Posts Tagged ‘plumb’

Using the Laser Level

December 11, 2019


Here I am using my laser level to line up my first wallpaper strip, making sure it’s nice and straight and plumb, while also centering it on the spot where the headboard will sit against the wall.

You Can’t Make the Pattern Match if the Corners are Wonky!

September 8, 2019

Here I am holding my 2′ level against a wall, trying to determine if the walls are plumb and if the corners are square.

See the air bubble in the vial? It’s supposed to be smack in the middle of those two black lines. As you can see, it is nowhere near there!

That means that the walls and corners are way out of plumb – and the floor and ceiling were, too.

And that means that there is no way you can keep a wallpaper pattern straight along the ceiling or floor line, and no way you can match the pattern perfectly in the corners – and if you do, the pattern will track off-kilter along the ceiling and floor.

In this case, the homeowner is well aware of the movement in the walls and foundation of this house – there are lots of areas where cracks have formed and been repaired – over and over again.

She’s understanding, and is OK with a little imperfection in the pattern match, and even anticipates that the walls will eventually crack (and take the wallpaper along with them).

Light-Hued Geometric Updates a Hollywood Bath in West U

June 8, 2019



The kids are grown and gone, so it’s time for an update to this bathroom. The original black & white floral wasn’t bad, but perhaps a bit outdated. And most of the seams had succumbed the curling and pouching that happens when you use the lower-end pre-pasted paper-backed solid vinyl wallpapers in humid rooms – like two teenaged girls showering. 🙂 Besides all that, Mom wanted a fresh new look for her empty nest.

I stripped the paper and prepped the walls – both of which took a lot more work than expected, and way more detail than you want to read here. The install also took a long time … Let’s just say it was way after dark when I finished and went home.

The room had its share of complicated elements. But also working with a geometric print requires a lot of extra steps, to keep the design elements plumb and aligned with the ceiling and woodwork (which are not necessarily plumb), and to keep the pattern matched up as it turns corners – most of which are wonky.

Also, it took a certain amount of plotting and measuring to have the pattern look uninterrupted as it played out above and then below the chair rail.

This paper is in the SureStrip line by York, and is one of my favorites to work with. It is a thin non-woven material, and is designed to strip off the wall easily and with minimal damage to the walls when it’s time to redecorate. It’s pre-pasted, which means that there is a thin layer of dry adhesive on the back, that is activated by water – you can use several methods to do this. SureStrip is always a nice, cooperative paper to hang, and on the wall, it performs well over time.

Ethnic-Looking Pattern in River Oaks Master Bedroom

May 19, 2019


First picture: Boring white walls

Second picture: Using the laser level to get the first strip nice and plumb, and with the pattern centered in the middle of the wall.

Third picture: Finished accent wall.

Fourth picture: Close up of the pattern. To me, it has a strong ethnic feel.

Fifth picture: This paper is by Cole & Son, a British company. It has a pearlized sheen to the surface. The backing is a non-woven material, so it can be hung by pasting the wall or pasting the material. (I prefer pasting the material.) It is designed to strip off the wall easily and with minimal damage to the wall when it’s time to redecorate.

This wallpaper pattern 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.

Three-Dimensional Square “Dots” on Pale Neutral Grasscloth

April 2, 2019


Thibaut’s “Union Square” wallpaper pattern is a response to the popular Phillip Jeffries’s “Rivets.” Thibaut’s looser design and pattern placement make it much easier to align with the walls and woodwork – including rooms that are out of square and out of plumb. Which is just about every house in every neighborhood in every state.

The 3-D squares are made of some kind of plastic stuff, and are virtually impossible to cut through with a razor blade or a scissors (such as when trimming at the ceiling door or window moldings). I was able to engineer the room so that I did not have to cut through any of those rivets! Because the PJ pattern is much tighter, this would have been virtually impossible.

Also, I found that my soft short-bristled smoothing brush worked well enough to press the material against the wall while skimming over the 3/8″ high square bumps (sorry, for some reason, the photo did not turn out). But my beloved plastic trapezoidal squeegee smoother was just about useless, because it would not accommodate the 3-D “rivets.” So I had to adjust my install tactics a bit, and figure how to get along without the plastic smoother.

This wallcovering is made of grasscloth, which provides the subtle texture that homeowners are loving these days. But because grasscloth is made of natural fibers, there can be a lot of variations between bolts, and even between strips off the same bolt.

For that reason, Thibaut not only notes the run number of a bolt of wallpaper, but also the sequence in which the material was produced (see photo). The idea is that if you hang strips sequentially, you will see less shading or paneling (difference in color between two strips of wallcovering). Thibaut’s insert also includes a LOT of jargon about the color differences inherent to natural products, and the admonishment to use the bolts and strips sequentially.

I used three double rolls / bolts of grasscloth for this entry. Two of the bolts (the first two in the sequence) were pretty homogenous in color. The room was small and had low ceilings, and so I was able to keep the three strips needed for the longest wall all from the same bolt (#1).

I cut my other full-length strips from the second bolt (#2). That left the third bolt (#3) for the many short pieces needed to go over the four doorways in the room. As you can see from the last two photos, even though it was the same run number and printed at the same time, this third bolt was noticeably different in color from the previous two. The background color is the same, but there is a lot – a LOT – more dark brown fibrous material that got worked into the woven grass material.

Keeping these darker strips over the doors was a good way to minimize this color difference. The strips were only 9″ high. If these strips had been placed side-by-side on an 8′ high wall, the color difference would have been abruptly noticeable.

Color variations are to be expected with grasscloth, or any natural product. But helpful labeling by the manufacturer, and careful plotting by the installer, can minimize these differences.

This ’60’s-era ranch-style home in the Briargrove neighborhood of Houston is very much a “sea of tranquility,” as the whole house is entwined in off-whites, creams, and tans, with various textures like rough wood, sisal, and this grasscloth, used to pull in depth and warmth.

The interior designer on this project is Layne Ogden, of Layne Torsch Interiors.

A Totally CUUUUTE Wallpaper for a Home Bar

March 14, 2019


The husband wasn’t sure he wanted this paper in their home bar area. The wife and I decided that it was sooo cute and charming, it was going up, hubby’s approval or not! 🙂 (Don’t worry – he loves it!)

This playful pattern is by Marimekko, and is a non-woven material. I hung it by pasting the wall (instead of the paper), which was ideal for this one accent wall with no turns or intricate cuts.

An interesting feature is that the company engineered this so that the glasses and goblets did not cross any seams. Also, they were aligned so that whole figures could be placed at the top of the wall, with none being cut off as the paper was trimmed at the ceiling.

This allowed me to put the motifs I wanted smack at the top of the wall on every strip – even if the ceiling line was not level, or if the side walls were not plumb.

This makes for a much more pleasing view of the wallpaper.

The home is a mid-century modern gem in the Piney Point neighborhood of Houston.

’90’s Check to Magnolia Buffalo Check

February 2, 2019


The differences in the before and after photos are subtle, so look carefully!

This laundry room in a far-north neighborhood of Houston (Louetta & I-45 area) happily sported it’s black & white checkered pattern for many years. The wallpaper dated to the ’90’s, but still looked fresh, and the homeowner loved it.

But an unfortunate water leak caused damage to the window wall, and a poor repair job left a very visible pattern mis-match over the window. Then another water leak required new drywall to be patched in behind the washer and dryer (see top photo). So once the repairs were made, the homeowner wanted to redo the room, and do a little updating along the way.

I stripped the old wallpaper, performed necessary patching and prep, primed the walls with Roman’s Ultra Prime Pro 977 wallcovering primer, and came back the next day to hang the new paper.

The new pattern is also a black & white checkered design, but it’s larger-scaled, and is just large enough to be called a “buffalo check.”

It’s also a freer design – meaning that the wavy edges of the vertical and horizontal pattern, along with the watercolor features of the ink, afforded me some breathing room while dealing with walls and ceiling that were not perfectly plumb and level.

This pattern is in the Magnolia Home collection (Joanna Gaines) by York Wall. 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.

Keeping Wallpaper Lined Up Around a Window

August 28, 2018


Coming around a window can be tricky, because wallpaper likes to twist out of shape, windows can be off-plumb and / or not square, and other reasons, so it’s possible that the pattern can match above but not under the window, or the edges above and below the windows might not line up. Or everything can start going off-plumb.

In the first photo, you can (barely) see the vertical line of my laser level, which is helping me keep the left edges of the wallpaper strip lined up as the paper hangs over and then under the window. Next I hung the shorter strips above and under the window. I kept them “open” (did not trim the tops and bottoms), so I could “tweak” them if necessary.

In the second photo, I have positioned the next strip, again using my laser level to create a straight, plumb line on the left edge. This will ensure that subsequent strips will also hang plumb. I let this new strip hang a bit below the pattern match of the previous strip, so I could accommodate any rise or fall in the pattern; the section under the window was longer, so this is the area I wanted the best pattern match. By leaving the paper loose, I was able to match the pattern at the under the window, then pull the paper up to meet the strip over the window.

Sure enough, the pattern match was off a bit above the window. In addition, the strip on the top reached about 1/2″ further to the left than the strip under the window. This meant I was going to have a pattern mis-match, as well as an overlapped seam. But because I had not yet trimmed the top or bottom of that strip above the window, I was able to manipulate this strip to avoid these issues.

I took this strip and cut it vertically along a flower stem. The right half I aligned with the pattern match on the right. The left half was moved down to match the pattern on the full-length strip on the left, while also butting it up against this strip. This meant that I had a slight pattern mis-match in the middle of the cut strip, as well as an overlap.

All this was OK with me. The busy pattern easily disguised the slight pattern mis-match, as well as that 1/2″ overlap. In addition, it was way up high, over the window.

Standing back, you cannot notice any pattern mismatch or overlap. But what you do see is that the pattern runs perfectly across the top of the wall, and the subsequent strips are all and plumb and nicely butted together.

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.

MC Escher-ish Wallpaper Pattern in a Mid Century Modern Home

July 7, 2018


This couple scored a cool, mint-condition authentic Mid-Century Modern home in the Reliant Stadium / Medical Center area of Houston. They have some wonderful authentic period furnishings, and wanted to add a little “pop” as an accent, but not so much as to overwhelm the home. Well, you’ve gotta admit – this pattern really delivers!

This design is in the feel of the artist MC Escher, who bent minds back in in the Art Deco and Modern periods (’20’s-’50’s) with his “never ending stairways” type drawings. It’s by York, and is a non-woven material, and can be installed by either paste-the-wall or paste-the-paper (I prefer the paste-the-paper method). It is dimensionally-stable (doesn’t expand when it gets wet with paste), and is designed to strip off the wall easily when it’s time to redecorate.

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.

The ceiling in this entryway was way off-level, so I knew that the motif I placed at the top of the wall would start going off-track as it moved across the wall. So I started in the middle of the wall, so that any pattern distortion would be visually lessened by being split across the width of the wall evenly from the center. In the second photo, I’m using my laser level to get a plumb starting point for my first strip.

The blue you see at the top of the second photo is plastic tape I use to keep paste off the ceiling.  It can be used around woodwork and other surfaces, too.   You can also see how the bottom section of the strip of paper is “booked” (folded back on itself).  This shortens the strip of paper, thus making it easier to handle, and also keeps the pasted side from bumping against the wall, which could cause paste stains and also make the paper stick to the wall where I don’t want it to.

And, most important, with standard papers that need to absorb moisture from the paste, then expand and relax before hanging, booking helps keep the paper from drying out.  Note:  This is a non-woven material, so no waiting period is required, but I still booked the paper to make it easier to handle.)