Posts Tagged ‘drywall’

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.

Wrong Electrical Boxes for These Sconces

August 13, 2022
This is the mounting bracket for a sconce / light fixture . The fixture itself is exactly the same size as the bracket.
So it’s unfortunate that the electrician used an electrical box that is too large . As you can see, the blue box shows on both the left and right sides of the light fixture.
(I will also add that I think this light fixture is narrower than most – I suspect it was made overseas where boxes and codes are different from here.)
In addition, the blue box juts out from the wall and will create a bump under the wallpaper , plus prevent the paper from adhering tightly to the wall . The jaggedly cut drywall will leave impressions under the paper, too.
Here the plastic electrical box is recessed better into the wall. But there are still gaps on the left and right sides of the bracket.
To get the wallpaper around the brackets without gaps showing , I removed the brackets, and then brought the wallpaper in to cover the electrical junction boxes by about 1.” (no photo)
If the electrician needs more space for his wires , he can always trim the wallpaper back a little.
In the instance of the box in the top photo, there will still be wallpaper that can’t sit tight to the drywall , but once the sconce is replaced you really won’t notice.
I also had the option of leaving the mounting brackets in place and then placing the wallpaper over the metal plates. But first of all, I think this is against building Codes. And second, if the sconces are changed out later, or if someone needs to access the electrical connections, removing the mounting plates would most surely tear the wallpaper in the process.
So, best to have the wallpaper behind the plates, rather than pasted on top of them.

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.
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
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 décor 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 .

Smoothing Over A Mess

August 3, 2022
This kind homeowner had the sink / vanity in this powder room removed. This makes it a LOT easier and faster for me to to get the wallpaper up, and with less stress on the paper and fewer relief cuts .
Removing a sink that’s attached to the wall often damages the surface. Here you can see how the workman used spackle compound to cover the torn drywall and other damage.


Close-up. This isn’t a very smooth surface, and the wallpaper will have a hard time grabbing ahold and adhering. It’s also way too porous and crumbly to support wallpaper.
In the top photo, you see where I have applied smoothing compound on the upper portion of the wall. I’m working my way down.
Once it’s dry, I will sand and prime it, and it will be nice and smooth.
Here’s a shot of the fresh smoothing compound, before sanding.
Some people use a drywall taping knife or a broad knife to apply the plaster-like substance. I prefer the trowel you see in the photo, because it gives me more control and precision.
The 2″ flexible putty knife is for getting into smaller areas. The 3″ stiff ” Hyde ” putty knife is for knocking off high points or bumps on the wall before applying the smoothing compound.
This process is called skim-floating or skim-coating .
I like to use the Plus 3 lightweight joint compound made by Sheetrock . We just refer to it as mud . Find it in the drywall aisle.
The Plus 3 spreads on easily enough, sands easily , and the dust falls to the floor where it can be vacuumed up easily – as opposed to getting air-borne and drifting all over the place.
This box, which is approximately one cubic foot , weights 32 pounds . Ugh. Try carrying that across a parking lot and then up to the third floor of a townhome!
I like to transfer the material to a 5-gallon bucket. This is what it looks like in the bottom of the bucket.
Easy to scoop out. When I’m finished, I use a wet hand to smooth down the surface, wipe residue off the sides of the bucket, then place a thick sheet of plastic over the surface to keep air from drying it out. Then, of course, I put the lid onto the bucket.

It’s A Misconception That A Liner Will Smooth A Textured Wall

May 25, 2022

A theory has been circulating for decades that a liner disguise texture or imperfections in a wall. A liner is a special paper applied to the walls before the actual decorative wallpaper goes up. It has its purpose – but smoothing walls is not one of them. At least, not in my opinion.

Here you see an area where a pedestal sink has been removed. In so doing, part of the drywall was torn away (the reddish brown area) and the wall surface is left uneven.

I’m using liner in this room for another reason. Here it has been applied over the damaged area. As you can see, the uneven texture of the wall shows right through (we say that it telegraphs ). Once the liner is good and dry, it will shrink and pull even tighter to the wall, and the ridges underneath will be even more visible.
And once the wallpaper goes up, all this will telegraph through the new wallpaper, as well.
Here’s the liner paper I used today. It’s a fairly thick, stiff, non-woven material, so has more ” bridging ” power than other types of liner paper. Still, as you see above, it’s not enough to smooth textured or uneven wall surfaces.
The only way to properly and thoroughly smooth a textured wall, IMO , is to skim-float it and then sand it smooth, and then apply a wallpaper primer. Please do a Search here (upper right corner) to find previous posts on this process.

Making the Best of Plumbing Problems

May 22, 2022
OK, so this master bathroom suffered a water leak, and the plumber had to cut through the drywall in the potty room in order to access the shower fixtures.
Here the contractor has replaced the cut-out piece of Sheetrock. He did a really nice job. For the most part. Of course, he didn’t bother to remove the wallpaper before doing his repairs. This is vinyl paper (thick, slick, slippery, backing absorbs moisture) and really should have been removed first.
But I was able to work around the patched-in area.
The prep for this small room was a lot more involved than I anticipated, and required an extra day. Too complicated to get into, but there were two layers of wallpaper, and no primer by either of the previous installers. Original install dates back to the ’80’s. It took me a day and a half just to do the prep on this small commode room.
The room finished. Note the stripes centered nicely on that back wall.
The pattern and material were chosen to coordinate with the green stripes in the main area of the master bathroom.
Kill point (final corner) over the door. I “shrank” some sections in order to get even widths and maintain the pattern repeat and match.
The plumbing problem also damaged an area on this wall outside the water closet. So this area around the door needed to be replaced. The homeowners didn’t have any left over paper, so they chose something similar in color, style, and composition to the green striped paper you see to the right.
Here is that transition door wall finished.

We decided to use the stripe to define the ‘break’ between the two patterns.
The alternative would have been placing the stripe against the door molding … but I felt that would be too repetitive, plus it would have left a cut-off section of flowers running along the side of the green stripe, and same on the opposite side of the door frame.
And, yes, the wall definitely is not straight, square, or plumb.
And here is that opposite side of the door frame, with the stripe running nicely along the shower tile.
Some overlapping was involved in this job. Since the wallpaper is vinyl, and vinyl is slick, you need a special paste to be able to grab ahold of the glossy surface. These days, I sure don’t use often border paste, also sometimes called VOV or Vinyl Over Vinyl . But I was mighty glad to find this 10+ year old container deep in the bowels of my van. Still fresh and sticky, too!
Besides borders not being popular today, these “satin” and “silk” look wallpapers are not very common. But this is exactly what the homeowners were looking for, to coordinate with the existing, 30-year-old paper in their master bath. Saved them having to replace all the wallpaper in both rooms!
This paper is very economical, too. The couple shopped with Dorota at the Sherwin-Williams in the Rice Village, and she was able to track down the perfect material, pattern, and color.
Now, aside from all the positive things I just said about this paper in this current application, I do want to make clear that I am not at all fond of this type material. Without getting into a long schpiel here, please click and read the page link to the right “Stay Away From Pre-Pasted Paper-Backed Solid Vinyl …. ”
I will also add that I’ve developed a technique to work with these materials, and so far the installs, including today’s, have been going nicely.
One double roll bolt had some of these blue mark printing defects running through about half of it. Luckily, most of these were on a section of paper that was cut off in order to turn a corner, so was discarded and not put on the wall.
Exclusive Wallcoverings is the manufacturer. Usually I work with their non-woven or traditional paper products, which are quite nice.
The home is in the West University area of Houston.

Wallpaper Woes in Chinese Restaurant

April 10, 2022
While waiting for my order to be ready, I couldn’t help but notice problems ….
Wallpaper starting to curl at the seams.
Wallpaper twisting in corners as the building shifts and drywall moves. This is pretty common in Houston.
Other signs of poorly maintained building and/or climate control issues.
Seam curling back. I believe this to be a lower-end solid vinyl wallpaper on a gritty paper backing – one of my least preferred types.
When the walls are not prepared correctly, and the paper is not hung properly, and when there is a lot of humidity (door left open, steam from kitchen getting into waiting area, A/C not running or turned off at night), humidity can enter into the seams and be wicked up by the paper backing. The paper expands and pushes away from the wall, causing the edges of the wallpaper to curl back.
The next step is that the vinyl surface can actually delaminate (come apart) from the paper backing. This is pretty impossible to repair.
At the very bottom, you can see the vinyl separating from the paper backing.
The wallpaper has been wrapped around this outside corner, and a new piece of paper overlapped on top of it. When this is done, with vinyl material, you’re supposed to use special vinyl-over-vinyl ( VOV ) adhesive, because regular wallpaper paste isn’t formulated to adhere to vinyl / plastic .
But even if the installer had used the correct adhesive, under humid conditions or with improper wall prep, the odds are that this wallpaper job will start to fail.
Also note dirt along the ceiling, and along the chair rail in the previous photo. General lack of maintenance and I am really suspecting lack of climate control.
The black smudges appear to be mildew coming from underneath the paper. Again, probably related to humidity.
Vinyl wallpaper is a sheet of plastic, and moisture can be trapped behind it. That can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew.
So why use vinyl wallpaper? Mainly because the surface is much more washable than most other types of wallpaper. In a business, washability is attractive.
But these property owners chose a low-end vinyl product, most likely skipped proper wall prep such as a wallpaper primer, and have not provided a hospitable environment for the paper.
There are other vinyl wallcoverings that would have held up better. For instance, vinyl on a scrim ( woven fabric ) backing, or the newer backing called non-woven , which has a 20% polyester content, and therefore less likely to wick up humidity.

Stuff Doesn’t Wanna Stick To Slick

March 23, 2022
Tomorrow this breakfast area wall will get wallpaper. Today is prep day.
The wall has a very heavy texture, plus some issues with previous patches in areas, probably due to drywall cracks. I need to skim-float over all this to smooth the surface.
In addition, the current paint is quite glossy – and this can present a problem for the smoothing compound to adhere to it properly.
So I want to prime over this gloss paint before I skim-coat the walls. The primer has to both stick to the gloss paint and provide a base that the smoothing compound will adhere to.
Another issue is that I won’t be using this every day, so keeping it shaken up and useable was a consideration. I looked high and low for an appropriate primer. Finally I snapped that the Roman Ultra Prime Pro 977 that I use under my wallpaper jobs checks off all the boxes … It sticks to just about anything, and it dries nice and flat / matt so any topcoat (wallpaper or smoothing compound) can grab ahold and stick, I have it in my van all the time, and I use it frequently enough that it’s always mixed up and ready to use. To top it all off, it dries in less than an hour. Voilà!
This stuff can be tricky to find. Sherwin-Williams used to stock it for me, but became unreliable. Now Murphy Brothers on Bissonnet (Houston) gets it just for me.
Besides dropcloths on the floor, here I’ve tacked strips of thin paper dropcloth material along the wainscoting (I also do this along baseboards) to keep any drops or roller splatters from marring the homeowners’ floor and moldings.
Here it is applied. Since my goal is to cover and eliminate the glossy paint, and then provide a base for the smoothing compound, this coat doesn’t need to be opaque or cover the wall evenly.
Tomorrow we’ll see how the wallpaper turns out!
Fast-forward … I’ve floated the wall and sanded it smooth. Compare the smoothness to the “before” picture at the top.

Smoothing a Textured Wall, Continued

March 3, 2022
Continuing from yesterday’s post … The smoothing compound has dried and I’m ready to sand it smooth. This photo gives an idea of what needs to be sanded down. Some areas, such as around electrical outlets, are more irregular and have more raised areas to be sanded down.
Before I get to the sanding, a 3″ stiff putty knife comes in handy for scraping down high areas.
For decades, contractors wrapped sandpaper around a wooden block and used that to sand walls. Then, about 25 years ago, some genius invented these sanding sponges. They’re soft, flexible, easy-to-hold blocks covered with sanding fibers of various grits. They have angles that aid getting into various corners. I find that the edges can be a bit “pointy” and can gouge into the surface, so I often use a scissors to cut off the corners, as you see in all but the one on the far left.
Held against the actual wall.
Don’t forget a dust mask, to prevent inhaling the fine particles. And, yes, this is an N-95 … The same mask that protects us from ingesting the COVID 19 virus also protects the lungs of us home improvement contractors.
Manufacturers have done a good job of creating joint compound whose dust settles to the floor, rather than going air-borne and sifting all around the room. Still, it’s best to take measures to keep dust out of the rest of the home. Here I’ve hung a sheet of painter’s plastic across the wall, to contain sanding dust.
Once I’m done sanding, I’ll use my Shop Vac to clean up the mess, removing dust from both the floor and the walls.
It’s crucial that all dust be removed from the wall. If not, it’s like flouring a cake pan – the wallpaper (or paint) will kinda stick – but not really stick. Vacuuming the wall will not remove all dust. The only way to remove all residual dust is to wipe it off the wall with a damp sponge.
Look at how much dust has accumulated on the sponge after only a few swipes.
The sponge needs to be rinsed clean frequently. Once I’m done, I’ll dump this bucket of dusty water down the toilet (not the sink).
Swipes from the damp sponge will leave wet marks on the wall. These need to dry before moving to the priming step, so as not to trap moisture within the wall surface.
Here I’m rolling on my favorite wallpaper primer, Roman Pro 977 Ultra Prime. I have my paint store guys add just a bit of blue tint, to help me see where I’ve rolled it on. The short angled brush is for cutting the paint in around corners and edges.
I’ve tacked strips of dropcloth along the top of the baseboards, to prevent splatters.
Finished wall, nice and smooth, primed, and ready for wallpaper.

Starting to Smooth a Textured Wall

March 2, 2022
This is a typical wall texture provided by many builders of new tract homes in the suburbs of Houston.
Wallpaper doesn’t look good hung over this texture, because the bumps will show through. And the high-and-low ridges and dips interfere with good adhesion to the wall. So this accent wall will need to be skim-floated to smooth it before the wallpaper can go up.
In addition, this wall started out with a semi-gloss paint. I worry about my materials being able to stick to a glossy surface.
So, before applying the smoothing compound, I am priming the wall with something that will stick to the gloss paint, as well as provide a matt finish for the smoothing compound to adhere to.
I’ve discovered that my favorite wallpaper primer also works great for this purpose. It sticks to just about anything, and dries almost dead-flat. I like Roman Pro 977 Ultra Prime.
I use a trowel (top) to spread on the smoothing compound. The 3″ stiff putty knife is used to knock off big-ish chunks on the wall, or bits of grit. I use the 1 1/2″ flexible putty knife to apply the smoothing compound in tight spots like around electrical outlets or between a door molding and a wall corner.
The smoothing compound I use is drywall joint compound, and I like the Sheetrock brand Plus 3 version. Search hear (upper right) to see previous posts with photos of this material.
Bottom of photo – trowel sticking to the wall shows you just how tacky this stuff is. Above that are blobs of the smoothing compound waiting to be spread around, and a little bit on the left initially smoothed onto the wall. At the top of the wall you see a section that I have already covered with the smoothing compound. This will dry overnight, and I will sand it smooth tomorrow.
Sometimes I can float a wall, get it to dry, sand it smooth, prime, and hang the paper all in one day. But this texture is so heavy that more time is required for it to dry, so it will need an overnight sit. Some fans, plus the home’s heat and/or air conditioning help to pull moisture out of the smoothing compound and hasten dry time.