Posts Tagged ‘penetrating’

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.

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Trick in Hopes to Stave Off Popped Seams from a Crumbly Wall

April 3, 2019


The walls in this powder room in the West U neighborhood of Houston had had many treatments over it’s life, including paint, more paint, skim-floating, wallpaper, and more. Sometimes, and particularly if prep is not done properly, these various layers are not compatible, and won’t adhere to one another well.

When the old wallpaper was removed, this was clear at the seams, where the various layers of the wall had pulled apart, leaving ridges along the length of each seam. This happens because the wallpaper dries and pulls taught and creates tension on the wall; if the wall is unstable, the layers can be pulled apart (delaminate). Sorry, no pics of the “before,” but you can do a search here to see pics of other rooms. This condition can happen over time, as the house fills with humidity and the paper absorbs it, then dries and shrinks again.

I dug out the raised ridges and applied tape over them, sealed with Gardz, a penetrating sealer that dries hard. Then I skim-floated over all the walls, to create a smooth surface for the wallpaper. Sanded, wiped dust off with a damp sponge (nothing sticks to dust), and primed all walls with Gardz.

One good way to deal prevent this from happening again is to cross-line the walls with a special liner paper. This is a thin paper that is usually run horizontally before the actual decorative paper is hung. The idea is that if the new paper shrinks and applies tension, it will be distributed by the liner paper, and will not pull at the wall. If the liner shrinks and pulls, the tension is off-set by the decorative paper on top of it. So the two layers are working together to distribute any harmful tension on the wall surface.

Unfortunately, using liner adds a day of labor plus the cost of the material. The homeowner’s budget had already been busted by other factors, so she wanted to keep the job to one day. After collaborating with my colleagues in the Wallcovering Installers Association on our Facebook page, I decided to try this method:

From Office Max I got some plain old cash register tape. I plotted where each seam would fall, and used my laser level to guide placement of a floor-to-ceiling strip of the tape. I adhered it with regular wallpaper paste. At first, I worried that it would soak up moisture and bubble, but once it was smoothed into place, it laid down nice and flat.

Then I hung the wallpaper. The seams fell nicely on top of the tape, held tightly, and looked beautiful. There is the possibility of seeing a very slight ridge under the paper because of the thickness of the tape, but it’s very minimal because the tape is quite thin. And it’s much preferable to popped seams or delaminated walls.

The idea is that the tape will bridge the seam, and distribute tension from the drying paper across the width of the tape, keeping tension away from the wall itself. The tape is very thin, and doesn’t appear to have much tensile strength, but my buddies who have tried this method say it works well.

Time will tell, but I have a lot of confidence in this method.

Wall Sealing Whoops

September 26, 2018


Today I prepped a room where the drywall had been badly torn when the old wallpaper was stripped off. This happened because the original installer hung the wallpaper directly on the drywall, with no coat of paint or primer to protect the drywall.

Before I could smooth the wall surface, I had to seal the torn drywall, because moisture on the torn areas would cause the brown paper to bubble. I rolled on a heavy coat of Gardz, a water-thin, penetrating product that is designed to soak into the porous material, bind everything together, and dry hard. It is supposed to dry inpenetrable by water.

Once it was dry, I skimmed over it with joint compound (which will be sanded smooth later).

As you can see, the Gardz failed to do as claimed, and it allowed moisture from my smoothing compound to seep through it and enter the torn paper of the drywall, which then expanded and bubbled. I’ve got a big mess on my hands!

Tomorrow, when everything is dry, I will sand smooth. Usually bubbles like this dry out and then sand flat. But the large loose areas have me a little worried. They may still be loose and bubbled, and they may swell again when the wall is given its final coat of Gardz.

I may end up having to cut out some loose areas, refloat, and reprime.

Not good, because this could add a full day to this job, and because there could potentially still be unstable areas under the surface. Never good to have an unsecure surface under your wallpaper.

Birds for the Bold of Heart

August 18, 2018


A lot of clients tell me they love birds, and are seeking wallpaper patterns with foliage and birds. (Do a Search here (upper right corner) on the word “birds.”) Most of those are what you would call sweet patterns. This design, on the other hand, can only be called BOLD.

The homeowner, also in the Houston Heights, is the sister to the guy mentioned in yesterday’s post. As you can see, they share an adventurous taste in decorating!

Although the pattern has a lot going on, it doesn’t feel busy, even in a powder room, partly because of the fairly homogenous color scheme, and also because of the all-over placement of the design elements. Besides, who can resist those intense faces? My favorite is the owl-like bird staring you dead in the eye.

The walls in this new home were heavily textured, so I had to smooth them first (see top photos) and then prime with a penetrating sealer called Gardz.

This wallpaper pattern is by Clarke & Clarke, a British company. As are many British products, it is printed on a non-woven substrate and is quite durable. It can be dry-hung using the paste-the-wall method – but I prefer to paste the paper. It was a little easier to work with than yesterday’s paper, being thinner and softer and less prone to creasing.

This 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.

Smoothing Textured Walls

June 16, 2018


I like walls to be nice and smooth when the wallpaper goes up, first so the texture doesn’t show under the new paper, and second so the paper has an intact, flat surface to grab ahold of. When homes have textured walls, I skim float them with joint compound (which we calls mud) to smooth them.

To skim float, I use a trowel to spread the smoothing compound onto the walls. In the top photo, the upper portion of the wall has been skimmed, and you can see the compound drying around the edges and in high areas. It goes on grey, and when it’s dry, it will turn white. The second photo shows the box that the mud comes in, enclosed in a plastic bag, to retain its moisture.

To help speed the drying process along, I set fans up blowing on the walls, as you see in the second photo. I have three fans, and they will be positioned differently for maximum air blastage. Having the air conditioner cranking away and the house fan on also help to circulate air and pull humidity out of the air. In small powder rooms where the door can be closed and the climate supervised closely, I get a space heater going, which also helps pull humidity out of the air. For stubborn areas, I get out the heat gun – it’s like a hair dryer on steroids. 🙂

Once the mud is dry, I sand the walls smooth, then vacuum up the dust that falls to the floor, then wipe residual dust off the walls with a damp sponge, and then finally prime the walls. For this application, I use Gardz, a penetrating sealer which soaks into the joint compound and binds it together, and which is also a good primer to hang wallpaper on. Sorry, no photo of the Gardz or of the finished wall – but you can Search here to find previous posts.

Rubbery, Problematic Smoothing Compound

June 15, 2018


I was stripping wallpaper by peeling off the top vinyl layer and then soaking the paper backing to reactivate the paste so the paper could be removed from the wall – and ran into this.

It looks like the previous installer smoothed the wall (which is good), but used a latex spackling compound instead of the more typical joint compound. The latex became wet from the water I was using to soak off the wallpaper, and began to pull away from the wall.

This is all bad, because it leaves a bumpy mess on the wall that will show through the new paper. But worse is that it is an unstable surface for the new paper to try to hold on to. When wallpaper paste dries, the paper shrinks and puts tension on the surface below, particularly the seams. If the surface is not solid, the layers can actually come apart (delaminate) resulting in curled or gapping seams.

This is not “loose paper,” and cannot simply be glued back down. The different layers inside the wall are actually coming apart, and will require a lot of work to make the wall sound again.

Once the paper was off and the wall was good and dry, the layers seemed to adhere to each other better, and the wall felt more solid. The way I treated it was to roll on a coat of Gardz, which is a penetrating sealer that binds things together. It did a good job. Then I skim-floated over that with joint compound, which, when sanded, would leave a nice, smooth surface.

One more coat of Gardz on top of that, and the wall was sound and ready for wallpaper.

Air Bubbles from Latex Paint

June 13, 2018

The walls had a light texture covered with latex paint, so I skim floated over the walls to smooth them. When the wet smoothing compound got onto the wall, the latex paint absorbed moisture, expanded, and created these bubbles. It’s called “off gassing.”

After the mud dried and was sanded, most of the bubbles disappeared, but some rings were still visible. When I primed with Gardz, a water-borne penetrating sealer, many of the bubbles raised their heads again.

I will have to see if they dry flat over night, or if I will have to use my putty knife to knock them off in the morning. I don’t want bumps showing under the new wallpaper!

From Diagonal to Vertical

March 3, 2018


This home in Bellaire was (Houston) built in the ’90’s, and the original wallpaper (top photo) in this bathroom was outdated and had begun to curl at the seams. I stripped off the old paper and primed the walls with Gardz, a penetrating sealer that is a good base for wallpaper to adhere to. See second photo.

The new tone-on-tone blue striped wallpaper updates the room, and adds a softer look. The homeowner chose cherry red accessories to accent the room. These are toned down by navy blue rugs and towels that are a slightly duskier navy and red.

This paper is a pre-pasted solid vinyl on a paper backing. Despite the economical price-point, I don’t recommend these types of papers, especially in rooms that are prone to humidity, such as bathrooms.

For starters, it’s difficult to install, and the seams never really look good. Second, the paper backing tends to absorb moisture from the air and then expand, and that causes the seams to curl. The vinyl surface layer is known for delaminating (separating from that paper backing). This, again, results in curled seams. This is not something that can be pasted back. So you are either left with curled seams or faced with repapering the entire room.

The best way to (hopefully) avoid this is to properly prep the walls, and to keep humidity to a minimum (avoid steamy showers, keep the A/C / heating vents open, run the exhaust fan, keep the door open).

Better yet, avoid purchasing paper-backed solid vinyl wallcoverings. If you shop at my favorite place (see the page on the right), you will be steered to beautiful papers of a better quality, while still at affordable prices.

Oh Joy – The Pedestal Sink is OUT of the Room!

July 26, 2017

Digital Image


This homeowner had the pedestal sink (as well as the toilet) taken out of the room before I started work. This makes it a WHOLE LOT easier for me to get the paper behind these fixtures, and it means that there will be an intact sheet of paper against the wall, without relief cuts or an open edge along the top of the sink (which could absorb splashed water and curl up).

Also, as you can see, removing the sink can tear up the wall, including any wallpaper, so if you’re going to replace the sink or vanity, as this homeowner is, it’s always best to pull it out before the wallpaper goes up.

The dark brown areas in the photo are where the removal of the sink tore the drywall. This damage should be repaired before paint or wallpaper goes back up.

I stripped off the surrounding wallpaper, then sealed the torn drywall with Gardz, a penetrating sealer made for this type of repair. It soaks in, binds loose edges together, and dries hard and impenetrable to water. This prevents bubbling when something like joint compound, paint, or wallpaper paste are applied over it.

Then I skim-floated the area with “mud” (joint compound), let dry, sanded it smooth, wiped off dust with a damp sponge, and sealed it a second time with Gardz. Gardz is also a good primer for use under wallpaper, so I primed the entire room with this same product.

Old Wallpaper Could Not Be Stripped Off

July 12, 2017

Digital Image

Digital Image


The homeowner is ready for a new look, so the red wallpaper with the “broken coral” pattern has to go. I am pretty darned good at removing wallpaper, but this stuff was not agreeable with the idea.

Normally, you peel off the top, inked layer, and then soak the remaining backing layer with water until the paste loosens, and then you can either lift the paper from the wall, or gently scrape it off.

But this top inked layer came off in tiny pieces – 1/2″ square. Which meant it would take a year and a day to get the whole room stripped off. Then, on my test area, when I tried soaking the paper backing to loosen the paste, it would have non of it.

The backing would not come away from the wall. And in the tiny 1/2″ square area where I finally did get the paper off the wall, there were more problems underneath. Meaning, a gummy, rubbery substance that would not come off the wall, and that left a residue behind that was unsuitable for hanging new wallpaper on top of – it would have necessitated a whole lot of additional skim-floating, sanding, sealing, priming, etc.

I believe that the previous installer either primed the walls with RX-35, or hung the paper with VOV ( Vinyl Over Vinyl), both of which are inappropriate for this type of paper, and both of which are nearly impossible to remove, and both of which leave the gummy, rubbery residue that is so difficult to negate.

I found it preferable to leave the existing paper on the wall. I removed any loose areas (virtually none), and then skim-floated over the seams with joint compound, to remove any vertical lines that could show under the new paper. That’s the white stuff you see in the 2nd photo.

When dry, I sanded that smooth, wiped off the residual dust with a damp sponge, and then primed with Gardz, a penetrating sealing primer. This will yield a smooth, stable surface for the new wallpaper to grab onto.