Posts Tagged ‘paint’

Knock-Down Texture on a Wall

October 3, 2019


Here is a new sheet of drywall, installed to repair damage from flooding during Hurricane Harvey. The drywall is grey.

The splats of white stuff you see on top is joint compound that has been sprayed on, and then “knocked down” to about a 1/8″ height by a worker with a wide taping knife.

This creates a texture on the wall that is pretty common in newer suburban homes.

The surface should be primed, and then a coat of paint can be applied.

In the case of wallpaper, the wall would have to be “skim floated” and sanded smooth, to get rid of the texture.

Peel & Stick = Piece of Sh!t

September 24, 2019


We’re seeing more and more of this peel-and-stick, supposedly “removable” and “repositionable” plastic wallcovering. Unfortunately, many homeowners read the lofty claims by the manufacturers and think it will be a perfect alternative to traditional wallpaper. It is not.

The stuff is awful – I won’t hang it, and most of my friends won’t either.

First of all, you don’t NEED an alternative to traditional wallpaper – you just need quality paper and someone who will properly prep the walls and then properly install the paper.

Getting back to P&S, the stuff is virtually impossible to hang. Imagine a 9’x2′ strip of Contact Paper, trying to position that on a wall without it wrinkling or sticking to itself, and then trying to butt another strip up next to it. Not gonna happen. It also does not “remove easily” … well, it does, but it will tear your wall apart in the process.

These homeowners had some guys doing other work in the nursery, and they said they could hang the wallpaper, too. They weren’t experienced paperhangers, and they weren’t up to the battle against this P&S. Virtually no one is.

First, they should have smoothed out the textured wall. Second, most P&S products spec that the wall should be sealed with a semi-gloss paint, which needs to dry and cure for two weeks. As you can see, this adds time and labor charges to the job.

I’m not sure why there are gaps at the seams (top two photos), but better prep would surely have helped prevent this. The large wrinkles are due to the inflexiblity of the material and its unwillingness to twist or stretch into position. With the baby on the way, the homeowner dad got desperate and used nails to try to tack down the curling paper.

The baby girl arrived, the parents lived with this wall for a while, and, when life settled down, they contacted me. I counseled them to forget the P&S and to choose a traditional wallpaper.

They zoomed in on this butterfly pattern by SuperFresco. This material is one of the newish non-woven materials, which contain a component of fiberglass and thus don’t expand or shrink, and won’t tug at the wall, so fewer worries of seems popping loose. These qualities also make it possible to dry-hang the paper, by pasting the wall instead of pasting the paper. I usually paste the paper, but on a single accent wall such as this (no toilets or sinks or fancy moldings to work around), pasting the wall works beautifully. It also saved me lugging my heavy, bulky work table up to this townhome’s third floor. 🙂

Removing the P&S paper was easy – it is strong and held together while I tugged it off the wall … I could do it all from the floor, without even climbing the ladder. Unfortunately, it took much of the paint along with it. So much for the “removable” claim.

It was still as sticky as the day it was born – so I rolled it all up and stuck it to itself and tossed the whole mess into the trash. Done and gone!

I skim-floated the wall to smooth it, sanded smooth, vacuumed, wiped residual dust off the wall with a damp sponge, and then rolled on Gardz, a penetrating primer-sealer, that also is a great undercoat for wallpaper.

All that (especially waiting for the smoothing compound to dry) took several hours. I think it was about 6:00 before I started hanging wallpaper!

Thin non-wovens generally go up with pleasingly invisible seams, and this one did, too. I was surprised to discover more than a few large wrinkles and bubbles. This could have been because the paper got twisted during installation, because the wall was smooth but not flat, because of some uneven reaction between the substrate and the paste which caused off-gassing (burps!), or some other reason. But it meant that I had to go over the wall several times, checking to be sure all areas were firmly secured to the wall.

The finished accent wall looks great! It’s a gentler pattern and a quieter color, and doesn’t hit you in the face as the original floral pattern did. There’s a little bit of fun shimmer in the scattered pearlized butterflies, and the blue-grey wings coordinate nicely with the three grey walls in the rest of the room.

Finally, Baby Girl is ready to move into her own room!

“Etched” Foresty Look in a Baby’s Nursery

September 22, 2019


This “Bellwood” mural by Rebel Walls is very similar to the “Etched Arcadia” mural by Anthropologie (do a Search here to see my previous installations). Either way, this is a wonderful idea for a nursery, and a cool alternative to the usual pink flowers or dinosaurs that many parents choose.

This mom-to-be was originally uncertain about papering the 3-walled alcove (which will house the changing table) (see third and fourth photos), because someone planted the idea that it would get soiled quickly. I’m glad I convinced her to take the plunge – the room really does look better with both the accent (crib) wall papered, and the changing table nook.

This product is a mural, and came in panels that had to be hung sequentially (as opposed to regular wallpaper with a repeating pattern). No photos of the plotting involved, but you have to roll the panels out on the floor to ensure the correct sequence. I made sure to center the low part of the pattern around the changing table, so the high part of the trees cradled it on either side of the niche. I really like the way this turned out.

Additional plotting was required to plan the area over the door and then the 1 1/2″ wide space to the left of it (not shown). All this measuring and plotting has to be done before the homeowner orders a custom-sized mural like this. Another reason to have the paperhanger see the room BEFORE you order your paper.

This paper is a non-woven material, and has a high fiberglass content. That makes it easy to remove when it’s time to redecorate, but it also makes it easy to clean in the case of accidents.

So this mom should go on to change diapers with confidence, all the while enjoying the unique look of her baby’s nursery.

This home is in the Garden Oaks neighborhood of Houston.

The textured walls were smoothed by the painting company, CertaPro. Usually I insist on doing my own prep, but it worked for the homeowner to have the paint crew get the messy smoothing part out of the way. AND … I know the CertaPro guys, and I knew I could trust them to do a good job. And they did. All I had to do was apply a wallpaper primer, and then hang the paper.

Farrow & Ball Feather Grass

September 1, 2019


Farrow & Ball is a long-established British company. Here is their very unique design “Feather Grass” which I hung in a master bedroom in the country. I love the look of this pattern as you gaze out the windows to the pastureland beyond.

Farrow & Ball includes their own powdered paste, which you mix up with water. To get a smooth mix, I prefer a hand-held blender to the old-fashioned stirrer stick. Not shown is the 1-gallon bucket of cellulose pasted all ready to go.

The company sends a mock-up of what their design will look like. (The image above is from a different pattern I hung in this same home.)

Because their paper is coated with their paint, rather than ink, there can be variations in color as the printer moves through the batch of paint. So the company labels each bolt in the sequence that it came off the printer, and you are instructed to use the bolts and strips in sequence, to minimize any color variations.

This pattern is something like a mural, and comes in panels with one design per panel, rather than strips with multiple repeats of the pattern. In the photo above, I am rolling the paper out on the floor, to get an understanding of how it is laid out and how it is packaged.

Each bolt contained three panels, all rolled up together. The panels are made to fit a wall as high as 12′, so I had to cut each panel from the bolt, then trim it down to fit the 7 1/2′ high walls.

Yes, there is a lot of waste with Feather Grass. In fact, it takes a full strip to go above and below the windows and doors, even though you are throwing away the entire middle part. So, again, incredible amount of waste – I carted home a whole lot of unusable paper to toss into the recycling bin!

Before shot.

The “grass” pattern is meant to appear at about 4 1/2′ from the floor. Since you start hanging wallpaper from the ceiling, I needed to know where to place the tops of the sheaves of grass. So I drew a horizontal line around the room at the 4 1/2′ height. (enlarge photo to see the faint pencil line) This way, from up on the ladder at the ceiling, I was able to see where the tops of the grass stalks were landing on the wall. It took a few trips up and down the ladder on each strip, but I was able to get all the stalks lined up perfectly.

Finished photos. It’s a subtle colorway, so you may need to enlarge the photo to see it well.

Isn’t the overall effect lovely, with the soft misty color of the grass showing against the view of nature outside the window?!

I hung this in the country home (Chappell Hill) of a family for whom I have worked previously in their River Oaks area home in Houston.

Textured Wallpaper for Headboard Accent Wall in the Heights

August 20, 2019


A distant shot to show you the warmth, and a couple of close-ups to show the texture.

This wallpaper went on all walls of a small vestibule leading into a master bedroom, and then on the headboard wall of the bedroom itself. The remaining walls were painted a coordinating grey color.

This is a thick textured vinyl material on a woven fabric (scrim) backing. Unlike most wallpapers, this is quite durable and stain-resistant – it’s the same type of stuff they use in hotels and hospitals, where it’s going to get banged into by carts and washed every now and then.

It is also extremely heavy. I’m betting that each double-roll bolt weighed at least 15 pounds. I could barely carry three at a time. A pasted strip 9′ long took about all my strength to lift higher than my head and position on the wall (while balancing on a ladder!).

Because it is so thick, it was hard to press tightly against the wall/ceiling junctions, so it took a little work to get a nice, tight cut. It was also difficult to cut through, so I had to press really hard, and went through a lot of razor blades, and still had to use my scissors to finalize some of the cuts, particularly to cut through some of the string backing.

My shoulders and arms are sore!

This embossed, textured pattern made a lovely, soft backdrop to the bed, and added a warmth that the paint alone could not.

The manufacturer is Thibaut. The older home has been beautifully enlarged and updated, and is in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston. The interior designer is Stacie Cokinos, of Cokinos Design.

Paint Speckles on Homeowner’s Countertop – I Hate Sloppy Work!

July 26, 2019


Look closely, and you’ll see scazillions of miniscule splatters of paint on the granite vanity top, backsplash, and even on the faucet and handles. Obviously, whoever worked in this room previously did not bother to cover the area with a dropcloth.

Such a shame. A few dollars’ worth of materials, and a little bit of time would have protected the homeowner’s fixtures.

Flooded Home is Finally Finished, and a Moroccan Trellis is the Finishing Touch

July 20, 2019


I’ve worked for this family several times over the last 25 years. Unfortunately, their home overlooking Braes Bayou (south central Houston) was flooded during Hurricane Harvey. The original home was torn down (along with my beautiful wallpaper ! 😦 ), and a new, raised home was built. Today I hung wallpaper on an accent wall in the dining room.

Photo 1 – the wall as the contractor left it

Photo 2 – the wall after I have primed it

Photo 3 – finished

I don’t like true grasscloth due to the visible seams and very noticeable color variations between strips, and also it’s propensity to stain easily. (Read my page to the right.)

The product pictured above is a fantastic alternative to real grasscloth. It is paper, superimposed with a vertical string material, so it has the texture and dimension that people are liking these days. The grass design is printed on (not real grass fibers), and this keeps the color uniform, so no abrupt color differences between strips.

The pattern can even be matched from strip to strip, making the seams pretty much invisible. You also have the option of not matching the pattern, to give a look similar to real grasscloth. Even then, the consistence of this design and color make it pretty impossible to tell where the seams are, if you are standing even three feet away.

In addition, the material has been treated, so it is somewhat resistant to stains.

I’ve hung this faux grass a good number of times, but this is the first time to hang it with the trellis design. The homeowner likes to mix modern with traditional, hence the geometric pattern with the antique furniture and chandelier. She also hunted for something that would meld nicely with the color of the paint on the woodwork. I like the look a lot.

This wallpaper pattern is by Wallquest, in their EcoChic line, and I believe in the Grass Effects book. It was bought from my favorite source for good quality, product knowledge, expert service, and competitive price – Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or dorotasouthwestern@hotmail.com. She is great at helping you find just the perfect paper! Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.

Potential Trouble Brewing

July 7, 2019


What you see here is a bit of rubbery latex paint and texture that has peeled away from the wall in this powder room. The surface underneath it felt gritty and dusty and porous. I had the feeling that if I had tried, I could have peeled all the paint off the wall.

This is not good.

This paint is probably peeling because of a combination of poor quality materials (cheap paint), improperly prepared surface (inappropriate or no primer, not removing dust from the wall, incompatible coatings (latex over oil based, not sanding or deglossing a gloss paint before repainting), climate fluctuations (humidity, temperature), stress on the wall (pulling off a piece of tape), or more.

All this is not so bad under paint, because paint just kinda sits there on the surface. But wallpaper actually puts stress on the surface beneath it, as it dries and pulls taught. Over time, fluctuations in humidity and temperature can exacerbate that, causing the paper to expand and contract ever so slightly, and then put tension on the wall where the seams fall.

This can result in not just the seams coming loose, but in the various layers inside the wall actually delaminating and coming apart from themselves.

Trouble Brewing? Paint Not Adhering to Wall

June 26, 2019


Top photo: A small circle of paint had been pulled away from the wall. When I picked at it, I was able to easily detach more paint.

Second photo: When I removed the light switch plate, some paint had stuck to it, and pulling the switch plate off the wall took some of the paint underneath along with it.

The exposed wall underneath the paint was gritty and dusty. I could not tell if it was a layer of old paint, drywall, dust, residue from ancient wallpaper paste, or other. I had the feeling that if I had tried, I could have peeled all the paint off the dusty subsurface.

This is not good.

This is an old house, and many layers of paint and other treatments have been added to the walls over the decades (100 years!). Many of these substances are not compatible with each other, and especially not if the walls were not prepped properly before applying another coat of paint.

Latex paint won’t stick to oil based paint. New paint won’t stick to a glossy paint. Nothing sticks to a dusty surface.

All these various materials will adhere to one another – for a while. But when a stressor is added to the formula, there is the potential for the layers to delaminate (come apart). That’s what happened in the two areas above, when a bit of a tug was all it took to peel several layers of paint away from the wall.

The issue here is that wallpaper comes with its own stressors. Wallpaper gets wet when it’s pasted, expands a bit, and then when the paste dries, the paper shrinks a tad and puts tension on the walls. Over time, with changes in temperature and humidity, foundations shifting, and just plain old passage of time, this tension could cause the paint to give way from the walls – this usually manifests at along a seam.

I use a wallpaper-specific primer, and among its attributes is the ability to withstand this type of tension.

Let’s hope that over the years, the many layers of paint, the new coat of primer, and the wallpaper all work together to stay nice and tight to the wall.

Note: If I had known about the wall condition earlier, and if the homeowners’ budget had allowed, a liner would have been a good option in this case. A liner is a special type of paper that is applied to the primed wall the day before the paper goes up. It serves several purposes, but one is to distribute tension across the wall. Because the seams of the liner do not line up with the seams of the wallpaper, drying and shrinking wallpaper puts tension on the liner, and not onto the unstable wall itself, thus pretty well eliminating the chance that the wallpaper seams could cause the wall to delaminate.

The downside is that using a liner adds an extra day (or more) of labor, plus the cost of material.

Do Bubbles Mean Trouble?

May 20, 2019

The walls in this dining room in a historic house in the Houston Heights had received many coats of paint over its 100 years. The latest was a coat of what appeared to be flat latex paint. Since this is not a suitable surface for wallpaper, I applied a wallpaper-specific primer.

I was surprised to see that, a few minutes after I rolled on my water-based wallpaper primer, blisters appeared.

I thought they would disappear as the primer dried, but they did not.

Obviously, the moisture in the primer was soaking into some of the layers below it, and causing something to expand and “off-gas”, which created the bubbles.

I switched from my wallpaper primer to a penetrating sealer called Gardz (also water-based) – and the same thing happened. (The Gardz dried so glossy that I feared the wallpaper would not stick to it, so I went back to my original Ultra Prime by Roman’s.)

Once the primer was good and dry, I used a stiff putty knife to knock off the high points of the blisters. The areas were not perfectly smooth, but they were OK for use under this particular wallpaper.

I’m doing some research, and am hoping to gain insight as to why this blistering happened, so I’ll know how to prevent it in the future.