Posts Tagged ‘come apart’

Tape Test for Unstable Walls

September 21, 2022

There can be reasons for unstable walls, mostly cheap or poor quality paint, dust, someone applied paint over dust, improper prep, incompatible layers inside the wall built up over years (oil based paint, latex paint, dust, gloss paint, joint compound, etc.).

These can cause problems with wallpaper, mostly with the layers delaminating (coming apart), which causes the wallpaper seams to come away from the wall. Sometimes sheets of wallpaper simply fall off the wall.

This isn’t so much a problem with paint, because it just sits on the surface. But wallpaper shrinks when the paste dries, or expands and contracts with humidity, and can put tension on the seams

Before wallpaper goes up, one way to test for such unstable surfaces is the tape test . Use a razor blade to cut an “X” into the wall, scoring through the paint and maybe into a few layers beneath. Place a strip of blue painters tape over the cut. Pull the tape off the wall.

If paint comes away from the wall along with the tape, or if layers inside the wall come apart, you know you have to do a lot of specialized prep to stabilize the wall before hanging / installing the wallpaper.

This example is an interesting twist. The homeowner used a piece of tape to hold up a wallpaper sample. Then used an ink pen to write notes on it. When removed, the tape took the paint off – in the shape of the writing!

Using Heat To Bend Vinyl

September 3, 2022
I will be wrapping a stiff , thick , embossed textured vinyl wallpaper around the inside of this window return . This 90* angle is called an outside corner . This is tricky enough.
But the real feat will be wrapping the material around that bend , and getting it to adhere to that little lip on the bottom next to the wainscoting – which is only about 1/4″ deep . That doesn’t give much for the paper to grab hold of, especially since it is stiff and will want to retain it’s flat position .
Heat gun to the rescue! Heat will cause the vinyl to soften and allow it to bend . This is my test piece. I’m experimenting with how much heat is needed and the delicate balance between bending and melting or burning .
Also how much time is required for the vinyl to cool and how well it will retain its new shape , and how firmly it will adhere to that little narrow 1/4″ lip .
Because I can’t safely put my hands in front of the heat gun, and my plastic smoother tool would not hold up, I use this ” Euni Plate ” of stainless steel , which was invented and manufactured and sold by a colleague of mine in the Wallcovering Installers Association WIA .
Here’s another view. The plate has angles and rolled edges for various uses. The damp cloth is to quickly cool the vinyl, in hopes to keep it in the bent shape .
Another trick is to use a straightedge and razor blade to gently and lightly score the vinyl along the outside of the corner fold , to break the surface a little and allow it to bend . You’ve got to be careful, because cut too deeply and you’ll end up with a sliced edge that’s unattractive and also may delaminate ( come apart ).
Finished – with nice tightly wrapped edges that are staying in place .
wallcovering installer houston installation

Grasscloth Engineering and Logistics – Technical Details Post

August 21, 2022
Grasscloth is a natural material that cannot be matched from strip to strip, so all the seams will be visible . In addition, there is usually a slight but noticeable color difference between strips / panels (called shading or paneling ) . So it’s important to plot the layout of the strips to give the most visually pleasing overall look. Usually this means balancing the width of strips so they are all equal , at least on the same wall . We call this engineering .
This wall presented particular challenges , due to the widths of the elements. Grasscloth comes 36″ wide . You can use your straightedge and a sharp razor blade and trim it down to any width you want.
The width of both the large wall spaces to the right and left of the bank of windows was 34.” The width of each window was about 35.” The width of the two spaces in between the windows was 7.”
So you’d think I could trim my panels on either side of the windows, and then over the windows, to about 34″-36″ – give or take a few inches (or fractions thereof).
But that would leave me with two 7″ wide strips between these 35″ panels. Although the look would be uniform and mirror-image from the center outward, moving from right to left you’d have: 35,” 35″, 7,” 35,” 7,” 35,” 35,” … those 7″ breaks were just not going to look right.
One option was to determine the width of the wall (189″) and make each strip an equal width. This worked out to six strips, each at 31.5″ Not good, because this would mean a seam down either far side. And since those sides were 34″ wide, that would mean a 31.5″ wide strip and a strip 2.5″ wide. Not attractive at all, and it would use up an extra strip of wallpaper.
This six strips @ 31.5″ wide scenario might also land with a seam smack in the middle of those 7″ wide interludes in between the windows. Not attractive at all.
So I decided to make the two outer strips 35″ wide. That left 119″ of wall space above the windows to be covered with wallpaper. Do some math and you get four panels of 29.75″ wide. This gave a balanced and uniform look to the area over the windows, and also prevented seams from landing between the windows.
Moving right to left, I cut and hung the full length outer strip first. Then I cut and hung the strip over the window on the right. Then I measured to find the centerpoint of the window in the middle. Turns out it was a bit less than 29.75″ away. So I trimmed that next over-window strip accordingly.
Once that was in place, I measured from that center point above the middle window out to where my left full-height panel would fall, 35″ out from the wall. Took the resulting measurement and divided by 2. Lo and behold, each of the next two panels over the window was going to be a bit wider than 30.” No problem. No one (but a paperhanger or maybe an engineer) is going to notice a 1/4″ or even a full 1″ difference in widths between this strips over the windows.
Another thing to point out … it’s important that I took measurements before cutting these strips for this second left-hand section. Because, since grasscloth comes at 36″ (and walls can be wonky), if my strips had been narrower (say, 28″), that last full-height panel on the left might have ended up needing to be 37″ wide – and that wouldn’t work because it only comes 36″ wide – plus you need at least 1/8″ to wrap around the corner.
Luckily I had the flexibility to be able to trim the panels over the windows to any width needed, to accommodate all this.
If you’ve followed all this so far, let me also toss in that we also need to figure how to get paper in between those windows. More on that below.
In this scenario, I’m moving from right to left.
Area beneath the windows needs to be treated in the same way, and preferably with widths that match what’s going on above the windows. In addition, it’s tricky because after you move across 12′ of wall space, the strips above and below the windows are going to twist and torque out of shape, so that last full-length panel on the far left might not butt up perfectly with the last strip under the windows.
The grasscloth is black , and my wallpaper primer is white . It’s common for teeny gaps to appear at the seams . In this case, it’s likely that white wall would peek out from those gaps. So I like to stripe under where the seams will fall with dark (diluted) paint . This takes measuring , plotting , and also a heat gun to get the paint to dry before the wallpaper hits it, to avoid staining. You can do a Search here to read more about this technique .
Now let’s talk about getting wallpaper in between those windows.
As you can see in the photo, if I hang a 30″ wide strip, a whole lot of paper is going to be cut off and thrown away. Also, a whole lot of sticky, pasted paper is going to bump against that window molding and maybe even the window glass. A lot to clean up! And unwieldy, to boot.
My solution was to stop the wallpaper just a little below the tops of the windows. Then I would patch in a 7″ wide strip in between the windows. This is trickier than it sounds, because, if it were a paper wallpaper, I could simply cut along a design motif and overlay the 7″ wide piece. But grasscloth is thick and overlaps don’t look good. Also grass has no design elements , and the reeds of grass don’t necessarily fall perfectly horizontal , and even if you cut everything perfectly true to square , if the window molding is a teeny bit off-plumb , then your edges won’t butt up perfectly.
So that’s a good reason for striping the black paint under where the butt join will occur.
Same thing for the sections under the windows. I measured and positioned the strips so that the top edge (which I had trimmed to be perfectly horizontal) fell between the narrowest part of the windowsill molding, for less visibility.
I admit, instead of butting the two pieces, here I did overlap the 7″ wide strip about 1/4″ onto the piece under the window, right at that narrow junction. It’s only about 3″ wide, and I figured no one is going to be examining it that closely, anyway. This saved me about a half an hour of measuring, trimming, testing, repeat, repeat.
This is my second window interlude, and by this time I had realized that it’s hard to trim stiff grasscloth around intricate moldings precisely . So I used paint to fill in the edges around the window molding, just in case there might be any gaps between the grasscloth and the molding, so you would see black instead of the white molding paint. I did this with a small sponge; if I had used an artist’s brush it would have been a bit neater and tighter to the conforms of the molding. But sometimes you’ve gotta relax and realize that no one’s going to be scrutinizing the insides of moldings below shin-level.
Area over windows finished, with drapes back in place.
Turns out this particular grasscloth is so uniform in color (quite unusual, I will add), that you can’t really see the panels , nor their equal widths , anyway. I’m still glad I took the time to do all this math and trimming.
Area below the windows, done. That last seam on the left bears some explanation, too. Moving across the top of the windows, I measured that that last strip – the full-length strip – would need to be exactly 35″ wide. It butted up nicely to the last strip above the windows.
But, due to twisting , shifting , expansion , unlevel and unplumb walls and ceilings , and other factors, there is a really good chance that that last 35″ wide strip would not butt up perfectly with the last 30″ wide strip under the window . So I planned to splice these last two strips together.
Yeah, the drapes are hanging there, I coulda overlapped the two strips about 1/2″ and the drapes would have covered it. With a thin wallpaper, I probably would have done this. But grasscloth is thick, and an overlap would be visible , and also the adhesive / paste can’t be trusted to adhere as well to grass as it would to paper .
So I plotted for a splice. Instead of trimming my last strip under the window to 30″ (read above), I trimmed it to 32″ wide. That way, when I hung the last full-length strip to the left, which was 35″ wide, it overlapped the piece under the window by a few inches. Then I did a double cut and spliced the two pieces. See below for details about that technique.
Grasscloth is 36″ wide, and this wall area is wider than that. So two strips were needed. This means you’re going to have a seam, and since grasscloth seams are always visible, it looks best to plot to have the seam fall down the center. It uses more wallpaper to do this, but it looks much better than having, for example, a 36″ wide strip next to an 8″ wide strip.
As mentioned above, in case you get thin gaps at the seams, a dark stripe of diluted craft paint under where the seam will fall, will prevent white wall from showing through.
Rounded / bull-nosed edges and corners have been popular in new construction for at least 10 years. I wish they’d go away. They’re very difficult to trim around, and hard for the paper to conform to and adhere to.
It’s very hard to trim around that rounded edge, because the paper is hanging over and blocking your view, because grasscloth is thick and stiff and your fingers can’t feel through it, and because the edges aren’t necessarily true and plumb so a laser level or other level won’t help you much.
I use this little gadget as a trim guide. It’s actually a small section of the same corner bead material that drywallers use when they assemble these walls. Cut to about 1″ long and notched in different places where you might trim along the edge of the wall.
It’s intended that you place your trimming knife in one of the notches and slide the gizmo along the edge and make your cut. I find that awkward and also inaccurate. So I prefer to use the notches as a guide and mark where I plan to trim with a pencil. Since this wallpaper is black, I used this marking pencil from my home sewing kit instead. Chalk might work, but I was afraid it might now wipe off completely.
The pink pencil line was barely visible, but it was enough for me to use a scissors to trim along the grasscloth. I like this better than using a razor blade as I can see better, and also less chance of scoring into the primer or wall. Which raises its own set of issues – do a search here to find previous posts.
Inside view of the trim guide.
Finished arch. Note the four panels of equal width above the arch. And two flanking full-height panels also the same widths.
I was lucky that there was no pattern to match, so I was able to butt my two flanking strips right up to the edge of the bull-nosed corner. No trimming needed! Then I measured the remaining width between these two strips (the area over the arch), divided by four, and cut four strips of equal widths.
I hung the two on the left, and then one on the far right. This left one strip still to be positioned to the right of center. So the pieces are going to meet over the arch, rather than the last strip falling in a corner.
Same as the last strip under the window (discussed above), it’s really difficult to get your last piece to fit in here perfectly. I’ve done it, but it takes a lot of measuring, trimming, testing, retrimming, and often starting all over again.
So I did a double-cut / splice.
A double cut involves cutting each strip an inch or so wider than it should be, and overlapping the two. Then you take a straight edge and sharp razor blade and cut through both layers. This handy tool is a wonderful non-slip guide for this process. It was invented by an installer colleague in the Wallcovering Installers Association ( WIA ) and she has them fabricated in various lengths (along with other cool tools ) and sells them on-line. Contact me if you’re interested.
Anyway, it takes a lot of strength to cut through two layers of grasscloth, so somewhat difficult for lil’ ol’ me.
You also want to be sure to not cut / score into the wall, because the tension of drying wallpaper can tug at the wall and cause it to actually come apart, leaving an open seam that’s difficult to repair.
So you’ve got to put some padding under the wall where the cut will take place. I use special strips of polystyrene (hard but flexible plastic) to pad the wall. Also invented by a colleague in the WIA , who also sells other cool tools and supplies. Contact me if you’re interested.
This black grasscloth was printed on a white substrate. If the seams aren’t absolutely tight, there can be worries about the backing showing through to the front. So sometimes we’ll take a piece of chalk or pastel (never oil pastel or permanent markers because they bleed and stain ) and run it along the edge of the paper – from the back, and taking care to not get chalk on the surface.
I do this frequently with dark papers ( do a search here to see previous posts ) but opted not to do it with this grasscloth. It wasn’t necessary, and might have stained the porous reeds of the grass. It was beneficial, though, to have striped dark paint on the wall under the seams, as mentioned above.
Ugh. Grasscloth comes 36″ wide, and this section of wall is 38″ wide. It’s not visually pleasing, nor is it easy from an installation point of view, to have a 36″ wide strip next to a 2″ wide strip. Or to use scraps and put a 25″ wide strip next to a 13″ wide strip.
So best to plan two strips of equal widths. Two strips, each 19″ wide, with the seam down the middle.
Actually, the strip on the left was 19″ wide, but I trimmed the strip on the right to 21″, because I like the wallpaper to extend 2″ over the top of the door molding. This provides a more stable surface in case of shifting foundation or walls, and less likelihood (knock on wood) of the seam opening up should the house / drywall experience shifting.
Note that design “rules” caution against seams down the middle of spaces. But it would have been more visually distracting (and used up more paper) to have made three strips of each 12.75″ wide. And would have looked even dumber to have used scraps left from other walls and put together two strips of disparate widths.
So the homeowner and I discussed during our initial consultation , and she was happy with the center seam. Once it was all finished, this particular grasscloth was so even in tone that you barely see the seams, anyway. Win-win!
This did use up additional paper, though, as noted in a previous photo above.

Sneaky Snaky Dining Room Accent Wall

August 6, 2022
Beautiful symmetry …
But look closer – those intertwining lines aren’t fronds of vegetation – they’re snakes !
The wall before. It’s a mid-century home, but the drywall here is new. Per my request, the contractor left it taped and floated , but not painted or covered with any coating .
I had planned to simply prime this wall. But after examining it more closely, the surface was a little grittier than I like. So I ended up applying a very light skim-coat and sanding it smooth .
Here the smoothed wall has been primed with Roman Pro 977 Ultra Prime .
I’m plotted out the center of the wall and am using my laser level to ensure that the design in my first strip falls right along the center, and also is nice and plumb .
My work table with two strips of wallpaper . Spoonflower packages its wallpaper differently from other companies. It comes in widths of 24″ and lengths of your choice of 3,’ 6,’ 9,’ or 12.’
Get their Pre-Pasted Removable Smooth option, which is water-activated , and is wonderful stuff.
Do NOT get the Peel & Stick , nor the Traditional Pebble . The P&S and the Traditional are both very difficult to work with, and can lead to bubbles and creases on your walls , plus cause damage when the wallpaper is stripped off later.
Back to the photo – the blue cube thing in front is my laser level , shooting its red line at the wall.
Close-up
I’m using this blue plastic tape on the edge of this strip of wallpaper. This will prevent paste from getting onto the wall or ceiling.
The accent wall stops in this left hand corner, so I need to trim off the excess. But I don’t want to get paste onto the un-papered wall. Paste can cause the wall paint to crackle and flake off.
So here you see how the blue tape is keeping paste off the wall. Once I finish trimming, I’ll check the back to make sure all of the blue tape has been removed. Any areas where the blue tape might be still on the back of the wallpaper , the paper won’t adhere to the wall .
This tape is available to paperhangers / installers . If you’re interested, shoot me an email wallpaperlady@att.net
Another thing about Spoonflower , the seams are meant to be overlapped, by 3/4″ . Note that this does create a ridge that runs vertically the length of each seam. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t very noticeable.
Actually, there are advantages to overlapping seams in this manner. No worries about white substrates showing at the seams, nor the paper shrinking and leaving gaps at the seams.
Also, in case of unstable walls that might come apart ( delaminate ) under the tension of the drying / shrinking wallpaper, overlapping disperses the tension and helps prevent wall failure.
This pattern is called Serpents and Apples and is by Spoonflower . Spoonflower has a lot of cute designs , and also a good number of fun avant garde patterns like this one.
The homeowners have some other non-typical d├ęcor that will meld perfectly with this wallpaper. Think life-sized skeletons .
… Notice how that light fixture hanging in the center of the wall kinda looks like a skull ? …
The home is in the Oak Forest area of northwest Houston .

Bright and Fun Retro Look in Powder Room

March 12, 2022
No boring beige or all-white walls in this home of a growing and active family in the Cypress / Jersey Village area of Houston.
Throughout the home, the mom has added touches of blue, green, yellow, and pink, along with a heavy dose of mid-century modern furnishings and accessories.
Time to pull the powder room into the mix!
Originally, this room was wallpapered in a typical ’80’s pattern, complete with a border running below the ceiling. Did I say ’80’s ?!
That wallpaper had been removed, and the walls were painted a dark tan. The room was very boring and boxy and uninspiring.
But … add a little wallpaper and – nothing boring here!
And the look definitely invokes the ’50’s, ’60’s, and ’70’s – can you say Flower Power ?
Spoonflower sells several types of wallpaper. Definitely do NOT get their peel & stick (see my page to the right), and I’m not fond of their vinyl material. I do like their pre-pasted smooth , which is what my client chose.
Spoonflower doesn’t come in standard dimension rolls. It comes in 24″ wide ” rolls ” of 1′, 3′, 9′, or 12′ lengths. So measuring and calculating is a little more complicated than for traditional wallpapers.
(The mermaid kitchen towel on the right is also by Spoonflower – and they have wallpaper to match!)
Strips of this material are designed to be overlapped at the seams. This is good, because it prevents gapping at the seams as the paste dries, and it also eliminates stress on the wall that could cause underlying surfaces to delaminate and come apart. Do a Search here to learn more.
The downside is that this overlapped area does leave a ridge running the length of the seam. Most people don’t mind the look, especially with a busy pattern like this one.
Pattern # 4330883 is called Party Posies.
This material is custom-printed. The homeowner ordered 11 rolls, and here you can see how the manufacturer has numbered each of the rolls in sequence (5th roll of 11 total).

” Shrinking ” a Strip to Make for a Good Corner

February 5, 2022
I’m hanging wallpaper moving from right to left. The wallpaper is 21″ wide. The width between my last strip (over the door) and the corner is 19″ wide. This means that my next strip is going to wrap around the corner by 2″.
This is not good. You never want to wrap wallpaper around an inside corner, especially a tiny amount like 2″. Corners are never straight, and thus the wrapped bit will be warped and un-straight. The next strip will never butt up correctly with it, leaving gaps and overlaps. You will also end up with a new strip that is not hanging plumb.
Also, wrapping around corners doesn’t allow for movement in the corner as the temperature changes in the room, or as the house shifts on its foundation.
The goal is to wrap the corner by about 1/16″ – 1/8″, and then overlap the new strip on top of that narrow wrap.

This is how I want my strip to land in the left corner.
Bottom line – if I want my next strip to wrap just 1/8″ around the corner on the left, then it’s going to overlap by 2″ onto the existing strip on the right. If that happens, we’ll lose 2″ of the pattern and have some eye-jarring cut-off pattern motifs.
So, somewhere, I need to “lose” 2″ of paper. Looking at the short seam above this window, I see where I can remove some paper without messing up the pattern too much.
I’ve removed the strip and used my straightedge and a razor blade to slice off 3/4″ of paper.
The blue plastic is there to keep paste off my table, and the shiny thing is a protective plastic strip I use to keep from cutting into the wooden table.
3/4″ removed.
Slid back together, you don’t much notice the very minor pattern mis-match created by the absence of the narrow strip.
This could work on a longer strip as well, depending on the pattern motifs.
Now the left corner is how I want it.
But the right edge of the strip is overlapping 1″ or more over the existing strip over the window. You can see there is a pattern mis-match, not to mention a bump where these two pieces overlap. So I’m going to do a double cut and splice these two strips together.
Splicing means you press hard to cut through both layers of wallpaper. Your blade will probably cut a bit deeper and dig into the wall, scoring the surface. This is bad, because an un-intact surface can give way when wallpaper paste dries and the material shrinks, tugging at the surface. This can actually cause layers of the wall to come apart ( delaminate ), which means the wallpaper will come up at the seam. Do a Search here to learn more.
To prevent this, I’m using a Boggess Strip (a clear, thin, flexible strip of polycarbonate Lexon plastic padding ) to put under where the splice will take place, to protect the wall. You can’t cut through this stuff!
The strip in place.
I’ve smoothed the left strip back into place overlapping the existing strip. Next I’ve used a short straightedge and a sharp (important) new (important) single edged razor blade to slice through both layers of wallpaper. Here I’m removing the top strip of excess cut-off paper.
Now I’ve pulled back part of the strip on the left so I can remove the excess wallpaper on the bottom. Note that the cut is a little uneven in areas, to cut around the leaves in the design.
Removing the Boggess Strip. This does put tension on your wall, so you’ve got to have a good wallpaper primer underneath, applied over a sound surface.
The two strips smoothed back together.
The view from below.
I used a pencil to touch up the edges of the leaves, to make them look more rounded and natural.

The polycarbonate strips are named after the inventor, Steve Boggess, a colleague and fellow member of the Wallcovering Installers Association. Get them here: https://www.steveboggesspaperhanging.com/lexanpage.htm

Danger Signs of an Unstable Wall Surface

October 13, 2021
These nails were holding picture hooks to the wall. The hooks had an adhesive backing. When they were removed from the wall, chunks of latex paint stuck to them and pulled away from the wall, revealing a crumbly sub-surface. This is bad news for wallpaper that might be hung on top of this.
Other spots. What happens is, this is a 90 year old house. Over the years, many coats of paint and other surface treatments have been applied to the walls of this dining room. These coatings are not necessarily compatible with each other. Plus they may have been applied without the proper surface preparation. Oil based paint, then latex, then someone rolls on a gloss paint, the next guy follows with latex but neglects to de-gloss the previous layer so the new layer doesn’t really stick well.
Somewhere along the line, something got chalky. Here you see I have wiped crumbly chalky substance from inside the wall. This is why the latex paint is not adhering well and pulled away so easily. Nothing sticks to dust or grit or chalk.
Gardz is cool stuff. It’s a penetrating sealer that soaks in and actually binds crumbly materials together, drying into a hard, solid mass. The problem here is, it won’t penetrate the paint that is on top of the unstable layer, so we’re still dealing with a wall that has potential to come apart (delaminate).
Gardz applied. You can see how it has soaked into the porous areas, but is sitting on top of the latex paint.

The problem with an unstable wall and wallpaper, is that, as wallpaper sits on a wall and the paste dries, the paper shrinks just a tad, and this shrinking puts tension / torque on the wall beneath it. Sometimes this is actually powerful enough to pull the layers inside the wall apart, resulting in seams that split open.

These are not “loose seams,” but the paper actually taking layers of paint and dust along with it. Really can’t be repaired.

So best to find a way to prevent it from happening in the first place. More on that later.

Solid Vinyl Wallpaper is Not Good in Humid Areas

September 18, 2019


I don’t recommend the economical (i.e. lower end) pre-pasted, solid-vinyl wallpapers in humid rooms. Yes, the vinyl will resist water and stains if it gets splashed. But that gritty paper backing sucks up moisture, even moisture in humid air. When it does, the paper expands. The top vinyl layer does not. So the expanding paper pushes the plastic surface away from the wall, as you see in these photos.

In a further scenario, the two layers actually delaminate (come apart) from one another. This sort of seam cannot be glued back down.

It’s best to avoid this type of paper.