But it’s possible that I used it more than usual this time, and stretched the paper, creating conditions for the bubbles to form. In fact, on one strip, I gently pulled the bottom portion away from the wall and then put it back in place, but making sure to use only the bristle brush. This did eliminate the bubbles.

But, again, if you just wait it out until the paper becomes thoroughly dry, nine times out of ten, all the bubbles will be gone by morning.

Run Numbers – Re Previous Post

May 15, 2021
Run numbers are important!

Re my previous post, before I visited, the homeowner had purchased 8 rolls (4 double roll bolts) of paper. This was just exactly enough (12 strips) for the headboard wall, but I told him to order 16 more to do the rest of the room. The new paper came in a different run. So we had Run 16 for the headboard accent wall, and Run 17 for the other walls.

(You can’t mix runs on the same wall, because different runs, printed at different times with different batches of ink, will be slightly different shades. This very slight color difference will show up on the wall as a striped or “paneled” effect.)

The wallpaper is by York. It is a non-woven material, comprised of synthetic fibers rather than wood and cotton. The synthetic material does not expand when wet with paste, which means the wallpaper can be hung via the paste-the-wall method, with no “booking” or “soaking” wait time needed.

Interestingly enough, Run 16 behaved differently from Run 17. I hung the accent wall with Run 16 quite successfully using the paste-the-wall method.

But when I started the next wall using Run 17, bubbles and wrinkles developed. The paper was absorbing moisture from the paste and expanding on the wall, creating the small bubbles. Quite unexpected with a non-woven material.

The solution was to paste the back of the wallpaper, rather than the wall. This allows the material to absorb moisture and expand a tad before you get it to the wall, so it will behave itself once it is on that wall.

Unlike a traditional paper, this non-woven material did not need a lot of time to absorb moisture, but could be pasted and hung immediately. This greatly speeds up the installation process.

Pasting the paper has an additional advantage in that it renders the material more supple and pliable, which makes it much easier to work around corners or manipulate into position in tricky areas.

Whoops! Someone Painted Over Old Wallpaper

April 21, 2021

Just looking at the walls, I had not noticed . But when I removed the light switch cover, it was clear that someone didn’t bother to remove the old wallpaper, and just painted over it.

Actually, they probably did do some prep, because you could not see seams under the paint. They must have taken steps to cover the seams.

And there was no flashing … difference in texture between paint over wallpaper, for instance, and paint over smoothing compound that was used to disguise those seams.

And there were no bubbles (caused by latex paint on top of wallpaper that absorbs moisture from the paint and swells) and only a few tiny loose areas.

Still, it would have been better if the previous guy had put some effort into removing the wallpaper, and then washing the paste off the wall and then sealing with a stain blocker, to prevent paste residue from causing the new paint to crackle and flake off the wall. Then the room would be adequately ready for paint.

Realistic, Textured Faux Brick Wallpaper Accent Wall

April 8, 2021
Textured wall skim-floated smooth, primed, and ready for wallpaper.
Starting in center to balance off-level ceiling line.
Pretty realistic!
The material has a slight texture, although it’s not visible in this photo.

Originally, the homeowner, a single guy in the Houston Heights, had a sort of Asian theme in his master bedroom. But he was ready for something more guttural and free form. Mission accomplished!

The new look is a little bit Industrial Modern, and a little Back Alley. 🙂

He has a lot of sports memorabilia, and I think that would look great hung on this faux brick wall.

The ceiling line was not level at all, which means that you can expect the bricks to not line up perfectly straight across the wall at the ceiling. Bricks would be taller on one end and cut shorter at the other end.

And so I started hanging in the middle of the wall, butting my strip up against a plumb line from my laser level. Moving across the wall, as the ceiling line starts to track up or down, by starting in the middle, you even out any wobbling of the pattern at the ceiling by spreading half of it on the right side of the wall and half at the left side.

As it turned out, the bricks stayed perfectly straight across the ceiling line.

This is a lightly textured, embossed vinyl product by Akea, a British company. I was really expecting a non-woven paste-the-wall substrate. But this was on a paper backing, which you don’t see often these days, especially with the European manufacturers.

It was thin and flexible, the seams laid down nicely, and no bubbling (bubbles are pretty typical with paper-backed vinyl goods).

Minor Bubbles, Waffling, Quilting on Wallpaper

March 28, 2021

A lot of high-end wallpaper manufacturers use heavy inks (a.k.a. stinky ink). When wet paste is rolled on to the back of the wallpaper, these inks commonly compete with the substrate for moisture. The substrate absorbs more moisture and more quickly than the inked areas.

The result is wrinkles, blisters, bubbles, warps, quilting, waffling – whatever you want to name it, you’ve got a bumpy surface that doesn’t want to lie flat on the wall.

One way to tame this beast is to LIGHTLY sponge water onto the surface of the paper, before pasting. This allows the front to absorb moisture at the same time that the backing is soaking up moisture from the paste. The result is a more even “quilting” of the material.

Another thing to keep in mind is that small blisters like seen in the photo will usually flatten out and disappear as the wallpaper paste dries. A good wallpaper-specific primer underneath is a big help.

Also, a liner paper is often a good choice. The liner is a special, unprinted paper that goes under the decorative wallpaper. The liner absorbs moisture quickly and helps “lock down” bubbles and seams.

A liner also ups the installation price. Because you have to add the cost of the material, plus the labor of at least an additional day to hang the liner, and then let it dry at overnight or longer.

Challenges With 40″ Wide, Thin Vinyl Mural

March 13, 2021

See other recent post(s) for more info on this material and its install.

When ordering, from the materials offered, the homeowner chose this vinyl option, because she loved the slightly textured, “pebbled” surface. I would have much preferred she went with the more predictable and cooperative non-woven material.

The instructions said to paste the wall. Which is what I did. But I believe this material would have performed better if they had said to paste the product.

Pasting the product would have evened out moisture absorption from the paste, as well as expansion as the substrate wetted-out. That may well have eliminated the wrinkles you see in the photo.

It took a lot of patient work with both the smoothing brush and the plastic squeegee to work these wrinkles and bubbles out of the wallpaper. The resulting flat surface was not necessarily the Holy Grail … because often the far edge of the wallpaper will get distorted and / or warped / bowed.

It’s really difficult to hang a new, subsequent strip next to a strip with a warped edge. It’s hard to butt the seams, and plus additional strips get more and more warped. Eventually, you get to where the resulting wrinkles are so large that you cannot work them out.

This is one reason why you start hanging from the midpoint of the wall. This helps disperse any such wrinkles or other imperfections equally across both the right and the left sides of the wall.

I was lucky that I had only four panels and three seams on this install.

As mentioned above, a non-woven substrate would must surely have eliminated the wrinkle problem. Non-wovens are made of synthetic fibers (including fiberglass), so they do not expand when wetted by paste or water. So you can paste the wall and then apply the wallpaper, without worries about the paper stretching out of shape

Weird Bubbles Develop on Wall

January 21, 2021

This wall had a slight texture that needed to be skim-floated and then sanded smooth. After I applied the smoothing compound (drywall joint compound), a half hour or so later, these tiny blister bubbles appeared. This is off-gassing. But from what is a mystery.

The only clue is that this area is around where the hand towel was positioned next to the sink. So this area would have received a lot of splashing of water and also soap and other toiletries.

My guess is that some of these substances stuck to the wall. And for whatever reason, when they were covered by the joint compound, they released air / gas, which caused these bubbles.

I’ve seen this before. But this time, some of the bubbles were large enough that they did not sand down smooth and even with the wall surface. So I had to do a light touch-up skim-coat on top.

Once I got the wall smoothed, I wasn’t too concerned. I don’t believe that anything causing these tiny blisters would be something that would bleed through and stain the wallpaper.

Some substances do stain wallpaper, though. For more on that, do a Search here.

’90’s Era Tissue Paper Wall Treatment

November 14, 2020

Here is an innovative wall treatment that was (sorta) popular a few years (decades) back. It involves taking tissue paper (such as wrapping paper), wetting it with diluted adhesive, wadding it up, and spreading it out on the wall. The ridges and folds create a unique textured effect.

The artist was quite talented, and actually laid these ridges of tissue texture in a pattern of oblong rings as you see in the photo above, spread out in horizontal bands around the room. I’m sorry I didn’t take a shot of the walls from a distance.

In order to hang wallpaper, I need to get the walls smooth. Unfortunately, this stuff does NOT want to come off the wall. So I am skim-floating over the mess, hoping to build up enough smoothing compound to bury these ridges (some of which are up to 1/4″ or more thick).

The challenge now is to get that thick layer of smoothing compound to dry overnight – in a small, enclosed powder room with poor air circulation.

Many of the globs of tissue paper swelled when they got wet with the smoothing compound, and created bubbles. In other situations – usually – when the compound is sanded smooth, these bubbles disappear. I hope that is the case tomorrow.

Stay tuned …

Peel & Stick = Piece of Sh!t

September 24, 2019


We’re seeing more and more of this peel-and-stick, supposedly “removable” and “repositionable” plastic wallcovering. Unfortunately, many homeowners read the lofty claims by the manufacturers and think it will be a perfect alternative to traditional wallpaper. It is not.

The stuff is awful – I won’t hang it, and most of my friends won’t either.

First of all, you don’t NEED an alternative to traditional wallpaper – you just need quality paper and someone who will properly prep the walls and then properly install the paper.

Getting back to P&S, the stuff is virtually impossible to hang. Imagine a 9’x2′ strip of Contact Paper, trying to position that on a wall without it wrinkling or sticking to itself, and then trying to butt another strip up next to it. Not gonna happen. It also does not “remove easily” … well, it does, but it will tear your wall apart in the process.

These homeowners had some guys doing other work in the nursery, and they said they could hang the wallpaper, too. They weren’t experienced paperhangers, and they weren’t up to the battle against this P&S. Virtually no one is.

First, they should have smoothed out the textured wall. Second, most P&S products spec that the wall should be sealed with a semi-gloss paint, which needs to dry and cure for two weeks. As you can see, this adds time and labor charges to the job.

I’m not sure why there are gaps at the seams (top two photos), but better prep would surely have helped prevent this. The large wrinkles are due to the inflexiblity of the material and its unwillingness to twist or stretch into position. With the baby on the way, the homeowner dad got desperate and used nails to try to tack down the curling paper.

The baby girl arrived, the parents lived with this wall for a while, and, when life settled down, they contacted me. I counseled them to forget the P&S and to choose a traditional wallpaper.

They zoomed in on this butterfly pattern by SuperFresco. This material is one of the newish non-woven materials, which contain a component of fiberglass and thus don’t expand or shrink, and won’t tug at the wall, so fewer worries of seems popping loose. These qualities also make it possible to dry-hang the paper, by pasting the wall instead of pasting the paper. I usually paste the paper, but on a single accent wall such as this (no toilets or sinks or fancy moldings to work around), pasting the wall works beautifully. It also saved me lugging my heavy, bulky work table up to this townhome’s third floor. 🙂

Removing the P&S paper was easy – it is strong and held together while I tugged it off the wall … I could do it all from the floor, without even climbing the ladder. Unfortunately, it took much of the paint along with it. So much for the “removable” claim.

It was still as sticky as the day it was born – so I rolled it all up and stuck it to itself and tossed the whole mess into the trash. Done and gone!

I skim-floated the wall to smooth it, sanded smooth, vacuumed, wiped residual dust off the wall with a damp sponge, and then rolled on Gardz, a penetrating primer-sealer, that also is a great undercoat for wallpaper.

All that (especially waiting for the smoothing compound to dry) took several hours. I think it was about 6:00 before I started hanging wallpaper!

Thin non-wovens generally go up with pleasingly invisible seams, and this one did, too. I was surprised to discover more than a few large wrinkles and bubbles. This could have been because the paper got twisted during installation, because the wall was smooth but not flat, because of some uneven reaction between the substrate and the paste which caused off-gassing (burps!), or some other reason. But it meant that I had to go over the wall several times, checking to be sure all areas were firmly secured to the wall.

The finished accent wall looks great! It’s a gentler pattern and a quieter color, and doesn’t hit you in the face as the original floral pattern did. There’s a little bit of fun shimmer in the scattered pearlized butterflies, and the blue-grey wings coordinate nicely with the three grey walls in the rest of the room.

Finally, Baby Girl is ready to move into her own room!

Dark Papers – Visible Seams

September 10, 2019


Wallpaper is paper, and when paste is applied to the back, the paper gets wet and expands a little. When it hits the wall, it dries – and often that means it will shrink, even if just a tad. That will leave minute gaps at the seams. If the paper is dark and the wall or the substrate are light , you will most likely see white gaps at the seams.

Some manufacturers combat this by printing dark patterns on a darker substrate. This is what you see in the photo above. But it also helps to color the edges of the wallpaper with a corresponding color of chalk. (You can’t use ink, because ink will bleed and discolor the wallpaper.)

Sometimes you can go back and color in the seams with hobby paint or chalk, which sounds simple but actually takes some technique and finesse, to color the areas adequately and avoid staining the paper.

Painting the wall the color of the paper is a thought, but not as feasible as it sounds, because wallpaper wants to stick to wallpaper primer, not paint. And I’ve seen paint lift off the wall when the wallpaper dried and put tension on it – so, not using that trick again.

Paint with a clear wallpaper primer over it is another idea – but it adds an extra day (or two) and more labor and material costs.

What I did in this case, was to try different pasting methods. This wallpaper, from the Historic Homes Collection by Thibaut, is pre-pasted and engineered to be run through a water tray to activate the paste on the back of the paper.

This method works super with most of their colors. But, because the water tray adds a lot of moisture to the wallpaper, the amount of expansion and then shrinkage results in tiny gaps at the seams – not a big deal with a white or light-colored wallpaper. But with this black paper, it was showing too much white at the seams. Yes, a 1/64th” is too much, when you are looking at white between black.

So instead of running the paper through the water tray, I experimented with pasting the back of the paper. I knew this method would allow the paper to expand less, dry faster, and shrink minimally.

But wallpaper that has a thin layer of pre-paste on the back does not respond well to the installer applying paste to the back on top of the pre-paste. You are greeted with a thick, dry, gummy mess that is hard to manipulate on the wall.

There were also a lot of bubbles and blisters under the surface. Yes, you can be assured that these will disappear as the paper dries – but it sure makes you nervous while you are looking at them!

Spraying the back of the paper with water from a mister didn’t work, either, because the spray bottle spread water unevenly, water sloshed onto my work table, and there was nothing to enhance the “stickiness” of the manufacturer’s pre-paste.

After experimenting, what worked best was to apply paste to the back, full strength, and then quickly spritz the back with water and roll it around, to thin down the paste I had just applied, and to add enough moisture to activate the pre-paste.

The wallpaper strips with this pasting concoction were thick and muddy and difficult to maneuver, but the drier paste did lock down at the seams more quickly. I didn’t have issues with shrinking or gapping seams after I started using this pasting method.