Posts Tagged ‘paste’

Former Dorm Room Goes Farmhouse Modern

February 14, 2019

This large bedroom in an addition to a 1934 home in the West U neighborhood of Houston wasn’t actually a dormitory, but it was home to two boys throughout their childhood. Now that the boys are grown and gone, the homeowner wants to make this into a spare bedroom that feels snug, yet chic.

She’s going for something of the Farmhouse Modern look. Instead of shiplapped wood on the ceiling, she chose wallpaper that mimics the look – and is much more affordable.

This wallpaper is by York, in their Joanna Gaines “Magnolia” line. It is a pre-pasted light non-woven material in their SureStrip line, and is designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece when it’s time to redecorate. I like this product a lot. And today I appreciated its extra strength, because I did have to reposition the first two strips quite a bit.

I’m running the strips across the ceiling the short way, from right to left (see top photo). This means that the brown stripes that represent the gaps between the wood planks will run parallel to the long wall you see on the right of the photo.

Theoretically, I should have been able to line the paper up along that far wall. The problem became quickly apparent, though – that the two walls (all four walls, in fact) were woefully out of square with one another. That meant that if the paper was hung parallel to the far wall, the brown line would go off-track as it moved across the long wall on the right.

My first strip, hung parallel to the far wall, was so out of wack with the wall on the right, that I knew that if I continued, that brown line would march very off-parallel away from the wall on the right. That is a 34′ long wall, and very visible when you are standing in the room, so it was important to keep the brown line as parallel as possible. This would have been easy if my strips had been running parallel to the wall. But since I was running the paper in the other direction across the ceiling (perpendicular to the long wall), it was very difficult.

I pulled the first strip off the wall, repasted it lightly to keep the paste activated, put it in a plastic trash bag to keep it damp, and took a new tack.

The distance between the “boards” was 6″. I wanted the first row of boards to look as wide as the other boards, but I needed some play in order to accommodate irregularities in the wall on the right, as well as potential tracking off-kilter. So I decided to have the brown line fall 5″ away from the long wall. That left this row of “boards” only an inch narrower than they should have been, which would not be very noticeable to the eye.

I took a ruler and measured 5″ out from the long wall on the right. Then I took a straightedge and drew a line connecting the marks, to give me a guide line that was parallel to the long wall. Because the long wall was not nearly straight, this line was not exactly 5″ from the wall in every spot. But it was good enough to serve as a guideline for where I wanted my brown line to fall.

Then I went and got that first strip of paper that had been cooling its heels in the plastic bag, along with Strip No. 2, and got them onto the wall. I used my pencil line as a guide to position that brown line. Since you can’t get a very accurate placement with just one 20.5″ wide strip of wallpaper, having the two strips together helped to ensure that the brown line was running along the pencil line. Still, I had to remove and reposition both strips several times, until I got them on my target.

All this is hard enough when you’re working on a wall, but on a ceiling, without the help of gravity holding your paper in place and keeping it free of twists and wrinkles, plus that same gravity trying to pull the paper down around your head, it was quite the feat.

But once I got those two initial strips properly positioned and smoothed, the subsequent strips followed nicely, and the brown line marched along the pencil line beautifully.

In the third photo, you’ll notice that only half the ceiling is done. This is because the homeowner had a little confusion between double and single rolls, and how this particular vendor describes its product, and consequently ended up ordering only half as much as was needed. 😦 I will have to come back and finish later. 😦

I don’t like stopping in the middle of a wall, because wallpaper goes up better when you put a wet strip next to a wet strip, and they can be manipulated together at the seams. But this is a large room, and I wanted to get as much done as possible, to shorten the time needed when I come back later to finish. The vendor promises that they will supply the same run number.

The next post on this room will show the finished ceiling, as well as a thin, tailored, textured woven fiber in chocolate brown that is going on the walls.

As a side note, I have worked in this home for this lovely family several times years ago. The last time I was here, their daughter was an infant. I asked how she was doing today, and was told that, “She’s out running errands, driving Mom’s car.” !!

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Stripping Off What I Hung 20+ Years Ago

February 12, 2019


I hung this viny pattern back in the early 2000’s in dining room in the West U neighborhood of Houston. Now that it’s time for a change, I got to strip off what I had hung 20 years ago.

I was amazed at how easy it was, and at how there was NO damage to the walls.

The paper came away from the wall when I simply pulled it dry, but I was afraid of doing damage to the walls, especially at the seams. (When wallpaper dries, or over time with fluctuations in temperature and humidity, wallpaper can put stress on the seams, which can cause layers inside the wall to delaminate and come apart.)

To lessen the chance of putting stress on the seams, I used a sponge to put water on the surface of the paper. Because it was paper (not vinyl), water was able to penetrate, and reactivate the paste that was holding the paper to the wall. I made many trips around the room, soaking the paper each time. The more water that was able to soak into the paper, the softer the paste became, and the easier it was to pull the paper away from the wall.

Usually, the inked top layer of paper separates from the paper backing, and then you sponge water onto the backing layer, which reactivates the paste and then it comes away pretty easily. But in this case, the top and backing layers stayed together, and came off in one intact piece. This virtually never happens.

Note that I am pulling down, and not away from the wall. Pulling downwards minimizes stress on the wall. And I am pulling slowly and gently – not yanking.

What’s better – there was absolutely NO damage to the walls. Not one bit of primer pulled away from the surface, not one seam gave way, nothing to patch.

Why? Because when I prepped these walls 20 years ago, I did a proper job. I skim floated the textured walls to smooth them, removed all residual dust with a damp sponge, then primed with oil-based KILZ Original – great stuff, for many reasons. It holds tightly to the surface, it won’t rewet when water is sponged on the surface, it’s strong enough to resist double-cutting (strokes with a razor blade), it dries thin and smooth, and much more.

I wish I could still use KILZ Original. It was a superior primer for wallpaper (as well as stain-blocker). Unfortunately, EPA regulations have required manufacturers to make changes to their product, and wallpaper paste will no longer adhere to it.

I’m using alternatives now, and am pleased with the results. …Although I have not had experience stripping paper off these new products, so time will tell about that.

But these photographs of my experiences yesterday show what a superlative product the original KILZ Original was, and how important it is to take the time to prep a wall properly before hanging wallpaper.

Disguising a Utility Box

January 21, 2019


Look closely – VERY closely, and in the upper half of the photo, you’ll see a metal utility box that has been covered with wallpaper.

This is a box for a defunct and un-used security alarm system, about 18″ square. The homeowners tried to get the box off the wall – but, despite the use of various screwdriver bits and power tools, the box would not come off.

So they were going to be stuck with a grey metal blob in the middle of their beautiful wallpaper.

Well, I thought I could do something with it. I could make it fade into the background of the wallpaper pattern.

Wallpaper won’t stick to painted metal, because it’s glossy. So I took a bit of sandpaper to knock off the gloss, and my primer Roman’s 977 Ultra Prime and coated the service box.

Then I matched the wallpaper pattern to the paper already on the wall, and covered the box with corresponding wallpaper.

This is more tricky than it sounds, because the box is 5″ deep, which created discrepancies in the pattern match, depending on from which angle you are looking. I opted to keep the pattern matched at the corner junctions rather than matching it as it would be view from a distance on the wall. That all gets too complicated to try to explain here.

The box had been primed, so it provided a good base for the wallpaper paste to stick to. But on some areas, like the edges after an outside corner, I smeared on a bit of clear adhesive caulk, to be sure the paper would hold, even under conditions of stress such as wrapping around a corner.

This whole thing took me 45-60 minutes. I am pleased with the way it turned out. From the floor, you sure would never know there is a large box sticking out of the wall.

Mysterious Spot on Wallpaper – Air Borne Substances

January 3, 2019


If you look closely, you will see tiny tan dots all over this wallpaper. This is a paper wallpaper with a very light acrylic coating, that was installed maybe 30 years ago. The installer did a very good job – although he did not remove the previous layers (2!) of wallpaper backings, and did not use a primer.

I see spots like this almost exclusively in bathrooms – where you have enclosed spaces, toiletries, and humidity.

Since these dots are most prevalent around the upper areas of the room, I think they are stains from air-borne substances. However, an alternate theory is that they could be stains leaching through from the tan backing paper that was left on the wall, or possibly from the clay-based paste that was used for the installation.

Epounding:

My theory of air-borne substances is that if you spray something into the air, such as hair spray, air freshener, deodorant, or even onto a surface, such as glass cleaner, some of the substance becomes air-borne, hangs in the air, and eventually will come to rest on the walls. This results in perfectly round little specks on the walls. (See the Page to the right, “Care and Feeding of Your New Wallpaper.”

The stains could even be coming from cooking oils that splattered into the air, got sucked through the A/C ducts, and expelled into the bathroom.

Since this paper has just a light acrylic coating and no durable protective vinyl coating, most any substance floating around in the air would be able to land on the paper and penetrate into it, leaving these spots.

Don’t get me wrong – I MUCH prefer these thin acrylic-coated papers over thick vinyls and non-wovens. You just need to take appropriate steps to protect them.

Moving on…

Another possibility is because the installer didn’t remove the previous layer(s) of manila-type paper backing left from the original wallpaper installation(s), nor did he use a primer or sealer, it’s possible that chemicals from the old tan paper backing are leaching through onto the new wallpaper.

This is why art framers recommend acid-free mats and framing techniques. The same are available for wallpaper installations – but we’re getting into some pretty high-end topics now…

Getting back to our bathroom in Tanglewood (Houston).

Another very possible cause is the clay-based paste that was used to hang the wallpaper. I have seen many, many times, a “dirty,” tan discoloration coming through from underneath the paper, which I firmly believe is coming from the tan-colored clay-based paste that many installers like to use. I have many instances validating this theory.

The only discrepancy is that stains from the paste working their way through the wallpaper would not manifest as tiny, perfectly round specks, but as more generalized, mottled areas. Unless, the composition of the wallpaper included teensy dots in the paper fibers, intended to allow for porousity. Or humidity in the room forms miniscule droplets which land on the wall and then wick the tan paste up through the wallpaper. Which sounds reasonable to me. In fact, I like this theory a lot. And I really DISlike clay-based paste.

A final idea is that the wallpaper is just old. After 30 years on the wall, materials are bound to break down, humidity will take a toll, and it will be time for a change to a fresh new look.

Bottom line: Remove old wallpaper, properly seal and prime the walls, avoid clay-based pastes and instead use a clear wallpaper adhesive.

Check back tomorrow for more!

Need a Little Reading Material in the Bathroom? ??

November 2, 2018


What fun wallpaper! This is very similar to grasscloth. But, instead of using natural grasses and reeds, this material is made of strips cut from magazine pages, rolled and folded into long narrow strips, and then sewed onto a paper backing. In some of the columns, you can actually read the words!

There is a similar product made from old newspapers – appropriately named “Yesterday’s News.”

I hung this in a powder room in a new, contemporary home in the Rice Military neighborhood of Houston. The homeowner, Cristin Wells, is an interior designer http://www.wellsdesignedhome.com/ who recently moved here from Chicago (not far from my hometown of St. Louis!), and brings her sophisticated playfulness here to the Bayou City.

This product is similar to grasscloth in that the seams are very visible. So I engineered the room to have seams fall evenly spaced on each wall, which we call balancing, and which gives a pleasing effect.

In addition, the material can be shaded, or paneled, which means there can be a noticeable color difference between strips, even if they come off the same bolt. In the third photo, you see how I have rolled the paper out on the floor, to check for shading / paneling, so the homeowner will be aware of this issue, and so I can plot how and where to use the various strips.

Indeed, before consulting with me, the homeowner initially purchased two bolts of paper; when I measured the space I told her that she needed five more. The additional bolts arrived in a different run. Run and batch and dye lot numbers are important – all bolts from the same run or batch were printed at the same time with the same batch of ink, and will generally be pretty much the same shade. Papers from a different run will be a slightly different shade, and will be very noticeable if placed next to one another on the same wall. This is true even with this recycled magazine page material – see the third photo – although instead of printing with ink, the ladies who manufacture this stuff (usually in China or somewhere in Asia) are grabbing handfuls of magazine pages. As you can see, color variations are still quite possible / probable.

In addition to the 10′ high ceilings, the room had a few features that made the install tricky. One was a deeper than usual vanity, which was difficult and somewhat dangerous to reach over to access the wall. This was also a “floating” vanity, which hung suspended on the wall with a short space underneath it that wanted to be covered with wallpaper. Contorting myself under a 30″ deep vanity into a 5″ high space to stick a couple of strips of paper to a rear wall that no one would ever see questioned my sense of reason – but I could not imagine leaving the wall unpapered, so I “got ‘er done!” Sorry, no photo.

Being a contemporary styled home, the window was recessed with a 1/2″ return,. This meant that I had to bring the paper to the edge of the window, and then wrap a mere 1/2″ around an outside corner. The paper was thick and didn’t want to make this turn, and, when it did, it didn’t want to stay stuck – it kept trying to lift up. Wetting the paper helped soften it so it was more agreeable to making these turns, and in some areas I also used a razor blade to make light horizontal slits in the material, right on the edge of the corner, to reduce tension and allow it to turn more easily. Sorry, no photo.

Speaking of making cuts … This stuff was thick and hard to cut, so it took a lot of pressure and several swipes to make many of the cuts, even with a brand new razor blade. When I trimmed the material horizontally at the ceiling and floor, the strings that held the folded magazine pages to the backing were cut also, and they came loose. That meant that there was nothing holding the folded magazine pages to the paper.

It turns out that each of those horizontal strips of folded magazine pages contained about 6 layers of paper, each folded accordion-style. Threads were sewn on to hold them to the backing. But once the threads were cut, the accordion-folded papers unfurled, spread apart, and pushed away from the backing. So when you looked at the ceiling or floor lines, you saw a puffy ridge running the width of the strip.

What I ended up doing was to go up to the ceiling and then down to the floor edges, gently pry apart the fanned layers, and use wallpaper paste to adhere them to one another. I had to get sufficient paste behind each of the six layers, for the entire 3′ width of each strip, press them back together, hold them until the adhesive tacked up – all without getting any paste on the paper or on the ceiling.

All of the above added a lot of time to this job, and I didn’t leave until 9:30 p.m. But the room looked great when I was finished. From its initial uninspired dull grey paint job to the colorful and quite unexpected recycled magazine pages covering the walls, this powder room has experienced a major transformation.

The wallpaper is by Seabrook, which has been purchased by York. Both are wonderful brands.

Low End Wallpaper – Not So Bad This Time

October 12, 2018


I’ve said it before – these budget-friendly, pre-pasted, manila paper-baked solid vinyl wallpaper products are generally not good quality, and the Norwall brand is about at the bottom of the list. In fact, I often will decline to hang it. Do a Search here on those terms, or click the Page to the right “Stay Away From … ” for more info.

However, this homeowner, a Meyerland neighborhood (Houston) victim of the Hurricane Harvey flooding, and a client for whom I had worked back in the ’90’s, really loved the pattern, as well as the price-point. And she wanted her entry to look as it had before the flood ravaged her home.

I was pleasantly surprised. The paper went up OK, and the seams looked fine. It’s possible that the company has improved its product. But it’s more likely that my new installation method helped.

Instead of following the manufacturer’s instructions to run the paper through a water tray, which makes the material too wet and promotes bubbling, and instead of pasting the back of the paper, which turns it into a gummy mess, I tried something new. I used a spray bottle to lightly spritz fresh water onto the back; this activated the paste, but was not so much water that it would cause bubbling or seam curling or over-expansion of the material. I booked the paper and put it in a black trash bag to sit a few minutes.

Next I rolled paste onto the wall. I started out using a very faint coat, but found that a tad more worked better. I used a brush to cut the paste into the edges and around the floor and ceiling.

When I took the very slightly dampened paper to the wall and smoothed it against the lightly pasted surface, it adhered very nicely. It was pretty easy to smooth into position, although there was some twisting of some strips, which could have been a problem in a room that required more strips next to one another.

Usually these inexpensive vinyl papers grow bubbles, because, as they dry, there is nowhere for the moisture to go (because it can’t pass through the vinyl surface), so blisters form. But today was very little bubbling.

Best of all, the seams looked good. I didn’t get any of the raised edges that are so unattractive, and that allow moisture / humidity to penetrate and cause the backing to swell and pull away from the wall.

I am not saying that I was happy with this paper. But it was a lot better than I expected. And I hope that it will continue to look good for years to come.

Minimizing an Eyesore

October 9, 2018


The exhaust fan in this powder room was very obvious, having been placed smack in the center of the rear wall.

Covering the flat surfaces with wallpaper helped disguise it.

Note: Some portions of the vent cover were curved, and did not lend themselves to being covered with wallpaper, especially since this particular product was thick and stiff.

The vent was plastic, and required a special primer that would stick to the plastic, as well as special paste that would adhere to both the paper and the plastic. (VOV – Vinyl Over Vinyl paste is formulated to do just that.)

Mountain Mural for a Mountain Climber

October 6, 2018


This homeowner is a mountain climber, and goes every chance he gets. He wanted to bring a little of his passion into his home, and this rear wall of his closet was the lucky spot.

A lot of the mountains and sky were cut off where the cabinets hit the wall, but you see enough of the photo to feel like you are there!

The mural is by MuralsYourWay.com (who happen to be fellow members of the Wallcovering Installers Association). It was custom-sized to fit the wall (allowing a 2″ “bleed” all around each side). It came on a heavy vinyl material with a canvas backing, and was pretty thick. That made it a little difficult to trim.

There was one seam, and that was double-cut (overlapped 2″ and then spliced). Since the material was so thick, and with the fabric backing having threads that got caught up in the seam, it was somewhat difficult to cut – I used a new single edged razor blade and had to press really hard to get through both layers. I used a thin polystyrene plastic strip to pad and protect the wall under the cut, so the drywall would not be damaged (cut drywall can delaminate and result in a popped seam.

I also used blue plastic tape on the edge of the overlapped piece, to prevent paste from getting on the face of the mural.

The wide strip on the left would have been unwieldy trying to fit around the upper and lower cabinets, and the material was prone to creasing. So, I split the strip in half vertically, so the first half went to just an inch past the cabinets. This was much easier to manipulate, and put less stress (potential damage) on the paper, plus it kept paste off the cabinets. Then I was able to easily position the short piece that went in between the upper and lower cabinets.

This is a new construction home in the Tanglewood area of Houston. I was lucky enough to work all by myself, with no other construction workers in the house. No noise, no distractions = happy.

Repairing a Printing Defect

September 5, 2018

This custom-made “Meadow” wallpaper by Peter Fasano was very expensive, so I was disappointed to find a good number of printing defects in the material. I think it is digitally-printed, which is equally perplexing, because that process is much more precise than screen or block printing.

Either way, I encountered blurred ink, streaks, streaks of red running through the black & white print, and voids, like you see here in the top photo. This is one that I didn’t catch when I was hanging the paper (and you get to a point where you can only replace so many strips of paper, or you won’t have enough to do the whole room). The homeowner spotted it a few days later, so I went back to fix it.

Replacing the whole strip was too complicated (for many reasons) and would have used too much of their left over paper, and splicing in a patch would have damaged the wall surface, leaving it open to the possibility of curling edges. So I chose to do a patch. I could have simply cut a patch out of paper that matched the pattern of the flowers in the photo, but that would have placed a somewhat thick patch on top of the exisiting wallpaper. This would have been pretty unnoticeable, but I knew it would look better if the patch were thinner.

So I soaked the scrap of patch paper in water, and then worked carefully to remove the paper backing. Most wallpaper is made of at least two layers – the printed, inked layer, and the paper backing. Once I wet the paper backing, I was able to carefully and slowly peel the paper backing away from the inked top layer. See third photo. This process is a lot more delicate than it sounds.

Then I cut this patch to match the design on the wall, so the patch (now called an appliqué) would be as small as possible. See fourth photo.

Then I pasted the appliqué and applied it over the flawed area. Smoothed into place and wiped free of excess paste, the patch is invisible. See last photo.

Narrow Strip Coming Out of a Corner

August 28, 2018


See that narrow 3/8″ wide strip of wallpaper sitting on my table? That is to be my first piece coming out of this corner.

When you hang wallpaper around an inside corner, you don’t wrap it around the turn, but, rather, split the piece vertically so it wraps 1/16″ around the corner. Then the strip that you cut off is hung on the next wall, butted up into the corner. This avoids twists and wrinkles and bubbled areas caused by walls and corners that are not perfectly straight or plumb.

But when the piece that is to be the first strip on the new wall is this narrow, it presents problems, because it’s very likely to not hang straight, and you can’t hang the next strip of wallpaper against a crooked edge because you will get gaps and overlaps.

Adding to the dilemma is that this narrow strip had already been pasted. I had finished for the day, and intended to hang the window wall to the left the next day. The strip was already pasted, but I couldn’t hang it because of the aforementioned issues, plus, you are supposed to hang a whole wall at a time, because all of the strips have to “meld” together – you can’t hang a wet piece against a dry piece.

My solution was to wash the paste off this narrow strip, and hang it up to dry overnight. I just had to hope that the water would not cause it to expand too much, or warp, or other.

The next day, I pasted this narrow 3/8″ wide strip, along with the strip that would be placed next to it. Then I hung them together, as if they were all one piece of wallpaper. That way, I could work them into the corner snugly, and keep the seam between them nice and tight.

When coming out of corners, it’s common for the wallpaper to go off-plumb, because the corner might be out of wack. So you can (barely) see the red line of my laser level on the left edge of the strip of wallpaper, ensuring that the new strip falls plumb.