Posts Tagged ‘mud’

Prepping Walls When Existing Wallpaper Won’t Come Off

July 18, 2017

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image


Almost always, when homeowners are switching from an outdated wallpaper to a new pattern, I am able to get the old paper off the wall. But twice this week I have run into papers that would not come off the wall – at least, not without causing significant damage to the Sheetrock or creating other problems. Sometimes it’s because they were installed improperly in the first place. And other times it’s just the nature of the beast.

Either way, it is possible to hang wallpaper over old existing wallpaper – IF the walls are prepared correctly.

In these two rooms, I used joint compound (“mud”) to skim float over the seams in the original wallpaper, to ensure that they would not telegraph through and show up as vertical lines under the new wallpaper. These are the white stripes and patches you see in the photos.

Then I sanded the mud smooth, making sure that the edges were feathered out, so the joint compound patch would not be detectable under the new wallpaper. I used a damp sponge to wipe dust off the sanded areas.

The next step was to seal the walls with a penetrating sealer called Gardz (by Zinsser). Gardz is a thin liquid sealer that soaks into the surface and binds it together. It dries hard, and prevents moisture from passing through.

In other words, you can hang wallpaper that is wet with paste on top of this primer, and not worry about moisture passing through and causing the original paste to loosen, or the original paper to swell and bubble away from the wall.

In addition, Gardz dries with a crystalized molecular surface that is ideal for wallpaper and its paste to “bite into” and “get a hold of.”

Bottom line – Gardz is a super fixer of problem walls, it’s a wonderful sealer, and it is a great primer for using under wallpaper.

Advertisements

I’m Scared Of This Blue Dot

June 8, 2017

Digital Image

Digital Image


I am going to hang grasscloth in this large master bedroom in the River Oaks neighborhood of Houston. To smooth the textured walls, I skim-floated the walls with “mud” (joint compound). As I was sanding the compound smooth, I discovered this small blue spot. It might be ink. Or maybe some cleaning solution, or a cosmetic or perfume, or some other agent. SOMEthing was on the wall before I applied the smoothing compound, and bled through.

Whatever it is, it worked its way through the smoothing compound and up onto the wall surface. If a substance works its way through the wall surfaces, you can be sure that it will also work its way through the new wallpaper.

To prevent this, there are a couple of options. One is to cover the area with a stain-blocking sealer. I love oil-based KILZ Original. Another product is BIN by Zinsser, or 123 also by Zinsser.

But in this case, since it is just a tiny dot, I decided to use a Stanley knife to dig out the stain. Gone. Done. No worries about anything bleeding through the wallpaper.

If the new wallpaper had a smooth surface, I would patch over the hole and sand the area smooth, and spot-prime. But since the new wallpaper is a rough-textured grasscloth, this 1/4″ dent in the wall will not be noticeable, so I’m going to leave it as it is. Tomorrow, before hanging paper, I will double check to be sure no additional blue stain has worked its way out from hiding.

Fixing a “Hot Mess”

April 18, 2017

Digital Image

Digital Image


Digital Image

The homeowners of this house in Fleetwood (west Houston) tried to remove the wallpaper from their powder room on their own. They did a reasonably good job at the start, but soon realized that they were in over their heads.

In the top photo, they have removed the top layer of wallpaper from the wall on the left. The problem came when trying to take off the white backing layer. Their efforts resulted in torn drywall (second photo). Torn drywall is very bad, because it will leave uneven areas under the new wallpaper / paint. Worse, it will bubble when the moisture from the wallpaper paste or latex paint touches it, and that will leave bubbles under the new wallpaper / paint.

These homeowners were smart enough to stop before more damage was done, and called in the pros (me).

I finished stripping off the old wallpaper, using methods that caused less damage to the drywall. There was one patch of original wallpaper, a foil-type that dated back to the build date of 1976, that would not come off without a lot of damage to the wall. I left that section on the wall.

Once all the paper was off that would come off, I sealed the torn drywall and other unstable surface areas with Gardz, a penetrating sealer. Once that was dry, I skim-floated the entire room with “mud,” (joint compound). When that was dry, I sanded the surface smooth. Then I vacuumed up the dust, then wiped any residual dust off the walls with a damp sponge.

Lastly, I rolled on another coat of the penetrating sealer Gardz. It will dry hard and tight, preventing the torn drywall from bubbling, and holding all the loose or unstable areas together. It is also a good primer for wallpaper, so tomorrow the walls will be prepped and ready for their new décor! See last photo.

Using 20-Minute “Mud” to Repair Sheetrock Damage

March 31, 2017

Digital Image

Digital Image


When the homeowners had their powder room vanity top replaced, the shorter new backsplash left a 1″ area of torn drywall around the top of the new backsplash. There was a height difference between the drywall and the wall (which was covered with at least two layers of old wallpaper). This needed to be evened out before the new wallpaper could go up.

Because torn drywall will bubble when it gets wet, I used a penetrating sealer called Gardz to prevent this by sealing the raw area. Once that was dry, I used 20-minute joint compound to “float” over the damaged areas.

The bag says “5” (see photo), but that is misleading. What they mean is that you have five minutes to mix the powdered material with water, stir smooth, and then work with the stuff, before it gets stiff and hard. The actual drying time is more like 10-20 minutes, and sometimes longer.

Once it’s dry, it can be sanded smooth. Wipe off the dust with damp sponge, let dry again. Then it can be sealed with a primer, and I like the penetrating sealer Gardz, once again, to seal this porous joint compound material.

Wallpaper Wants To Sit On A Smooth Wall

February 8, 2017
Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

The walls in this powder room were way too heavily textured (Photo 1) to even think about putting wallpaper on them. For one thing, those ugly bumps would show under the paper – and might even poke holes through the surface. For another, the wallpaper would not have a smooth, intact surface to cling to, resulting in poor adhesion.

So I smoothed the walls. To do this, I trowled on joint compound, (we nick name it mud), which is a plaster-like substance used mostly for drywall installations. The initial layer was thick, and had to dry overnight.

In the morning, the surface was dried, as you see in Photo 2. Dry, but way unacceptable for wallpaper … All of those ridges and uneven surfaces would show under the paper.

I sanded this surface down, and it was much better – but still not acceptable for wallpaper.

So I skim floated again, with a very thin layer of mud. Once that was dry, I sanded one more time. And ended up with the perfectly smooth walls you see in the 3rd photo.

In the last photo, you see the wallpaper on the wall, perfectly smooth, and with no signs of bumps or texture or ridges or uneven areas.

Getting Smoothing Compound to Dry Quickly

August 30, 2016

Digital Image

Digital Image


Here in Houston, many homes have textured walls. Texture prevents good adhesion of the wallpaper, and it looks, well, it looks cheesy under the wallpaper. So I do a lot of what we call “skim floating,” to smooth the wall. This involves skimming the wall with a plaster-like substance (joint compound, also referred to as “mud”).

Nothing can progress until that mud is dry. It will dry overnight, but then the homeowner would have to pay for a second day of labor. So I try to speed the process so that everything can be done in one day. Here you see my two box fans and one heavy duty fan, all aimed at this one short accent wall. The texture was heavy, and so it took a longer than usual time for the joint compound to dry.

Turning the air conditioner down (or the heat up) and having the house fan set to “on” also helps to circulate dry air through the room and pull moisture out of the wall. In a small room like a powder room, I use a space heater and close the door to keep in the heat. I also have a heat gun that can be used to spot dry stubborn areas.

Note that the black fan and the heaters all pull a lot of power, so they cannot be used at the same time or they might trip the circuit breaker. So it becomes a juggling match of turning something on and off, moving the fans to different positions, opening the door to let hot humid air out, etc.

Once the smoothing compound is dry, I sand it, then vacuum up the dust, then wipe residual dust off the wall with a damp sponge, rinsing it frequently. Then the wall has to dry again briefly, and then the primer gets rolled on. That needs to dry for about an hour, and then the wall is finally ready for wallpaper.

Drying Walls

July 7, 2016

Digital Image

Digital Image


These walls have a thick texture that needed to be smoothed before I could hang the new wallpaper. In the photo, I have finished skim floating the walls with mud (joint compound). Now they need to dry, before I can sand them smooth.

The homeowner has the air conditioning cranking away, which helps to pull humidity and moisture out of the smoothing compound. In addition, I have set up fans to move air around the walls. Two box fans are affixed to the shelves on ladders (secured with bungee cords), and one very powerful fan is sitting on the floor aimed up at the wall.

Sometimes the joint compound can be induced to dry in an hour or two this way. But in this case, because the texture was so thick, and because the semi-gloss paint beneath the smoothing compound slows drying, I needed to let this set-up run for a few hours. The fans sped up the drying process, and once they were turned off, the walls were left overnight to dry further.

Come morning, I was able to proceed with sanding and the rest of the prep and installation of the new wallpaper.

My Commute ….

March 16, 2016
Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image


I just spent several days hanging wallpaper in a new home on family farm land in Carmine (near Round Top and La Grange), Texas, about 90 miles northwest of Houston. Of course, it rained buckets this week. Here are shots of my commute from my van to the house. Luckily, the homeowner advised me ahead of time to bring boots!

The mud you are looking it is slippery and sloshy and deep. On my first day, it was thick and sticky and bonded itself to my boots with a vengeance. Imagine hauling a 7′ long, 30lb work table, or a 50lb bucket of wallpaper paste back and forth through this!

Driving shoes off and boots on to walk through the mud. Boots off to walk through the house. Boots back on to walk back to the truck. Boots off and clean driving shoes on before getting into the truck. Repeat many times per day.

Stripping Wallpaper – Unprimed Drywall: The Underlying Surface Makes A Difference

January 23, 2016

Digital Image

Digital Image


When stripping off old wallpaper, you never know what you will be getting into. Some people say, “It all came off so easily!” And others will spend days on one room, damage their Sheetrock, and endanger their marriage. 🙂

Several factors come into play, some being: the surface below the wallpaper, the type of wallpaper, the technique used by the person attempting to remove the wallpaper – and his patience level. 🙂

And it’s helpful to understand the process of how homes are put together.

Shot in a corner, under a window, and above a toilet with the cover removed, this photo illustrates the first factor. First of all, the previous installer did not prime the Sheetrock before hanging the paper, and that is a big no-no. A primer will make installation of the new wallpaper easier, help it cling to the wall better, and will protect the wall from damage when the paper is removed later.

But you are not just looking at unprimed drywall.

Above the toilet tank, the grey area is drywall. There are some darker grey areas where the drywall has absorbed water used in the removal process. Wallpaper will stick to bare drywall like its life was staked on it, and, depending on the type of wallpaper and the paste used, can be the Devil to get off. If you are lucky, the wallpaper will release from the drywall easily. But more likely, the wallpaper will stick tight, and will take careful persuasion from a stiff putty knife to scrape it off the wall. It’s very easy and common during this process to tear the top layer of the drywall, and that is very bad, because the inner layer will bubble when new wallpaper or latex paint is put on top of it, and you will also see a visible dent or bump or ridges under the new surface.

To the left of the toilet, in the corner, the white area is joint compound (“mud”). Joint compound is a smoothing agent (like plaster) and has many uses, the main one being to smooth over seams in sheets of drywall. But it is also used to cover nails or screws, patch holes, or to smooth out uneven or textured areas. When it has not been sealed or primed, it is dry and porous and thirsty, and will suck the paste right off the wallpaper. Meaning, that wallpaper will “kind of” adhere to this surface, but will release very easily. Sometimes, all it takes is a little water to reactivate the paste and then the wallpaper will come off easily and cleanly. Other times, the wallpaper will never really stick well at all, and will kind of hover over the mudded areas, and can sometimes even cause a bubble in the wallpaper.

At the top of the photo, under the window molding, you are looking at another white area. This is paint – overspray from when the painters sprayed enamel onto the woodwork. The good thing about paint is that it protects the drywall and will prevent tears when removing the wallpaper. Also, the wallpaper sticks to paint much better than it sticks to joint compound, but not as aggressively as it sticks to bare drywall. So, usually, all you need to do to remove the old wallpaper is soak the backing sufficiently and then use a stiff putty knife to scrape the backing away from the paint. If you are careful, there will be no damage to the drywall. The bad thing about enamel or any gloss-finish paint, is that, contrary to what I just said, wallpaper will not stick to it, because it is glossy and slick – kind of like Colorforms, so it will “kind of” stick, but when stressed by torque or humidity or other factors, can curl at the seams, or even give way entirely.

Bottom line: When hanging wallpaper, always use the proper primer. It will save you a lot of grief down the road.

Stripping Wallpaper, Damaged Sheetrock

December 29, 2015
Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image


These days, I am hanging wallpaper in lots of new homes, which have never had wallpaper before. So today, when I had to strip off existing paper before I could hang the new, it was like a step back in time. And, since the first installer had skipped an essential step, it was a long step!

The navy-blue-on-white savoy pattern (Photo 1) was a nice paper that had been hung, unfortunately, directly on new Sheetrock, without a wallcovering primer, nor even a coat of paint. In this setting, most wallpapers will bond with the drywall, and can be very difficult to get off. Going too fast, or trying to force the paper to succumb to you, can severely damage the walls. To avoid this, I do it in steps.

The first step is to wet all the wallpaper with a damp sponge. That seems to strengthen the top layer of paper. Second, I strip off the top, inked / colored layer of paper. This leaves the backing / substrate – which in my photos today is a white paper. This white backing layer must then be soaked with a wet sponge. Unlike the top, colored layer of paper, which has a thin vinyl coating, this white backing layer can be penetrated by water. Once the water soaks in, the paste beneath it is reactivated. And once enough time has gone by and that paste is wet enough, the wallpaper can be removed.

If you are lucky, it will peel away easily. More likely, you will have to use a stiff 3″ putty knife to carefully scrape every inch of wallpaper backing away from the wall.

If you are lucky, it will come away with no damage to the Sheetrock. More typically, you will have some tears, and will have to do some repair work to the drywall.

The second photo is a wonderful shot of the various surfaces you might find when stripping old wallpaper. First is the layer with the pattern and color. When that has been removed, you see the white (or sometimes yellow) paper backing. Once that backing has been removed, you are left with other sub-surfaces. In the photo, the white is the areas that have been spread with “mud,” or joint compound, which is used over the tape that spans joints in the drywall. Another surface under the old wallpaper that is not shown in the photographs is paint, which you find where it has been oversprayed along the ceiling or next to where the woodwork was painted. The grey area is the top layer of the Sheetrock.

Wallpaper will stick to all these materials differently – It sticks to paint “kind of,” but can be removed with no damage to the walls; it sticks to joint compound not really well at all, but removes easily also with no damage to the walls, but leaving a thirsty porous surface beneath; and when it comes to raw drywall, wallpaper actually bonds to the surface, and can be a bugger bear to remove.

Usually, as in this case, pulling off the old wallpaper causes hairs on the unprimed drywall to pull up, so you end up with a gritty surface, which can leave bumps under the new wallpaper. Worse is when the top grey surface of the drywall de-laminates and pulls off, leaving the torn brown paper layer you see in the third photo. This is really bad, because, when hit with wet primer or wallpaper paste, this layer swells and likes to bubble up, leaving ugly bumps under the new wallpaper.

The cure for this torn Sheetrock is to seal it with Gardz or a similar penetrating sealer / primer. Then the area needs to be “skim floated” with joint compound (similar to plaster), sanded smooth, wiped free of dust, and sealed again.

All this takes a lot of time, eats up materials, makes a mess, and costs money.

As you can see, it would be much better if the builder and / or original wallpaper installer would prime the walls before hanging the paper. Or, at the very least, not ideal, but at least it would protect the walls, if they would slap on a quick coat of paint. And, when it’s time to redecorate, it would sure make removing the paper a whole lot easier.