Posts Tagged ‘curl’

Swirling Dragons and Swooshing Garments

May 25, 2019


OK, that’s a really dumb title. 😦 But every time I look at this restless dragon surrounded by roiling foliage and water, I think about the clothing tumbling in endless summer-saults in the washing machine in this room. Yes, this fun and mystical wallpaper is enhancing a laundry room.

The home is in the Rice University / Medical Center neighborhood of Houston. The wallpaper has bright shades of green-blue on a silver metallic background. It’s a non-woven material, and could be hung by the paste the wall method. Since this room had a lot of obstacles and weird angles and obstructions like non-removable shelving, I opted to paste-the-paper instead. This also rendered the material a lot more flexible and malleable, which was much appreciated, since the room had a lot of features that made it quite difficult to hang.

Normally, I wouldn’t be too crazy about wallpaper in a humid room like a laundry – especially since the air circulation is pretty poor. Humidity can cause wallpaper seams to let loose and curl. But because these newish non-wovens are made of natural and synthetic materials (such as fiberglass), they are more breathable, and thus shouldn’t present issues of curling seams or delaminating. They are also designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece, when it’s time to redecorate.

This wallpaper is made by York, one of my favorite companies, in their Dwell Studio Line. It 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. (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.

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Stroheim Playful Geometric – A Tough Hang Today

March 24, 2019


This colorful and playful geometric pattern went in an elevated “nook” in an open play area in a new home in the Oak Forest neighborhood of Houston. It wakes up an otherwise all-white house, and coordinates perfectly with bright artwork in the room.

The paper is by Stroheim, and was somewhat difficult to work with, especially in a room that presented the challenges it did – wide window, and four cubbyholes around three fixed built-in shelves.

First, the paper had a selvedge edge that had to be trimmed off by hand, a straight edge, and a razor blade. This is tedious and took about an hour to trim eight single rolls.

Second, any time you have wallpaper whose ink smells like mothballs, you know you are in for a tough day. The ink absorbs moisture from the paste at a slower rate than the substrate, so the paper backing puckers (called waffling or quilting). This doesn’t go away, even after booking and sitting in a closed plastic bag for several minutes – so you end up with wrinkles and blisters on the wall.

One thing that helps with this is lightly wetting the surface of the paper with a damp sponge. This allows the ink to absorb moisture, and relax at the same time the paper backing is expanding and relaxing.

You will also notice in the photo that the edges of the paper are curling toward the front. This is, again, the result of uneven absorption of moisture from the paste. Unfortunately, this continues once the paper is on the wall. I had to keep going over the seams to make sure they were down and that edges were not coming away from the wall. No matter how much paste I put under the seams, or how tacky I let the paste get, it didn’t seem to want to grab those edges.

Once the paper is good and dry, though, usually the seams lie down nice and flat, and any blisters or wrinkles will disappear.

Clay-based paste has less moisture content, and could possibly help reduce the waffling. I hate clay paste, though, because it’s hard to wipe off woodwork and off the surface of the wallpaper, and because it works its way through the paper and casts a tan tinge on the paper.

One thing that will help with issues like these is a liner paper. A liner is a plain paper of a special material that is applied to the wall before the decorative wallpaper goes up. It’s job is to absorb moisture from the paste, which causes the paper to dry more quickly, and to “lock down” the seams quickly. So a liner has its place, but it does add an extra day of labor, plus the cost of the liner material.

Interestingly, the Stroheim instructions did not spec a liner; only a good quality wallpaper primer (which I did use). They also did not spec clay-based paste, but recommended three different types of clear pastes (vinyl, wheat, or cellulose), each of which is distinctly different and contains different moisture contents. I would think wheat or cellulose to be too thin and weak to adequately adhere this particular material.

I’ve hung plenty of their products and had no problems with waffling or curling seams; it’s clear that the company has a blanket set of instructions that they stuff into every roll, with no regard to the substrate it’s printed on or the type of ink that was used.

The other thing is, most of the time, you don’t know what you’re going to be working with until you show up at the job site. Even if you research the brand and pattern number ahead of time, there will likely be no mention of the type of substrate or the “mothball” smelling ink. If I had known, I would probably have suggested that this homeowner use a liner. Beyond that, it’s good to have your truck stocked with a variety of primers and adhesives.

Back to the difficult room … I always say that a window like that is easy for you to look at, but very difficult for me to get paper around, at least while keeping the pattern straight and properly lined up. That’s because papers stretch and twist when they get wet with paste, and can contort out of whack. And the wider the obstacle you are working around, the more the paper can go off-kilter. So you can start perfectly lined up on the left of the window, but by the time you get to the right side, the strip coming down from the top of the wall may not line up with the pattern coming across horizontally below, and the two edges may not butt up perfectly, either.

It didn’t help that the pattern had an irregular hand-drawn look, so I couldn’t use a ruler to make sure every horizontal line was equidistant from the window molding. So that window wall took about two hours in itself.

Then there was the wall on the right, with the four cubbyholes in between the three shelves. I had to get two strips of paper on the backs of each of those cubbies, keep the seams from curling, and keep the pattern straight, continuing to four more strips on the wall to the right (the inside side of the wall you see on the right of the photo next to the door molding), so that all four of those strips would line up with one long piece coming down from the ceiling. Oh, and did I mention the extremely unlevel ceiling? This wall in itself took about three hours.

Actually, the irregular hand-drawn look of the pattern helped immensely, because the pattern didn’t have to line up exactly perfectly. Also, the way it was printed on the paper, the design motifs didn’t cross a seam, so that allowed me to raise or lower a strip slightly, to keep the pattern where I wanted it, without disrupting the look of the design. In fact, it was possible to not follow the correct pattern match, and the eye really couldn’t detect it. I could also cut strips vertically to narrower widths, to suit the area I was working in.

There were a few other tricks I pulled out of my hat, in lining up the design after coming around the window and shelf walls, to plumb up the pattern after turning a corner, and to disguise the very unlevel ceiling. The kill point (last strip meets up with first strip) turned out amazingly undetectable, with very little tweaking from me.

In the end, the nook turned out fantastic, and is ready to host children’s performances, reading marathons, or just gazing out the window.

The interior designer for this job is Stacie Cokinos, of Cokinos Design. She works mostly on new builds and on whole-house remodels, and is a great resource for finding and coordinating all the details – tile, plumbing and light fixtures, rugs, furniture, lamps, accessories, paint colors, and, of course – wallpaper. 🙂

Faux Grasscloth – Vinyl That Is Good In A Bathroom

December 29, 2018


Originally, this powder room in the Galleria / Tanglewood area of Houston had what I call a “ditzy” print on the walls – tiny little figures that repeated themselves all over the wallpaper like a zillion little dots lined up in rows. It was outdated and discolored, and didn’t fill the wall space well.

The new homeowner wanted something modern and serene, that would be durable in an area that’s exposed to water. This Bankun Raffia in a steely medium grey is perfect.

I am not a fan of real grasscloth (read the page to the right). Nor do I like solid vinyl wallpapers (see the page to the right “Stay Away From ….). But this is one vinyl paper of which I approve.

The vinyl surface is thick and embossed with texture, so it mimics the feel and look of real grasscloth. But it has none of the color variations and shading / paneling issues or visible seams that make the real stuff so disappointing. In fact, you can hardly find a seam.

The vinyl surface is a lot more resistant to water and stains than most any other type of wallcovering. And the woven fabric backing won’t absorb humidity and curl or delaminate like the lower-end paper backed vinyls will. And that fabric backing makes this product quite durable and strong, and resistant to tears (like you see when a home’s foundation shifts and the corners twist out of alignment).

In fact, this stuff is the same iron-tough material that is used in hotels and hospital corridors, and will withstand dings and bangs and can be cleaned easily.

Being thick and stiff, it is a bit difficult to work with, particularly when turning corners. But the benefits are worth it.

This wallpaper pattern is called Bankun Raffia. It is so popular, now it comes in more than 30 colors! It’s by Thibaut Designs, and 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. (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.

Hoping to Rectify Failure (Humidity Causes Poor Seams)

August 24, 2018

Humidity is the great enemy of wallpaper. In addition, the lower-end, pre-pasted, solid-vinyl papers with the gritty manila paper backing are not a good choice, in my opinion, in any room, but particularly not humid rooms like bathrooms. This house on the beach with irregular climate control spelled double trouble.

This home on Pirate’s Beach on Galveston Island (south of Houston) was on the beach, so was exposed to lots of humidity. In addition, because the homeowners use it only sporadically, they turn the air conditioner off or set it to a run less while they are away. This means that the home fills up with humidity. And even when the A/C is running, air circulation in this room is poor.

Metal elements such as the light fixture and screws holding things into the walls were rusted. Mildew was found behind some sheets of wallpaper. And the wallpaper itself was curling at the seams – a result of the paper backing absorbing moisture from the air, expanding, and forcing the vinyl surface to curl backward at the seams. (Read more about this on the page to the right about vinyl wallcoverings.)

Another factor for the poor performance of the original vinyl wallpaper was that the walls had not been primed, but the installer put the vinyl paper on top of new drywall. And nothing was done around the shower to protect the paper from splashing water.

I stripped off the old vinyl wallpaper, washed the walls with bleach to kill the mildew, and primed with the penetrating sealer Gardz. Once the new paper was up, I ran caulk along the top of the vanity backsplash, and all along the shower and tub, to prevent splashed water from wicking up under the paper.

The new wallpaper is a thin non-woven material that is “breathable.” No wallpaper is going to hold up under very humid conditions. But this one has a much better chance of staying nice and flat for many years.

The new wallpaper is very similar in appearance to the original, and keeps with the beachy feel of the home. It is by Brewster, in their Chesapeake Bay collection, in the Easy Walls line, and is reasonably priced. It is a pre-pasted material. I did augment the manufacturer’s paste with a .

In the photos, the paper looks blotchy. That is because it is still wet; it will be nice and white when it’s finally dry. The drying time worries me, though, because after six hours, even some parts of the first strips were not dry. This is a real indicator that the room has some serious humidity and air circulation issues.

Budget-Friendly Solid Vinyl Wallpaper is NOT a Good Choice

June 19, 2018


This is an economical pre-pasted, paper-backed, solid vinyl wallpaper. As you can see, it has not held up well. Humidity exasperates this situation, but it can happen in any room … the seams allow humidity to get into the paper backing, which swells with the moisture. This causes the paper backing to push away from the wall, which causes the vinyl top layer to curl back. Sometimes the two layers even delaminate (detach from each other). These are not “loose seams,” and cannot be glued back down.

Please stick with paper wallpaper, or the newish non-woven materials. And stay away from these solid vinyl “bargains.”

Do a search here to read more posts on this subject.

Difficult Hang Today – Lots of Work to Get Good Seams

June 17, 2018



I don’t recall ever having seen a wallpaper product labeled “heavyweight paper” before. I wasn’t thrilled with this stuff. It was thick, and that made it difficult to work with. I prefer thin papers because they form to the walls better. This paper didn’t have any coating on it, so it is not any more durable than a thinner paper, so I don’t see the reason for the “heavyweight” treatment.

And any time you apply paste and the edges of the paper curl backward (Photo 1), you know you are in for a tough install.

The room was already prepped, and it was just 9 single rolls on an easy top of a dining room – no tricky moldings to trim around, no toilets to reach beind, no awkward spaces to situate the ladder in… It should have taken 5-6 hours. Instead I toiled for 12 hours.

I hung three strips, and wasn’t happy with the two seams between them. They pouched just a little and would not lie down flat. (Photo 2) With strong light coming in from the windows, the seams looked bad. There was no way of knowing how the seams would look once the paper was good and dry. But for now, I couldn’t stand the look, and I didn’t want to leave the homeowners with these pouchy seams.

I removed two of those strips, refreshed the paste, and kept them “open” by placing them in a plastic trash bag so they would remain useable (we didn’t have a lot of paper to spare). I ran to the truck and got supplies so I could double cut new seams (splice on the wall). I needed a special trim guide, and a special polystyrene padding strip to protect the wall so that the razor blade wouldn’t score into it (which could compromise the surface and lead to delamination of layers … too complicated to get into here, but you can do a Search and read previous posts on this subject).

From then on, instead of using the factory edges for seams, I double cut. Double cutting involves padding the wall behind where the seam will be, overlapping the new strip onto the old strip while carefully matching the pattern, and then using the handled straightedge and a sharp new razor blade to cut through both layers of paper. Then you peel back the paper at the newly cut seam and remove the two thin strips of excess paper that were just cut off. Then you remove the plastic padding strip.

Now you can put the edges of the freshly cut new seam back together. Because they were cut into each other, they will fit together perfectly. But because the padding strip has some thickness, the two newly cut edges are now a teeny tad wider than needed, so you’ll have to do some finessing to get the seam to butt together, instead of pouching up just a bit.

Because one strip of pasted paper overlapped onto another, once the excess paper strips are removed, there will be paste residue left on a 1″-2″ edge of one of the wallpaper drops. This has to be washed off with a damp microfiber rag, and you will have to rinse the rag and wash the wall several times to get all the residue off.

And all of this has to be done on a time frame, because while you’re working on one seam, the edges of the next are rapidly drying out, which is a whole new can of worms.

My finished double cut seams were perfect. (Photo 3)

But after I had worked my way around the room a bit, I looked back at the first wall, and saw that, as the paper dried, it shrank just a little. This left a visible gap between the two strips. (Photo 4) This gap isn’t visible from a distance, and it’s not visible if you look at the walls at an angle. But if you are standing three feet away and looking head-on, you will see the gap. I think it’s too much.

Oh, and, one more thing … the paper was easily marred if it was touched by any bit of metal. (Photo 5) Scissors, straight edge, trim guide, even the metal eraser housing on the end of my pencil would leave a grey mark if it happened to rub against the wallpaper. Most of these marks would wipe off, but not all of them. And wiping the paper leads to abrasion, so you want to avoid overdoing it. I worry about how the wallpaper might be marked up when the homeowners innocently go about hanging their art and mirror.

Considering what the homeowners paid for the wallpaper and installation, I think they should have a better outcome than this. This paper is manufactured by Thibaut. Thibaut makes many types of wallpaper, and most of them are lovely to work with, and they perform well. It makes you wonder why they would use this “heavyweight” stock, which produces a less-than-desireable outcome.

Lower-End Vinyl Wallpaper is Bad Stuff

April 24, 2018


Pre-pasted, paper-backed, solid vinyl wallcoverings are economical, and they are often touted as “kitchen and bath papers,” because the vinyl surface is resistant to water and because it can be washed better than paper papers.

But these products often perform poorly, especially in rooms with humid conditions or where they may be splashed with water, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. It’s very common for the seams to curl, as you see in the photo. In some cases, the seams never look good, even when the paper is newly hung.

The curling seams are caused, in my opinion, because the paper backing absorbs moisture from the air, or if water is splashed onto a backsplash and can be wicked up into the paper backing of the wallpaper. The paper expands, the vinyl doesn’t, causing it to curl back. Then the vinyl actually delaminates from the paper backing. This is not a “loose seam” and cannot be simply glued back down. The two layers of the product are coming apart, and cannot be repaired.

My advice – avoid these papers. Instead go for a paper paper, or one of the new non-woven papers. More info on choosing a quality paper in the “Beginning – General Info Pack” page to the right.

From Diagonal to Vertical

March 3, 2018


This home in Bellaire was (Houston) built in the ’90’s, and the original wallpaper (top photo) in this bathroom was outdated and had begun to curl at the seams. I stripped off the old paper and primed the walls with Gardz, a penetrating sealer that is a good base for wallpaper to adhere to. See second photo.

The new tone-on-tone blue striped wallpaper updates the room, and adds a softer look. The homeowner chose cherry red accessories to accent the room. These are toned down by navy blue rugs and towels that are a slightly duskier navy and red.

This paper is a pre-pasted solid vinyl on a paper backing. Despite the economical price-point, I don’t recommend these types of papers, especially in rooms that are prone to humidity, such as bathrooms.

For starters, it’s difficult to install, and the seams never really look good. Second, the paper backing tends to absorb moisture from the air and then expand, and that causes the seams to curl. The vinyl surface layer is known for delaminating (separating from that paper backing). This, again, results in curled seams. This is not something that can be pasted back. So you are either left with curled seams or faced with repapering the entire room.

The best way to (hopefully) avoid this is to properly prep the walls, and to keep humidity to a minimum (avoid steamy showers, keep the A/C / heating vents open, run the exhaust fan, keep the door open).

Better yet, avoid purchasing paper-backed solid vinyl wallcoverings. If you shop at my favorite place (see the page on the right), you will be steered to beautiful papers of a better quality, while still at affordable prices.

Stay Away From Paper-Backed Solid Vinyl Wallpapers

February 21, 2018

Wallpaper - Curlinig Seam, Paper-Backed Solid Vinyl, Mylar
Paper-backed solid vinyl papers are about my least favorite of all papers. The main reason is that they tend to curl at the seams, especially when there is humidity present.

The issue is that, IMO, the gritty manila-type paper backing is porous, and so it will pull moisture and humidity out of the air when the room is under humid conditions (teenagers taking long hot showers). Once this happens, humidity / moisture can enter the seam and soak into the paper backing, the vinyl surface can delaminate (come apart) from the paper backing, causing the surface to curl away from the substrate / backing. This is what you see in the photo.

Because the two layers of the wallpaper have actually come apart, it is also very difficult to paste back against the wall. It would be far better to remove all the wallpaper, properly prep the surface (smooth, primer), and then hang the new wallpaper.

Soft Pink and – Wild Green Banana Leaves for a Baby Girl

January 11, 2018

Here’s something different for a baby girl’s nursery. The mother wanted a “Beverly Hilton Hotel” look – this hotel features the iconic “Martinique” banana leaf wallpaper. It is fabulous, but it’s quite expensive, and it’s difficult to install, too. Do a search here to read my experience with it.

I was able to direct this mom-to-be to my favorite source for buying wallpaper (read below), and she helped her find something at a more reasonable price, that is better looking, too, and definitely is holding to the wall better.

The rest of the room – walls, ceiling, woodwork, are painted a very pale pink. There’s just enough pink in the wallpaper to coordinate it with the rest of the room and pull everything together.

This went on one accent wall in a baby’s room in Clear Lake. The paper is in the Sure Strip line by York, one of my favorite brands. I did have a little trouble this time with seams wanting to curl back, but only where the dark ink crossed the seam. This tends to be because the inks absorb moisture from the paste differently from the paper substrate, and they fight each other. I stayed a little late to be sure the seams were setting securely as the paper dried.

This wallpaper pattern was bought at below retail price from Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (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.