Posts Tagged ‘moisture’

Let’s Blame It On The Paperhanger

August 27, 2022
Obviously, this manufacturer has had complaints about their product. So they’ve come up with a CYA paragraph(s) designed to throw blame onto the wallpaper installer.
Only thing is, most all of the above points they are trying to dodge ARE the fault / responsibility of the manufacturer – NOT the paperhanger .
Gaps: poorly trimmed paper at the factory, possibly due to dull or wobbly trim rollers .
Raised edges: poorly trimmed edges, or incompatible inks and substrates.
Blisters: Usually due to off-gassing due to surfaces that don’t breathe and therefor trap moisture. Or to inks and substrates that are incompatible. … The substrate absorbs moisture from the paste and stretches , but the inks do not, resulting in wrinkles , warps , waffling , and / or quilting .
But, hey – instead of doing some research and product development to improve our wallpaper , let’s just blame it on the paperhanger .

Heavily-Inked Papers Need Extra Moisture

August 13, 2022
Something smells like moth balls ! Some high-end hand screened wallpapers are printed with what we call stinky inks . These inks often fight with the substrate they’re printed on. The backing of the wallpaper will absorb moisture from the paste and expand , but the ink on the surface won’t, so you end up with what we call waffling or quilting . Wrinkles in the wallpaper in between the printed inked areas. Do a Search here to see photos and read more about this.
You can reduce or eliminate this by evening out the moisture between front and back. It’s as simple as taking a very lightly damp sponge and wiping the front printed surface of the wallpaper. Then paste the back as normal , book (fold pasted side to pasted side), roll up, place in black trash bag for a few minutes.
Now the wallpaper should be relaxed , and the wrinkles should be evened out . Now you’re ready to hang wallpaper !
This pattern is called Les Touches and is by Brunschwig & Fils , a higher-end designer type brand .

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 .

Making the Best of Plumbing Problems

May 22, 2022
OK, so this master bathroom suffered a water leak, and the plumber had to cut through the drywall in the potty room in order to access the shower fixtures.
Here the contractor has replaced the cut-out piece of Sheetrock. He did a really nice job. For the most part. Of course, he didn’t bother to remove the wallpaper before doing his repairs. This is vinyl paper (thick, slick, slippery, backing absorbs moisture) and really should have been removed first.
But I was able to work around the patched-in area.
The prep for this small room was a lot more involved than I anticipated, and required an extra day. Too complicated to get into, but there were two layers of wallpaper, and no primer by either of the previous installers. Original install dates back to the ’80’s. It took me a day and a half just to do the prep on this small commode room.
The room finished. Note the stripes centered nicely on that back wall.
The pattern and material were chosen to coordinate with the green stripes in the main area of the master bathroom.
Kill point (final corner) over the door. I “shrank” some sections in order to get even widths and maintain the pattern repeat and match.
The plumbing problem also damaged an area on this wall outside the water closet. So this area around the door needed to be replaced. The homeowners didn’t have any left over paper, so they chose something similar in color, style, and composition to the green striped paper you see to the right.
Here is that transition door wall finished.

We decided to use the stripe to define the ‘break’ between the two patterns.
The alternative would have been placing the stripe against the door molding … but I felt that would be too repetitive, plus it would have left a cut-off section of flowers running along the side of the green stripe, and same on the opposite side of the door frame.
And, yes, the wall definitely is not straight, square, or plumb.
And here is that opposite side of the door frame, with the stripe running nicely along the shower tile.
Some overlapping was involved in this job. Since the wallpaper is vinyl, and vinyl is slick, you need a special paste to be able to grab ahold of the glossy surface. These days, I sure don’t use often border paste, also sometimes called VOV or Vinyl Over Vinyl . But I was mighty glad to find this 10+ year old container deep in the bowels of my van. Still fresh and sticky, too!
Besides borders not being popular today, these “satin” and “silk” look wallpapers are not very common. But this is exactly what the homeowners were looking for, to coordinate with the existing, 30-year-old paper in their master bath. Saved them having to replace all the wallpaper in both rooms!
This paper is very economical, too. The couple shopped with Dorota at the Sherwin-Williams in the Rice Village, and she was able to track down the perfect material, pattern, and color.
Now, aside from all the positive things I just said about this paper in this current application, I do want to make clear that I am not at all fond of this type material. Without getting into a long schpiel here, please click and read the page link to the right “Stay Away From Pre-Pasted Paper-Backed Solid Vinyl …. ”
I will also add that I’ve developed a technique to work with these materials, and so far the installs, including today’s, have been going nicely.
One double roll bolt had some of these blue mark printing defects running through about half of it. Luckily, most of these were on a section of paper that was cut off in order to turn a corner, so was discarded and not put on the wall.
Exclusive Wallcoverings is the manufacturer. Usually I work with their non-woven or traditional paper products, which are quite nice.
The home is in the West University area of Houston.

Wallpaper Woes in Chinese Restaurant

April 10, 2022
While waiting for my order to be ready, I couldn’t help but notice problems ….
Wallpaper starting to curl at the seams.
Wallpaper twisting in corners as the building shifts and drywall moves. This is pretty common in Houston.
Other signs of poorly maintained building and/or climate control issues.
Seam curling back. I believe this to be a lower-end solid vinyl wallpaper on a gritty paper backing – one of my least preferred types.
When the walls are not prepared correctly, and the paper is not hung properly, and when there is a lot of humidity (door left open, steam from kitchen getting into waiting area, A/C not running or turned off at night), humidity can enter into the seams and be wicked up by the paper backing. The paper expands and pushes away from the wall, causing the edges of the wallpaper to curl back.
The next step is that the vinyl surface can actually delaminate (come apart) from the paper backing. This is pretty impossible to repair.
At the very bottom, you can see the vinyl separating from the paper backing.
The wallpaper has been wrapped around this outside corner, and a new piece of paper overlapped on top of it. When this is done, with vinyl material, you’re supposed to use special vinyl-over-vinyl ( VOV ) adhesive, because regular wallpaper paste isn’t formulated to adhere to vinyl / plastic .
But even if the installer had used the correct adhesive, under humid conditions or with improper wall prep, the odds are that this wallpaper job will start to fail.
Also note dirt along the ceiling, and along the chair rail in the previous photo. General lack of maintenance and I am really suspecting lack of climate control.
The black smudges appear to be mildew coming from underneath the paper. Again, probably related to humidity.
Vinyl wallpaper is a sheet of plastic, and moisture can be trapped behind it. That can be a breeding ground for mold and mildew.
So why use vinyl wallpaper? Mainly because the surface is much more washable than most other types of wallpaper. In a business, washability is attractive.
But these property owners chose a low-end vinyl product, most likely skipped proper wall prep such as a wallpaper primer, and have not provided a hospitable environment for the paper.
There are other vinyl wallcoverings that would have held up better. For instance, vinyl on a scrim ( woven fabric ) backing, or the newer backing called non-woven , which has a 20% polyester content, and therefore less likely to wick up humidity.

Activating Adhesive on Pre-Pasted Mural Wallpaper

March 20, 2022
Mural panels standing on edge are cut, sequenced, staged, and ready to be pasted.
The panel lying on the floor will be my last strip, and will need to be measured and trimmed narrower before it’s ready to be pasted or hung.
I use several different methods to paste pre-pasted wallpaper, and you can do a Search here to read more.
But for today, I’m using the tried-and-true historic method of running the strip quickly through a water tray .
At the top of the photo, several strips have already been submerged and pulled through the water, then folded pasted-side-to-pasted-side. This is called booking .
Booking allows the adhesive on the back of the wallpaper to absorb the water and become activated. And it allows the wallpaper substrate to absorb moisture, expand, and then contract a little.
This method can sometimes get the material a little too wet, which can lead to over-expansion and then bubbles on the wall. That’s why I’ve placed the booked strips at a slant and over the bucket – so excess water can drain off.
Usually I paste and book one strip and then paste and book the next strip. While I’m hanging one, the second one is booking and waiting its turn to be hung. But with this water tray method and certain brands of pre-pasted material, such as Anewall , York , or Sure Strip , the paper sometimes gets so wet that it needs more time to dry before attempting to hang. So I’m pasting more strips at a time, so they can be drying out a bit while I hang the first strips.
There’s a bit of a risk to this, which is the potential for the paper to over-expand as it sits wet waiting to be hung. Then once it’s on the wall and starts to dry, it can shrink. All wallpaper shrinks when it dries. But if it has expanded too much, then when it dries and shrinks, you can be left with small gaps at the seams. Again, gaps are common with all wallpapers (most all), but can be exaggerated when dealing with over-saturated pre-pasted material as it shrinks.
Back to the method … You see the water tray, filled 3/4 full with clean water. I’ve set it on towels, which are in turn set on top of a thick plastic clear shower curtain. And that’s on top of my usual dropcloths, which are absorbent on the top (blue) side and water-proof on the underside. All this keeps any splashed water from getting onto the clients’ floors.
I also sometimes set the water tray in a bathtub, with towels set over the edge of the tub and on the floor.

Starting to Smooth a Textured Wall

March 2, 2022
This is a typical wall texture provided by many builders of new tract homes in the suburbs of Houston.
Wallpaper doesn’t look good hung over this texture, because the bumps will show through. And the high-and-low ridges and dips interfere with good adhesion to the wall. So this accent wall will need to be skim-floated to smooth it before the wallpaper can go up.
In addition, this wall started out with a semi-gloss paint. I worry about my materials being able to stick to a glossy surface.
So, before applying the smoothing compound, I am priming the wall with something that will stick to the gloss paint, as well as provide a matt finish for the smoothing compound to adhere to.
I’ve discovered that my favorite wallpaper primer also works great for this purpose. It sticks to just about anything, and dries almost dead-flat. I like Roman Pro 977 Ultra Prime.
I use a trowel (top) to spread on the smoothing compound. The 3″ stiff putty knife is used to knock off big-ish chunks on the wall, or bits of grit. I use the 1 1/2″ flexible putty knife to apply the smoothing compound in tight spots like around electrical outlets or between a door molding and a wall corner.
The smoothing compound I use is drywall joint compound, and I like the Sheetrock brand Plus 3 version. Search hear (upper right) to see previous posts with photos of this material.
Bottom of photo – trowel sticking to the wall shows you just how tacky this stuff is. Above that are blobs of the smoothing compound waiting to be spread around, and a little bit on the left initially smoothed onto the wall. At the top of the wall you see a section that I have already covered with the smoothing compound. This will dry overnight, and I will sand it smooth tomorrow.
Sometimes I can float a wall, get it to dry, sand it smooth, prime, and hang the paper all in one day. But this texture is so heavy that more time is required for it to dry, so it will need an overnight sit. Some fans, plus the home’s heat and/or air conditioning help to pull moisture out of the smoothing compound and hasten dry time.

Secrete Weapon for Drying Smoothing Compound

January 25, 2022

Walls need to be smooth before wallpaper can go up, both for good appearance and good adhesion. Once troweled on, the smoothing / joint compound takes a while to dry. I use fans to speed that along.

But in a small room like a powder room, this space heater really helps a lot. I close the door and let this thing run for a while. It will heat up the area quickly. The warmed air holds moisture well, and actually pulls the moisture out of the smoothing compound.

Once the air in the room is hot and humid, I’ll shut off the heater and open the door. I turn on the exhaust fan to pull, and then set a fan in the doorway blowing outside air into the room, exchanging damp air for fresh, dry air. This works amazingly well.

I keep my smaller fans running inside the room along with the heater. But my more powerful floor fan – I’ve learned the hard way that operating that and the heater at the same time will trip the electrical circuit. So it’s a juggling act between those two very useful tools.

I really like this heater, because it’s older and doesn’t have all those safety features that cause them to shut off when you want them to be on. But don’t worry – it still will stop if tipped over, and when the room gets to the set temperature, it will turn off.

Fixing Drywall Damage From Where Vanity Was Removed

January 20, 2022
The powder room in this 1990’s home in the Houston Heights is being updated, and that means replacing the wall-to-wall vanity. Here the vanity has been ripped out. The areas where the backsplash was adhered to the wall have pulled the top surface of the drywall off. In addition, the plumber had to cut out a section of drywall in order to gain access to the pipes, so he can install the new faucet and handles. You can see the connections roughed in.
You can’t hang wallpaper over this mess. First of all, it way too uneven – all those bumps will show under the new wallpaper. And the outline of the ” trapdoor ” will leave a big square ridge under the paper. Thankfully, the plumber secured the panel with drywall screws – most plumbers just leave you with a chunk of drywall floating in space, or even just an empty hole.
Back to patching issues … in addition, the torn areas of drywall will absorb moisture from the wallpaper primer and / or paste and expand, creating bubbles that will show under the new paper.
I needed to fill in dips and gouges, even out high areas, and prevent bubbling drywall.
Gardz by Zinsser to the rescue! This is a penetrating sealer that soaks into porous surfaces and then dries hard, binding them together and creating a stable surface, as well as resisting moisture from water-based top coatings.
This picture doesn’t look much different, but here the torn drywall is a little darker, indicating that the Gardz has soaked in and dried. The surface is now ready for a skim-coat.
But first, the trap door needs to be addressed. I covered the cut areas with four strips of self-adhesive mesh drywall tape (no photo).
Then I went over everything (wall to wall) with joint compound (commonly referred to as mud ) (no photo).
Because of the thickness of the high and low areas, this had to be a thick coat of smoothing compound, and would take a long time to dry. So I went to the jobsite two days ahead of our install date, to do these initial repairs.
And – no – you can’t use quick set or hot mud or 5 or 20 minute mud to do these repairs. These products are intended for repairs of small areas. Top coatings like primers, paint, and wallpaper paste do not stick well to them. Don’t let a contractor sweet-talk you into letting him use any of these to smooth a large area of wall.
Here is the wall after my first, heavy, coat of smoothing compound. I use Sheetrock brand’s Plus 3.
The bubbles you see just left of center show that Gardz didn’t 100% do its job of sealing out moisture, as a little expansion and blistering has occurred. Not a biggie. These will disappear when the surface is sanded. There is usually not a problem with these re-appearing.
When I got to work two days later, the smoothing compound had dried. I sanded pretty smooth. Then vacuumed up the dust on the floor, and then used a damp sponge to wipe residual dust off the wall. This is important, because no coating will stick to dust.
The wall still wasn’t perfectly smooth, so I did another skim-coat. This was much thinner, so didn’t need a lot of time to dry. I used a fan and my heat gun to speed things along.
Once that was dry, I sanded it smooth, vacuumed and then wiped off all dust. Then rolled on my favorite wallpaper primer Roman Pro 977 Ultra Prime. I have the paint store (Murphy Brothers in central Houston) add a little blue tint, so I can see it when I apply it to the wall.
What a transformation! Now this wall is ready for wallpaper!

Strange Bubbles in Drying Wallpaper

September 21, 2021
Air bubbles appearing as this wallpaper dries.
Smoothing brush, and plastic smoother.

It’s not uncommon for vinyl wallcoverings to develop bubbles as the paste dries. This is called “off gassing” and it happens because the vinyl is impenetrable and there is nowhere for air to escape.

But these days, most paper products – such as this one – allow air to pass through, and dry nice and flat with no bubbles or blisters.

One thing to keep in mind is, virtually always, these bubbles will disappear as moisture evaporates and the the paper and paste dry and shrink taught. So the less fiddling you do with it, the better. (And exception would be large bubbles, which should be addressed.)

One way to treat bubbles is to chase them out toward a seam, using a tool such as the plastic smoother. You can also use a pin or razor blade to poke a tiny hole in the paper to let the air escape. It helps to do this in a part of the pattern, and not in an unprinted area, to disguise the hole.

I also like to understand why something like this happens. If you know what caused it, you have a chance of preventing it the next time.

I primed the wall with my usual primer, so I don’t think there would be issues with moisture being trapped between the primer and the wallpaper. But then again, you never know what is inside the wall – many walls have been painted multiple times, and some layers may not be compatible.

Another cause could be the plastic scraper. The bristled smoothing brush uses a more gentle action to push the paper into place. The scraper could actually overwork and stretch the paper. In fact, if you use the scraper to try to push bubbles out to a seam, you end up creating more bubbles.

I use the plastic smoother mostly for seams, and not so much for smoothing a full strip into place. But it’s possible that I used it more than usual this time, and stretched the paper, creating conditions for the bubbles to form. In fact, on one strip, I gently pulled the bottom portion away from the wall and then put it back in place, but making sure to use only the bristle brush. This did eliminate the bubbles.

But, again, if you just wait it out until the paper becomes thoroughly dry, nine times out of ten, all the bubbles will be gone by morning.