Posts Tagged ‘gaps at the seams’

Dark and Moody Bedroom Accent Wall

August 4, 2022
The wall has been skim-floated and sanded smooth , primed , and is ready for wallpaper .
The homeowner did a great job coordinating the wall and ceiling paint with the colors in the wallpaper.
This is a room that’s made for sleeping!

At first I thought the pattern scale was too small for the large wall. But once I saw it on the wall, I really like the way it fills the space.
To me, this pattern has a sort of calico look.
Close-up shows the light texture on the paper.
This is a non-woven material, so I’m installing via the paste the wall method . Here I’ve cut and arranged all my strips in the order in which they will be hung . This is a drop match pattern , which some folks think of as A and B strips. Meaning, for instance, an orange flower appears at the top of the wall on Strip A . But the next strip, Strip B, has a yellow flower at the top. When you get to the third strip, we are back to an A and an orange flower. Next comes another B strip – and so on.
I’ve rolled the strips backward , with the top of the strip coming off first. This will prevent the printed face of the wallpaper from bumping into the pasted wall during installation .
Wallpaper often shrinks a tad when the paste dries , and this can result in very minute gaps at the seams . With dark wallpapers , it’s pretty important to take steps to prevent white from showing at these gaps. Here I’ve measured out where each seam will fall, and taken diluted black paint to make a dark stripe under each seam . I don’t make the paint full-strength, because wallpaper paste isn’t formulated to adhere to paint. I want the wallpaper adhering to the primer I’ve applied. That’s also the reason why you don’t want to roll paint over the whole wall.
Also, I have only striped some of the seam areas, and will wait until some strips are up on the wall before striping more lines. This is because wallpaper expands when it gets wet with paste, which can make it difficult to plot the exact width of each strip as you move across the wall.

I use acrylic craft paint from the hobby store, applied with a bit of sponge. I keep a small dish of water to dip the sponge into, which dilutes the paint a bit.
You also see a stick of chalk pastel . See next photo.
Besides the wall peeking out from behind the wallpaper seams , it’s also possible / probable that the white edges of the wallpaper backing / substrate will show at the seams. I take a stick of chalk and run it along the edges, making sure to apply from the backside, to avoid getting chalk onto the surface of the wallpaper.
Be sure to use chalk pastels and not oil pastels – oil will bleed and stain wallpaper. Some installers use liquid paint or markers – again, be sure to use water-based or acrylic , and never oil based or permanent markers .
BN Walls is the brand. Altogether, this was a pretty nice product to work with. It was thin and very soft and flexible (many non-wovens are not).
I wasn’t happy with all the seams, though. I believe the paper was cut with dull or wobbly wheels at the factory, because the edges seemed to not be perfectly straight . So I ended up with gaps and overlaps in some areas. Here you can see the wallpaper edges pouching up a bit due to excess paper.
But, as I mentioned, this material was quite flexible, so it was pretty easy to spread these edges apart an use a tool to push them apart and then down to prevent them from pouching up again. Once the paste started to dry, these areas held nice and tight and flat.
This is a townhome in the Rice Military neighborhood of central Houston .

More William Morris Strawberry Thief in Houston Heights Hall Bathroom

June 24, 2022
Because I feared unstable walls in this 1920’s bungalow in this neighborhood (do a Search for previous posts), before hanging the decorative wallpaper, first I hung a non-woven liner paper on all the walls. That’s the white material you see in the photo.
The liner was hung horizontally so its seams can’t line up with the decorative paper. The idea is to disperse tension from drying wallpaper and changes due to humidity and etc., so as to deflect tension away from sketchy wall surfaces, and thus prevent delamination of multiple unstable layers deep inside the wall. Again, do a Search here to learn more.
Finished vanity area, with pattern centered on the light fixture.
Corner shot.
This colorful and symmetrical pattern is quite popular; I’ve hung it a number of times just this year.
Englishman William Morris designed wallpaper and fabrics during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
The styles then were Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts. This design reflects a bit of each.
Wallpaper expands when it gets wet with paste, and then can shrink just a tad as it dries. The liner helps prevent that, but you can still end up with teeny gaps at some seams.
To prevent the white backing from showing through, I run a stripe of dark paint under where each seam will fall.
I use matt finish craft paint from the hobby store, diluted with a little water (in the orange bottle cap) and smeared on the wall with a scrap of sponge. Use a ruler or level and a pencil to mark where you want to stripe the dark paint.
Remember to allow for that expansion as the paper absorbs moisture from the paste. Meaning, if the paper is 20.5″ wide, and expands 1/2″, you’ll want to run your line at about 21.” And make sure that your painted swath is about an inch wide.
I also run a bit of dark chalk along the edges of each strip, to prevent the white substrate from showing at the seams (no photo).
Morris & Co. makes this iconic Strawberry Thief.
Interestingly enough, most times when I’ve hung a Morris paper, it’s been a non-woven paste-the-wall material.
Today’s option was a surprise – a traditional British pulp . This is a pretty basic and somewhat old-fashioned type of substrate . Sort of like construction paper, or the pages of an old family Bible .
The paper is very fragile , and can tear easily. You have to keep using new razor / trimming blades, because the material dulls blades quickly, and when dull they will drag and tear the paper.
Pulp papers also require a soaking / booking time after pasting , to allow time for the material to absorb the paste , soften a bit, and expand . The edges of the strips like to dry out , so I’ve learned to dip about 1/4″ of the booked ends ( booked means the pasted side of the wallpaper strip is folded onto itself, bottom edge folded up and top edge folded down to meet in the middle), into a bucket of clean water.
Then it goes into a black plastic trash bag to soak and relax for a few minutes before hanging. I use this opportunity to paste the next strip.
Non-woven wallpapers have advantages, because they do not expand when wet, and therefor you can get accurate measurements. They also can be pasted and hung immediately, with no waiting time. Alternately, you can paste the wall .

Another Installer’s Problems With British Pulp Paper

May 31, 2022
Scroll down a few posts to see where I hung this exact same pattern, and coincidentally just a few blocks away. I had absolutely no problems. Yet this poor installer struggled and ended up with many dissatisfactory issues.
In this photo, you see where the wallpaper has shrunk at the seams and left a gap, some tears, and a patch to cover a mishap.
More tears and gaps.
Paper coming lose from the wall. Not taking primer or paint with it. But you can see the adhesive clinging to the back of the paper. I’m suspecting this is clay adhesive. Nothing wrong with clay, but I prefer one of the vinyl-based adhesives.
Not sure what the guy used as a primer (if any).

This is the popular Strawberry Thief by William Morris , usually sold by Morris & Co. I’m believing the problem here is the material on which this pattern was printed.

The site from which this was purchased called it a ” heritage ” paper. It is, indeed, made of what we call a British pulp material. Old-fashioned, it is. These days, most wallpaper coming from the U.K. is printed on non-woven stock. The paper I hung a few days ago was non-woven.

Pulp wallpapers have a nice look. But they have no protective coating, so become soiled easily. They soften when wet with paste and tear easily, and can also shred under the razor blade while trimming. They expand when wet with paste, and then shrink as they dry, which often results in gaps at the seams.

Even skilled installers can have difficulties when working with this stuff. In fact, on the private Facebook page of the Wallcovering Installers Association ( WIA ), we have just been discussing this very same topic.

I believe this previous installer had a few shortcomings, such as lack of skill and maybe used the wrong or no wallpaper primer. But I think the real and unsurmountable culprit was the substrate.

Moral: If given the option, choose a non-woven material. They are made with minimum 20% polyester content, and thus are resistant to shrinking, tearing, and tension at the seams. Many other advantages, too. Non-wovens are also referred to as paste the wall .

Wallpaper Seams Split – White Showing At Seams

March 31, 2020


I hung this Bradbury & Bradbury digitally-printed wallpaper from their new ’20’s Vintage collection yesterday. When I left, the seams were perfect, and the job looked super.

Yet overnight, the paper dried and shrank, and that left some gaps at the seams. In the top photo, you can see the white primer peeking out from underneath. (Note: I have not had any opened seams when I hung their more traditionally-printed papers, including a dark brown paper in my own master bathroom.)

If the paper is allowing of it, it is possible to use craft paint or chalk pastels to color in the open space between the edges of the two strips of paper.

You have to test before moving forward, because some papers have a porous surface that might absorb the colorant and leave a mar or smudge on the surface. Usually, chalk is the safest way to go.

Dark Papers – Visible Seams

September 10, 2019


Wallpaper is paper, and when paste is applied to the back, the paper gets wet and expands a little. When it hits the wall, it dries – and often that means it will shrink, even if just a tad. That will leave minute gaps at the seams. If the paper is dark and the wall or the substrate are light , you will most likely see white gaps at the seams.

Some manufacturers combat this by printing dark patterns on a darker substrate. This is what you see in the photo above. But it also helps to color the edges of the wallpaper with a corresponding color of chalk. (You can’t use ink, because ink will bleed and discolor the wallpaper.)

Sometimes you can go back and color in the seams with hobby paint or chalk, which sounds simple but actually takes some technique and finesse, to color the areas adequately and avoid staining the paper.

Painting the wall the color of the paper is a thought, but not as feasible as it sounds, because wallpaper wants to stick to wallpaper primer, not paint. And I’ve seen paint lift off the wall when the wallpaper dried and put tension on it – so, not using that trick again.

Paint with a clear wallpaper primer over it is another idea – but it adds an extra day (or two) and more labor and material costs.

What I did in this case, was to try different pasting methods. This wallpaper, from the Historic Homes Collection by Thibaut, is pre-pasted and engineered to be run through a water tray to activate the paste on the back of the paper.

This method works super with most of their colors. But, because the water tray adds a lot of moisture to the wallpaper, the amount of expansion and then shrinkage results in tiny gaps at the seams – not a big deal with a white or light-colored wallpaper. But with this black paper, it was showing too much white at the seams. Yes, a 1/64th” is too much, when you are looking at white between black.

So instead of running the paper through the water tray, I experimented with pasting the back of the paper. I knew this method would allow the paper to expand less, dry faster, and shrink minimally.

But wallpaper that has a thin layer of pre-paste on the back does not respond well to the installer applying paste to the back on top of the pre-paste. You are greeted with a thick, dry, gummy mess that is hard to manipulate on the wall.

There were also a lot of bubbles and blisters under the surface. Yes, you can be assured that these will disappear as the paper dries – but it sure makes you nervous while you are looking at them!

Spraying the back of the paper with water from a mister didn’t work, either, because the spray bottle spread water unevenly, water sloshed onto my work table, and there was nothing to enhance the “stickiness” of the manufacturer’s pre-paste.

After experimenting, what worked best was to apply paste to the back, full strength, and then quickly spritz the back with water and roll it around, to thin down the paste I had just applied, and to add enough moisture to activate the pre-paste.

The wallpaper strips with this pasting concoction were thick and muddy and difficult to maneuver, but the drier paste did lock down at the seams more quickly. I didn’t have issues with shrinking or gapping seams after I started using this pasting method.

Cole & Son Colors the Edges

August 22, 2019

Dark papers are always a little scary, because if they are printed on white stock, when the paper dries and shrinks a tad, there is always the chance that a teeny bit of white will show at the seams. Some companies minimize this by printing on a dark stock – but that is rare.

Another thing you can do is take chalk or water-based marker and color the edges of the paper. It works pretty well, but is time consuming.

This company – Cole & Son – went one better, and made sure that ink from the surface got onto the edges of the paper as well. So there are no white edges to peek out at the seams.

In addition, because they printed on a non-woven material, which is made of synthetic fibers and is dimensionally-stable, it won’t shrink when it dries, further reducing the chance of getting gaps at the seams.