Posts Tagged ‘humidity’

Trick in Hopes to Stave Off Popped Seams from a Crumbly Wall

April 3, 2019


The walls in this powder room in the West U neighborhood of Houston had had many treatments over it’s life, including paint, more paint, skim-floating, wallpaper, and more. Sometimes, and particularly if prep is not done properly, these various layers are not compatible, and won’t adhere to one another well.

When the old wallpaper was removed, this was clear at the seams, where the various layers of the wall had pulled apart, leaving ridges along the length of each seam. This happens because the wallpaper dries and pulls taught and creates tension on the wall; if the wall is unstable, the layers can be pulled apart (delaminate). Sorry, no pics of the “before,” but you can do a search here to see pics of other rooms. This condition can happen over time, as the house fills with humidity and the paper absorbs it, then dries and shrinks again.

I dug out the raised ridges and applied tape over them, sealed with Gardz, a penetrating sealer that dries hard. Then I skim-floated over all the walls, to create a smooth surface for the wallpaper. Sanded, wiped dust off with a damp sponge (nothing sticks to dust), and primed all walls with Gardz.

One good way to deal prevent this from happening again is to cross-line the walls with a special liner paper. This is a thin paper that is usually run horizontally before the actual decorative paper is hung. The idea is that if the new paper shrinks and applies tension, it will be distributed by the liner paper, and will not pull at the wall. If the liner shrinks and pulls, the tension is off-set by the decorative paper on top of it. So the two layers are working together to distribute any harmful tension on the wall surface.

Unfortunately, using liner adds a day of labor plus the cost of the material. The homeowner’s budget had already been busted by other factors, so she wanted to keep the job to one day. After collaborating with my colleagues in the Wallcovering Installers Association on our Facebook page, I decided to try this method:

From Office Max I got some plain old cash register tape. I plotted where each seam would fall, and used my laser level to guide placement of a floor-to-ceiling strip of the tape. I adhered it with regular wallpaper paste. At first, I worried that it would soak up moisture and bubble, but once it was smoothed into place, it laid down nice and flat.

Then I hung the wallpaper. The seams fell nicely on top of the tape, held tightly, and looked beautiful. There is the possibility of seeing a very slight ridge under the paper because of the thickness of the tape, but it’s very minimal because the tape is quite thin. And it’s much preferable to popped seams or delaminated walls.

The idea is that the tape will bridge the seam, and distribute tension from the drying paper across the width of the tape, keeping tension away from the wall itself. The tape is very thin, and doesn’t appear to have much tensile strength, but my buddies who have tried this method say it works well.

Time will tell, but I have a lot of confidence in this method.

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Before There Can Be Paper, There Shall Be Liner

March 13, 2019


Usually, a smooth wall coated with a good quality wallpaper-specific primer is the best surface on which to hang wallpaper.

But with certain papers, particularly high-end or delicate materials, or in certain room conditions (humidity), a liner paper is called for.

A liner is a thin paper, made of either non-woven or pulp, often called “blank stock,” which is hung on the wall before the decorative wallpaper goes up. It has a couple of jobs…

– provide a smooth “velvety” look
– “lock” the seams down quickly and tightly
– help tame papers that want to “waffle” or “quilt” – do a Search here to learn more
– wick moisture from the paste away from the paper, helping to reduce the chance of staining or blushing – do a Search here to learn more
– absorb moisture in humid areas (bathrooms) and help prevent seams from curling

There are “bridging liners” which are supposed to cover cracks, gaps, bumps, ridges, and the like. In my experience, they do NOT live up to their hype. Once the paste dries, they pull tightly against the wall, and any bumps or grooves will still show. If the wall has imperfections, the best solution is to skim-float the wall and sand smooth.

Hanging on liner paper is different from hanging on a primed wall. The liner grabs the paper so quickly that you don’t have the opportunity to manipulate seams or fine-tune areas that need special attention. And you won’t be able to reposition a strip even five minutes later. It does help reduce bubbles or wrinkles.

A liner will increase the cost of the job, usually by more than double. There is the cost of the material itself, as well as the labor to install it. The liner has to dry overnight, so you are looking at at least one day’s additional labor, plus the cost of the liner.

Longing for the Big Apple

January 20, 2019


Originally living in the heart of New York City, these homeowners “got a better offer” and moved to Houston. In a nicely updated 1925 bungalow in the Woodland Heights, life for these two has changed for the better – but the wife still reminisces over the view she had out her skyscraper office window back in NYC.

She found this really cool wallpaper design, which depicts hundreds and hundreds of New York buildings, from tall to gigantic, from the 1800’s to the 2000’s, with many styles of architecture tossed into the mix.

Where did this cool and sentimental wallpaper go? … In the laundry alcove. But it’s not tucked away in the rear of the house … this laundry room is in the main hall leading through the house – which means that this fun and sentimental wallpaper is on view every time anyone walks through the house.

This wallpaper is by York, in their Sure Strip line. It is a thin, easy to manipulate non-woven material, and is designed to strip off the wall easily and with minimal damage, when it’s time to redecorate. This is one of my favorite brands, because it’s easy to work with, doesn’t tear or crease, it doesn’t shrink and gap at the seams, it’s easy to remove, and it will stand up to humidity, such as will exist in a laundry room.

Mysterious Spot on Wallpaper – Air Borne Substances

January 3, 2019


If you look closely, you will see tiny tan dots all over this wallpaper. This is a paper wallpaper with a very light acrylic coating, that was installed maybe 30 years ago. The installer did a very good job – although he did not remove the previous layers (2!) of wallpaper backings, and did not use a primer.

I see spots like this almost exclusively in bathrooms – where you have enclosed spaces, toiletries, and humidity.

Since these dots are most prevalent around the upper areas of the room, I think they are stains from air-borne substances. However, an alternate theory is that they could be stains leaching through from the tan backing paper that was left on the wall, or possibly from the clay-based paste that was used for the installation.

Epounding:

My theory of air-borne substances is that if you spray something into the air, such as hair spray, air freshener, deodorant, or even onto a surface, such as glass cleaner, some of the substance becomes air-borne, hangs in the air, and eventually will come to rest on the walls. This results in perfectly round little specks on the walls. (See the Page to the right, “Care and Feeding of Your New Wallpaper.”

The stains could even be coming from cooking oils that splattered into the air, got sucked through the A/C ducts, and expelled into the bathroom.

Since this paper has just a light acrylic coating and no durable protective vinyl coating, most any substance floating around in the air would be able to land on the paper and penetrate into it, leaving these spots.

Don’t get me wrong – I MUCH prefer these thin acrylic-coated papers over thick vinyls and non-wovens. You just need to take appropriate steps to protect them.

Moving on…

Another possibility is because the installer didn’t remove the previous layer(s) of manila-type paper backing left from the original wallpaper installation(s), nor did he use a primer or sealer, it’s possible that chemicals from the old tan paper backing are leaching through onto the new wallpaper.

This is why art framers recommend acid-free mats and framing techniques. The same are available for wallpaper installations – but we’re getting into some pretty high-end topics now…

Getting back to our bathroom in Tanglewood (Houston).

Another very possible cause is the clay-based paste that was used to hang the wallpaper. I have seen many, many times, a “dirty,” tan discoloration coming through from underneath the paper, which I firmly believe is coming from the tan-colored clay-based paste that many installers like to use. I have many instances validating this theory.

The only discrepancy is that stains from the paste working their way through the wallpaper would not manifest as tiny, perfectly round specks, but as more generalized, mottled areas. Unless, the composition of the wallpaper included teensy dots in the paper fibers, intended to allow for porousity. Or humidity in the room forms miniscule droplets which land on the wall and then wick the tan paste up through the wallpaper. Which sounds reasonable to me. In fact, I like this theory a lot. And I really DISlike clay-based paste.

A final idea is that the wallpaper is just old. After 30 years on the wall, materials are bound to break down, humidity will take a toll, and it will be time for a change to a fresh new look.

Bottom line: Remove old wallpaper, properly seal and prime the walls, avoid clay-based pastes and instead use a clear wallpaper adhesive.

Check back tomorrow for more!

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.

Loose Wallpaper; Wall Layers Delaminating

November 15, 2018


Look closely between the seam of the wallpaper in the top photo. You can see little crumbly things. In the second photo, the issue is even more pronounced.

This is in the upstairs bathroom of a 1950 house in central Houston. Over time, compounded by humidity, poor air circulation, poor air conditioning / heating, and possible influences from the outdoors, various layers inside the wall have let loose of one another.

What are these layers? Originally the walls were probably painted with oil-based paint. Over the years, layers of latex paint, gloss paint, joint compound, and etc. were piled on, probably without proper prep between coats.

Some of these materials are not compatible with one another, and, over time and with stressers like humidity, they can let go of one another.

If just the wallpaper has come loose, as in the second photo, it can be pasted and readhered. But when the wall itself is coming apart, there is no fix, other than to scrap everything down to the original drywall (huge mess) or go over everything with 1/4″ drywall.

In this case, the homeowner had me repaste the few loose areas of paper, and then chose to live with the other visible cracks, chalking it up to an old house full of character and quirks.

Low End Wallpaper – Not So Bad This Time

October 12, 2018


I’ve said it before – these budget-friendly, pre-pasted, manila paper-baked solid vinyl wallpaper products are generally not good quality, and the Norwall brand is about at the bottom of the list. In fact, I often will decline to hang it. Do a Search here on those terms, or click the Page to the right “Stay Away From … ” for more info.

However, this homeowner, a Meyerland neighborhood (Houston) victim of the Hurricane Harvey flooding, and a client for whom I had worked back in the ’90’s, really loved the pattern, as well as the price-point. And she wanted her entry to look as it had before the flood ravaged her home.

I was pleasantly surprised. The paper went up OK, and the seams looked fine. It’s possible that the company has improved its product. But it’s more likely that my new installation method helped.

Instead of following the manufacturer’s instructions to run the paper through a water tray, which makes the material too wet and promotes bubbling, and instead of pasting the back of the paper, which turns it into a gummy mess, I tried something new. I used a spray bottle to lightly spritz fresh water onto the back; this activated the paste, but was not so much water that it would cause bubbling or seam curling or over-expansion of the material. I booked the paper and put it in a black trash bag to sit a few minutes.

Next I rolled paste onto the wall. I started out using a very faint coat, but found that a tad more worked better. I used a brush to cut the paste into the edges and around the floor and ceiling.

When I took the very slightly dampened paper to the wall and smoothed it against the lightly pasted surface, it adhered very nicely. It was pretty easy to smooth into position, although there was some twisting of some strips, which could have been a problem in a room that required more strips next to one another.

Usually these inexpensive vinyl papers grow bubbles, because, as they dry, there is nowhere for the moisture to go (because it can’t pass through the vinyl surface), so blisters form. But today was very little bubbling.

Best of all, the seams looked good. I didn’t get any of the raised edges that are so unattractive, and that allow moisture / humidity to penetrate and cause the backing to swell and pull away from the wall.

I am not saying that I was happy with this paper. But it was a lot better than I expected. And I hope that it will continue to look good for years to come.

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.

Covering an Air Vent

July 13, 2018

Digital Image


I really don’t want to make this post, because I don’t want people thinking that I can / will cover air vents. Because I don’t like doing them. But sometimes the homeowner wants it, and sometimes it really is the best look for the room.

For one thing, they are simply difficult to do – cutting around tiny spaces and narrow louvers set at weird angles.

But other factors come into play, too – Finding the right adhesive to adhere to plastic or metal vents. Finding an adhesive that will weather humidity and temperature changes, as well as on-again / off-again air flow. Is the wallpaper thin enough and pliable enough to meld to the multiple angles of the vent?

This vent took the better part of an hour to cover.

Humidity from Shower & Bathtub Loosening Paper

July 5, 2018

Digital Image

Digital Image

The homeowner said I put this paper up about 20 years ago. It is what we call a British pulp paper – paper, not vinyl and not vinyl coated. In a few areas near the ceiling, the paper has started to pull away from the wall. It was only over the shower and tub areas. What does that tell you? Yes, humidity is the great enemy of wallpaper. Especially when you have teenagers taking steamy, hour-long showers.

This was pretty easily fixed, by repasting the wall behind the loose areas, and then smoothing the paper back into place.