Posts Tagged ‘repair’

Paint Peeling Off The Wall – A Bad Harbinger

March 16, 2022

Prior to prepping for wallpaper, I’ve removed a hanging shelf. It had stuck to the paint, and pulling the shelf off the wall also took some of the paint along with it.

This is a bad sign. If paint will release from the wall so easily, it’s an indicator of an unstable surface underneath, that the paint is not able to bond to.

That also bodes poorly for any coatings applied on top of it, such as my smoothing compound, primer, and wallpaper.

The most worrisome of these is wallpaper. Because unlike other substances, wallpaper expands when it gets wet with paste, and then as the paste dries, the paper shrinks a tad and puts stress / torque on the wall. If the underlying surface is unstable, these layers can actually pull apart, resulting in a ” popped ” seam.

This is not a ” loose ” seam and cannot be simply glued back together. It’s layers deep inside the wall coming apart / delaminating from each other, and virtually impossible to really repair.

So what causes this? Do a Search here to read my other posts on this topic. But causes can include incompatible surfaces, such as old oil-based paint covered with newer latex paint, gloss paint covered with new paint without proper prep / de-glossing, chalky or calcimine paint, or coatings applied to a dusty wall.

In all these cases, the top coatings won’t be able to adhere tightly, and can result in what you see here – the top layer(s) of paint pulling off the wall with just a little stress.

Even worse, in my world, is the potential of the surface beneath wallpaper seams coming away from the wall.

Hallway Wallpaper Repair – Thibaut Honshu

December 11, 2021
This couple in the West University neighborhood of Houston loves color and avant garde – unexpected and fun! I hung this Honshu wallpaper by Thibaut in their small hallway at the beginning of the pandemic – April 2020. Since then, they decided to change the faucets and showerhead in the bathroom on the other side of this wall. To access the pipes, the plumber had to cut a hole in the drywall. The ‘guy’ that this couple uses did a fantastic job of cutting the drywall, preserving the wallpaper, and then patching the hole. You can even see that his cuts are perfectly level and plumb!
Slapping wallpaper patches over the two holes would have probably sufficed. But I wanted to make it better, so I stripped off and replaced the old wallpaper. This meant patching the guy’s drywall repairs. I didn’t get a photo, but I used drywall tape and joint compound to even out the areas. A heavy duty floor fan plus a heat gun helped get the smoothing compound to dry in a few hours. I sanded smooth and applied wallpaper primer, and ended up with what you see in the photo.
To conserve paper, instead of replacing the entire two strips from ceiling to floor, which could have caused some problems with matching the pattern on the left side, I patched in about one foot down from the ceiling line. To disguise the appliqued area, I used a scissors and trimmed around the wallpaper design, as you see here. This is less visible than a straight horizontal cut.
In this photo, the two strips have been put into place. You could never tell there was a hole (or two) !

Grasscloth Repair Today

April 14, 2021
Whoops! Somebody dropped a bottle of nail polish and look what happened!
Damaged area removed.
First approach – trimming replacement piece along horizontal grass reeds.
A better approach – splicing in the replacement piece. Blue plastic tape keeps paste off the paper on the wall.
Splice has been made, excess grasscloth and its paper backing below the splice have been removed, and I begin smoothing the patch into place.

The spliced area is undetectable.
Bottom is trimmed at the baseboard, push pins removed – done!

Good thing this family kept their scraps left over from the original install. They had a roll that had about two 8′ strips on it, plus a shorter piece that was maybe 4′ long.

Often, a repair means that you replace the whole wall, from corner to corner. For one thing, it eliminates the worries of color differences due to the existing paper fading from exposure to light over time. And the potential of buggering up one strip while removing the damaged strip next to it. And other issues like variables in the rate of expansion of wallpaper when it gets wet with paste, between what’s on the wall compared to the new replacement piece. Lots of factors.

Replacing the whole wall also would have eaten up all of the left over paper. I wanted then to keep that paper, in case something else happens down the road.

So I figured a way to use just 18″ or so of the shorter scrap they had left over.

First I took a razor blade and trimmed along a horizontal grass fiber, from the seam on the right, moving to the left and around the corner to where the paper meets the vanity. Then I peeled off the top layer, which was the grasscloth. That left the paper backing remaining on the wall.

I used a sponge to apply water to this backing, being very careful to touch only the paper and not the grasscloth that was to be left on the wall – water will stain grasscloth. After a while, the water reactivated the paste, and I was able to use my “dull” stiff 3″ putty knife to gently scrape the paper backing off the wall, making sure to get every bit that butted up to the grasscloth left on the wall, to be sure the replacement paper would sit flat against the wall and not on top of bumps of paper residue. All the while making sure to not damage the existing paper.

I cut a piece of replacement paper off the 4′ roll, cutting it a little longer than I might need, because I wasn’t sure if my first technique would work, and I wanted to avoid having to cut a whole new strip from that precious 4′ roll.

My first approach was to trim the replacement piece horizontally along the top reeds of grass. I hoped that this would butt up against the bottom of the strip on the wall. It did not. This is because the reeds of grass are uneven, and there were undulations between the top and bottom pieces that left gaps and overlaps between the two strips. (sorry, no photo)

I have used this technique successfully in the past. But that was with grasscloth that was coarser and had more distance between the reeds, so the eye would see the gaps as “normal.” Didn’t work with this finer textured grasscloth.

So my next option was to do a splice. What we in the trade call a double cut. A double cut will give you a perfectly fitted seam. But I try to avoid them, because there is the potential to score into the wall, which can cause an un-intact area that may delaminate over time, resulting in a “popped” seam.

(When hanging new wallpaper (not doing a repair to paper already adhered to the wall), it is possible to use polystyrene strips under the seam area to protect the wall when you make your cut. You can do a Search here to learn more about that.)

So a double cut was my best option. I had cut the replacement piece long enough that, after the failed attempt at butting the strips, I still had enough length to do the splice. I pasted the strip, let it book a few minutes to relax, and then unfolded it and ran a strip of blue plastic tape along the top edge. This tape will keep paste off the existing wallpaper. (Remember – grasscloth stains easily, and it’s difficult to wash, so it’s important to keep paste and other substances off of it.)

(The blue tape, and also the polystyrene strips and a lot of other cool tools, are available from fellow paperhanger Steve Boggess in Virginia. http://boggesspaperhangingtools.com/index.php )

Then I put the replacement strip in place, butting it up against the existing strip to the right, and overlapping the strip above it by about 3/4.” I used push pins to keep the strip from sliding. See 4th photo.

Next I took a single-edged razor blade and cut horizontally through both strips. Grasscloth is much thicker and harder than regular wallpaper, so I had to press hard to get through both layers – while still trying to not cut into the wall itself underneath.

Normally I would use a straightedge as a guide, but because the grass reeds are not straight themselves, I chose to free-hand the cut, following the horizontal line of one of the fibers of grass.

Once the cut was made, I removed the sections of paper that had been cut off. On the original piece that was already adhered to the wall, I had to pull off the grass, and then, once again, use my sponge and water to wet the remaining paper backing, reactivate the paste, and then carefully scrape that backing off the wall.

Once all that was done, as you see in the 5th photo, I peeled away the blue tape, and smoothed the two pieces together. They butted together perfectly!

The homeowner is going to paint over the little dabs of nail polish on the baseboard. (I told her I’d read her the riot act if she used remover or solvent and got any on that delicate grasscloth! 🙂 )

Dampness in Walls = Problems with Wallpaper

December 2, 2020

Digital Image

Digital ImageI hung this wallpaper in a dining room in Tanglewood a few years ago. In that time, the house has had some settling issues, and some moisture issues.

In the first photo, you see a seam that is perfect. It is a seam on an interior wall. In the second photo, you see a seam that has separated a little – not just separated, but the surface of the wall underneath has actually pulled away from the sub-surface, creating a little curl and gap. This is an exterior wall.

I believe this happened because moisture got inside the wall, and compromised the layers of Sheetrock, paint, joint compound (used to smooth the textured wall before applying wallpaper), primer, and paper. The seams in wallpaper create a weakness in the surface, and provide an opportunity for the wall to give way, if a stressor is placed on it. Stressor? This could be expansion and contraction due to temperature, humidity, moisture, foundation shifting, etc.

Unfortunately, there is not a quick cure for this, and involves resurfacing the whole wall area. AFTER, of course, fixing the source of the leak.

This wallpaper is by Osborne & Little, a British company that prints on what we call pulp paper substrates. The interior designer is Shirley Webb, and I love her rooms and I love working with her.

Please Don’t Patch On Top Of Old Wallpaper!

July 9, 2020


There was a floor-to-ceiling crack in the drywall. I instructed the painter to strip off the wallpaper around where he was going to repair the wall, and to NOT put patching compound on the paper.

He said that he did strip off the paper. Then why, oh why, did he go and extend his patch on top of the wallpaper he did not strip off??!

In the second photo, you see where I cut around his patch, and then stripped the old green paper off the rest of the wall.

Not shown is where I skim-floated over his patch, to cover the ridge from his patched area and the little bit of paper left on the wall.

Sanded smooth and sealed with Gardz, the wall was then ready for the new wallpaper.

Repair Needed – Stashed Wallpaper Not Usable

April 5, 2020


I’m about to do a repair to some wallpaper that was damaged flooding during Hurricane Harvey here in Houston. Unfortunately, the left over wallpaper from the original installation was also exposed to the water and humidity of the flood. There is a little bit of water stain and mildew on the back of the paper.

This rendered the paper unusable, because both water stains and mildew will work their way through wallpaper (and paint and other surfaces), and will eventually show up on the printed side.

Luckily, there was enough left over paper for me to discard this stained area and then use undamaged paper for the repair.

What Does A Plumbing Repair Have To Do With Wallpaper?

February 16, 2020


Thursday, I hung grasscloth on three walls of this master bedroom, and left for the night. When I arrived on Friday to finish the last wall, the homeowner hustled me into the adjoining bathroom and showed me where a repair had been done to the toilet’s water intake line the previous night.

By freak accident, some decorative item had fallen off the toilet tank and hit the water intake pipe “just so.” The pipe was of plastic, and had a few weaknesses in it. So when it was struck in just the right (or wrong!) place, it broke – and spewed water everywhere!

Luckily, the homeowner was home and caught this immediately. And, luckily, there is a neighborhood “guy” in the Heights (Inner Loop neighborhood of Houston) who is able and willing to come out at any hour to fix things like this.

Fixing it has to do with accessing the plumbing pipes. And that has to do with cutting into the wall.

Eeeek!

The homeowner was freaking out, that the plumber might have to access the pipe from the other side of the wall – the wall that I had just hung her beautiful new $$ grasscloth wallpaper on!

A cut through the drywall here would have necessitated replacing the entire strip of wallpaper. And because of how grasscloth is trimmed to fit specific dimensions, and because of the color differences between bolts and strips, it would have looked better to have replaced all the strips on the wall.

Major hassle, major work involved, and it would have used up all our “extra” paper.

Luckily, the plumber was able to fix the pipe by cutting through from the bathroom side.

The homeowner still has to get someone to come repair the drywall and paint. But VERY lucky that no other repairs had to be done.

And SO lucky that the homeowner was on-site, and knew to cut off the water to the house. If the leak had run for an hour – not to mention overnight or over a weekend – much more would have been damaged… Not just my new wallpaper, but the hardwood floors, moldings, insulation, possibly drywall and possibly furniture, and more.

Questionable Repair to Stringcloth

November 12, 2019


Some time after the stringcloth wallpaper went up in this powder room, the homeowners installed a new pedestal sink that wasn’t as high as the original one. Or perhaps the stringcloth got stained by water splashing on it.

For whatever was the reason, a portion of the wallpaper had to be replaced.

The installer used some good splicing techniques, and he was working in a very awkward and tight location. However, there were a few things he could have done better.

First and foremost – he should have matched the pattern! He should have made sure the strings lined up correctly.

Second, stringcloth will fray when it’s cut, so this type of splice repair is always going to show a bit of a frayed edge at the cut edges.

A better alternative would have been to strip off and then replace the entire section of wallpaper, from floor to ceiling, and preferably all the way to a corner.

Of course, to do that, you would need enough left over paper.

Patching Gap Around Light Fixture

November 8, 2019

The original light fixture had a rectangular base. The new one had a base that was barely larger than the electrical box. The electrician ended up with a slight gap on the left side of the box.

The wallpaper would most likely bridge that gap and look just fine. But since there was a slight difference in height between the wall and the base of the fixture, I wanted to close the gap to minimize chances of a visible pooch or bubble around the fixture.

I bought some drywall repair kits, and ended up using the one that had a thin aluminum mesh patch. I cut it to fit around the electrical box, using a few scraps to fill in gaps.

I then used drywall joint compound (“mud”) to smooth over the area. It took two of these skim coats, and a lot of time holding my heat gun to get everything to dry. Once sanded, it was nice and smooth.

A coat of Gardz penetrating sealer / primer, and the patched area was ready for wallpaper.

Elapsed time: Two hours.

This saved the homeowner having to hire “a guy” to do the repairs – and most likely, I would have had to “fine tune” whatever he did, anyway.

Wallpaper Repair – Always Save Your Leftovers

May 3, 2018


Here is damage to a wall behind a mirror in the powder room of a home in the Champions Forest neighborhood of northwest Houston.

Explaining this repair in detail would be pretty difficult, mostly due to how the original installer fiddled with the pattern to make it fit an odd space, and to what I had to do to work around that.

But the most important thing is that the homeowner saved all the wallpaper left over from the original installation back in the ’90’s, so I had what I needed to do this repair.

If you look closely, you might see some pattern mis-matches. But these are minimal because of some tricks I played, and because the pattern was forgiving. The mirror will cover everything, so any irregularities will be hidden.

But the bottom 3″ or so running along the backsplash and visible under the mirror are intact, so will look good when the mirror is replaced. This wall will also look good if a different mirror is used in the future.