Posts Tagged ‘reactivate’

Nails and Even Pins in the Wall – A Cut Hazard

November 14, 2021

Today I’m stripping old wallpaper off bedroom walls. This involves swiping a wet sponge across the wall surface (to reactivate the old paste and soften it so the wallpaper can be removed easily).

Sometimes homeowners will remove artwork or other hanging items, but forget to take out the nails they were hanging on. Or, if they want to keep the nails in place (so the artwork can be rehung in the same place), they forget to put a sticky note to mark where the nails are.

This can be dangerous, because skinny nails are virtually invisible, and, as I’m wiping my hand across the surface, it’s likely that my hand can be cut when it runs into one of these nails.

In this picture, it’s not a nail but a skinny pin sticking out of the wall – virtually impossible to see!

Dry Strippable Wallpaper

November 7, 2021
Usually when you strip wallpaper, it comes off in two pieces. The top, inked layer peels off first – leaving the backing on the wall. Then you use water to soak the backing and reactivate the paste. See my how-to page to the right. But today I got lucky, because this paper stripped off easily and without needing any water. And – bonus – no damage to the wall at all!
This paper is decades old, but I believe it is an early version of the non-woven papers becoming more and more popular today. In this photo, you can see the top, decorative layer separating from the backing. The fibers showing in that backing, and the fact that I had a hard time tearing it, lead me to believe that it has the polyester fiber content that non-woven wallpapers do. This ability to strip off the wall easily and in one piece is one of the key selling points for this non-woven material. I particularly like this very thin version, because it is pliable and hugs the wall tightly.

Mess Stripping Wallpaper

February 6, 2021

Over the years, this powder room ended up with at least four layers of wallpaper. Some had been stripped down to the backing layer before the next layer went up, sometimes a primer was used, and in other cases, the installer simply plopped the new paper on top of the old.

The homeowners attempted to remove the multiple layers of paper. This mess would have been difficult to begin with, but, to complicate things, unfortunately, they pulled some bad information off the Internet. You can see how the use of a “paper tiger” scoring tool caused damage to the wallpaper as well as to the surface underneath – and didn’t help at all to loosen the old wallpaper.

My solution was to peel off the top layer of vinyl paper – the brownish striped faux finished pattern in the upper left of the photo. Then I used a sponge and lots of water to soak the tan backing until the paste reactivated and the paper could be scraped off the wall.

I would have preferred to also take off the layers of paper that remained underneath. But time was a consideration, and also the likelihood of damage to the wall surface. And I wasn’t sure if there was drywall or plaster under there.

So I used the product Gardz to seal off the revealed wallpaper. (Do a Search here on the word ‘Gardz” to learn more about this ingenious product.) Once that was dry, I skim-floated over the entire surface, to create a new, plaster-like layer. That was allowed to dry overnight.

The next day, I sanded this skim-float layer smooth. Because the smoothing compound had to be applied thickly, this resulted in a massive amount of dust. Luckily, it was all contained in the powder room, and was easily vacuumed up.

Then I used a damp sponge to wipe residual dust off the wall. This was followed by another coat of Gardz – a product that soaks in, dries hard, and effectively seals the surface. It’s a good sealer for new skim-coat, and it also works nicely as a primer under wallpaper.

With fans blowing on it, it dries quickly, and I was able to start hanging paper in an hour or so.

Doing the Opposite Today – Removing Wallpaper

September 30, 2020


The large medallion on soft lavender on all walls of this large bedroom worked well for this gal for many years – but now that she’s an older teen, it was time for an update.

So instead of putting wallpaper up, today I took it down.

Most people think that stripping wallpaper is difficult. But if the walls were prepped properly, and if the paper was hung properly, and if the proper removal steps are followed, it should all go well, with minimal damage to the walls. See my link at right, on how to strip wallpaper.

The most important thing is to separate the top, inked layer of paper from the backing / substrate layer. I find that wetting this top layer with a sponge and plain water helps strengthen the fibers, so the top layer can be pulled off in larger strips.

In the second and third photos, you see how the purple layer has been stripped off, leaving the white backing attached to the wall. This top layer has to be removed, because it has an acrylic (or vinyl) coating, and will not allow water to pass through it.

The next step is to soak the backing with plain water and a sponge (see photo). No chemicals, no additives – just plain warm water. You will have to reapply water several times. The idea is to let water soak through this backing layer, to reactivate the paste underneath. Once that paste is good and wet, it should release from the wall. Sometimes you have to gently scrape the backing from the wall. But in my case today, once that paste was reactivated, the substrate layer came away from the wall in full, intact sheets. Easy peasy!

One photo shows my “dull” 3″ stiff putty knife. I call it “dull,” because it’s old and beaten up. But it’s really rather sharp. I use it to carefully get between the inked top layer of wallpaper and the bottom substrate layer. And then I use it to gently scrape wallpaper from the wall.

In my case today, the previous installer had done a superb job of hanging the wallpaper. He applied a primer before hanging the paper. That primer helped make this whole removal job go well, and it protected the walls from damage.

The family will need to apply a stain blocker to prevent any residual paste from causing the new paint from crackling or flaking off. Once that’s dry, the walls can be textured and / or painted. The room’s resident told me that she is planning to go all white.

This home is in the West University area of Houston.

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.

Stripping Grasscloth Wallpaper

April 17, 2017

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This powder room in a newish townhome in the Galleria area of Houston was originally papered with a deep red, nubby-textured grasscloth wallpaper. It didn’t suit the taste of the new homeowners, so they had me strip it off and replace it with something lighter.

Often, grasscloth can be really hard to get off, because the grass fibers and the netting used to sew them to the backing separate from the backing and come off in tiny handfuls of fiberous messiness.

I was luckier today, because the top layer with the grass fibers and red ink came off the wall fairly easily, and in almost-intact 9′ strips. The paper backing was left on the wall (see 2nd photo). In some areas (see 3rd photo), bits of the red inked layer remained.

The next step was to remove the paper backing. All that’s needed is to use a sponge to soak the backing with warm water. Soak one section, move on and soak the next, then go back and resoak the first section, etc.

Water has a harder time penetrating the patches where the red inked layer was not removed. Soak it a little more, or use a putty knife to get under that layer and pull off the inked material.

Eventually, the moisture from the warm water will reactivate the paste. If you are lucky, you will be able to simply pull the paper backing away from the wall. But if not, all it takes is a little elbow grease and a stiff 3″ putty knife, to gently scrape the paper from the wall.

I was doubly lucky today, because whoever hung the original grasscloth did a good job, including the use of a good primer to seal the walls before he hung any wallpaper. His primer protected the walls, and all my water and tension as I soaked and pulled paper off the walls caused no damage to the subsurface.

All I had to do to prepare the walls for new wallpaper was to wash off old paste residue, and apply a primer, in this case Gardz by Zinsser.