Posts Tagged ‘prep’

Humidity Damage to Vinyl Wallpaper

June 15, 2021

As I like to say, Humidity Is The Great Enemy Of Wallpaper.

This small bathroom with no A/C vent has more problems with moisture than most, as evidenced by the stains and flaking paint on the ceiling.

But let’s focus on the wallpaper. Back some decades, just about all you could find were these pre-pasted paper-backed solid vinyl papers. I have never been fond of them. https://wallpaperlady.wordpress.com/stay-away-from-pre-pasted-paper-backed-solid-vinyl-wallpapers/

the paper backing seems to absorb humidity through the seams. As it sucks up moisture, the paper expands, and that causes the paper to push away from the wall, creating the curled seams you see in the photo. It advances past that, to where the paper backing actually delaminates from the vinyl coating and from the wall. The surfaces come apart, and cannot be “glued down.”

A small part of this problem could have to do with improper surface prep, such as a good wallpaper-specific primer. But the brunt of the issue lies with too much humidity. An air duct in the room would help bring in fresh, dry, air-conditioned or heated air. And keeping the door open would have given humidity a way to exit.

But best of all would have been to avoid this low-end plastic / paper combination wall covering in the first place. A paper wallpaper, or one of the newer non-woven (synthetic fiber) materials would resist humidity much better.

Whoops! Someone Painted Over Old Wallpaper

April 21, 2021

Just looking at the walls, I had not noticed . But when I removed the light switch cover, it was clear that someone didn’t bother to remove the old wallpaper, and just painted over it.

Actually, they probably did do some prep, because you could not see seams under the paint. They must have taken steps to cover the seams.

And there was no flashing … difference in texture between paint over wallpaper, for instance, and paint over smoothing compound that was used to disguise those seams.

And there were no bubbles (caused by latex paint on top of wallpaper that absorbs moisture from the paint and swells) and only a few tiny loose areas.

Still, it would have been better if the previous guy had put some effort into removing the wallpaper, and then washing the paste off the wall and then sealing with a stain blocker, to prevent paste residue from causing the new paint to crackle and flake off the wall. Then the room would be adequately ready for paint.

Mirror Tar Bleeds Through Wallpaper – Prevention

June 18, 2020



The owner of this newish home in the Woodland Heights (Houston) had her handyman remove the powder room mirror and its surrounding built-in wooden frame. Mirrors are often adhered to the wall with mastic, a tar-like substance. When the mirror comes off, some of the tar residue invariably remains.

In the top photo, you can see where removing the mirror took the blobs of mastic along with it, as well as round sections of the drywall. But there are small smudges of tar still remaining on the wall.

The problem is that tar (among a lot of other substances) will bleed through wallpaper (as well as paint, and a lot of other materials).

There are stain blockers like my beloved KILZ Original Oil Based, BIN shellac based, or others, that are designed to block these stains. But I don’t trust them. For water, rust, blood, wood sap, etc., yes. But for oil-based substances like tar, I want more assurance. The best way to prevent bleed-through is not to cover the stain, but to remove it.

So I take a Stanley knife and cut into the drywall and then peel up the top layer of drywall, taking along the offending tar residue.

So now the dangerous tar is gone. But you’re left with torn drywall. This is bad for several reasons. For one thing, you have an uneven surface that will look bad under the new wallpaper (or paint). And since the top, protective layer of drywall is gone, any moisture (such as from wallpaper paste or from latex paint) will penetrate into the torn paper layer – which will swell and cause bubbling.

All of which looks pretty bad under wallpaper or paint.

So I used the product Gardz to seal the torn drywall. It is formulated to soak into the paper; then it dries hard and acts as a sealer and moisture-blocker. It won’t block stains, but it will prevent moisture from penetrating the paper and causing bubbling.

Once that was dry, I skim-floated over the entire area with joint compound. It looks rough in the photo, but once it’s dry, I’ll sand it smooth. Then I’ll give it another coat of the penetrating sealer Gardz. See last photo. Once that is dry, I’ll cover it with a coat of Roman’s Ultra Prime Pro 977 wallpaper primer, when I prime the other walls in this powder room.

All of these various products do take a while to dry, especially the joint compound as thick as I applied it. So I went to this job site a few days before the install date, to do the initial prep, so it would have plenty of time to dry before I come back for the final prep and wallpaper hang.

A Note Makes It Nicer

December 17, 2019


It’s always nice to get a check in the mail. But it’s even nicer when they take the time to include a note.

This is a job that went haywire, with a LOT more prep and time being needed than originally expected. Which is a nice way of saying that I lost money on this one.

The interior designer was kind enough to include a little extra when she wrote the check. I don’t know if she charged the client, or if she took it out of her own revenue, but it was really sweet and muchly appreciated.

The interior designer is Rachel Goetz Interiors. Do a Search here and see this and other projects I have done for her.

Please Don’t Tell Me You’re Ready If You’re NOT

September 27, 2019


This young family in the Rice University neighborhood of Houston has been undergoing a weeks-long remodel of the master bed and bathroom suite in their 1939 home. They’re eager to get moved back in. I was scheduled for three days to smooth walls and hang paper.

I’d been told by both the homeowner and the contractor that the room is ready for wallpaper. So I showed up for work today to discover that it is not.

First photo – The painters are working in adjacent rooms and need to pass through my work area frequently. You can see piles of their equipment in my space. This is very disruptive to the thought process needed to hang wallpaper.

Second photo – There is no running water. I had to run down to the family’s kitchen to fill a gallon bucket so I could rinse tools and rags – which is not the same as keeping things squeaky clean with fresh, running water. And since there is no toilet, there is nowhere to dump the dirty water.

On the left, you notice an extension cord. Which leads to the third photo – there is no electricity. No lights. So I had to connect two extension cords and hang one measly 100 watt bulb from the ceiling fan, in hopes of having enough light to work.

The fourth photo shows where I am trying to spread smoothing compound onto the wall. The compound and the wall are virtually the same color, and, in the dim light, it’s next to impossible to see what I’m doing.

The contractor dug out a heavy-duty extension cord and borrowed the painter’s work light, which helped a bit. But later the painter (who was working in a room with no windows) came and took his light back.

There is also skimpy air conditioning in this room. It’s not about the temperature, folks – it’s about humidity. You need the A/C cranking to pull humidity out of the air. I won’t hang wallpaper when the HVAC systems are not running, because the resulting humidity is detrimental to wallpaper – adhesion, shrinking, yada. And smoothing compound won’t dry, primers won’t dry …

Fifth photo – the carpet has been ripped up, leaving nail strips along the walls, and leaving exposed nails here and there all over the floor.

I did what little prep I could and then left. I am not coming back tomorrow.

Unfortunately, because of mis/discommunication, this family’s wallpaper will have to wait until I have a client whom I can switch install dates with.

Also, due to this, I lost at least one day of work (self-employed people don’t get “vacation pay” 😦 ), and other clients of mine whom I could have helped that day didn’t get their paper up, either.

“My Painter Did A Great Job Prepping And Painting The Ceiling”

September 17, 2019


Oh, really?!

Don’t worry – subdued lighting from an antique chandelier and beautiful paper on the walls will distract the eye.

Painters Aren’t Wallpaper Preppers – Bless Their Hearts

July 28, 2019


Someone else did some work in this powder room, and that included skim-floating and “prepping the walls for wallpaper.” The main part of the walls that you see when you walk into the room looked nice and smooth.

But on closer inspection, it’s clear that they did not bother to remove switch plate covers or the A/C vent, and didn’t know how to smooth the area along the top of the pedestal sink. Sorry, no pics.

And along the baseboard and crown molding, as well as behind the toilet, they did not get a smooth transition between the smoothing compound and the wall. Please see the photos. You notice where the smoothing compound is globbed on top of the baseboard in an irregular mess.

This is a problem, because these areas are exactly where the wallpaper will be trimmed, and asked to adhere tightly. The problem is, the paper needs a smooth, intact area to grab ahold of. These areas do not provide that.

I could chip off some of this stuff, but not all of it. So the homeowner will be left with jagged cuts at these areas, plus the possibility that the paper will not cling tightly to the irregular surface.

Again, folks: Wallpaper prep should be done by a paperhanger, not a painter or handyman or other kind of tradesman. They simply don’t understand what is required, and typically don’t have the patience or desire to do the detailed work correctly.

“The Wall Prep Is Done, And I’m Ready To Hang Wallpaper”

May 29, 2019


That’s what the “paperhanger” told the homeowner. Luckily, she knew better, and sent the guy packing.

Before wallpaper goes up, the walls need to be smooth, and then primed with a primer appropriate for wallpaper.

Please click and read my page on the right, “Do Not Let The Contractor or Painter Prep for Wallpaper” to learn more.

Blue Faux Grass on Bookshelves

May 12, 2019


Awwwk… my “before” photo didn’t turn out. Oh well … just know that originally the shelves and the back of the shelves were a bland white paint.

To prep, I primed the glossy white paint with Roman’s Ultra Prime Pro 977, which will stick to the enamel and which is formulated to provide a good surface for the wallpaper to adhere to.

The wallpaper is an embossed vinyl faux grasscloth by Thibaut, from their new Texture Resource book. This man-made product avoids the color variations and very visible seams that are common with real grasscloth, so it’s a good option.

The material comes 27″ wide, and the bookshelves were 28″ wide. So I had to use two 14″ wide strips of paper for each cubicle and put a seam down the middle.

Isn’t the blue color gorgeous as a backdrop for the contents of the shelves?!

This was a work desk area off the large kitchen in a home in West U (Houston).

The interior designer this job are Danna Smith and Pamela O’Brien, of Pamela Hope Designs.

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.