Posts Tagged ‘delaminate’

Rubbery, Problematic Smoothing Compound

June 15, 2018

I was stripping wallpaper by peeling off the top vinyl layer and then soaking the paper backing to reactivate the paste so the paper could be removed from the wall – and ran into this.

It looks like the previous installer smoothed the wall (which is good), but used a latex spackling compound instead of the more typical joint compound. The latex became wet from the water I was using to soak off the wallpaper, and began to pull away from the wall.

This is all bad, because it leaves a bumpy mess on the wall that will show through the new paper. But worse is that it is an unstable surface for the new paper to try to hold on to. When wallpaper paste dries, the paper shrinks and puts tension on the surface below, particularly the seams. If the surface is not solid, the layers can actually come apart (delaminate) resulting in curled or gapping seams.

This is not “loose paper,” and cannot simply be glued back down. The different layers inside the wall are actually coming apart, and will require a lot of work to make the wall sound again.

Once the paper was off and the wall was good and dry, the layers seemed to adhere to each other better, and the wall felt more solid. The way I treated it was to roll on a coat of Gardz, which is a penetrating sealer that binds things together. It did a good job. Then I skim-floated over that with joint compound, which, when sanded, would leave a nice, smooth surface.

One more coat of Gardz on top of that, and the wall was sound and ready for wallpaper.


Another Reason to Not Let the Contractor Prep the Walls for Paper

May 10, 2018

Folks, please do NOT let your contractor or painter “prep the walls for wallpaper.” They simply don’t know how to remove wallpaper properly, and they don’t know what is required to prepare the surface for the new paper. Do a Search here (upper right corner) for more examples.

In this case, “I know that he removed the old paper, because I saw piles of it on the floor,” said the homeowner. But this photo proves that he didn’t. Nor did he bother to remove the towel bar, because when it was removed later, you can see the old wallpaper still under it.

I put the original wallpaper up back in the ’90’s, so I know that, with my good primer underneath, with a bucket of warm water and a little time, that paper would have come off easily and left the wall in perfect condition for new paper.

Instead of properly removing the old paper, this contractor skim-floated over it. That’s the thick white stuff you see in the photo. After sanding the wall smooth (which he did OK in most of the room, but, as usual, did a less than stellar job in corners and around moldings and door trim), he should have removed dust from the walls with a damp sponge – but virtually no contractor bothers with this step.

Removing dust is crucial, because if dust is left on the wall, it may hold up OK under paint, but when wallpaper is applied on top of it, when the paste dries, the paper shrinks a tad and puts torque / tension on the wall. When the walls are dusty, there is the potential for the surfaces to delaminate (come apart), leaving you with seams that gap and curl back. These cannot be glued back down, because the surface underneath is unstable and provides nothing for the paste to adhere to.

So next the contractor primed the walls. There was no mention of what primer he used. But I can tell you that primers formulated for paint are not advisable under wallpaper. PVA-based primers are commonly used under paint; they are designed to keep the paint from flashing. But they are soft and don’t provide a stable surface for wallpaper.

Primers formulated for wallpaper are designed to 1.) adhere to the underlying surface, 2.) provide a “crystalized” surface that the wallpaper paste can bite into and grab ahold of, 3.) provide a surface with “slip,” which will ease installation of the new wallpaper, 4.) allow for easier removal of the wallpaper later, with minimal damage to the wall, and 5.) withstand the torque / tension created by the drying wallpaper.

Ask a contractor or painter if he knows any of the information in the paragraph above. You will receive a blank stare.

All more reasons to NOT let the contractor prep the walls for paint.

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.

Stay Away From Paper-Backed, Solid Vinyl Wallpapers

December 6, 2017

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Solid vinyl wallpapers are often marketed as “kitchen and bath” papers, because they are somewhat more washable than other types of wallpaper, and because splashed water will run right off the vinyl (plastic) surface.

However, I find just the opposite with these solid vinyl papers, particularly the pre-pasted, lower-priced ones.

The seams generally never look great to begin with. Then the porous paper backing tends to absorb moisture, such as humidity in a steamy bathroom. When the paper absorbs moisture, it expands, and when it expands, it has nowhere to go but to push away from the wall – causing a curled seam. Often the top vinyl layer even starts to delaminate from the paper backing.

This is not a “loose seam,” and it cannot be “reglued.”

Humidity is a factor, but so is improper wall prep. Usually, when there are curling seams like this, the previous installer neglected to prime the walls, and just hung wallpaper on top of the bare drywall.

In the two photos with paper curling away from the top of the baseboards and from the top of the granite countertops, it is not sticking because the surface beneath it is slick – overspray of gloss paint from the woodwork, caulk used around the top of the backsplash. Again, a primer would have prevented this.

I also like to run a bead of caulk around the top of the backsplash, to prevent splashed water from being wicked up under the cut edge of the wallpaper, which would cause curling.

I have blogged a number of times about curling seams due to crummy paper-backed, pre-pasted solid vinyl wallpapers. Choose some key words and do a Search here to read more.

Lotus Leaf Wallpaper

August 19, 2016



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I am grateful to the home ower, for the first two photos. And apologies for my own bad photos – this was very dark paper in a room with poor lighting. In reality, the wallpaper is gorgeous – a very deep and rich teal with a sheen to it. And what’s extra cool is that the texture comes from lotus leaves!

The homeowner loves green, and she wanted a texture for the wall behind the bed in her master bedroom in Montrose (Houston). She was originally considering grasscloth, but after getting my “lecture” warning about shading and paneling (color variations inherent to grasscloth), she searched further, and came up with this unique and dazzling paper. The top photo shows you a bit of the texture, and just a hint of the deep teal color.

The material was difficult to work with. As with most natural materials, I was sure there would be gaps here and there at the seams, so I stripe the wall with paint to match the color of the wallpaper (Photo 2). The lotus leaves on the surface were dyed very dark, but they were attached to a light colored substrate, so Photo 3 shows the deep blue and deep green oil pastel crayons I used to color the edges of the paper, so white would not show at the seams.

As with many dyed wallcoverings, the ink was not stable, so I ended up with hands the color of the paper.

The instructions said this was a paste-the-wall product. I had my doubts, but used that method for my first two strips. Not good. The backing was not non-woven material, but paper, and it soaked up paste like crazy, to the point where there was nothing left on the wall to hold the paper up.

In addition, after I had the first two strips up and looking good, I looked back and saw puckers at the seams. The backing had soaked up paste, absorbed moisture, and expanded, which caused the pouches at the seams.

I ended up taking those two strips off the wall and repasting them, then rehanging. I had to be gentle, because the wet backing could be fragile and delaminate from the surface. Since both strips were already trimmed, I had to carefully line them up at the ceiling and baseboard, while moving the second strip every so slightly to the right, to relieve the stress on the seam and eliminate the pouching.

Because the paper backing appeared to be what is typically used with grasscloth (which is generally pasted on the back), and because of the expansion when wet with paste, it was obvious that this product was not suited for paste-the-wall and dry-hanging. Someone at the factory got his instructions mixed up!

My solution was to roll out each strip and lightly sponge the backing with a damp sponge, then let that sit to absorb moisture and expand a bit, while I rolled paste onto the wall. Because I knew the backing was thirsty, I used more paste than I had with those first two strips.

This proved to be the answer, and the remaining strips stuck to the wall nicely, and there was no more puckering at the seams.

There were, however, a lot of areas at the seams that did not want to lie down. I had to do a lot of repasting and reworking the seams. This is not good, because overworking can cause burnishing, and can even push paste out from under the seam, and which could cause the seam to open up over time.

As noted on the instructions, some of the lotus leaves were fatter than others, so there were areas at the seams that were thick butting up against areas that were thin, which made it look like the seam was popping open, even though it was nice and tight to the wall.

O.K., let’s see what else happened with this stuff … It was thick and stiff, and difficult to press tightly against the ceiling and baseboard, and therefore difficult to get a nice, tight horizontal trim. The vertical trims where the paper met the corners of the wall were even more cantankerous. The material didn’t want to fold into the corner, and it was difficult to cut perpendicular to the grain of the material, even with a brand new razor blade. Manipulating the piece so it I could trim it and so it would fit nicely into the corner resulted in some abrading of the dye from the surface, as well as some minor blemishes on the surface. It’s no wonder that the manufacturer said to not wrap corners, but to cut the material and start each wall with a new strip.

Another problem was that the moisture from the paste, and also from my light sponging with water, could soak through the material and loosen the adhesive holding the lotus leaves to the paper backing. In other words, the leaves could delaminate from the backing. Even though I worked quickly to avoid over soaking, I did have a few areas that bubbled or delaminated. (They could be repasted and re-adhered.)

I hung this on one accent wall with no obstacles. But I would definitely not want to hang it on all the walls in a powder room, for instance, or where I’d have to cut around corners or a pedestal sink or intricate carved moldings, or the like.

Bottom line: I’m glad I got the experience of working with this material. But I’m not 100% happy with the way it turned out. The manufacturer should work out some kinks, and should provide correct installation instructions. The homeowner, though, doesn’t see these little things that I see, and she is quite ticked with her deeply-hued, uniquely-textured, accent wall in her bedroom.

This wallpaper is by York, in their Designer Series, and was bought at a discounted price from Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or She is great at helping you find just the perfect paper! Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.

Paper-Backed Vinyl Is Not Good In A Bath

April 24, 2016
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Oh, boy. I sure don’t like vinyl papers that are bonded to a paper backing. Here is a very visual reason why – Under humid conditions, they delaminate (surfaces separate) and curl.

This particular type of paper is about my absolute most detested, because of it’s propensity to curl. The material is typical of what was hung back in the ’70’s. Other issues factor in, like the type of primer used (or not used 😦 ), the paste used, type of paper backing, type of vinyl surface, age of home, ventilation in the room, and just how much steam is generated when the shower is used.

To be fair, this wallpaper had been up and looked good for a long, long time (possibly back to those ’70’s!). So maybe Father Time is just taking its toll.

And maybe Father Time has an ulterior motive … I mean, look at that paper! Isn’t it about time for a little update?!!

Priming a Newly Smoothed Wall

November 4, 2015
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My previous post talked about smoothing a textured wall, so that the new wallpaper would have an intact surface to hold on to, and so that ugly bumps would not show under the new paper. I did the same thing today, in a large powder room with 10′ high ceilings, in a new home off Fannin, south of Loop 610 in Houston.

Once the walls were sanded and wiped free of dust with a damp sponge (rinsed frequently) (a crucial step, because any dust left on the wall can, when paint or primer or wallpaper is applied, delaminate, which means to pull away from the wall, which results in curling or loose seams on the wallpaper).

Anyway, once the walls were wiped and then dried, I rolled on a primer. While I use different primers for different situations, when I have newly floated walls, as in this case, I like to use Gardz (see photo). Gardz is thin and watery and soaks into porous surfaces, such as the thirsty joint compound in this newly smoothed wall. Then it dries very hard and solid, binding everything together, and doing a super job sealing the surface.

It also lends a wonderful surface for wallpaper to adhere to.

In the photo, the areas that are white are unprimed, and where the Gardz has been applied but has not yet dired, you see grey. When the Gardz dries, it will be clear. The surface will look a little irregular, because you see white areas where the join compound is thicker, and the paint color where the joint compound is just thin enough to skim over the high points of the textured wall.

Bradbury & Bradbury Job – Loose Seams

January 20, 2012

For more on this story, read previous posts.

After working through a million types of paste (a slight exaggeration), and finally finding one that worked well with the paper and did not leave staining or “dark seams,” I was happy to have the job finished, and the homeowners reasonably satisfied.

But then a few weeks later came the call: “Julie, the seams are coming loose.”

When a job is well done, wallpaper stays on the wall, usually for years and years. One of the main factors that causes paper to come loose is humidity. (And I’m sure I’ll blog on that biggie some time down the road.) But this B&B was hung in a dining room, not a bathroom, so humidity was not an issue.
I was curious to see what had happened.

When I got to the house, I saw that the paper was, indeed, coming off the wall, with large areas of the seams coming loose, even up to 3″-5″ in spots.

Looking at the back of the paper, I didn’t see paste, which is what you would see if the paste had not held tight. Instead, the paper had a thick feel, and had a thin layer of the white primer adhering to it.

I’ve seen this once before – the primer had delaminated. Meaning, that the primer had come apart in layers, leaving one thin layer on the wall, and one thin layer on the paper, held by the paste.

I have only had this happen one time before, when friends talked me into using a water-based acrylic primer. So I was very surprised to see this happen with my standard oil-based KILZ.

Since the problem was only on the bottom section of the room, which was hung with the clay paste (the upper sections, which were hung with cellulose paste were fine), my surmization is that the failure was caused by an incompatibility between the primer and the clay paste.  Indeed, I have since learned that, due to the “green movement,” polymers in oil-based primers have changed, and pastes no longer stick to them, or at least not as well.  This experience seems to bear that out, as least with respect to clay-based paste.

But to deepen the mystery, the only walls with loose seams were the east and west walls. The north and south walls, and two narrow east and west walls, were perfectly adhered.


Weird or not, mysterious or nor, the homeowners needed to have a proper looking room. So, after carefully measuring and plotting to be sure we had enough left-over paper, all the loose paper on the worst wall was torn off. There was just enough paper left to redo that wall, this time using cellulose-based Ecofix paste purchased from B&B, being careful to place the seams so they did not overlap where the old seams had been (to minimize stress on the wall, and minimize the chances of the seams pulling up – for a whole different reason, which just might be the topic of a future blog!) That took care of the west wall.

The east wall didn’t have as bad of loose seams (pardon the grammar), and we didn’t have any more paper anyway, so I worked the paste into the loose areas to readhere the paper to the wall.

This sounds like a quick fix, but is in itself tricky, because the moisture from the paste, as well as from my rags wiping the surface clean, can cause sections of the paper to swell and lift away from the wall, causing even more problems. The trick is to use enough paste to get the paper to stick, but not enough to allow moisture to wick to other areas of the paper.

This wall also had some shrinkage of the paper, which left very narrow strips of white showing at the seams. Once the paper was repasted, it stretched enough to mostly cover this. To be sure no white showed, though, I painted the wall just beneath each seam, a color that nearly matched the paper.

The replaced west wall looked good, the repaired east wall looked good enough (but I am not confident that the inner sections of the strips, which are still adhered with clay paste, will not eventually start to come away from the wall).

With the furniture placed back in the room, and people looking at the food on the dining room table instead of the walls, everything will be fine.

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