Posts Tagged ‘plumb’

Warping Wallpaper – Grasscloth

June 17, 2020

Well, this was a first for me. I can’t say that I remember having a grasscloth that stretched and warped out of shape this badly.

What’s odd is that, after I pasted and booked the wallpaper, it was perfectly lined up and flat. It was only after the paper had sat for the resting period, and then I unfolded it and took it to the wall, that it started warping out of shape.

My first strip laid against the wall nice and flat, but did not line up against my laser level’s red beam, moving to the left the farther down the wall the strip went. The subsequent strip to its right, naturally, would not butt up against the first strip. However, this second strip did line up against the laser plumb line, on both the right and left sides. So I left it on the wall.

But I had to tear off and discard that first strip.

I had problems with many of the strips. As you can see, there was major warping and wrinkling. I was unable to smooth out most of these warps.

Some of my colleagues have suggested that my trimmed edges were not straight. And I admit that I sense that my ($200!) straightedge is not true (perfectly straight). But a 1/8″ discrepancy over a 9′ drop should not result in wrinkles of this magnitude.

I think that the substrate that S&L is using is absorbing moisture from the paste unevenly, and thus creating the warps and twists.

The only way I could make this work was to do a double-cut (spliced seam). I smoothed the grasscloth onto the wall as best I could, even though both the right and left edges still presented wrinkles.

I carefully pulled away from the wall the left edge of the previous strip (having applied extra paste, to keep everything wet and “open”). Between that edge of the strip and the wall, I placed a “Boggess Strip,” (invented by a fellow WIA member) which is a thin strip of 2″ wide polyethelyne plastic, that will protect the wall from my razor blade.

Now hanging the next grasscloth strip, I then covered the underside of the right (wrinkled) edge with blue plastic tape (also invented by the same WIA genius member). This would keep paste off the surface of the strip I was overlapping it onto. Then I smoothed the paper onto the wall, allowing the right side of the strip to overlap on top of the previous strip, by 1.5″.

I worked out wrinkles as best as I could, but some insisted on remaining. I then took my EuniTool straightedge (invented by yet another WIA member), and used it as a guide, along with the red light line from my laser level, and a new, fresh razor blade, to cut a straight, plumb line between the edges of the two strips.

The grasscloth was thick, and I had to press really hard to cut through both layers. The Boggess strip prevented scoring into the wall. This is important, because an un-intact wall can delaminate under the stress of drying / shrinking wallpaper, and this can cause the seams to pop open.

Back to the double-cut. Once the cut was done, I removed the plastic Boggess strip from the wall, and the protective blue plastic tape from the edge of the grasscloth, as well as the two excess strips of paper that I had just cut off. (Do a Search here to see pics and read more about the double cut / splice process.)

I could then smooth the newly-cut edges of the two strips together.

All this takes a lot of time.

I still had more strips to hang – and each required the same procedure. You only have so much “open” time before a piece of wallpaper starts sticking to the wall and cannot be jacked around with anymore.

I had to jump to the left edge of the current strip I was working with, and add a Boggess strip behind it. And then I had to paste and book my next strip, and apply some blue tape to the area that would overlap the previous strip. Wait a few minutes for it to book and absorb the paste.

Then repeat the double cutting procedure used on the first strip.

All this caught me off guard, and it threw off my engineering of the wall and my planned width of the strips. It also took a lot more time … I spent 5 hours hanging just these 5 strips.

Bottom line – I got ‘er done … But I am definitely NOT going to recommend Serena & Lily grasscloth to future clients.

And I am VERY grateful to my WIA colleagues for inventing tools and gadgets that help with these tricky situations, which I’m glad I bought and had stashed in my van, and for sharing their knowledge and experiences so I knew what techniques I might try.

Making a Geometric Wallpaper Pattern LOOK Straight in a Room with Crooked Walls

April 8, 2020

Digital Image

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Geometric wallpaper patterns are popular right now, but they are rigid and inflexible, and the eye sees any imperfection, so they are demanding to hang, especially in rooms where walls are not plumb and floors and ceilings are not level. This powder room in Fleetwood (far west Houston) really put me to the test.

Visually, it’s more important to keep the pattern intact, than to keep it running straight along the ceiling and floor lines. On the various walls and elevations in this room, I called a lot of tricks into play to keep the pattern looking straight – but here we’ll focus on this one corner.

In the top photo, the corner looks straight, but if you could see the full height of the wall, you would see that the wallpaper pattern moves to the left as it drops down the corner. I’m happy that all of the “lanterns” are intact. But as more strips are hung to the right of this corner, the lantern motif will start to travel up the wall and be cut off at the ceiling line.

To keep this from happening, I had to pull the pattern back into plumb. The second photo shows what the design should look like, and it’s my goal to keep the pattern intact, and all the lanterns looking like this.

In the third photo, I am hanging the first strip to the right of the corner. Because the corner is off-plumb, this strip of wallpaper would hang off-plumb, too. To keep that from happening, I hung the left side of the strip off-plumb, but then hung the right side of the strip plumb, lining it up against my laser level, a you see in the photo.

How did I do that? I took a sharp scissors, a good pair of close-up eyeglasses, a whole lot of patience, and even more time, and carefully cut around the left edge of the lantern motifs from floor to ceiling. You can pretty well see this loose edge in the third photo.

Then I pulled the right edge of the wallpaper to line up against the red line from my laser level, making it nice and plumb. This created an overlap of the left edge of the lantern motifs onto the right edge of left side of the wallpaper strip that had been cut in half. Got that? 🙂

This one corner took me about 45 minutes.

It was worth it. Once I smoothed the overlapped pieces into place, you really don’t notice that the lanterns are a little closer together at that one section than they should be. See third photo. This area is near the floor, across from the toilet, and not any place anyone is going to be studying the width of wallpaper motifs. 🙂 And it looks a whole lot better than chopped-off lanterns at the ceiling.

In this whole 10 single-roll powder room, I’d say that I spent a full two hours just on tweaking the pattern to keep it looking straight. That’s in addition to five hours regular labor to hang the paper. Plus the entire day before to prep the walls.

It was well worth it. The homeowners had originally tackled this wallpaper job themselves, but became overwhelmed. They had invested the better part of a year in getting the room into shape. In the end, the room looks great, it is MUCH brighter than when they started out (original paper was a dark teal faux finish), and it suits the wife’s love of all things geometric.

This wallpaper pattern is by Brewster, in their A-Street Prints line, and was bought at below retail price from 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.

Serena & Lily “Feather” In Boy’s Bedroom

March 20, 2020


I like Serena & Lily papers, and their “Feather” is one of their most popular. Here it is in navy in the bedroom of a young boy in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston.

The room presented some challenges, but the pattern was accommodating. It took a whole lot of time, but when I finished, it looked great.

The 4-square house was built about 1920. In the ensuing years, the house has shifted. Which is a nice way of saying that the floors and ceilings are not level, and the walls are not plumb.

I started to center the pattern on a plumb line between the two windows. But a plumb line is plumb, and the window moldings were not, so the wallpaper pattern would have started going crooked along the windows and ceilings. So instead of lining my first strip up against a plumb line, I carefully placed it to straddle an area equidistant between the two windows.

This took a lot of measuring, a lot of repositioning, and a lot of trips up and down the ladder. And, yes, I even had the strip in place, trimmed, and done – and then realized that it was a tad off. So I pulled it off the wall and moved it over by a scant 3/16 of an inch. The effort paid off, because, as you can see in the first photo, the design is perfectly centered between the two windows, from ceiling to floor.

The next full strip hung to the right of the window on the right (no photo). This wall was way off-plumb, and was shaped more like a trapezoid than a rectangle. My job was to keep the pattern looking straight along the window frame on its left, as well as straight along the door frame to its right.

The only way I could do this was to slice the strip apart vertically, cutting along the vertical “stripes” in the design. Then I aligned the pattern to the left and right moldings. In between, I overlapped the “stripes,” distributing the discrepancy in widths between the sections. In this way, I accommodated for more than an inch of difference in width between the top and bottom of the wall. This did create a slight vertical ridge under the stripes, but it was disguised by the stripes themselves. And a little difference in thickness of the wallpaper looks a whole lot better than a crooked pattern.

To the right of that was a wide closet door. I hung the three strips over the door, and the pattern was placed perfectly. Yet when I stepped back and looked at it, the design looked horribly crooked.

I finally figured out that the ceiling and door moldings were not perfectly perpendicular to each other. In fact, there was a full 3/4″ difference in height between the left and right side of the area. This trapezoid shape was causing the strips to look crooked, even if they were not.

Again, my solution was to cut the paper apart vertically along the “stripes,” and overlap as needed, to make my strips look plumb.

I employed this trick as needed in other areas of the room.

The design itself was very helpful. The vertical “stripes” were not straight, so nothing had to be exactly-dactly straight or plumb. And the “V”s at the top of the wall were also irregular, as were the positioning of the diagonal lines, so I had flexibility in how high or low to place my pattern.

Throwing another wrench into the works was the fact that we had two different runs to work with (do a Search here to learn about that), plus one double roll bolt that was defective and could not be used, which meant I had to figure out how to make 10 rolls cover 12 rolls’ worth of wall space.

Another obstacle was placing the wallpaper against the stained shiplap wall – without getting paste onto the rough, un-cleanable wood. And let’s not forget to mention the “industrial” metal pipe that hung 1/2″ from the wall I was papering.

I used two tricks for this. One was using my Boggess blue cut tape to protect the wooden wall. The other again involved using the trim-along-the-stripe-and-overlap-new-strip-as-needed technique. Too intricate to explain, especially without photos. But it was a good trick and the perfect solution to ending the paper at the wooden wall.

Sounds complicated. It WAS! It took me 10 hours (3+ hours per wall) to get these 10 single rolls up.

When all was said and done, though, the room looked fantastic. All ready for the young boy to move in!

Other parts of the room have a heavy “industrial modern” look – exposed pipe, weathered metal light fixtures, unpainted original shiplap wood. The interior designer is Stacie Cokinos of Cokinos Design.

Bibliotheque Install Details – Pt IV – Plumbing Up Coming Out of a Corner

March 18, 2020


Walls are never straight, and corners are never plumb. This can wreak havoc with wallpaper and wallpaper patterns. But there are ways to deal with that. For instance …

Coming around an inside corner, you want to split your strip of wallpaper vertically, so that it wraps just a tiny bit (1/16″ – 1/8″) around the corner. Then you take the remaining portion of that split strip and overlap it on top of that 1/16″ – 1/8″.

At this point, you have the opportunity to make adjustments for walls that are out of plumb or that have bows or other defects.

In the photo, you see me using my laser level to plumb-up the right edge of the wallpaper strip. This may mean mis-matching the pattern a bit in the corner – a convenient place to hide slight discrepancies.

Trimming Along Bull-Nosed Edged Walls

March 10, 2020


A whole lot of new homes these days have rounded bull-nosed edges on their walls’ outside corners. These might be up to date and pleasing to the eye, but they are bugger-bears to trim wallpaper on.

For one thing, the paper is hanging over the edge, so you can’t see what you are doing or where you are trimming. Next, it’s impossible to get a correctly-positioned or straight cut – especially since you can’t see where you are cutting.

A solution to that is to use a laser level to draw a straight line that you can trim against. The problem with that is that it’s highly unlikely that the wall edge will be perfectly plumb. So if you follow a plumb laser line placed against a wall edge that is slightly off-plumb … Well, you see where we are heading.

Wallcovering Installers Association to the rescue … one of my colleagues in a distant city invented this ingenious device. It is made from the very same “bead” molding that drywall guys use when installing these walls.

I cut one to a size that’s comfortable to fit my hand. Then I cut out notches at various places. Once the gizmo is placed straddling the rounded corner, I choose the notch that corresponds to the position that I want my cut to hit.

The inventor puts a trimming knife in the notch, and then trims along the edge of the wallpaper. But I find that maneuver to be awkward. And I fear that either the gizmo or my blade will slip, resulting in a crooked cut.

So I stick a pencil point into the notch and use that to draw a line along where the cut should be made. Then I remove the guide tool and then use a straightege and razor blade to trim along my pencil line. I have the flexibility to tweak things if anything should get off-kilter.

Sneaky Trick for Working Around Pedestal Sinks

March 7, 2020


These new-fangled non-woven wallpapers have their advantages. But they have disadvantages, too. One is that many are prone to creasing, even with just the littlest stress on the surface (such as when booking (folding) the material). Look very closely at the top photo to see my pencil pointing at a slightly damaged area.

Papering around obstacles like this pedestal sink require a lot of folding and cutting and manipulating, and it’s a pretty sure bet that creases will appear.

Well, I thought up a trick that reduces stress and overworking on the paper, and eliminates most of the potential for creases.

Instead of trying to wrap a full strip of wallpaper over, around, and under the pedestal sink, I brought the paper to just a few inches below the top of the sink, and then cut it horizontally, leaving the bottom section to be hung later. To minimize visibility of this horizontal cut, I made sure to make my cuts follow the black lines in the design.

Once the shorter strip over the sink was up, instead of filling in the remaining part of the strip in its place under the sink, instead I hung the full-height strip to the right. It was important to hang this full-width strip before I positioned the pieces under the sink, because wallpaper will often twist out of plumb and out of shape, which makes it hard to butt up future strips, and which throws off the pattern match, too. The larger the piece, the more stability it has, so this full-height-and-full-width-strip hung nice and straight.

Next came the piece that fit under the sink. Actually, to make it easier to work around the pedestal and the plumbing poking out of the wall behind it, I slit this strip in two vertically, at the point where the wallpaper would encounter the pipes.

I was able to match the pattern to that on the wall to the left, and also to the strip on the right. Any resulting mis-match between the two strips under the sink, then, was hidden behind the pedestal.

Keeping the Pattern Match While Coming Around a Bank of Windows

February 14, 2020


Hanging wallpaper around windows is tough, because getting the pattern to match above the windows, and then down the side and then match up with the pattern under the window is really tricky.

ESPECIALLY in a room where the walls are out of plumb, and the ceiling is not level, and also considering that wallpaper naturally stretches and warps when it is wetted with paste, plus various other factors.

I was lucky that this was a non-woven material, which is “dimensionally stable” – meaning it (supposedly) won’t expand, nor twist or warp when it absorbs paste. So, theoretically, after papering over and then under the window, the final full-height strip along the right side should butt up with the strip above the window, and then the strip below the window. That, actually, did work out perfectly.

But I still had to deal with the potential for the pattern to track off kilter, due to all those un-plumb and un-level factors. If it got off a little, I could tweak it a bit by pulling the last strip either higher or lower – the pattern is forgiving, and you would not notice a small pattern mis-match – especially 11′ up and behind drapes.

But I wanted to minimize a potential pattern mis-match as much as possible.

I figured that if the pattern stayed straight across the top of the windows, and also stayed straight across the area below the windows, it would have to match up with the final 11′ strip to the right of the windows.

To keep the pattern straight and at the right height on the wall, I used a level and pencil to draw a horizontal line that corresponded to the top of a leaf motif in the pattern. I did this both above and below the window.

Then, while hanging the paper, I made sure to keep that particular leaf at the same height of the line I had drawn on the wall.

It was a bit trickier than that, because it was a drop match, which means that that leaf only showed up on every other strip. But it all worked out.

One trick is to keep the strip “open,” which means that you put it into position, but don’t trim at top or bottom until you get the following strip into place. That way, you have the option of moving the previous strip either up or down to match the pattern, or, in the event that it won’t match perfectly, you can split the difference and spread the pattern mis-match between the two strips.

But I didn’t have to do much splittin’. By keeping the leaf at the height of my pencil line, by the time that last strip fell into place, the design matched up perfectly both above and below the window.

Faces in Unexpected Places

January 26, 2020

How’s this for something no one else is gonna have?! The homeowner of this Galleria-area home in Houston is a big-personality gal, recently divorced, and she wants her new home to reflect who she is. Everything in the house that could have glitter, shimmer, mirror, or glitz does – including the dog bed and the kitchen backsplash.

This wallpaper in the adjoining powder room (with a huge crystal chandelier!) fits right in with that new life.

This is a sort of mural, composed of rectangular panels about 3′ wide x 2′ high. It was bought on-line, and came with no information or installation instructions.

It was a paper substrate, and was meant to be butted at the seams, as opposed to overlapped, as many mural panels are. After experimenting, I found that a powdered wheat or cellulose paste hydrated the paper best, and that a little of my traditional wallpaper paste added to the mix helped hold the paper tightly to the wall and minimize shrinkage as the panels dried.

The paper curled badly when it was wet with the paste (see third photo), which made it difficult to paste it, book it, and then get it to the wall.

It also expanded a lot when it got wet – almost an inch in each direction. Uneven expansion meant that it developed large wrinkles and warps that were difficult to remove.

In addition, the walls were bowed and uneven in the corners, the walls were not plumb, the ceiling was not level, the crown molding was at different heights on different walls, and we didn’t have a lot of paper to play with.

It took a lot of work to keep the pattern matched as well as possible in the corners, to keep the pattern running at the right point below the crown molding, to eliminate the aforementioned wrinkles, to butt the panels, to minimize white showing at the seams due to the panels drying and shrinking, the paper getting saturated and tearing or dragging when I tried to trim it, and lots more challenges.

All this could have been easier if the manufacturer had chosen a better substrate to print on. But – well, hey, we’ve got a digital printer, so let’s just dig up some paper stock, print cool designs on it, and market it as wallpaper.

Actually, this material worked out pretty well in this small powder room. But I would not want to paper a large, wide wall with it.

Most companies who make murals like this, on this type of thin paper substrate, allow for the edges to be overlapped about 3/8″ at each seam. This allows the installer to make adjustments for wonky walls and ceilings, and it eliminates the gapping at seams as paper dries and shrinks. It does, however, leave a ridge along each seam where the edges are overlapped.

Overall, though, I was not unhappy with this product in this room. And working out all the challenges was mighty fun. I was glad to have a nice, quiet, empty house to do all this in. All in all, this medium-sized powder room that I had prepped the weekend before, took me nine hours to hang.

Have the Paperhanger Measure BEFORE You Order

January 12, 2020

Re the mural in my previous post, which was custom-sized to fit this wall … Folks, you canNOT have a mural sized to fit your wall EXACTLY.

Walls are never a perfect triangle. And they are never perfectly plumb, nor are the ceiling and floor exactly-dactly level.

This means that you have to allow for the pattern to track off-kilter, both horizontally and vertically. And for trimming at the ceiling, floor, and side walls. And don’t forget that the wall may be a different height at the left side of the wall compared to the right side.

The way to accommodate for this is to have a little extra paper on each side. This means ADDING AN EXTRA TWO INCHES ON EACH SIDE of the mural – a total of 4″ to the height and 4″ to the width.

In this case, the company suggested adding 1″ to each dimension. As you see in the photo, by the time I split that 1″ between the top and the bottom of the wall, I was not left with much to play with when trimming at the ceiling.

If this wall had been wider, and if the pattern started tracking downward, I might have ended up with white selvedge showing at the top of the wall, instead of the grey sky of the design.

This project worked out just fine. But, again, it would have been a safer purchase if I had visited and measured this space before the homeowners ordered their mural.

Notice Anything? – Wonky Wallpaper

January 9, 2020


When I first looked at this picture in Better Homes & Gardens magazine’s December 2019 issue, I wondered why the installer had not positioned the circle motifs so they landed at the top of the wall.

Then I looked closer, and realized that he probably had – at a starting point in another part of the room. If you look at the crown molding line, you notice that the pattern is moving up the wall from left to right.

Often this is because of unplumb walls and/or unlevel ceiliing lines. But I looked closer and saw that the pattern is also crooked as it runs down the side of the window. Again, this could be because the whole house – walls, ceiling, doors, and windows – has shifted out of plumb (foundation issues – if you live in Houston, you know all about that!).

If the installer hung his paper true to plumb, it will always look crooked in house that is not plumb.

Sometimes, there are tricks you can do to make a pattern look straight, even if the house is wonky. Almost always, they involve pattern mis-matches in corners or at seams.

So it’s a toss-up as to which is the lesser of the two evils – pattern getting chopped off as it travels along the ceiling and moldings, or pattern mis-matches at the seams.

What I probably would have done in this case would be to position a half-circle at the top of the wall. This way, if the pattern starts tracking up or down, you don’t readily notice if the half-circle is a little taller or shorter, as compared to the top of a circle getting sliced off.