Posts Tagged ‘humid’

Swirling Dragons and Swooshing Garments

May 25, 2019


OK, that’s a really dumb title. 😦 But every time I look at this restless dragon surrounded by roiling foliage and water, I think about the clothing tumbling in endless summer-saults in the washing machine in this room. Yes, this fun and mystical wallpaper is enhancing a laundry room.

The home is in the Rice University / Medical Center neighborhood of Houston. The wallpaper has bright shades of green-blue on a silver metallic background. It’s a non-woven material, and could be hung by the paste the wall method. Since this room had a lot of obstacles and weird angles and obstructions like non-removable shelving, I opted to paste-the-paper instead. This also rendered the material a lot more flexible and malleable, which was much appreciated, since the room had a lot of features that made it quite difficult to hang.

Normally, I wouldn’t be too crazy about wallpaper in a humid room like a laundry – especially since the air circulation is pretty poor. Humidity can cause wallpaper seams to let loose and curl. But because these newish non-wovens are made of natural and synthetic materials (such as fiberglass), they are more breathable, and thus shouldn’t present issues of curling seams or delaminating. They are also designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece, when it’s time to redecorate.

This wallpaper is made by York, one of my favorite companies, in their Dwell Studio Line. 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.

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Hoping to Rectify Failure (Humidity Causes Poor Seams)

August 24, 2018

Humidity is the great enemy of wallpaper. In addition, the lower-end, pre-pasted, solid-vinyl papers with the gritty manila paper backing are not a good choice, in my opinion, in any room, but particularly not humid rooms like bathrooms. This house on the beach with irregular climate control spelled double trouble.

This home on Pirate’s Beach on Galveston Island (south of Houston) was on the beach, so was exposed to lots of humidity. In addition, because the homeowners use it only sporadically, they turn the air conditioner off or set it to a run less while they are away. This means that the home fills up with humidity. And even when the A/C is running, air circulation in this room is poor.

Metal elements such as the light fixture and screws holding things into the walls were rusted. Mildew was found behind some sheets of wallpaper. And the wallpaper itself was curling at the seams – a result of the paper backing absorbing moisture from the air, expanding, and forcing the vinyl surface to curl backward at the seams. (Read more about this on the page to the right about vinyl wallcoverings.)

Another factor for the poor performance of the original vinyl wallpaper was that the walls had not been primed, but the installer put the vinyl paper on top of new drywall. And nothing was done around the shower to protect the paper from splashing water.

I stripped off the old vinyl wallpaper, washed the walls with bleach to kill the mildew, and primed with the penetrating sealer Gardz. Once the new paper was up, I ran caulk along the top of the vanity backsplash, and all along the shower and tub, to prevent splashed water from wicking up under the paper.

The new wallpaper is a thin non-woven material that is “breathable.” No wallpaper is going to hold up under very humid conditions. But this one has a much better chance of staying nice and flat for many years.

The new wallpaper is very similar in appearance to the original, and keeps with the beachy feel of the home. It is by Brewster, in their Chesapeake Bay collection, in the Easy Walls line, and is reasonably priced. It is a pre-pasted material. I did augment the manufacturer’s paste with a .

In the photos, the paper looks blotchy. That is because it is still wet; it will be nice and white when it’s finally dry. The drying time worries me, though, because after six hours, even some parts of the first strips were not dry. This is a real indicator that the room has some serious humidity and air circulation issues.

From Humid Houston to the Sunny Shores of the Mediterranean

August 22, 2018


If you’re stuck in the city but long for the warm shores of an exotic land, what do you do? How about using a scenic wallpaper mural to fool the eye into believing you’re in Paradise?

I hung this on a wall in a garage in inside-the-Loop Houston near Montrose and downtown. It will be surrounded by automobiles, bicycles, lawn equipment, and all manner of “garage stuff” – but, boy – what a view! The homeowners plan to have a big party later this year, and will use the decorated garage as an extended dining area.

This is the typical, old-school, 8-panel photo mural that has been popular for decades. After the “palm trees swaying over a tropical white sand beach” scene, Mediterranean themes like this are the most popular. But these days, you can get just about anything, even custom made from your own photos, and sized to fit your wall.

Most of these murals are 12′ wide by 9′ high, but this one was 13′ 8″ wide by 8′ 3″ high. It was smaller than the wall all-around, so I placed it more or less in the center, and also balanced on the stairs to the left (not pictured).

The mural comes in eight panels, and is hung with four panels across the top, and four across the bottom. Unlike regular wallpaper, where the seams are butted, these seams are overlapped by about 1/4″. The top photo shows just four of the panels (two top and two bottom), rolled up and laid out on the floor. It’s essential to plot and double-check like this, before you grab pieces and paste them and go to stick them to the wall.

These murals are printed on a somewhat flimsy, plain paper type material. They come with special powdered cellulose paste. I’ve always used the provided paste with these murals. But since this was going in a garage and would be exposed to heat and humidity, I wanted something a bit stronger. The instructions mentioned that, alternately, a traditional pre-mixed wallpaper adhesive could be used. So I used my go-to, Sure Stick Dynamite 780 paste.

The 780 is not as liquid as the cellulose, so it wetted-out the material differently from what I was accustomed to. It is also more aggressive, so it was a bit harder to unfold the booked sheets; too much tugging could cause the delicate paper to tear.

The cellulose paste always causes bubbling. (These disappear as the mural dries. But, still, they are unsettling.) I was happy that the pre-mixed paste did not produce any bubbles, and also allowed the paper to be more stable, with fewer wrinkles and waves. The paper did expand once it got wet with the paste, as much as a full inch per panel, so even with the 1/4″ overlap at seams, it ended up being nearly 14′ wide.

This is a paper mural, and not very durable. The homeowners plan to use a sealant, or perhaps will cover it with huge sheets of Plexiglas, to protect it. How it holds up in the humidity and heat of Houston remains to be seen. They had a similar mural (different scene) up for close to 10 years. I didn’t hang it originally, but I did some touch up and repaste a few years ago. Eventually, though, it succumbed to the elements and had to be removed. This time around, I’m hoping that my use of a wallpaper primer, along with a stronger paste, will help keep the mural nice and tight to the wall for many years to come.

Lower-End Vinyl Wallpaper is Bad Stuff

April 24, 2018


Pre-pasted, paper-backed, solid vinyl wallcoverings are economical, and they are often touted as “kitchen and bath papers,” because the vinyl surface is resistant to water and because it can be washed better than paper papers.

But these products often perform poorly, especially in rooms with humid conditions or where they may be splashed with water, such as bathrooms, kitchens, and laundry rooms. It’s very common for the seams to curl, as you see in the photo. In some cases, the seams never look good, even when the paper is newly hung.

The curling seams are caused, in my opinion, because the paper backing absorbs moisture from the air, or if water is splashed onto a backsplash and can be wicked up into the paper backing of the wallpaper. The paper expands, the vinyl doesn’t, causing it to curl back. Then the vinyl actually delaminates from the paper backing. This is not a “loose seam” and cannot be simply glued back down. The two layers of the product are coming apart, and cannot be repaired.

My advice – avoid these papers. Instead go for a paper paper, or one of the new non-woven papers. More info on choosing a quality paper in the “Beginning – General Info Pack” page to the right.

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.

What’s It Like to Wallpaper Behind a Washing Machine?

April 19, 2017

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Originally, this laundry room had the White Wall Woes – too much of nothing. Once the wallpaper went up, the room took on warmth and a cheery personality. The homeowner, an interior designer, loved the way the pattern made the low ceilings look higher. And the color perfectly melds with the color of the woodwork.

What’s it like to hang wallpaper in a laundry room when the washer & dryer are still in the room? Well, you do a lot of reaching, squeezing, and contorting. Luckily for me, I’m small.

Because my ladder would not fit behind the appliances, I had to stand on the W & D (being careful to distribute my weight to the frame, not the center). This worked out because the ceiling was low enough that I could reach the top of the wall by standing on the W & D.

That took care of the top of the strips of wallpaper. To smooth them into place along the lower portion of the wall, I had to squeeze myself into that narrow space you see in the third photo, and work around all those hoses and wires.

This is a very nicely remodeled bungalow in the Woodland Heights (Houston), with a 2-story addition on the back. This room was in the new section, and it had about the most plumb walls and level floors / ceilings I have worked with – all important when dealing with strong straight lines such as these picture frames.

Nonetheless, I did have to pull a few tricks out of my hat, to keep the pattern looking straight around the whole room and against all the moldings.

This wallpaper is by Sanderson, a British company, and is called “Picture Gallery.” It is on a non-woven substrate and is intended to be a paste-the-wall product, but in this room with complicated cuts and narrow spaces, it was preferable to paste the material.

The interior designer (and home owner) is Stacie Cokinos, of Cokinos Design. All of the jobs I have done for her have been remodels or new builds in the greater Heights area of Houston.

Interestingly enough, I’ve had a number of queries and jobs about wallpaper in laundry rooms. It must be a new trend. I think this newish non-woven material will work well in a humid room, whereas the paper-backed solid vinyls that were popular for decades are a poor choice, due to moisture getting into the seams and causing curling.

And you just have to love the idea of doing mundane housework in a cherry, pretty setting!

Rusted Drywall Corner Bead – Bad News for Wallpaper

March 28, 2017

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I have just stripped wallpaper off this wall. The outside corner of the drywall shows a lot of rust along the metal corner bead. This is fairly common in humid bathrooms, but in this case, the room is a kitchen.

This is a big problem, because rust will bleed through wallpaper (and paint, too), creating a stain on the surface of the new finish. Other materials can cause staining, too, such as grease, ink, smoke, water, wood sap (knot holes), crayon, lipstick, etc.

But it’s easy to fix. A good sealer / stain blocker will seal off the rust (or other staining agent) so it will not leach through the new decorating material.

I like oil-based KILZ Original (not latex). But it’s noxious stuff, and will make you high if you breath the fumes. I wear a chemical respirator when I apply it, and ventilate the room well.

There are other water-born products that are made to block stains that are not as likely to kill brain cells. 🙂 If you are interested in trying one of these, ask your paint store professional (meaning, a true paint store with knowledgeable staff, NOT a box store with rotating employees) for recommendations.

Water Stains on Wallpaper

March 21, 2017

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This wallpaper has been up for 10, and possibly as long as 20 years.

It is an uncoated paper wallpaper, probably the type that we call a British pulp. It is in a bathroom, and, over time, water splashing onto the backsplash (or possibly the housekeeper’s cleaning solution) has been wicked up by the paper, and caused the water stains you see here.

A paper with a thin vinyl coating, like most American papers have, might have held up a little better. Also, a thin bead of clear caulk along the top of the backsplash might have prevented water from getting into the cut edge of the paper and discoloring it.

There are good things to be seen here, too. Thin papers like this one (as opposed to paper-backed solid vinyl wallpapers), stay nice and tight to the wall, even in humid rooms like bathrooms, and even when water is splashed on them. Over all the years this wallpaper has been up, all of the seams are perfectly intact. And even though there is staining where water has gotten into the paper, the paper has stayed nice and tight against the wall and the backsplash. A paper-backed solid vinyl would have curled away from the wall, and would have looked much worse, and been impossible to repair.

Another reason to buy paper, and stay away from paper-backed solid vinyl.

Sweet Fairy Tale for a Baby Girl’s Bathroom

November 26, 2016
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This mother is crazy about her just-learning-to-walk daughter, and wanted to do something special for the little girl’s room, starting with the bathroom.

Originally, the mother was pretty sure she wanted pink and white stripes. On our initial consultation, I assured her that stripes are classic and safe. Then I encouraged her to explore more options – there is a whole world out there of wallpaper patterns suitable for children, from sweet little girls to raucous boys to patterns that will remain appropriate from toddlerhood through the teen years.

I am glad that she took my advice. And she is, too. In fact, she is positively thrilled with the soft color and sweet charm of this storybook wallpaper pattern. Look closely, and you will love it, too!

This wallpaper is in the Jane Churchill line, by Cowtan & Tout, a British company. The design features Winnie the Pooh and friends, and is called “One Hundred Acre Wood.” It comes in several colors, it is positively adorable, and, in fact, I have another client who is planning to use this same paper and colorway in a few weeks.

This wallpaper pattern is printed on what we call a British “pulp paper” stock, and will stay nice and tight to the wall, even under humid conditions. There is no vinyl coating, though, as with many American alternatives, so staining is a possablity. To prevent this, the homeowners must be careful not to touch the paper with their hands or splash water onto the paper while using the sink.

I hung this cute story book toile pattern in pink-on-white in a little girls’ bathroom in a newish home in River Oaks. This wallpaper is by Cowtan & Tout, and was bought at a discounted 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.

Traditional to Traditional – Bold to Subdued

March 31, 2016
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The colorful botanical / bird original wallpaper is a classic design and color, but the homeowners had grown tired of it. Plus, as you see in the second photo, some of the seams had begun to curl. This is common with paper-backed solid vinyl wallpapers, especially in humid rooms (like bathrooms) or rooms with no air vents (this bath had neither A/C vents nor an exhaust fan) and the big reason why I try to steer clients away from this material.

The next photos show the new wallpaper. Originally, the homeowner wanted a woven faux grasscloth, which she saw that I had installed in a friend’s bathroom. But she could not find a color that worked with the color of the tile in this Tanglewood area 1950’s ranch style home’s bathroom. This damask pattern turned out to coordinate perfectly! It also cloaks the walls in a little pattern, without being busy (because it contains only two soft colors), and adds more interest to the room than the faux grasscloth would have.

This wallpaper pattern is by Thibaut Designs, and was bought at a discounted price from Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or dorotasouthwestern@hotmail.com. Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.

This product was a paper-backed solid vinyl (read my comments above). It was thick and stiff and difficult to work with. The seams showed more than they should have, and there were edges of the paper that were warped by the plastic wrapper that never relaxed completely once the strip was pasted and applied to the wall, leaving slight waves at some seams. The material did not turn corners well, and I was never happy with any of the outside corners. There was also off-gassing, which is when a strip goes up and looks wonderful, but as it dries, moisture is trapped between the wall and the vinyl and has nowhere to go, so bubbles form under the paper.

Note to Self: Don’t let any other clients buy this product.