Posts Tagged ‘bubbles’

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.

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Badly Curling Edges on Quadrille’s “Sigourney” Wallpaper

July 18, 2018

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This “high end, designer wallpaper” by Quadrille (called Sigourney) has heavy inks that smell like moth balls. As is common with these papers, when wet with paste, the ink absorbs moisture and expands more than the paper backing, which is what causes the curing of the edges and the wrinkles (called “waffling”) which you see in the first photo.

Once the paper is on the wall, those edges can continue to curl backwards, resulting in gapped or open seams, or seams that are tight but just don’t look good. And the interior of the strip will continue to hold a few wrinkles and bubbles.

This paper had a selvedge edge that had to be trimmed off by hand with a long straight edge and a razor blade, before the strips of paper could be pasted and hung on the wall. I found that my carefully hand-trimmed edges did not butt together nicely, not did they adhere tightly to the wall, and they left little gaps and curled seams.

My solution was to overlap the subsequent strips of wallpaper and splice them together. This gives pretty much perfect seams.

However, it is time-intensive and somewhat complicated, involving many steps and some special equipment. No photos, but in a nutshell, you trim the selvedge edges of the wallpaper in a way that allows you to match the pattern on one side, and then leaves a little more than that on the opposite side. You first pad the wall under where one seam will go with a thin strip of heavy plastic that is 3″ wide (we WIA members call it a Boggess strip, after the WIA member who invented it), to protect the wall. Then you hang one strip, allowing one edge of it to land on top of that plastic strip.

The next strip is pasted and hung, positioned so that it overlaps the previous strip along the outer edge, while making sure that the pattern matches. Next you take a straightedge (I use a wonderful one (not pictured), invented and manufactured by a WIA member, and a sharp, new razor blade, and cut through the two layers of wallpaper, paying heed to press hard enough to cut through the two layers of paper, but not so hard as to damage the plastics strip, and definitely not hard enough to score the wall. A cut into the wall could result in delamination of the layers of the wall, and irreparable curling at the seams.

Once the cutting has been done, the excess layers of wallpaper need to be pealed away, then the Boggess strip removed, and then the two sides of the wallpaper strips should be eased together and smoothed down tight, with the edges of the strips wiped clean of any residual paste.

Next, the rest of the strip of wallpaper should brushed into place on the wall. This Quadrille paper may look wrinkled and waffled on the wall, but any little wrinkles or bubbles that may remain on the wall will dry and flatten out in very little time – just a few hours.

The whole plot, cut, trim, paste, book, position, place Boggess strip, trim paper at crown molding, trim at chair rail, trim at overlapped seam, smooth seam shut, wipe seam clean of paste residue, scenario resulted in very nice seams, but took a whole lot of time and materials and focus. I probably spent 40 minutes on installation alone (not including measuring or trimming) for each strip.

While this wallpaper’s challenges could be met, and the finished room looked fantastic, I would much prefer to hang a good quality mid-price-range wallpaper, with seams trimmed at the factory, and made with regular ink printed on traditional stock, that performs nicely and with minimal time spent.

Contractors and Painters Should NOT Prep Walls for Wallpaper

July 14, 2018


This home in the Meyerland neighborhood of Houston was flooded during Hurricane Harvey, and has been redone, and is now ready for final touches, like decorating, i.e. – wallpaper!

The first three photos show how the contractor left the walls. It’s hard to conceive how anyone could think these walls are “ready for wallpaper.”

What you are looking at is where the contractor ripped off the top, inked layer of the original wallpaper. Most of them don’t realize that there is a backing layer of paper that is left on the wall, that should be removed, too. Simply soaking this with a wet sponge will reactivate the paste and allow the paper to be removed easily, and with no damage to the wall (esp. if there is a good primer underneath the paper). Read my page to the right “How to Strip Wallpaper” to see how this should be done.

Instead, this contractor left the paper backing on the wall. Some of this porous backing is exposed. Other areas have been covered with the paint that was used on the woodwork. This solvent-based paint “raises the grain” of the surface it’s applied to – see all the hairy fibers from the wallpaper backing that have gotten stuck in the paint and raised up? Some of them are more than 1/4″ high. They create a gritty feeling on the surface, like really coarse sandpaper.

The surface is uneven, and the bumps will show under the new paper. The unevenness also means that areas of the paper will not be able to contact the wall, so there will be gaps and air bubbles and poor adhesion. The backing of the original wallpaper has been exposed, and when new, wet, pasted wallpaper gets placed on top of that thirsty paper backing, it will absorb moisture, expand, and bubble.

I had three missions. 1.) Seal the surface 2.) Smooth the surface 3.) Prime with a wallpaper-appropriate primer.

I rolled on a coat of the penetrating sealer Gardz to seal the surface, so that my following treatments would not cause the paper backing to bubble. When that was dry, I skim-floated the wall with a coat of joint compound. In the areas where the hairs were 1/4″ high, the skim coat was pretty thick, and took a good while to dry. Once that was dry, I sanded it smooth, then vacuumed the dust of off the floor, used a damp sponge to wipe residual dust off the walls, and then followed up with another coat of Gardz. It will soak into the joint compound and dry hard, forming a stable surface for the new paper to adhere to.

The last photo shows the wall once I finished.

Wallpaper in Midwest Living Magazine – Don’t Try This at Home!

July 10, 2018

While I’m happy to see another magazine promoting wallpaper in a decorating feature, I have to say that there is some abruptly alarming misinformation being passed along in the May/June 2017 issue of Midwest Living. In a story about revamping a home office (pg. 46), the homeowner strayed “from convention, saving time and money by painting directly over the grass-cloth wallpaper.”

Folks, this is a horrible thing to do! You might “save time and money” now, but when it comes time to get that mass of hardened painted fiber off the wall, you will have a dickens of a time, and most likely tear the wall to shreds in the process. $$ to get the wall repaired and intact again.

In addition, and more important for the immediate use, painted grasscloth just looks bad. As a solid color, it lacks the variations of shades that give the material its allure and appeal. Painted grasscloth, especially when painted with a flat finish paint, just looks dead.

Logistically, water-based latex paint is likely to cause the natural grasscloth fibers and its paper backing to absorb moisture and swell, creating bubbles in the material. These bubbles will not disappear when the paint dries. Any hairs or loose grass fibers will get caught in the paint, dry, and harden, usually sticking up at unsightly angles.

My Solution for Yesterday’s Cantankerous Wallpaper

June 27, 2018


Here’s what I ended up doing with the Norwall pre-pasted, paper-backed, solid vinyl wallpaper that was featured in my previous post. This brand is known for curling seams, as well as seams that just don’t lie down nice and flat, but appear to be “pouched” just a tad. I experimented with several pasting techniques, hoping to get nice, flat seams.

… It didn’t do well when I pasted it with full strength paste, as it got gummy and dried out too quickly. And it didn’t do well when I pasted it with diluted paste. Nor was it happy when I ran it through a water tray as per mfgr’s instructions (and then rolled a thin layer of paste onto the wall); it went up great and looked good … but look back at it after 10 minutes and discover that it has bubbled. What worked best was to wet it in the water tray and then unbook the strips and let them hang to dry out for 10-15 minutes or more. This left enough moisture for the paper to grab ahold of the paste I had rolled onto the wall, but eliminated the excess moisture that was causing the off-gassing and bubbles.

I wet a bunch of strips at a time… I had them hanging over the shower rod, on the towel bars, over the door, and the small ones got set on the toilet to dry.

Air Bubbles from Latex Paint

June 13, 2018

The walls had a light texture covered with latex paint, so I skim floated over the walls to smooth them. When the wet smoothing compound got onto the wall, the latex paint absorbed moisture, expanded, and created these bubbles. It’s called “off gassing.”

After the mud dried and was sanded, most of the bubbles disappeared, but some rings were still visible. When I primed with Gardz, a water-borne penetrating sealer, many of the bubbles raised their heads again.

I will have to see if they dry flat over night, or if I will have to use my putty knife to knock them off in the morning. I don’t want bumps showing under the new wallpaper!

Torn Drywall – Gardz Cures All

May 17, 2018

Wallpaper - Torn Drywall Repaired
When the wallpaper was stripped off the wall, some of the top layer of drywall came off with it. This is bad, because the inner layer that has been revealed will bubble when wet paint or wallpaper paste gets on it. Which, of course, looks bad under the new paint or wallpaper.

Gardz is a penetrating sealer that will soak into the surface, and then dry hard and impenetrable, allowing you to paint, paper, or, as in this case, skim-float over it with smoothing compound, without worries of bubbles or an unstable surface.

Gardz looks milky-white in the can, but dries clear. It is very thin and runny, so be sure to cover the floor and baseboards. In the photo, it has been applied to the lower left corner of the torn area.

The second photo shows the wall after it has been Gardz’ed, skim-floated, sanded, and re-Gardz’ed.

Mirror Removed – Ready for Wallpaper? NOT!

March 20, 2018


A mirror had been glued to this wall with mastic adhesive (a tar-like substance). When the mirror was pulled off the wall, the adhesive pulled some of the drywall along with it, and in other places it left some of the tar on the wall. Then someone skimmed over the surface with joint compound.

The wet joint compound caused the torn areas of the drywall to absorb moisture and ripple, and the tar worked its way through the joint compound.

Both torn drywall and tar are problems under wallpaper. The ripples from the torn drywall will show under the new wallpaper. And moisture from the wallpaper paste is likely to make the bubbles larger. The black mastic (tar) will bleed through the wallpaper, creating black spots.

If I had been there when they removed the mirror, I would have taken a utility knife and cut the globs of mastic completely out of the wall. Removing it is preferable to trying to cover it up. Yes, this would have torn the drywall, opening it up to wrinkling when it gets wet with primer or paste.

But the penetrating sealer “Gardz” is designed to fix torn drywall. It dries hard and impermeable, so moisture cannot get through. No worries about bubbles or wrinkles! The cut areas could then be skim-floated over and then sanded smooth.

But since I didn’t get to prep from the beginning, I inherited this wall in the top photo, with torn, wrinkly areas, and with tar bleeding through the joint compound.

To prevent additional bubbling, I coated the wall with Gardz. Once that was dry, wanting to both smooth the wall and create an additional barrier to contain the mastic stains, I skim-floated the entire wall, let dry, sanded smooth, and sealed again with Gardz.

Gardz doesn’t protect against stains, though. So, to keep the mastic from bleeding through, I coated the wall with KILZ Original oil-based stain killer and blocker. This worked better having the joint compound under it, because when I’ve put KILZ directly on mastic adhesive, the two petroleum-based products simply melded into one another, and left us with the very real potential for bleeding through wallpaper (or paint, BTW).

So the KILZ should have effectively blocked any stains from the mastic. But the new problem is that wallpaper paste will not stick to modern, EPA-approved, oil-based products. Plus, I was worried that a little of the black tar might still find a way through.

So I skim-floated the wall again, creating yet another layer that would bury those tar stains. After that was sanded smooth and wiped free of dust, I applied another heavy coat of Gardz.

All this took a long time, but it’s good assurance that bubbles will not be seen under the new wallpaper, and that no black spots will grow on its surface.

Wallpaper in Better Homes & Gardens Again – Not Lovin’ It This Time

August 27, 2017

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“…Mitchell Black (company) is taking the intimidation out of wallpaper, one bold pattern and easy-hang strip at a time,” says the bi-line.  I’m always glad to see wall décor in public media.  But I see a number of problems with the rest of their information.

First, they print commercial grade (fine for its setting), traditional paper (great – as long as it’s a good substrate), and peel-and-stick (horrible).  P&S paper is like putting a large and unworkable sheet of Contact Paper on your walls.   Even though they call it “removable paper,” it will tear up the wall as you pull it off.   It’s very difficult to get smoothed out and looking good; the article even says that you can expect it to trap air bubbles so “…save it for rooms with lots of furniture and soft light.”  !!

Next, they print on 24″ wide x 18′ long rolls.   Regular wallpaper comes either 20.5″ or 27″ wide.  Why print on an odd sized roll?  And what’s with a measly 18′ long roll?  Most papers come 33′ long or 27′ long, and generally yield three or two strips respectively.  With a roll 18′ long, with 8′ high ceilings, you might get two strips (after allowing for trimming and pattern placement / matching), but with the more common 9′ ceilings, you will get only one strip).  And a whole lot of paper you paid for that is going in the trash can.

Last, it says, “Some pros paint first, but it’s not necessary.  Just spackle holes and sand rough spots.”  Wrong, wrong, WRONG!  Proper wall prep counts for 60% or more of a successful job!  Paperhangers don’t “paint” – they prime, with a primer specifically suited for wallpaper.  And merely glossing over imperfections won’t hide them … walls must be as perfectly smooth as possible.  If you paper over a textured wall, the bumps will show through.  If you paper over a glossy wall, the paper won’t stick.

I’m not fond of their patterns, either.  Cute designs, but three of the four photos of room sets with furniture and accessories looked awfully busy.

Just my 2c.

Fixing a “Hot Mess”

April 18, 2017

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The homeowners of this house in Fleetwood (west Houston) tried to remove the wallpaper from their powder room on their own. They did a reasonably good job at the start, but soon realized that they were in over their heads.

In the top photo, they have removed the top layer of wallpaper from the wall on the left. The problem came when trying to take off the white backing layer. Their efforts resulted in torn drywall (second photo). Torn drywall is very bad, because it will leave uneven areas under the new wallpaper / paint. Worse, it will bubble when the moisture from the wallpaper paste or latex paint touches it, and that will leave bubbles under the new wallpaper / paint.

These homeowners were smart enough to stop before more damage was done, and called in the pros (me).

I finished stripping off the old wallpaper, using methods that caused less damage to the drywall. There was one patch of original wallpaper, a foil-type that dated back to the build date of 1976, that would not come off without a lot of damage to the wall. I left that section on the wall.

Once all the paper was off that would come off, I sealed the torn drywall and other unstable surface areas with Gardz, a penetrating sealer. Once that was dry, I skim-floated the entire room with “mud,” (joint compound). When that was dry, I sanded the surface smooth. Then I vacuumed up the dust, then wiped any residual dust off the walls with a damp sponge.

Lastly, I rolled on another coat of the penetrating sealer Gardz. It will dry hard and tight, preventing the torn drywall from bubbling, and holding all the loose or unstable areas together. It is also a good primer for wallpaper, so tomorrow the walls will be prepped and ready for their new décor! See last photo.