Posts Tagged ‘install’

Grasscloth Repair Today

April 14, 2021
Whoops! Somebody dropped a bottle of nail polish and look what happened!
Damaged area removed.
First approach – trimming replacement piece along horizontal grass reeds.
A better approach – splicing in the replacement piece. Blue plastic tape keeps paste off the paper on the wall.
Splice has been made, excess grasscloth and its paper backing below the splice have been removed, and I begin smoothing the patch into place.

The spliced area is undetectable.
Bottom is trimmed at the baseboard, push pins removed – done!

Good thing this family kept their scraps left over from the original install. They had a roll that had about two 8′ strips on it, plus a shorter piece that was maybe 4′ long.

Often, a repair means that you replace the whole wall, from corner to corner. For one thing, it eliminates the worries of color differences due to the existing paper fading from exposure to light over time. And the potential of buggering up one strip while removing the damaged strip next to it. And other issues like variables in the rate of expansion of wallpaper when it gets wet with paste, between what’s on the wall compared to the new replacement piece. Lots of factors.

Replacing the whole wall also would have eaten up all of the left over paper. I wanted then to keep that paper, in case something else happens down the road.

So I figured a way to use just 18″ or so of the shorter scrap they had left over.

First I took a razor blade and trimmed along a horizontal grass fiber, from the seam on the right, moving to the left and around the corner to where the paper meets the vanity. Then I peeled off the top layer, which was the grasscloth. That left the paper backing remaining on the wall.

I used a sponge to apply water to this backing, being very careful to touch only the paper and not the grasscloth that was to be left on the wall – water will stain grasscloth. After a while, the water reactivated the paste, and I was able to use my “dull” stiff 3″ putty knife to gently scrape the paper backing off the wall, making sure to get every bit that butted up to the grasscloth left on the wall, to be sure the replacement paper would sit flat against the wall and not on top of bumps of paper residue. All the while making sure to not damage the existing paper.

I cut a piece of replacement paper off the 4′ roll, cutting it a little longer than I might need, because I wasn’t sure if my first technique would work, and I wanted to avoid having to cut a whole new strip from that precious 4′ roll.

My first approach was to trim the replacement piece horizontally along the top reeds of grass. I hoped that this would butt up against the bottom of the strip on the wall. It did not. This is because the reeds of grass are uneven, and there were undulations between the top and bottom pieces that left gaps and overlaps between the two strips. (sorry, no photo)

I have used this technique successfully in the past. But that was with grasscloth that was coarser and had more distance between the reeds, so the eye would see the gaps as “normal.” Didn’t work with this finer textured grasscloth.

So my next option was to do a splice. What we in the trade call a double cut. A double cut will give you a perfectly fitted seam. But I try to avoid them, because there is the potential to score into the wall, which can cause an un-intact area that may delaminate over time, resulting in a “popped” seam.

(When hanging new wallpaper (not doing a repair to paper already adhered to the wall), it is possible to use polystyrene strips under the seam area to protect the wall when you make your cut. You can do a Search here to learn more about that.)

So a double cut was my best option. I had cut the replacement piece long enough that, after the failed attempt at butting the strips, I still had enough length to do the splice. I pasted the strip, let it book a few minutes to relax, and then unfolded it and ran a strip of blue plastic tape along the top edge. This tape will keep paste off the existing wallpaper. (Remember – grasscloth stains easily, and it’s difficult to wash, so it’s important to keep paste and other substances off of it.)

(The blue tape, and also the polystyrene strips and a lot of other cool tools, are available from fellow paperhanger Steve Boggess in Virginia. http://boggesspaperhangingtools.com/index.php )

Then I put the replacement strip in place, butting it up against the existing strip to the right, and overlapping the strip above it by about 3/4.” I used push pins to keep the strip from sliding. See 4th photo.

Next I took a single-edged razor blade and cut horizontally through both strips. Grasscloth is much thicker and harder than regular wallpaper, so I had to press hard to get through both layers – while still trying to not cut into the wall itself underneath.

Normally I would use a straightedge as a guide, but because the grass reeds are not straight themselves, I chose to free-hand the cut, following the horizontal line of one of the fibers of grass.

Once the cut was made, I removed the sections of paper that had been cut off. On the original piece that was already adhered to the wall, I had to pull off the grass, and then, once again, use my sponge and water to wet the remaining paper backing, reactivate the paste, and then carefully scrape that backing off the wall.

Once all that was done, as you see in the 5th photo, I peeled away the blue tape, and smoothed the two pieces together. They butted together perfectly!

The homeowner is going to paint over the little dabs of nail polish on the baseboard. (I told her I’d read her the riot act if she used remover or solvent and got any on that delicate grasscloth! 🙂 )

Bibliotheque Install Details, Pt I – Hand Trimming, Overlapping

March 18, 2020

Like many of the higher-end brands, this Brunschwig & Fils wallpaper had to have its selvedge edge trimmed off by hand. Unfortunately, they did not provide trim guide marks. Double unfortunately, I tried using the pattern as a guide, but, for a lot of reasons, this was a big fail – the edges looked like they had been trimmed with a hair curling iron. 😦

How, then, was I going to get good seams?

I was preparing to double cut (splice). But for many reasons, this was not presenting as a good option.

Then I got the idea to overlap. This turned out to be the perfect solution!

The edges of the “bookshelves” were not straight, so, instead of using my straightedge as a trim guide, I grabbed a new razor blade and free-handed my cuts along the design. (see top photo)

Then, after measuring, pasting, and booking my strips, I positioned them on the wall by overlapping one “shelf support” on top of the previous one. The second photo shows one strip being placed thusly.

Overlapping like this does leave a ridge under the wallpaper. But it is not very noticeable, especially since my design motifs were perfectly aligned.

What’s even cooler is that this overlap added a bit of 3-D to the room, which is what you would have if you had real wood and books in there.

Another advantage is that I could tweak the spacing if needed, to plumb up a strip that might have started going crooked.

Dining in the Meadow

August 26, 2018


Such a beautiful pattern really transformed this dining room in the Highland Village area of Houston.

The homeowner started out wanting the whole dining room papered, but the material (by Peter Fasano, called “Meadow”) is crazy expensive. So she toyed with the idea of papering just the fireplace wall. Then she decided to paper that fireplace wall, and also the mirror-image fireplace wall in the living room directly across the hallway.

But as we approached the install date, she decided that she wouldn’t be completely happy unless she had what she really wanted, which was her original vision for the room – all four walls.

Now she’s crazy happy. And her husband is happy, too – he likes the wallpapered look so much that he is ready to do another room. 🙂

From my point of view, this is one of the nicest papers I’ve ever worked with. It had to be hand-trimmed to remove the unprinted selvedge, and the trim marks were spot-on. The paper took the adhesive well, and it was easy to smooth into place. It would stretch when needed, and wrinkles of excess paper could be eliminated, which helped a lot when accommodating for unplumb walls. There was minimal shrinking as it dried. It is thin and hugs the wall tightly, and was easy to turn corners.

The design is a soft black line drawing on a slightly off-white pearlized background.

I Lost a Job Today

March 19, 2010

Wallpaper Installation in Houston

I lost a job today, due to price. Yes, it happens from time to time. But it puzzles me a little, and it concerns me, when people choose an installer seemingly based on price ONLY.

This job was for a room in a very nice home – valued at nearly a million dollars; with furnishings and accessories, the value is easily over a million.

You could safely assume that money was not an issue with this family. You would also logically assume that, in a home of this caliber, quality and perfection would be an expectation.

When I visited the home, measured, and presented my estimate for the job, as always, I took care to explain exactly how I would prepare the walls, why prep is important, the types of materials I use, and the care and attention to detail I employ when installing wallcoverings. I spent quite a bit of time at the home, consulting on colors and selections for several rooms, in addition to the wallpaper selection for the children’s bathroom.

Yet the client chose to use another installer, who supposedly said he would do the job for half my price.

Now, you have to wonder, HOW can he do the SAME job, for half the price? The answer is, he most likely is NOT providing the same work.

I’ll bet you that this other installer is not going to prep the walls as carefully as I would. In fact, I’ll bet you that he will not do ANY prep at all – and simply install the new paper right over the existing paper. This is a combination leading to disaster.

The thing is, usually such jobs LOOK good, at least, as I like to say, until the guy cashes her check. At some point down the road, and probably not too far, problems with improperly installed wallpaper will pop up.

Or, another scenerio, he may simply do a sloppy job, rushing through, or not bothering to remove paste from the surface of the paper, not using sharp razor blades – who knows what short cuts of sloppy techniques he might employ?

Well, chances are, I will never know, because it’s unlikely I will ever hear feedback as to how the job turned out. But I am left wondering – why, when money obviously is not in short supply, does a client make her decision based solely on price?

The Kind of Phone Call I LOVE to Get!!

March 17, 2010

I got a call from a woman yesterday, and I just had to save it on my answering machine.

She said something like, “We want you to come finish wallpapering our entry. My husband and I tried doing it ourselves. After just about all day, we got one strip up, it’s all twisted and shredded at the top, and we looked at it and decided we need to get a professional to come and do it correcty.”

I LOVE clients like that! They have tried it themselves, they know how hard it can be – or at least how much technical knowlege and proper materials are required – and are willing to pay a fair price to have someone make the job look good.

In this case, the wallpaper is grasscloth, and that’s a material that takes special know-how to install correctly. You need special very clear paste, sharp cutting blades, and must take great care not to soil the surface. Oh, and, my big crusade – proper wall prep with an oil-based primer.

Know Your Clients! Protocol

March 10, 2010

I had a potentially dicey situation yesterday.

I am currently working for a design firm, to paper a powder room in a nice home being updated for new occupants. I know the homeowners only as “the Joneses.”

The designer had asked me to also measure two other rooms, a second powder room and a laundry room on the second floor.

While I was getting set up to start, a woman came in and identified herself only as “Sue.” She asked me to be sure to measure the two additional rooms, and talked about her wallpaper selections, how quickly they could be shipped, and if they would arrive in time to be installed that same week.

I assumed she was a member of the design team. When she asked if I could recommend any places where she could find wallpaper, and especially stores with paper in-stock, I gave her my printed sheet that lists Wallpapers to Go http://www.wallpaperstogo.com/index.htm , which is about the only nearby place that still carries wallpaper in-stock, and also two other stores with which I deal frequently, Southwestern Paint http://southwesternpaint.com/ on Bissonnet and Sherwin Williams http://www.sherwin-williams.com/ in the Rice Village.

The woman also wanted to know how many rolls of paper she would need to buy. So I gave her my yellow sheet, which lists how many rolls are needed for each room, how many days to do the job, and my price for labor and materials.

BIG mistake!

Turns out the lady was NOT a designer, but the HOMEOWNER herself!

Now, when a contractor (such as me) is working for a designer, it is very important to learn their “ground rules” up front; how they like me to interact with the client. Some designers want the homeowner to pay me directly, and don’t mind if I talk freely with her. Other designers prefer that I keep communications with the homeowner to a minimum, not interfere with their decisions, not give my opinion on selections, and not discuss prices or payment. In these cases, when a designer is working with a client, she doesn’t want “meddling” to interfere with choices they have made. Also, since many designers add a mark-up to my installation fee, they prefer the client not be aware of this. Now, it’s perfectly all right for a designer to tack on a little, because, after all, this is how she earns her living, and a little commission on a sale is simply a way of doing that. They also like to deal with their own vendors, where they quite likely get a discount on the wallpaper, and then, frequently, do a markup on the price of the paper, earning a little more income the same way. This is all quite common in the design industry, perfectly acceptable, and should never be viewed as “cheating” or “gouging” the customer… It’s simply a way of making a living in a field that does not pay like a 9:00-5:00 job.

If you’ve read this far, you understand the goof I made. This particular designer had asked me NOT to discuss money with the client, and here I had gone and done just that Then I went a step further and even suggested other places where the client could purchase wallpaper. Some designers aren’t that touchy about this subject, but others can get quite upset, even angry. I certainly don’t want to upset the designer, nor do I wish to compromise either the relationship between the designer and her client, and especially not the relationship between the designer and ME… I very much want to continue to work with this design firm, and hope this one error hasn’t jeapordized that.

Wallpaper & Rich People

March 9, 2010

I attended the Azalea Trail yesterday, a home and garden tour in River Oaks, one of Houston’s (and the nation’s) wealthiest neighborhoods.

People say that “wallpaper is out of style.” Well, if the decor in homes of the well-to-do is any indication, that statement is FALSE!

EVERY house had either wallpaper or fauxed finishes in virtually every room, demonstrating that people feel more comfortable with at least a little pattern in their surroundings.

As soon as you entered one home, your eye was struck by the stunning two-story entry, with it’s wallpaper that looked like cut-stone blocks. (Oddly enough, I had installed that very same pattern, about 10 years ago, and even have a piece of it at home, because I contemplated putting it in my TV room at one time.)

A butler’s pantry had a large and bold blue and brown pattern on the walls, to complement the soft blue woodwork and cabinets. (Designers in these homes tend to like colored wood trim.) The installed had taken care to center the huge pattern on certain walls, and the effect was show-stopping.

A large 2-section powder room had a red and black Oriental paper on all surfaces – including the ceiling. (Interior designers in these grand homes also seem to love paper on the ceiling – I do not.) The paper was pretty, but the dark color on the ceiling was overwhelming, I felt.

A den was outfitted with grasscloth, which lent a warm textured feel to the room.

Many other rooms throughout the tour showcased wallpaper, from simple background textures to bold eye-stopping patterns and colors.

Oddly enough, I had done a bid at a home the day before, to quote prices for removing wallpaper from several rooms, and the homeowner had been on the same home tour. She commented, “Everyone keeps telling me that wallpaper is out, and that’s why I thought I wanted my paper removed. But I see that these expensive homes are covered with wallpaper.” I could see the wheels turning in her head… Hopefully she’ll consider installing paper again.

I think the seed has been sown!