Posts Tagged ‘grasscloth’

Trimming and Trash

April 4, 2019


Hand-trimming the selvedge off untrimmed wallpaper sure makes a lot of trash.

This is paper (not vinyl or non-woven or grasscloth), so these scraps can go in the recycling bin.

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Three-Dimensional Square “Dots” on Pale Neutral Grasscloth

April 2, 2019


Thibaut’s “Union Square” wallpaper pattern is a response to the popular Phillip Jeffries’s “Rivets.” Thibaut’s looser design and pattern placement make it much easier to align with the walls and woodwork – including rooms that are out of square and out of plumb. Which is just about every house in every neighborhood in every state.

The 3-D squares are made of some kind of plastic stuff, and are virtually impossible to cut through with a razor blade or a scissors (such as when trimming at the ceiling door or window moldings). I was able to engineer the room so that I did not have to cut through any of those rivets! Because the PJ pattern is much tighter, this would have been virtually impossible.

Also, I found that my soft short-bristled smoothing brush worked well enough to press the material against the wall while skimming over the 3/8″ high square bumps (sorry, for some reason, the photo did not turn out). But my beloved plastic trapezoidal squeegee smoother was just about useless, because it would not accommodate the 3-D “rivets.” So I had to adjust my install tactics a bit, and figure how to get along without the plastic smoother.

This wallcovering is made of grasscloth, which provides the subtle texture that homeowners are loving these days. But because grasscloth is made of natural fibers, there can be a lot of variations between bolts, and even between strips off the same bolt.

For that reason, Thibaut not only notes the run number of a bolt of wallpaper, but also the sequence in which the material was produced (see photo). The idea is that if you hang strips sequentially, you will see less shading or paneling (difference in color between two strips of wallcovering). Thibaut’s insert also includes a LOT of jargon about the color differences inherent to natural products, and the admonishment to use the bolts and strips sequentially.

I used three double rolls / bolts of grasscloth for this entry. Two of the bolts (the first two in the sequence) were pretty homogenous in color. The room was small and had low ceilings, and so I was able to keep the three strips needed for the longest wall all from the same bolt (#1).

I cut my other full-length strips from the second bolt (#2). That left the third bolt (#3) for the many short pieces needed to go over the four doorways in the room. As you can see from the last two photos, even though it was the same run number and printed at the same time, this third bolt was noticeably different in color from the previous two. The background color is the same, but there is a lot – a LOT – more dark brown fibrous material that got worked into the woven grass material.

Keeping these darker strips over the doors was a good way to minimize this color difference. The strips were only 9″ high. If these strips had been placed side-by-side on an 8′ high wall, the color difference would have been abruptly noticeable.

Color variations are to be expected with grasscloth, or any natural product. But helpful labeling by the manufacturer, and careful plotting by the installer, can minimize these differences.

This ’60’s-era ranch-style home in the Briargrove neighborhood of Houston is very much a “sea of tranquility,” as the whole house is entwined in off-whites, creams, and tans, with various textures like rough wood, sisal, and this grasscloth, used to pull in depth and warmth.

The interior designer on this project is Layne Ogden, of Layne Torsch Interiors.

Wall Prep – Missing Chair Rail and Stain Repair

March 31, 2019


What an unexpected surprise I got when I arrived at work to discover that the chair rail in this entry had been removed (top photo). Not only did I need to figure how to get enough paper to cover the additional wallspace, but I needed to smooth over the damaged wall area where the molding had been torn off. (See previous post)
I skim-floated the wall and sanded smooth. It looked great. But brown coloring from the torn Sheetrock had worked its way through the smoothing compound (second photo). Torn drywall is not something that I would normally worry about bleeding through wallpaper (you are concerned mostly with things like grease, ink, water, tobacco, rust, and the like), but this stuff was 60 years old, so who knows what its properties and characteristics were back then? And besides, it had already worked its way through a layer of joint compound – in just one night! No sense in taking the chance that it might bleed through this nearly-white grasscloth natural fiber wallpaper.

The Gardz penetrating primer / sealer (not pictured) I planned to use on the wall would be fine to hang wallpaper on, but could not guarantee that that brown stain would not work its way through the primer and through the wallpaper.

I applied the Gardz, because it’s a great penetrating substance that seals new smoothing compound, and also provides a good surface for hanging wallpaper on. Once that was dry, I followed that with a coat of KILZ Original, an excellent oil-base stain-blocker. But wallpaper paste will not stick to the new KILZ formula (required in order to comply with current EPA requirements.

A little 3″ width around the lower center of the room with wallpaper not sticking tightly to it probably would not be problematic. But you never know, and I didn’t want a “hula hoop” of delaminated wallpaper circling the room. So once the KILZ was dry, I followed up with a coat of a wallpaper-specific primer, Romans Ultra Prime Pro 977.

Now the room is ready for wallpaper, without fear of a band of tan bleeding through the new surface.

Washable, Kick-Proof Wallpaper

March 10, 2019


The builder of this contemporary styled home in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston included two large islands with seating areas – but neglected to address the issue of people scuffing the flat white paint with their shoes, or the pets splashing water and food onto the wall.

The homeowners needed something durable that would stand up to dings and that would be washable, too.

To the rescue is this heavy, solid-vinyl wallcovering in a sort of faux grasscloth design in a silver metallic color. It has a slight horizontal texture to it. The substrate is non-woven (not the cheapie paper backing that can be problematic in humid areas).

The paper went up beautifully on the flat backs of the island kick-area, and on the inside corners (required some vertical cuts to allow the paper to bend in the corner). But wrapping the thick, stiff material around the outside corners (see top photo) was not going well. The material simply was too thick to lie down tightly to the corners.

So I called in the Great Persuader – my trusty heat gun. With a little heat applied to both sides of the corners, and working it with my plastic smoothing tool, the vinyl conformed quickly and laid down neatly and tightly.

This is one of the few papers that is actually durable, resistant to dings, and washable. It will hold up well against human kicks and sloppy pets.

This vinyl wallpaper is by York Wall, and was bought from my favorite source for good quality, product knowledge, expert service, and competitive price – 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.

Disappointing Seams, Stringcloth

February 24, 2019


Here is a stringcloth / grasscloth / linen sort of material that has a nice, tailored look. The thing is, when people make their buying decision, all they see is the page in a selection book, or the 8 x 10″ sample sent from the vendor. What they don’t see is how their selection will look when it’s actually up on a wall, with several strips next to each other.

The thin and close-together black and grey strings running vertically up the length of each bolt of wallpaper are not absolutely straight. So there are places where the black strings get closer to the edge of the wallpaper, and places where the grey strings get closer to the edge. And there are areas where the strings cross the edge of the paper and got chopped off by the trim rollers at the factory, leaving voids along the edges of the paper that now have no strings.

Look at the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th photos… the left edge of the sheets, to see what I am talking about.

All this is fine if you’re just looking at a bolt of wallpaper. But when it comes to placing a strip of paper next to another strip on the wall, what can happen is what you see in the photo at the top…. If an area where a grey string is closer to the right edge of the paper is placed next to a strip that happens to have a grey string closer to the left edge, then those two grey strings will butt up against each other, and they will create a wider-than-expected expanse of grey. That’s what you see in the photo.

The same can happen with a black string, or with an area where the string was cut and fell out of the edge, creating a void. Even if I forgo the factory edge and hand-trim my own edge, because the strings are not exactly straight on the paper, some will continue to land closer to or further from the edge, or even be cut and fall completely off the paper – When those edges meet up with one another on the wall, there will always be areas where grey meets up with grey (or black with black, etc.), and you get an effect like what you see in the photo.

This wallpaper is by York. More on how the install went on yesterday’s blog post.

Man-Tailored Linen/Stringcloth/Grasscloth in a Former Boys’ Room

February 23, 2019


This large 2nd floor room in a 1934 home in the West University neighborhood of Houston was home to two boys, who took it on a 20+ year ride through crayons, toy cars, sports, school projects, first dates, college entrance forms, and professional careers. Now that the sons are grown and gone, Mom is calling the room her own. She got rid of the dorm look and is going for something calming and sophisticated, with a farm-house twist.

On the ceiling, I hung wallpaper that looks like ship-lapped wood… Joanna Gaines “Magnolia” book by York, in their SureStrip line.

To augment that, the homeowner chose another York pattern, this soft brown / charcoal linen weave stringcloth. It’s a textured material that resembles the fabric of a man’s tailored suit.

It’s beautiful with the wood plank look on the ceiling, and creates a snug, cozy feel in the large room.

I wasn’t happy with the quality of the product. See my previous post about the mismatches at the seams.

In addition, the material was thick and difficult to trim, and difficult to turn around corners. But worse, whatever backing the manufacturer used sucked up paste like the dickens. I pasted the back and booked according to directions. Yet when I went to hang a strip, it didn’t want to stick to the wall. There was virtually no paste on the back … it had all been sucked up into the backing, leaving little on the surface to hold the strip onto the wall. The strips also had a lot of memory, and wanted to keep curling up.

Although the instructions said the substrate was paper, I believe it was a non-woven material. That means it was dimensionally-stable and didn’t need to book or sit for any period after pasting. I tried various installation techniques and finally settled on lightly misting the back of each strip with water , rolling it up and letting it sit for a few minutes while I rolled paste onto the wall (not the back of the paper). Then I applied the paper to the wall.

The misting relaxed the paper and stopped the curling, and also made the material more pliable. Pasting the wall made sure that paste was there to hold the paper to the wall, instead of letting the thirsty substrate soak it all up.

Even so, this has been a difficult install. The paper is thick and hard to trim, and there are issues with the seams that do not make me happy (see yesterday’s post). I worked an 8-hour today and only got two walls done. So I have to go back tomorrow, and the job will take a day longer than I had planned for.

The wallcovering is made by York. I usually like their products, but, like I said, I am a bit displeased with this stuff. The homeowner, however, loves it.

A Nice Faux Grasscloth for Wet Areas – But A Little Difficult to Work With

February 17, 2019


OK, well my “after” shot didn’t turn out, so all I have for you are these close-ups … which do a fine job of showing the texture of this product. It’s made of vinyl, which allows the texture to be embossed into the surface.

In a bathroom, vinyl is a good alternative to real grasscloth, because water splashing on it will not stain it or cause inks to bleed. I run caulk along where the material meets the countertop / backsplash, so that if water pools up along the surface, it can’t be wicked up into the wallpaper (which could cause curling).

This is a fairly thick vinyl on a non-woven backing, and was somewhat difficult to manipulate into areas where it needed to bend – such as pressing tightly against the ceiling or moldings when I needed to trim off excess paper. It took a lot of strength and pushing in order to get a cut that was nice and close to the corner. I just did an accent wall with few obstacles, but this product would have been difficult to work with in a room that had multiple walls to turn around, and things to cut around – windows, cabinets, etc., or outside corners to get the paper to wrap around – you’d probably need to get out the heat gun and spend a bit of time on each such turn.

I used the chalk to color the edges of the dark wallcovering because it had been backed with white material, and also because the edges themselves were a bit burnished.

The faux grasscloth is by Thibaut, and I believe is in one of their new books highlighting textured materials. The home is in Oak Forest (Houston) and the interior designer is Stacie Cokinos of Cokinos Design. https://www.cokinosdesign.com/

From Fussy Victorian to Serene Home Office

February 10, 2019


Originally, this front bedroom in a 1925 bungalow in the Houston Heights was wallpapered in a dark green and red floral. It was lovely, and went beautifully with the home’s vintage vibe.

But the new homeowners (who have lived here many years, but are just now getting around to decorating this room) want to use this room as a home office, and they wanted something lighter and more modern. In the top photo, you see me stripping off this floral paper.

They were considering grasscloth, but, after reading my warnings about that product (see the page link to the right), they decided to avoid the color variations, staining, and fragility of that material, and instead went with a sort of faux grasscloth – this textured vinyl in a silvery grey color.

The color of the new paper goes perfectly with the gray paint on the woodwork. The paper has vertical lines in a striped pattern, as well as subtle horizontal shading that mimic real grasscloth, but in a more controlled and pleasing way. The commercial-grage vinyl is thick and durable, and will withstand bumps, splashes, and stains way better than most other types of wallcoverings.

On my end, though, the vinyl material was very difficult to work with. It is thick and stiff, and it is on an Osnaburg woven fabric backing, which is much like canvas. It takes a really sharp razor blade and a lot of strength to cut through it.

And because it is so thick, it’s very difficult to get it pressed up tightly against woodwork – so when you trim against the ceiling, doors, or baseboard, it’s very likely to get a gap that lets the wall behind it show. I have a special trim guide that makes a “fat cut,” which helps eliminate that gap.

Because the wallcovering is made of vinyl, it traps moisture behind it, so when the paste behind it dries, there is nowhere for the moisture to go, so you get off gassing – which is a nice way of saying that the paper “burps” and creates bubbles. I had to continually go back and chase bubbles out of the drying paper.

The design has a textured raised vertical stripe pattern. I had cut my first several strips with the intention to start hanging. Then I started measuring the wall, plotting the layout, and counting stripes. They were not laying out properly across the wall. After studying the paper’s pattern for a while, I realized that the stripes on the ends of the paper would not be spaced correctly – unless paper was trimmed off the edges of the wallpaper strips.

By removing 2.5″ from the edge, the stripes would be spaced correctly. I could trim this 2.5″ off, using my work table, a ruler, and my 6′ straightedge.

But the manufacturer’s trimming roller had left a slight beveled edge where it cut the paper. Since my hand-cut edge would be straight up, you would see an odd junction where my straight cut met against the manufacturer’s beveled cut at each seam.

So the only option for a very smooth seam was for me to trim some off both edges of the wallpaper. This worked out to 1.5″ off one side and 1″ off the other. Which was complicated further by the fact that some of the bolts of wallpaper were 1/4″ – 1/2″ narrower than others. So much for quality control at the factory!

But what this meant to me was that I had to carefully measure the width of each bolt of paper, compare that to the rhythm of the stripes crossing the paper horizontally, and determine how much to trim off each edge, in order to have the stripes be spaced correctly across the room.

In real life, most people are not going to notice a spacing difference of 1/2,” or even 1.” Especially in a room with very dim lighting and tons of shadows, and a pattern that is difficult to see in the first place.

But since I had to trim the paper’s edges anyway, it just made sense to trim it so that the spacing of the stripes fell as perfectly spaced as possible.

Try as hard as you may, hand-trimming wallpaper, especially thick, heavy, fabric-backed vinyl, is not as accurate as what they do at the factory. Thus there is always the potential for slight gaps or overlaps at the seams. With a thin paper, it’s possible to stretch and manipulate the material to make a good seam. But with this thick vinyl, I expected to see these gaps and overlaps. However, I was amazed that the vinyl was more malleable than expected – every single seam melted together perfectly.

Although the specs said that the trimmed paper would be 25″ – 26″ wide, by the time both edges were trimmed off and the stripes spaced as they should be, the paper was actually only 24″ wide (give or take an extra 1/4″ or so). Lose 2″ on each of eight strips going across a wide wall … and that can screw up your engineering of the wall and your plans of the number of strips needed and how many bolts of paper will be required.

All of this fiddlin’ and futzin’ took a lot of time, and I was only able to trim and hang paper on two walls each day. So, with prepping the walls and hanging the paper in this … it was something like a 16 single roll room… it took me a full three days. Which is what I had planned on, so we stayed right on schedule.

There was no brand name, so I don’t know the manufacturer, but the label said “JL 8008.” This commercial-grade paper is available in the 27″ width (which is what I can work with) or the wider 54″ (which is more for commercial settings). It was bought from my favorite source for good quality, product knowledge, expert service, and competitive price – 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.

Faux Grasscloth – Vinyl That Is Good In A Bathroom

December 29, 2018


Originally, this powder room in the Galleria / Tanglewood area of Houston had what I call a “ditzy” print on the walls – tiny little figures that repeated themselves all over the wallpaper like a zillion little dots lined up in rows. It was outdated and discolored, and didn’t fill the wall space well.

The new homeowner wanted something modern and serene, that would be durable in an area that’s exposed to water. This Bankun Raffia in a steely medium grey is perfect.

I am not a fan of real grasscloth (read the page to the right). Nor do I like solid vinyl wallpapers (see the page to the right “Stay Away From ….). But this is one vinyl paper of which I approve.

The vinyl surface is thick and embossed with texture, so it mimics the feel and look of real grasscloth. But it has none of the color variations and shading / paneling issues or visible seams that make the real stuff so disappointing. In fact, you can hardly find a seam.

The vinyl surface is a lot more resistant to water and stains than most any other type of wallcovering. And the woven fabric backing won’t absorb humidity and curl or delaminate like the lower-end paper backed vinyls will. And that fabric backing makes this product quite durable and strong, and resistant to tears (like you see when a home’s foundation shifts and the corners twist out of alignment).

In fact, this stuff is the same iron-tough material that is used in hotels and hospital corridors, and will withstand dings and bangs and can be cleaned easily.

Being thick and stiff, it is a bit difficult to work with, particularly when turning corners. But the benefits are worth it.

This wallpaper pattern is called Bankun Raffia. It is so popular, now it comes in more than 30 colors! It’s by Thibaut Designs, and was bought from my favorite source for good quality, product knowledge, expert service, and competitive price – 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.

After 30 Years, It’s Time for an Update

December 19, 2018


These homeowners were updating their 30-year old home in Sugarland. To the dining room and hallway, they added crown molding at the top and wainscoting with block-and-panel molding at the bottom. Fine moldings add a real touch of elegance.

But the wife has a bit of a renegade spirit, and really likes the new “industrial modern” decorating style. So it was time for the ’90’s era faux-finish wallpaper to go – along with the border which you can just see a tidbit of it peeking out from under the new crown molding.

The new wallcovering choice is a small “flame” textured vinyl in a steely grey/taupe/gold color. It perfectly pulls together the industrial modern light fixture and the classic paneling.

The cut edges of the textured vinyl, along with the sheen of the material, really reflect light and bounce it around the room.

Like most solid-colored wallcoverings with no pattern, with or without a texture, this selection was subject to some color differences between strips. The dining area with 5′ high walls went up with a very homogenous look. Ditto one wall of the 8′ high hallway to the right. But another wall in that same hallway showed some differences between strips.

To minimize these differences, I tried various things.

First, I made sure to hang each strip sequentially, as they came off the bolt. That would reduce color variations, if the ink had gotten lighter or darker as the printing process went on at the factory.

I colored the edges of the vinyl with chalk of a matching hue, so that if a “high” area of the textured vinyl butted up against a “low” area of the next strip, the white edges would be covered with a matching color.

Next I tried reversing every other strip. This means you hang one strip right-side-up, and the next one upside-down. This ensures that one edge of the paper is being hung against itself, so, if there is a color difference, it is gradual instead of abrupt. Difficult to explain, but it makes sense if your mind’s eye can follow it through.

Interestingly enough, reversing every other strip worked quite nicely on the dining room walls, as you see in the photo. But in the full-height walls to the right, reversing the strips resulted in paneling. So there I hung all the strips right-side-up – and it looked great.

But on the far wall, no matter if I hung right-side-up or reversed, you could see differences between the strips (last photo). I replaced one strip once, and another I replaced twice – but never really loved the way it turned out. On some of the other seams, even though I had colored the edges with chalk, the white vinyl still showed. At some point, you just have to say, “This is how the product is.”

This is also why you discuss this with the homeowner before starting the project – and hopefully before she makes her decision to purchase this product. In this case, the homeowner was originally looking at grasscloth – and that product would most likely have had much more noticeable color differences.

Lighting has a lot to do with it, too. Strong light, filtered light, incandescent or LED, light straight-on or light from an angle, all put their thumbprint on how the wallpaper looks.

This wallpaper pattern is by York (one of the homeowners is originally from York, Pensylvania!), and was bought from my favorite source for good quality, product knowledge, expert service, and competitive price – 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.