Posts Tagged ‘expands’

“Priming” Wall With Paste to Keep Seams Down Tight

August 3, 2021
Hard to see, but the slightly darker, shiny section of wall to the left of the wallpaper is a bit of paste that I have rolled onto the wall along where a seam will lie.
The paste has pulled the edges of the paper nice and tight to the wall. Never mind the slight pattern mis-match … this is a hand screen print, and it’s pretty common for these to be slightly off in printing and/or trimming. The pattern matched better above the door, then drifted off as the paper neared the bottom of the strip. You can also see that some of the edges are somewhat jagged and saw-dusty, due to trimming at the factory.

Some manufacturers use inks that fight with their substrates. The substrate absorbs moisture from the paste and expands, but the inked layer does not, so you end up with the bottom layer stretching and forcing the top layer to curl back, resulting in edges that curl and don’t stay tight to the wall.

Any time you smell ink that calls to mind mothballs, you can expect to deal with this issue. It’s pretty common with screen printed wallpapers.

One trick is to lightly sponge the surface with water before pasting the back. Another, which I have discussed here previously, is to paste the paper, fold and book it, and then dip the rolled-up edges into 1/4″ of clean water. Then place the rolled up strip into a plastic trash bag for the booking period. This helps to keep the edges from drying out while the paper books.

On many papers, I’ve found that it also helps to roll a light coat of paste onto the wall, just under where the seams will fall. This works amazingly well to grab the edges and hold them tightly against the wall.

Compensating Around A Window

June 29, 2021

Going around windows, especially wide windows, can be tricky. Wallpaper expands, it twists, the design can travel up or down from the ceiling line – and all this can go on independently of each other, with the sections over the windows moving out of whack at a different rate than the strips below the window.

The challenge then becomes, when the next full-length strip is hung, joining the strips over the window with those under the window … getting the pattern to line up and the strip to lie flat on the wall without torquing out of shape.

In this case, the pattern lined up pretty well. But strips under the window ended up being wider than those over the top. So there was a 1/2″ overlap, which would mess up the pattern match. This 1/2″ also caused the full-length strip to warp and develop a wrinkle.

This was an easy pattern and placement for dealing with such issues. All I had to do was cut along one of the palm tree stems, slide the strip up so the palm leaf pattern lined up, straighten out the full-length strip and work out the warp, and overlap that 1/2″.

All that sounds simple. But the truth is, I probably spent the better part of an hour getting it all to work out.

Paint Pulling Off Wall Where Tape Was Removed – Surface Stability Test

May 12, 2021
Paint pulling off wall where tape was removed.
Paint pulling off wall when painters tape was removed.
Paint pulled off wall and stuck to back of tape that was pulled off wall on new construction site.

It’s important to have a stable surface under wallpaper.

That’s because, when wallpaper gets wet with paste, absorbs moisture from the paste, and it expands. Then, as it dries, it lets go of the moisture and shrinks. When wallpaper dries and shrinks, it puts tension / torque on the walls.

If the surface under the wallpaper is not stable, the tension of the drying wallpaper can cause the underlying surface to pull away.

This photo is not showing the wallpaper pulling away from the wall. What is happening (usually) is that the paint (or whatever has been applied to the wall), has actually delaminated (come apart) from the wall.

This results in a “curled” seam, or a “popped” seam.

One way to test for this is to apply a strip of tape (blue painters tape, tan masking tape, clear Scotch tape, or other), let it sit a few minutes, and then yank it off. If the tape takes any paint along with it, you have a potential problem of the wallpaper not adhering correctly.

This is why it’s important to:

1, Before applying any coating, you must remove all dust from the wall, using a damp sponge, which must be rinsed frequently

2, Before hanging paper, a primer formulated specifically for wallpaper should be applied / rolled on and cut in to edges

A wallpaper-specific primer is designed to withstand the torque put on the wall as wallpaper dries. And it facilitates installation by allowing sufficient “slip” (maneuvering the paper) and “stick” (adhesion). The chemistry behind all this is fascinating – but too complicated to get into here.

If a wall is too “iffy,” and you don’t feel like the mess and expense of scraping off all the old paint, a liner can be applied before the actual wallpaper is hung.

A liner lessens the drying time of the wallpaper, which reduces the time there will be stress on the wall. A liner also redistributes stress on the wall, so much less chance of having seems detach from the wall.

A liner also adds additional cost to the job – for both material and labor, which may include an additional day(s).

Big Pink Flowers for New Baby Girl

August 7, 2019

Here is a nursery accent wall, getting ready for a baby girl in a few months.

I like Spoonflower’s paper, and it’s been a while since I’ve hung it, so today was fun.

Spoonflower is different from other papers. For starters, it comes in strips of certain lengths, so you have to figure out how many strips of each length you need. For an accent wall like this, that was easy – but it can get complicated in chopped up rooms like bathrooms. Each strip comes packaged separately, in it’s own long, skinny zip-top bag.

The paper is pre-pasted, which you don’t see much these days. I find this type much faster to hang. The paper is also designed to be overlapped at the seams (instead of butted). This means you will see a 1/2″ wide ridge from floor to ceiling down either side of each strip. (See third photo.) In the grand scheme of things, this is not very noticeable. (In the old days, all papers were hung this way, and I have some authentic 1940’s paper in my home office to prove it. 🙂 )

The material is thin paper, and it gets very wet when it is pasted, and it expands. When the paper dries, it shrinks a tad. If the seams were butted, you would end up with gaps between the strips. By overlapping the strips a tad, gaps are prevented. This method also puts less tension on the wall, so you have less chance of layers inside the wall delaminating. (Do a search here for more info.)

The composition and the thinness of the paper also make it difficult to cut, because it wants to tear. So you have to keep a supply of sharp, new blades handy.

This paper is very similar to one I blogged about on December 25, 2018. I’m betting it’s made by the same manufacturer, but sold under different brand names.

Note that Spoonflower also offers a peel & stick so-called “removable” option – do NOT go with this one – horrible stuff, that P&S.

This home is in the Heights / Timber Grove area of Houston.

Brunschwig & Fils’s Bibliotheque in a Heights Library

July 14, 2019


Another installer hung the paper in the first photo. For some unknown reason, two half-walls were left unpapered. I was called in to finish those two areas.

Brunschwig & Fils is a French manufacturer, with a long history. Like many higher-end brands, this product came with a selvedge edge that I had to trim off by hand (see last photo), using a razor blade and a 6′ long straight edge (not shown).

And, like many higher-end brand papers that are printed with ink that smells like mothballs, once paste is applied to the back of the paper, the inked surface absorbs moisture from the paste differently from the back side. When the top inked layer expands at a different rate from the substrate, you get waffling, or quilting. Sorry, no photo, but you can do a Search here to see previous blogs on this topic. Essentially, it’s a wrinkly mess.

One way to deal with this is to even out the moisture differential by lightly sponging water onto the face (inked side) of the wallpaper. The front can then absorb moisture from the sponging at the same time that the substrate is absorbing moisture from the paste.

As I worked with the paper, I discovered that it wanted to dry out quickly. So it helped a lot to also use a sponge to get a little moisture onto the back side of the wallpaper strip, before pasting.

Other tricks to slow drying out are to 1.) Book the paper (fold pasted side to pasted side and then roll up loosely like a newspaper) and then dunk the ends into a bucket of clean water. 2.) Place the booked strip into a black trash bag, which will prevent evaporation during the time the paper books. 3.) When the wait time is up, gently unbook the paper and lightly spritz the back with clean water from a spray bottle. Alternately, you could sponge the surface once again. The idea is to introduce a little more moisture, to loosen up the paste and to make the paper more malleable.

I had been told that this paper was difficult to work with, and that the seams wanted to curl. I had the opposite experience – I thought it was lovely to work with. The seams laid nice and flat, and the paper was easy to manipulate, and it clung tightly to the wall. Applying moisture to the surface and back got rid of the waffling, and any that did remain (there were small puckers in the white horizontal “shelf board” areas) disappeared as the wallpaper dried.

This home is in the Houston Heights neighborhood, and the interior designer is Stacie Cokinos, of Cokinos Design.

Humidity in Bathrooms – Not Good for Lower-End Solid Vinyl Wallpapers

June 7, 2019

People often think that vinyl wallpaper will be good in a bathroom, because water will roll off it. but in reality, very little water gets splashed on the walls – but a lot of moisture can get wicked into the seams.

These photos (you may want to scroll to enlarge them) show how the lower-end, paper-backed, solid-vinyl wallpapers tend to perform poorly in humid rooms like bathrooms. The problem is that moisture gets in between the seams and into the paper backing. That backing absorbs moisture and expands, curling away from the wall. The backing can actually go a step further and delaminate from the top vinyl layer.

This type of paper often performs like this when you’ve got people taking steamy showers, forgetting to turn on the vent fan, forgetting to keep the door open for air circulation, etc. Neither of these situations can be fixed. You will be stuck with these slightly curled seams.

The thing is, there are plenty of nice, paper or non-woven wallpapers out there, that will hold up a lot better in bathrooms.

Acquario Fish Swimming Through a West Houston Powder Room

October 5, 2018

I hung this paper for this client in her previous home in Spring Branch (Houston). Two years later, the family is moving to a new construction home in the Briar Park neighborhood, and she wants the same pattern in her new, larger, powder room.

In a house where practically everything else is all white, it’s an unexpected jolt of fun when you open the door to the powder room and are hit with – not just bold color, but these cheeky fish swimming in both directions across the walls.

This pattern is called “Acquario,” and is by the British company Cole & Son, in their Fornasetti line. I’ve hung it several times, in a couple of different colors. It is printed on a non-woven backing, and is intended to be hung using the paste-the-wall method. I find the paste-the-paper method to be superior.

For one thing, the paper expands when it gets wet with the paste. (Non-wovens are not supposed to do this.) It’s best to let the paper absorb moisture and expand while on your work table (instead of on the wall), as this will help prevent “pouched” seams on the wall.

Also, pasting the paper makes it more soft and pliable, which makes it easier to manipulate into position of the walls.

Blue Birds Brighten a Bathroom – But Not A Good Quality Paper

June 27, 2018


The original wallpaper had fallen victim to curled seams. This happens most often with lower-end pre-pasted, paper-backed, solid vinyl wallcoverings, particularly in humid rooms, like this bathroom. Adding to the list of no-no’s were an improperly smoothed wall and the lack of a primer.

The seams on these papers are never great to begin with. When there is humidity, it will find its way into the seams and onto the paper backing of the wallpaper. When this backing gets wet by humidity, it expands. When it expands, it has nowhere to go but out – pushing away from the wall. This results in a curled seam. This is not “loose” wallpaper, and the seams cannot be glued back down. In many cases, the paper backing layer of the wallpaper actually delaminates (separates from) the top vinyl layer.

The homeowner loved the pattern, particularly the blue birds, and bought the same exact paper to replace the other. I stripped off the old paper, took various steps to stabilize the unsound wall surface, then skim-coated the wall to smooth it, primed, and hung the new paper.

The look is cheery and bright, and looks fabulous with the pale yellow bead-board wainscoting. The seams looked good when I left, and will pull down tighter as the paper dries.

Still, these economical pre-pasted, paper-backed, solid vinyl wallpapers are not my choice for use in any room. And this particular brand (Norwall) just about tops my list for brands to NOT purchase.

Avoiding White Seams With Dark Paper

June 7, 2016

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A dark wallpaper + white primer sometimes = teeny strips of white peeping out from between the seems. This is because the edges may not be cut perfectly straight by the manufacturer, or the natural variations in a textured product like grasscloth can result in uneven seams, or because wallpaper expands when it absorbs moisture from the paste, then shrinks just a tad as it dries.

One way to avoid that white gap is to stripe the wall with a similar color of paint.

You only have to do this where the seams will fall. In the top photo, I have measured the paper and plotted where the seams will lie, and am using my laser level to shoot a red line that I can follow while I swipe on a stripe of dark brown paint along the seam line.

In the second photo, you see the edge of the paper as it falls along the painted wall. The next photo shows a seam – but you don’t see any white. Mission accomplished!

This glittery grasscloth by Phillip Jeffries is pretty cool, so I’ve included a close up shot of it in the last photo.