Posts Tagged ‘plastic’

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. đŸ™‚

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!

Scalamandre Textured Stripe

September 23, 2019

This is one of those jobs that you have to see in person to fully appreciated, because the photos show only a fraction of the coolness of this material.

The homeowner of this brand-new home in the Garden Oaks neighborhood of Houston loves to entertain, and he has a large personality. He turned his living room into a bar / lounge / reception sort of area. It’s the first thing you see as you enter the house.

This room has a lot more luxe and drama and cool furnishings that I am not showing, out of respect for my client’s privacy. But suffice it to say, the overall effect will really WOW everyone who walks into the home.

ScalamandrĂ© makes this product, which is called “Pacific Stripe.” It has a high plastic content, which allows for the heavily textured surface, as well as a lot of Mylar, which accounts for the metallic-like sheen.

One photo shows this material rolled out on the floor, to see how the pattern plays out across the width. Turns out the dark striped ridges come nine to a set. The edges on either side of the goods have more than nine ridges … This means that when strips are placed next to one another, you will end up with many more than nine ridges at each seam. So some has to be trimmed off of either side of the wallpaper, to ensure that each band of stripes has only nine ridges.

Lots of higher-end papers need to have their selvedge edge trimmed off. But this is the first time I’ve encountered a thick, textured paper that had to be hand-trimmed. Note the photo showing this process.

My goal was to leave four ridges on the right side of the paper, and then five ridges plus a flat line on the opposite side of the paper, to maintain the correct rhythm of ridge-to-flat spacing. The paper was dark, and the lighting was poor, so it was difficult to see where to trim.

Also, the thickness of the ridges held my 6′ metal straightedge off the material, so it was very important to hold my razor blade absolutely straight, to avoid a beveled or wavering cut.

It helped that the contractor had painted the wall black (per my specs), so, after I deglosssed and then applied my clear primer Gardz, there were no worries about background color peeking out at the seams. As extra assurance, I colored the edges of the paper (which was bonded to a white substrate) with dark chalk.

Scalamandré provided no instructions or information of any sort, so I followed my gut as for paste, booking time, and other installation techniques.

The product was very thick and stiff. It was difficult to trim through and took many swipes of my razor knife. A simple accent wall like this is one thing … but this material would have been a real pain to hang in a room that had intricate decorative moldings, or in a complicated room like a bathroom – I would probably have had the homeowner remove the sink and toilet and then replace them after the wallpaper was up. ($$ to pay the plumber!)

As it was, this single accent wall behind a well-loved entertaining area was the perfect spot for it.

The homeowner is overjoyed with the finished bar. In fact, he can’t wait to host his first party!

Solid Vinyl Wallpaper is Not Good in Humid Areas

September 18, 2019


I don’t recommend the economical (i.e. lower end) pre-pasted, solid-vinyl wallpapers in humid rooms. Yes, the vinyl will resist water and stains if it gets splashed. But that gritty paper backing sucks up moisture, even moisture in humid air. When it does, the paper expands. The top vinyl layer does not. So the expanding paper pushes the plastic surface away from the wall, as you see in these photos.

In a further scenario, the two layers actually delaminate (come apart) from one another. This sort of seam cannot be glued back down.

It’s best to avoid this type of paper.

Another Fun Challenge, Disguising a Kill Point

March 16, 2019


If you start hanging wallpaper in a corner, for example, by the time you get around the room and come back to that first corner, the last strip will need to be cut vertically to fit that last space, and pattern will not match up with the pattern on the first wall. This is called the kill point. Usually you try to place it in an inconspicuous place, such as behind a door.

This powder room did not have any hidden corners. I didn’t want to end up with an 8′ high corner of mis-matched pattern, so I decided to put the kill point in a 15″ high area – over the door. A mis-match in the middle of a wall (such as over a door) catches the eye more quickly than a mis-match in a corner. But I knew this pattern would help me minimize that.

What I didn’t expect was that, miraculously, the pattern almost matched itself up perfectly, with only about a 2″ of excess paper. Plus a little tracking due to the crookedness of the walls and ceiling. See second photo.

I did a splice. I matched the strip of paper to the pattern on the right, and then matched it up to the pattern on the left. This left the pouch of excess paper that you see in the second photo. I cut this paper in two vertically, as you see in the second photo.

To prepare for the splice, I took a strip of clear flexible plastic (polystyrene) strip and placed it under the area to be spliced. This would protect the wall from being cut. (Scoring the wall can leave weak areas that could pull loose and delaminate, as the wallpaper dries and pulls taught and puts tension on the wall…. which could cause the seams to curl up.) You can barely see this clear plastic strip at the bottom center of the third photo.

Then I overlapped the strips, took a new, sharp razor blade, and cut through both layers of paper, tracing along the curved elements of the design, such as the tree trunk. A straight cut would have sliced leaves and trees abruptly, but a curved cut helps disguise a pattern mis-match. Also, following along the trunk of the trees maintained the design of the pattern and gave the eye something that it expected to see by maintaining the rhythmic repeat of the design.

Once the cut was made, I pulled away the excess paper from both the top and bottom layers, and removed the lexan strip (which can be washed and reused). I smoothed the two sides of wallpaper together and wiped off residual paste.

In the last photo’s finished view, you can hardly notice any mis-matched pattern.

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.)

Down With The Old ’90’s Pattern – In With The New

February 21, 2018


This “angled brush stroke” pattern in navy on a shiny white (Mylar plastic) background was a very popular theme in the late ’80’s and early ’90’s.”

It has seen it’s day, and it’s time to go away.

I spent today stripping this paper off a Hollywood bathroom in the Bellaire neighborhood of Houston.

Stay posted to see pics of the new selection!

Keeping Paste Off The Bookshelf Cubicle Paint (see previous post)

February 4, 2018


In yesterday’s post (below), I talked about pre-trimming pieces of grasscloth, so that two sides and one corner would fit neatly into the bookshelf cubicle’s back. That left me needing to trim excess paper off just two sides (plus the three attached corners).

I measured and pre-trimmed my pieces so that there would be only a 1/2″ excess that needed to be removed. That’s not very much, but, still, paste was on the back, and it would get onto the surrounding wood and paint. It’s easy enough to wipe the paste off of enamel paint. But in the case of grasscloth wallpaper, you really don’t want to get the surface wet (from the damp rag wiping paste off the painted wood), because it can stain, bleed, or lose color.

So I used strips of this cool blue plastic tape that is sold by a colleague of mine, Steve Boggess, a fellow member of the WIA (Wallcovering Installers Association), who imports it from Japan.

In the top photo, you see it applied to the back of the pasted piece of wallpaper. Two sides of the piece will butt against the walls of the cubicle, but the two sides that will overlap onto the painted walls will need to be taped. This tape will prevent paste from getting onto the painted walls.

In the second photo, you see a wee little bit of the tape peeking out from behind the grasscloth. In the third photo, I have made my trim cuts and am removing the excess grasscloth. The blue tape is coming along with it. It’s important to get all the tape off – if not, there will be no paste exposed to the wall to hold the grasscloth onto the wall.

The blue tape is expensive, and it adds extra time. But it saves time by eliminating the need to wipe paste off surfaces. And it keeps both paper and other surfaces absolutely clean and paste-free.

Meticulous Craftsmanship vs. Who Gives a Flip?

November 6, 2016
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Last Saturday (see my Glass Beads post), I worked in a new construction home in the Houston Heights built by Ridgewater Homes. I was struck by the high quality of workmanship in every area of the home. I was equally impressed by the time and attention the workers put into prepping sites before beginning any work. As an example, in the powder room where I was hanging wallpaper, every inch of baseboard, the whole vanity top, and even the entire light sconces had been protected by plastic and blue painter’s tape. See first photo.

In contrast, today I worked in a new construction home – by a builder who will not be identified – in Timber Grove, just west of the Heights. They painted without bothering to cover anything with tape or plastic, so, as you see in the second photo, the beautiful stained woodwork and floors are covered with paint splatter.

The third photo is dark, but to the left of the light switch you can see a 3/4″ gap in the wall, and above the switch is a 1/4″ gap. Another photo shows torn and bulging drywall around a light switch, and another shows Sheetrock screws (just two of many) protruding from the wall.

Here you see the difference between a custom home builder, and a custom home craftsman. I would much prefer to live in the home by Ridgewater.

Keeping Non-Removable Elements Clean

May 30, 2015
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In the first photo, look at the paste residue another installer left on his client’s thermostat. This is easily avoidable, because the covers are usually simple to remove, and then you can detach the whole thing from the wall, put the wallpaper behind it (which looks much better than cutting around it, and prevents curling, too), and then replace the thermostat, perfectly clean.

On my job today, I encountered this 2-component alarm system. My original thought was to remove the outside boxes, much like a thermostat. But the thingie on the left wasn’t gonna budge from the wall, and the big box on the right had so many wires and intimidating stuff inside it that I quickly closed the lid and opted to work around it.

It’s possible to put the paper up, smear paste on the boxes, and then go back and wipe it off. We wipe paste off all sorts of things all the time, like baseboards and moldings, mirrors and window glass, etc.

But these boxes were complicated, and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time cleaning them afterward. So I taped plastic over them, then worked the wet wallpaper around them. The wet paste got on the plastic, but not on the boxes. Once I finished manipulating the paper into place, all I had to do was remove the plastic and the tape, wipe a very few minor areas, and it was all nice and clean and ready to go.