Posts Tagged ‘mud’

Smoothing Over A Mess

August 3, 2022
This kind homeowner had the sink / vanity in this powder room removed. This makes it a LOT easier and faster for me to to get the wallpaper up, and with less stress on the paper and fewer relief cuts .
Removing a sink that’s attached to the wall often damages the surface. Here you can see how the workman used spackle compound to cover the torn drywall and other damage.

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Close-up. This isn’t a very smooth surface, and the wallpaper will have a hard time grabbing ahold and adhering. It’s also way too porous and crumbly to support wallpaper.
In the top photo, you see where I have applied smoothing compound on the upper portion of the wall. I’m working my way down.
Once it’s dry, I will sand and prime it, and it will be nice and smooth.
Here’s a shot of the fresh smoothing compound, before sanding.
Some people use a drywall taping knife or a broad knife to apply the plaster-like substance. I prefer the trowel you see in the photo, because it gives me more control and precision.
The 2″ flexible putty knife is for getting into smaller areas. The 3″ stiff ” Hyde ” putty knife is for knocking off high points or bumps on the wall before applying the smoothing compound.
This process is called skim-floating or skim-coating .
I like to use the Plus 3 lightweight joint compound made by Sheetrock . We just refer to it as mud . Find it in the drywall aisle.
The Plus 3 spreads on easily enough, sands easily , and the dust falls to the floor where it can be vacuumed up easily – as opposed to getting air-borne and drifting all over the place.
This box, which is approximately one cubic foot , weights 32 pounds . Ugh. Try carrying that across a parking lot and then up to the third floor of a townhome!
I like to transfer the material to a 5-gallon bucket. This is what it looks like in the bottom of the bucket.
Easy to scoop out. When I’m finished, I use a wet hand to smooth down the surface, wipe residue off the sides of the bucket, then place a thick sheet of plastic over the surface to keep air from drying it out. Then, of course, I put the lid onto the bucket.

Wall Prep Ahead of Wall Re-Do

July 20, 2022
This wallpaper in a Houston Heights townhome’s breakfast area was hung by “the contractor’s guy ” and he ran into some problems. First, I suspect the wall had not been adequately coated with a primer designed for use under wallpaper . This may be a large part of why the paper has come loose from the wall in places, and shrunk and gaps at the seams.
The wallpaper is an old-fashioned British pulp material , which is quite different from the non-woven material that this company usually prints on. If the installer was not familiar with hanging a pulp, yes, he can have a tough time of it.
There are other issues that the homeowner is unhappy with, such as tears, slices, patches, and, of course, these un-stuck seams. I’ve posted more pics previously, if you can Search to find them.
My task is to get the paper off and then prep the wall for hanging new material.
Most of the paper pulled off the wall easily. But there were areas where the guy had used a stronger adhesive to try to hold the edges down. Those would not come off the wall without causing damage to the wall. So I pulled off the top, inked layer and left the paper backing on the wall.
This stuff is porous and will bubble when coated with a water-borne primer , and with wallpaper wet with paste.
So I sealed these areas – I sealed the entire wall, in fact – with Gardz (by Zinsser ). This stuff is pretty incredible. It’s a thin, watery primer / sealer that soaks into the surface and binds loose components together, then dries hard and solid .
Latex paints and other water-based products (usually) won’t penetrate it, so won’t cause the underlying material to re-wet, expand , and bubble .
Just a note … due to pandemic and other supply chain related shortages , Gardz has become difficult to find. This can was about 1/4 full and I had it sitting behind my trash can, intending for weeks to toss it out. Now I’m glad that I procrastinated!
Once the Gardz sealer was dry, I skim-floated over it with joint compound , a.k.a. ” mud .” In most areas of the wall, my skim coat was as thin as possible, but I did have to make it much thicker over the areas with the paper backing stuck to the wall.
I set up three fans , and also used my heat gun , to get the smoothing compound to dry. I like the Plus 3 version made by the Sheetrock company. It sands easily and doesn’t make too much air-borne dust.
It took a couple of hours to dry. Then I sanded it smooth , vacuumed up the dust with my Shop Vac , used a damp sponge to get residual dust off the wall , and then let the wall dry once again.
Finally I applied a coat of my favorite wallpaper primer, Pro 977 Ultra Prime by Roman. I used a paint roller to roll it on to the main areas, and an angled trim brush to cut in around the ceiling and moldings.
Here is the wall all smoothed and primed .
Originally I had planned to strip , prep , and hang this half-wall all in one day. But ended up the prep took more time than I anticipated (about 8 hours ) , so we’ll let the primer dry overnight and save the wallpaper installation for another day.
The wallpaper pattern is called Strawberry Thief and is by the famous William Morris designer from the very early 1900’s . I’m sure seeing a surge in interest in his patterns, particularly this one. Do a Search to see other jobs I’ve done with it.

For All You Dreamers Who Think That Liner Will Smooth Texture Walls … NOT!

June 23, 2022
Some people have spent too much time on YouTube or DIY websites. There is a misconception that liner paper will smooth out textured walls.
Nope, sorry, it ain’t happenin.’
The special type of paper called liner is used under some wallpaper s, and serves certain functions. Smoothing walls is not one of them.
If you’re planning to hang wallpaper over textured walls, liner paper cannot be used as a replacement for skim-floating , sanding , priming , and properly prepping the walls .
As you can see in the photo, liner paper shrinks as the paste dries, and pulls tight against the wall. This means that little imperfections will show through.
In the photo above, a towel bar had been removed, and the support bracket had been stuck / recessed into the wall paint , so the indentation and ridges from the bracket were still evident on the wall.
Covering them with a wallpaper liner helped mitigate them a bit … but, as you can see, the raised outline of the mounting bracket is still visible.
The issue is that this raised area, covered with liner or not, will still ” telegraph ” through the new wallpaper, creating a noticeable and unpleasing look.
To properly smooth a textured wall before hanging wallpaper, the surface must be skim-floated with joint compound (also referred to as mud ), sanded smooth, wiped free of dust, and then primed. Now the wall should be smooth enough to provide a good surface for the new wallpaper.

Patching a Hole Around a Pipe

April 27, 2022
You’re looking at a water supply line underneath a pedestal sink in a powder room.
This hole is a little wide, and offers the wallpaper nothing to adhere to. In addition, there is no escutcheon (decorative plate) to hide the hole.
I took some special paper and cut a ” collar ” to fit around the pipe and also cover the hole.
I dipped the “collar” into Gardz . This is cool stuff. It soaks in to porous surfaces, adheres to surfaces, and dries hard.
Here is the patch in place. Once it’s dry, I’ll skim-float with joint compound (” mud “) and then sand smooth.
The finished product will be a smooth, intact surface for the wallpaper to adhere to, with only a tiny gap around the plumbing.

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!

Skim-Floating to Smooth a Heavily Textured Wall

November 14, 2021
Texture looks bad under wallpaper, and in interferes with good adhesion. The walls must be smoothed before the paper can go up. Very similar to popcorn texture but not as thick, this sand type finish still sticks out from the wall in some spots as far as 1/4″. That leaves a lot of space between those grains of grit for me to fill in with smoothing compound.
Here I’ve used a putty knife to knock off the tops of those grains of sand. At the top half of the photo I am applying the smoothing compound. I use a trowel to do this. It’s slow and labor-intensive, but it gets my eyes close to my work, and it gives me the best control. This had to be applied so thickly that it will take probably two days to dry. Having the air conditioner or heat running helps pull moisture out of the material. Once it’s dry I will sand it smooth, and then prime it for wallpaper.
I like Sheetrock’s Plus 3 lightweight joint compound for this task. It adheres well and sands easily. The regular version (in the red, white, and green box) is very difficult to sand. Hot mud or quick dry or 20 minute mud should not be used, as primers and pastes don’t stick well to them.

Covering Up an Uneven Edge

October 31, 2021
Someone painted over the wallpaper in this powder room. At this point, removing the paper would be a huge, messy undertaking, so I’m going to leave it in place and prime over it. There was a scroll-edged border at the top of the wall and below the crown molding. Here you can see the edge of that border visible under the paint. This will show under the new wallpaper.
To prevent the edge from ” telegraphing ” through the new wallpaper, I have skim-floated over it with joint compound (” mud “). Once it’s dry (I used my heat gun to speed things up!), I will sand it smooth, wipe off the dust, and then prime the entire wall surface. No no one will be able to detect it under the new paper.

Smoothing Walls – I Can’t See What I’m Doing!

September 15, 2021
To smooth textured walls so you won’t see bumps under the wallpaper, I use this trowel to spread on Sheetrock brand Plus 3 lightweight joint compound (a.k.a. “mud”). This is called “skim-coating” or “skim-floating.”
Problem is, the mud is the same color as the wall. I can hardly see what I am doing! Once it dries it will turn white. But until then, I’m fumbling along.

Smoothing Textured Walls = Sanding Dust

May 19, 2021

This master bedroom had textured walls that needed to be smoothed before the wallpaper could go up. (Texture looks bad under the new wallpaper, plus it interferes with good adhesion.)

I “skim-floated” the walls with drywall joint compound (what we call “mud”). This is akin to troweling on plaster.

Once that was dry, I sanded the walls smooth. In the first photo, you see the amount of dust that is created!

In the second photo are my “sanding sponges.” Some are coarse, some are fine, and one is angled, all with specific uses. These became available maybe 25 years ago, and are a huge improvement over the sandpaper-wrapped-around-a-block-of-wood that everyone used previously.

The putty knife is used to knock off big globs or high ridges, before hitting the wall with the sanding sponges.

Actually, I used to use a hand-held electric sander. That tool was fast, but it put a whole lot of dust into the air, and it traveled all over the room.

The sanding sponges are hand-operated and don’t throw dust up into the air. Also, manufacturers have made improvements to the joint compound formula which encourage the dust to sink to the floor rather than become air-borne.

You still end up with a lot of dust, though. And it does sift all over the room.

No problem. I simply bring in my Shop Vac (not pictured) and vacuum up all the dust. There’s still residual dust, so I use a damp rag to wipe dust off the floor, and a damp sponge to remove dust from the walls. (Important, because wallpaper will not adhere to a dusty wall).

Note that the photo shows an empty room. In rooms that have furniture, I cover it with painter’s plastic. And in most situations, which are usually one accent wall, I put up a sheet of plastic along the wall, draped from ceiling to floor, which contains dust to the 3′ along the wall, and prevents dust from getting to the rest of the room.

I also want to note that I am a big proponent of drop cloths. The reason you don’t see them in this scenario is because you can’t vacuum dust off a dropcloth, because the dropcloth gets sucked up into the vacuum nozzel. Much easier to vacuum dust up off a solid floor, and then wipe up any residue.

I also want to note that all my ladders wear “booties” / baby socks on the feet, to cushion the client’s floors and protect against scratches.

Getting Smoothing Compound to Dry Quickly

May 5, 2021

In my previous post, the wall had the thick, knock-down texture that is typical in new tract homes in the Houston area. You can’t hang wallpaper on this texture, because it looks bad under the paper, and because it interferes with good adhesion.

The solution is to “skim-float” the walls with joint compound, a.k.a. “mud,” which is much like plaster. The mud needs time to dry. When the texture on the walls is super heavy, as in this home, I usually let the smoothing compound dry overnight. That does add an extra day – and an extra day’s cost – to the job.

To save these homeowners from paying for that extra day, we pulled out all the stops. In this photo, you see my two box fans and my heavy-duty black floor fan blasting away at the wall. In addition, we have the room’s ceiling fan. And, in the lower left corner, the homeowner added his yellow “squirrel cage” fan.

Once the wall got half-way dry, I used my heat gun – the yellow gizmo you see lying on the dropcloth, which I call “The Great Persuader” – to speed up the drying process in stubborn areas.

Still, it took a long time for the wall to completely dry. Next I had to sand the “mud” smooth, vacuum up the dust, wipe residual dust off the wall with a damp sponge, and then apply a primer.

Start to finish, all that prep, plus hanging the paper – a whole 3.1 strips in 35 sq. ft. of space – took nearly eight hours.