Posts Tagged ‘drywall’

Two Months After Hurricane Harvey Things Are Not All Right In Houston

November 8, 2017

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Some of the homeowners effected by this massive storm contacted me shortly afterward, seeking help with insurance quotes, repairs, etc. But now that more weeks have passed, I am getting a second wave of calls.

Some are from people whose homes are finally getting put back together. Some are from people who are half-way through initial repairs. Many more are not yet back in their homes, or who are living (“camping out” is a more appropriate term) in what is a shell of what was once their former home (read below). And there are countless families whose homes are just now coming out of the water, or that are still not yet approachable, or that have been underwater for so long that they are unlivable – meaning, totally destroyed, not salvageable, mold-infested, insurance won’t pay to fix it, you can’t sell it because no one will buy it, you can’t fix it yourself because you don’t have time because you have to go to work and you don’t have the money because insurance won’t cover it, and your brother has been very kind to let you stay in his home for two months, but it’s wearing thin because they want their privacy back and you want to be back in your own home … but it’s unlivable.

I visited two clients today who were effected by the flood. These photos are from a homeowner who lives in a neighborhood that was “intentionally flooded” when officials made the decision to open the reservoirs, which would save many thousands of homes and families, but would knowingly flood the homes of thousands more.

The city has been through this neighborhood THREE TIMES already to pick up debris – more keeps piling up. Most of it is white… drywall, doors, tile, door and window trim,,, and much of it is brown … wooden floors, cabinets, furniture. And books, clothing, artwork, television sets, garage stuff, toys, anything the sewage-tainted water could have touched or wicked its way into.

All the homes look like ghost houses – uncovered windows, empty rooms, lawns scraped to bare earth by the mechanical claws that swooped up their soggy Sheetrock and personal belongings. All the drywall is torn out, the bottom 4′ of it. No flooring, just the cement slab. No doors, no trim, no kitchen, no cabinets, counters, appliances, no toilet. My client and her family were living holed up on the 2nd floor. All they had downstairs on the concrete floor was a folding table with plastic chairs around it, and remnants of an easy-to-fix meal – sandwiches.

All this while trying to maintain a “normal” American life – going to work every day, kids going to school, mowing the lawn, walking the dog, church, groceries, laundry – but there is no washing machine, no hot water heater ….

All while trying to coordinate contractors, selecting tile and wallpaper, find the best deal on major appliances, juggle financing ….

Here is the “new normal” for hundreds of thousands of American families along the Gulf Coast.

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Removing Mirror Rips Drywall

September 19, 2017

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This powder room in the Medical Center area of Houston had a mirror glued to the wall.  The homeowners want a different mirror, so had the original one removed.  The mirror was attached to the wall with a tar-like substance called mastic.  The glass guys use suction cups to clamp onto the mirror, then they pull it away from the wall.  Some globs of mastic will be left on the wall, and this is a problem, because these tar-like substance will bleed through the new wallpaper.

So, to prevent any mastic / tar residue from bleeding through the wallpaper, the handyman took a Stanley knife / box cutter and cut out the top paper layer of drywall that had any mastic on it.

To smooth over the uneven edges, the handyman skim-floated the area with joint compound.  The moisture in the joint compound caused the exposed paper inside the drywall to swell.

So what you are seeing in the top photo is a wrinkled section of drywall caused by moisture.  This will show under wallpaper.

So I took a Stanley knife and cut out the handyman’s patch, to remove the wrinkled drywall paper layer.  I sealed it with a penetrating primer called Gardz, which soaks in, binds surfaces together, and dries hard.

Once that was dry, I skim-floated over it (and the entire area), to get a smooth finish.  Once my skim-float layer was dry, I sanded it smooth, and then primed again with Gardz.

The Gardz did its job, and did not allow moisture to penetrate into the exposed drywall, so no more wrinkles developed.  See the second photo.  Now the wall is nicely prepared and ready for wallpaper.

Getting Smoothing Compound to Dry – Fast

August 23, 2017

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Many homes here in Houston have textured walls.  The texture will show through wallpaper and look bad, and it also prevents good adherence to the wall (because the paper wants to stick to a smooth, flat surface, not to the tops of bumps on the wall).  So I smooth the wall by troweling on a smoothing compound (drywall joint compound), which is similar to plaster.

Once it’s dry, it can be sanded smooth, then sealed and primed, and then it’s ready for wallpaper.

The trick is getting the compound to dry as quickly as possible.  Here I have three fans blowing full force on the wall.  These really speed things up.

Helpful, too, is having a ceiling fan.  And very important is having the air conditioning cranked down cold, and the house fan set from “Auto” to “On,” meaning that it will be constantly circulating that dry, air-conditioned air through the room.  It’s pulling moisture out of the wall and pulling humidity out of the air, and helping the wall to dry.

Stubborn spots can be hit with the heat gun.

Over-Zealous Installer Scored into the Wall

August 16, 2017

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Windows without trim molding like these have surfaces inside the opening that need to be covered with wallpaper. They are always a little tricky, because you need to paper both the top and the sides, but the strip of wallpaper will fold over to cover only one of these surfaces. So you need to come up with paper to cover the other surface.

The previous installer chose to splice in the additional paper he needed, which is what we call a double cut, and it’s a fine way to get these windows papered. He lapped a new piece of paper over the existing piece and then cut through both layers, removed excess, and had a perfect splice.

The problem is that he pressed so hard that he cut not just through the two layers of paper, but down into the wall – quite deeply, in fact. Then, as the paper dries and gets taught, and years go by, and especially in this case where the exterior wall had a leak and water damaged the drywall all around the window, the layers of drywall split apart a bit, and that’s why you see these gaps and curled edges.

When I double cut, I put a strip of polystyrene plastic under the area to be cut, to prevent the razor blade from digging into the wall.

This type of damage is difficult to fix, because the integrity of the wall itself has been compromised. Even if you repair the surface, the underlying layers may come apart again and create another crack on the surface.

What I did was to use repair tape to bridge over the cut areas, and then joint compound to float over and smooth the area. This way, if the wall should move or try to open up again, hopefully the tape will prevent any gap from showing.

Oh Joy – The Pedestal Sink is OUT of the Room!

July 26, 2017

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This homeowner had the pedestal sink (as well as the toilet) taken out of the room before I started work. This makes it a WHOLE LOT easier for me to get the paper behind these fixtures, and it means that there will be an intact sheet of paper against the wall, without relief cuts or an open edge along the top of the sink (which could absorb splashed water and curl up).

Also, as you can see, removing the sink can tear up the wall, including any wallpaper, so if you’re going to replace the sink or vanity, as this homeowner is, it’s always best to pull it out before the wallpaper goes up.

The dark brown areas in the photo are where the removal of the sink tore the drywall. This damage should be repaired before paint or wallpaper goes back up.

I stripped off the surrounding wallpaper, then sealed the torn drywall with Gardz, a penetrating sealer made for this type of repair. It soaks in, binds loose edges together, and dries hard and impenetrable to water. This prevents bubbling when something like joint compound, paint, or wallpaper paste are applied over it.

Then I skim-floated the area with “mud” (joint compound), let dry, sanded it smooth, wiped off dust with a damp sponge, and sealed it a second time with Gardz. Gardz is also a good primer for use under wallpaper, so I primed the entire room with this same product.

No Primer Under Wallpaper = Torn Drywall

July 24, 2017

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Today I stripped wallpaper off a kitchen where the previous installer had not bothered to prime the walls first, but hung his paper right on top of new Sheetrock.

This is very bad for many reasons.

` The walls will not have stick, so the new wallpaper will not have a proper surface to cling to – and this can cause curling seams, loose areas, and other problems.

` The walls will not have slip, which will make it much harder to install the new paper.

` With nothing separating the new wallpaper from the drywall, the paper will bond to the drywall, making it darned near impossible to get it off later.

This is what happened today. After I removed the top inked layer, and after I soaked the remaining paper backing for a while, the old wallpaper came away from the sections of the wall that were coated with joint compound or paint or wood stain.

But in areas of the wall that were just uncovered Sheetrock, the wallpaper grabbed tightly and could not be pulled off or scraped off. In stripping the wallpaper off these areas, some of the drywall came away, too, leaving areas that were torn and damaged.

These uneven, torn areas are problematic, because they leave bumps and ridges showing under the new wallpaper, and because, since they have no protective coating, they absorb moisture – from water, wallpaper paste, wallpaper primer, or other, and then they expand and then they bubble. Ridges and bubbles look like Hell under wallpaper.

The first photo is a wall to the right of the kitchen counter, where differing layers of drywall have been pulled off the wall. The dark brown area is the deepest.

The third photo is a newish product that is wonderful for sealing and “repairing” torn drywall. Gardz (by Zinsser) is a penetrating primer / sealer that soaks into the surface, binding things together. It dries quickly. When it is dry, it is impervious to moisture – which means that you can apply a water-borne primer over it, or you can skim-float it with joint compound, and not worry about bubbles appearing.

I applied Gardz to these areas of torn Sheetrock, let it dry, then skim-floated over it with joint compound, and then sanded it all smooth. Then I applied a second coat of Gardz.

In addition to making the surface very stable, Gardz serves as a good primer for wallpaper, because it’s molecular structure on its dry surface is such that the molecules of paste, attached to the new wallpaper, will grab on and hold tight.

In this case, because I like a white pigmented primer, and because I like hanging on it, I went over the walls with a coat of Roman’s Ultra Prime Pro 977, a primer made specifically for wallpaper. The last photo shows the wall after all that work. Finally ready for wallpaper!

Brightly Nautical Wallpaper in a Master Bathroom

July 8, 2017

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I didn’t get pictures of the original wallpaper, but it was a pre-pasted, paper-backed solid vinyl (my least favorite kind) and had been poorly installed on un-primed bare drywall. Over the 12 years it was up, humidity from the bathroom had penetrated the seams and caused the paper to curl.

This paper (not vinyl) wallpaper, hung over properly primed walls, will cling tightly to the wall and perform well for many years to come. Plus, it’s bright and pretty and adds a lot of life to the room.

One shot shows the oceanic paper in the main room, looking into the potty / water closet, which has been papered in a coordinating yellow striped pattern. I really like using two papers this way. See tomorrow’s post for pics of the potty room.

This home is in West University Place (Houston). The wallpaper pattern is #839-T-6701 by Thibaut Designs, and 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.

Fixing a “Hot Mess”

April 18, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Good Reason Not to Double-Cut

April 10, 2017

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A double-cut is a paperhanger’s term for splicing two strips of wallpaper together. The edges of the strips are overlapped about 1″ on the wall, and then, bracing against a straightedge, a sharp razor blade and plenty of pressure are used to cut through both layers of wallpaper. Remove excess paper from both layers, and you have a perfectly butted seam.

The only problem is that it’s virtually impossible to do this without scoring into the wall, slicing through the top layer (or more). This cut makes the surface unstable, and when the new wallpaper dries, it shrinks and puts tension (torque) on the wall’s surface. This shrinking and tension can cause the wall to split and curl back, leaving a gap or a gaping wallpaper seam.

This is what you see in the photo.

To remedy this, I wanted to bridge the gap with something that would move with any shifting in the drywall, and that would not cause ridges under the new paper.

The new wallpaper was a thick, textured material, so I was not overly worried about ridges from the patch telegraphing through it.

I used strips from the paper backing of the old wallpaper / grasscloth I had just stripped off the wall to cover the cut wall areas. I tore the patches, rather than cutting, because the “feathered” edges of the torn paper would be less noticeable under the new paper than a sharp, straight edge would be.

The strips were wet from having been stripped off the wall with water, and the wall’s surface had damp paste residue remaining on it, so the patching strips adhered nicely to the wall surface.

But, to be sure, I brushed on Gardz, a penetrating sealer and “problem wall solver.” It soaked in, bound the surfaces together, dried, and made a taught, strong surface for the new wallpaper to go over.

Still, I made sure that my seams did not fall in the same exact spots as these compromised areas of wall. That greatly reduces the possibility of seams in the new wallpaper from curling back or pulling away from the wall.

As it turns out, because of the way I engineered the wall and various other factors, I did end up doing a double cut splice over this door. But I made sure it was not in the same place as the compromised wall surface. In addition, I protected the wall by putting a thin polystyrene (plastic) strip under the wallpaper before I cut, so that when I pressed my razor blade hard to cut through the two layers of cork, it did not damage the wall. Sorry, no pics, but there are other photos of that process on my blog, if you want to do a Search.

Using 20-Minute “Mud” to Repair Sheetrock Damage

March 31, 2017

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When the homeowners had their powder room vanity top replaced, the shorter new backsplash left a 1″ area of torn drywall around the top of the new backsplash. There was a height difference between the drywall and the wall (which was covered with at least two layers of old wallpaper). This needed to be evened out before the new wallpaper could go up.

Because torn drywall will bubble when it gets wet, I used a penetrating sealer called Gardz to prevent this by sealing the raw area. Once that was dry, I used 20-minute joint compound to “float” over the damaged areas.

The bag says “5” (see photo), but that is misleading. What they mean is that you have five minutes to mix the powdered material with water, stir smooth, and then work with the stuff, before it gets stiff and hard. The actual drying time is more like 10-20 minutes, and sometimes longer.

Once it’s dry, it can be sanded smooth. Wipe off the dust with damp sponge, let dry again. Then it can be sealed with a primer, and I like the penetrating sealer Gardz, once again, to seal this porous joint compound material.