Posts Tagged ‘moisture’

Arts & Crafts Style Frieze in Heights Bungalow

January 21, 2023
Dining room before. This bungalow in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston is very true to the Arts & Crafts / Craftsman period. This style featured straight , clean lines , nature , and muted colors that mimicked those found in nature . The homeowner is a retired woodworker / carpenter and did much of the millwork you see here.
Done. The teal green is actually a little more muted than the photo shows.
From another angle.
Close-up. This wallpaper pattern is called Fir Tree .
A frieze is a wide wallpaper border , usually run around the middle or top of a room . The manufacturer is Bradbury & Bradbury . They specialize in period-inspired patterns from past eras, such as Victorian , Arts & Crafts , Oriental , Modern Age / Mid Century Modern , and more.
Bradbury prints on stock that’s about 28″ wide, and this border is about 13″ wide. So Bradbury prints two borders side-by-side , and then you need to use a straightedge and razor blade to cut them apart .
Although the border came about 13″ wide, the space between the beams was only about 11.5″ . So we were going to lose about 2″ . I consulted with the homeowner. He really wanted to see the copper metallic pine cones. We also felt the trunks of the trees were important design elements . We decided that the pattern could afford to lose more from the top , which would permit more of the tree trunks to show, all the while preserving those pine cones.
Here I am trimming 2″ off the top, so the overall height of the frieze is now 12″ . That will fill the space between the beams, and also allow a little bit to tuck down below the bottom beam (there is a gap between the wall and that beam).
The room was really dark , the wallpaper was dark , and my straightedge was casting a shadow where I needed to trim. So I grabbed my Big Larry flashlight from my toolbox and was able to see where to trim.
Bradbury uses inks that are quite delicate , and can be scratched or marred simply by brushing with my smoother brush , or my plastic trapezoid squeege smoother tool . Metal – like a trim guide or scissors – will also leave marks on it . Here I’ve wrapped tools in microfiber towels and baby socks , to soften contact with the wallpaper .
Bradbury inks and substrates can be finicky, and it’s important to use the paste recommended by the company for the particular colorway that you’re hanging . In this case, I had to use clay – based paste .
The inks and substrate aren’t always compatible , so when you add wet paste to the back , it can cause the substrate to absorb moisture and swell , while the inks on the surface are holding tight. This will result in wrinkles , warps , and bubbles on the surface . We call this quilting or waffling .
One trick is to lightly sponge clean water onto the inked surface. This will allow the surface to absorb moisture and expand hopefully at the same rate as the backing , hopefully eliminating wrinkles and bubbles .
On this install , I still had problems with uneven expansion . And with the paper drying out before I could get an entire strip up on the wall. So, while I was pasting the back, I also sprinkled a little water on the back and mixed it in with the paste . This did seem to even out moisture , and also help the material remain moist and workable during the installation .
In addition, I also had trouble with the edges of the paper drying out before I could get a full strip up on the wall. Part of this was because it’s winter time and the furnace was blowing hot air into the room and drying out the paper. My counter-attack was, again, to sprinkle a little water onto the back, to hydrate the material more. Also, once I had pasted a strip and rolled it up (see below), I dipped the edges into about 1/8″ of clean water. And then wrapped the pasted material in a plastic trash bag and allowed to book for a few minutes before hanging . This is standard procedure with wallpaper. Actually, what worked better was to paste, book, bag, and then just before hanging to dip the ends into water. This seemed to keep everything wet and workable better and longer.
Despite all this, some small bubbles did remain in the paper. As the paper dried, though, they flattened out.
When you book a strip of wallpaper, customarily you fold the top 1/3 down and the bottom 2/3 up. This keeps paste from smearing all over everything, and makes each strip shorter and easier to handle. And allows you to get the top section of the pattern lined up with that on the previous strip , before unfolding the bottom section and working that against the wall.
But it’s a little different handling a narrower border that’s maybe 12′-15′ long. What I do to make this manageable is to book the material in accordion pleats . See photo. Then I can unfold just a small section, work it into place, and then move along the strip, smoothing just a small section at a time against the wall.
Actually, with this install, I positioned my sections against the wall temporarily, to get the whole 15′ strip up there. And then went back and smoothed each section against the wall, working out bubbles and warps , and ensuring that the frieze was pressed tightly against the wall at both top and bottom .
There were four strips around the top of this dining room. On each strip I used a different install method. By the time I was done, I had learned how the material wanted to be treated.
The homeowners are in love with this period-authentic look for their vintage bungalow. The husband said it was like Christmas, because they had waited for so long to have this room completed, and now it’s finally finished and beautiful!

Whimsical Arabian Nights Dance in Powder Room

January 13, 2023
You’ve got to look at this close-up, to notice the antelope and flames / foliage .
You gotta make a decision … The light sconces (they are currently removed, but you can see the electrical boxes where they will be placed) were centered on the vanity top, but the faucet was off-center by about an inch. So I chose to center / balance the pattern on the sconces and countertop. The mirror will be hung between the two light fixtures, so we’ll end up with a pleasing, balanced look. The faucet isn’t exactly in the middle of the design motif, but no biggie – there’s going to be a mirror there, anyway.

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Corner going around shower. Note the window looking into the shower.
Although the website specs said this is a pre-trimmed non-woven material , that was incorrect. Turns out it had an unprinted selvedge edge that had to be trimmed off by hand . Here I’m using my straightedge and razor blade to remove this selvedge. This takes precision and a LOT of time .
The manufacturer usually provides trim guides to help you know where to cut. But it’s usually better to trim to the pattern – determine an element in the design motif that will meet up with the corresponding motif on the opposite side of the strip when the strips are hung on the wall, and use that as your guide . Be sure to trim off the trim guide marks, or they will show on the wall.
The pattern is called Arabian Nights and is by Relativity Textiles . I’ve never worked with this brand before. I was not pleased . In addition to the incorrect information about the pre-trimmed paper , the mfgr’s specs said this was printed on a non-woven substrate . It was not. It wasn’t even printed on standard wallpaper stock . Instead, it was a pulp material – This is a sort of old-fashioned wallpaper , and is very brittle and prone to tearing and dragging (your trimming knife or razor blade will get snagged and you’ll end up with a ” chewed ” jagged cut, instead of a crisp cut . It also tears easily. It also has no coating, so it’s not stain-resistant … Not good in a busy household with a 3-year old toddler , or anyone splashing water or soap or air freshener .
It was also difficult to hang . Applying wet paste to the backing causes the substrate to absorb moisture and expand at a different rate from the ink on the surface. So you end up with wrinkles , waffling , and quilting .
Sponging a light bit of water on the front before pasting helps even out the moisture differential and ease installation . I’ve never before encountered a pulp that had this type of ink on the surface. One clue for this bad stuff is when you open the package and it smells like moth balls . Once I figured out how to work with it, , it went OK – although tedious . The seams did look very nice.
BUT … all this effort would have been unnecessary and the finished room would be more durable if the mfgr had printed on a non-woven substrate (as their on-line specs stated) and had used standard inks instead of this weird , smelly , high-end stuff. In fact, the material would have cost the homeowners a whole lot less $ if it had been normal ink on a non-woven backing .
The home is in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston .
installer

Trick for Keeping Paste on Edges Wet and Workable

December 22, 2022

After you paste a strip of traditional wallpaper , it needs to be folded pasted-side-to-pasted-side and then set aside for a few minutes, so the paper can absorb the paste , expand , relax , etc. Preferable to place it in a black trash bag while this is going on, to help prevent it from drying out during this booking time .
But sometimes papers still dry out , particularly at the edges . The composition of the substrate , as well as the type of adhesive will come into play here.
And some papers just want to curl at the seams when they get wet with paste .
One trick to help curtail this is to paste the paper, book as usual, roll up gently, and then dip just the bottom 1/8″ of the edge into a bucket of clean water. This bit of water helps keep that paste damp and workable , and also encourages the wallpaper edges to curl toward the wall rather than away from it.
In today’s instance, because I was working with delicate paper and a contrary clay -based paste , I chose to dip the edges in water before pasting. This was my first time to try this method, and it worked great .
You do have to ensure that the water doesn’t wash the paste off the paper, or dilute it. Because you need that paste there to hold the paper against the wall!
Note: Do not do this with non-woven papers , which are also called paste the wall . Excessive moisture can cause staining .

From Dark and Dated to Light and Livable

December 17, 2022

Oh, my! – I hung lots of these chintz florals, ” satin ” look (the design of the dark green at the bottom of the wall), and dark colors back in the ’90’s . Sure enough – this home was built and wallpapered in 1994.
IIt’s still a good look, IMO, and the homeowner still likes it. But she’s just gotten tired of it. So – time for an update !
She also decided to eliminate the chair rail , so the new wallpaper will go ceiling to floor . Here you see some damage to the drywall where the chair rail molding was removed .
What a change! Now the room’s look is quiet and fresh .
The buffet , topped with a decorative mirror , will go on this wall . That’s why I centered the pattern in between the windows , so it will fall evenly on either side of the furnishings .
I also plotted so that a full “Moroccan lantern” (that’s what this style of trellis pattern is called), would balance out between the crown molding and the window molding. There were several of these 12.5″ high areas all around the room, so this placement of whole “lantern” motifs gave the room a pleasing look.
It also worked out that the lanterns were evenly placed and kept whole between the crown molding and the baseboard. See the second following photo to see what I’m talking about
As a note – just this one window wall took me about five hours to measure , calculate , and hang . Getting the pattern to go over, around, and under the two windows , and still line up and match correctly , took some time and futzing. The material was thick and stiff , and a bit tricky to fit into corners and trim around the decorative window molding .
In the foreground you see my work table area . The homeowner has let me put protective padding on her dining room table and then set my work table on that. This saves space and allows plenty of room for my ladder and other tools as I work around all four walls.
So that I could center the pattern on this wall , I had to start hanging my first strip in the middle of the wall. I was lucky this time, that the pattern was centered exactly on the edge of the wallpaper roll . Sometimes (as in the one I did yesterday – see previous post ) the center of the design motif is a to the right or left of the edge of the wallpaper . This, naturally, means you’ve got to do more measuring and plotting and double-checking , to be sure the center of the design falls down the center of the wall .
Back to the photo above … that dark block on the right side of my work table is my laser level. It’s shooting a perfectly plumb red line onto the wall. Here I’m lining up my first strip of paper butted against this red line .
Switch topics … Back in 1994, the original installer did a very nice job of hanging the wallpaper. But … he didn’t prime the new drywall first. That lack of primer / protective layer means that the wallpaper will actually bond to the drywall. I tried, but was unable to get the existing wallpaper off . Eventually, you need to factor in time , damage to the wall , paste residue left on the wall, and take a different tac if called for.
So I skim-floated over the seams , so they wouldn’t show under the new paper , and also floated over the damaged drywall where the chair rail had been removed . Sanded smooth , and then primed the patched areas as well as the original wallpaper, with Roman Ultra Prime Pro 977 . This stuff will adhere to the light acrylic (slick) surface of the original wallpaper, as well as protect it from moisture from my paste on the new wallpaper. ( Moisture could cause the underlying original wallpaper to expand , creating bubbles that will look bad, or loose areas that will pull away from the wall, creating a bubble or pocket.)
My primer is also lightly pigmented, so it helps block out the dark color and busy pattern of the original wallpaper . This particular new wallpaper is quite opaque , but not all of them are, so a pigmented primer is important , IMO .

Left corner of the buffet wall. Here you can see how the lantern motifs are placed between ceiling and floor.
The background has a lightly mottled effect, that mimics grasscloth a bit, and also adds more depth and warmth than just a plain solid color .
Been havin’ more than a fair share of defects lately, especially this week. This paper had on both front and back sides, incidences of these black flecks . They seemed to be maybe charcoal , so I wasn’t too worried about their black bleeding through to the surface , like ink or any oil-based substance will do.
Most of them were embedded in the material itself, so could not be wiped off , nor dug out with a razor blade . Some I had to cut around and discard the affected paper. Others were so small as to not be noticeable once the paper was up on the wall and all the furniture and artwork was back in the room.
There was also one 3′ section of wallpaper that had an odd streak or arc running across it. It wasn’t ink . It was more like some kind of compromise to the substrate . I noticed it was I was pasting the back of the paper . I turned it over and, sure enough, you could see it a little on the surface. (see photo in previous post) It’s the kind of thing that was subtle, but would catch your eye when looking at the wall from a distance . It was minor , but I discarded that strip . Good thing I have the homeowners purchase a little extra wallpaper .
The manufacturer is Designer Wallcoverings , which is a good quality brand (aside from the printing defects I described earlier ). It was a non-woven / paste the wall material , which is pretty user-friendly . It will strip off the wall easily and in one piece when you redecorate . Stain-resistant , and ” breathable ” in humid conditions .
The home is in the West University neighborhood of Houston . Dining room installer

REALLY Cheerful, Colorful Powder Room

November 3, 2022
Powder room before. Note the blue ceiling . I applied a white pigmented wallpaper primer ( Roman Pro 977 Ultra Prime ) to the walls .
Done! So cheery and fun and lively!
These flowers just make you smile when you walk in here!
Toilet corner before.
I’m grateful to the husband for removing the toilet tank, as well as the sink / vanity. This sure saved me a lot of time and squeezing into tight spots.
The red square in the back is wall area that was blocked by the toilet tank, so previous painters were not able to reach that area. It had a heavy sand texture on it, which I took a little extra time to skim-float and then sand smooth. Nobody’s going to see it, but it will help the wallpaper adhere better .
Toilet corner after. The corner you’re looking at was off-plumb by about 1/2″ from top to bottom, so there is a bit of a pattern mis-match as you get closer to the floor. Not a biggie with this wild pattern, plus it’s mostly hidden behind the toilet.
Hard to see, but the focus of the photo is an angled wall under the stairs .
The blue ceiling coordinates perfectly with the colors in the wallpaper .
This is by Rifle Paper , and is called Garden Party .
Every Rifle Paper I’ve hung previously has been on a non-woven substrate , and could be installed by the paste-the-wall method. The label said this was a PTW (see diagram of brush putting paste on the wall) … but it surprised me, because it was NOT! It was on a regular paper stock, and I’m betting it’s the same material that York prints its SureStrip line as well as the Spoonflower brand.
I assumed the directions and diagram were correct, so first I pasted the paper and then took it immediately to the wall, with no booking time. Lo and behold, I got bubbles on the wall.
This happens because the paper is absorbing moisture from the paste and expanding. With no way to escape being trapped between the paper and the wall, the moisture ” off gas es” and pushes away from the wall ,,, resulting in those bubbles.
My solution was to treat the material as a traditional pasted wallpaper. So I pasted the back, folded pasted-side-to-pasted-side (called booking ), and then placed it into a black plastic trash bag for a few minutes. This allows the paper to absorb moisture from the paste, expand, and relax , all before it goes onto the wall.
This is a pretty sure way to prevent the appearance of bubbles or blisters or wrinkles.
The townhome is in the Highland Village / Galleria area of Houston .

Sweet Toile Trellis For Baby Girl

October 5, 2022
Baby’s coming, so the nondescript tan walls in this this home office are about to make way for a nursery.
I love how one wall done contrasted against the plain painted wall shows how much more life and brightness wallpaper adds to the space.
Sweet, but not overly gooey , this pattern and simple two-tone colorway will grow with the child and be appropriate from infant to teen years.
Opposite corner.
Window wall.
Toile is a French word that describes a sort of pen & ink line drawing of one color on a simple background . Classic toiles are cherubs floating and shepherdesses playing flutes while lambs frolic in the meadow. But these days there are lots of themes, from seaside villages to Winnie the Pooh to the Cities series by Katie Kime (do a Search here to see more of that ).
This is a non-woven substrate with a lightly textured raised ink surface. It can be hung via the paste-the-wall method. But I usually prefer to paste the material , which worked nicely this time because the wallpaper was thick and stiff, and moisture from the paste softened it and made it much more pliable and workable .
This pattern is Rosalind Floral and it’s by McGee and Co. But I highly suspect that the actual manufacturer is York , one of my favorite brands.
This is a nicely renovated 1920’s home in the Heights neighborhood of Houston .
wallpaper installer

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.