Posts Tagged ‘repair’

Grasscloth Engineering and Logistics – Technical Details Post

August 21, 2022
Grasscloth is a natural material that cannot be matched from strip to strip, so all the seams will be visible . In addition, there is usually a slight but noticeable color difference between strips / panels (called shading or paneling ) . So it’s important to plot the layout of the strips to give the most visually pleasing overall look. Usually this means balancing the width of strips so they are all equal , at least on the same wall . We call this engineering .
This wall presented particular challenges , due to the widths of the elements. Grasscloth comes 36″ wide . You can use your straightedge and a sharp razor blade and trim it down to any width you want.
The width of both the large wall spaces to the right and left of the bank of windows was 34.” The width of each window was about 35.” The width of the two spaces in between the windows was 7.”
So you’d think I could trim my panels on either side of the windows, and then over the windows, to about 34″-36″ – give or take a few inches (or fractions thereof).
But that would leave me with two 7″ wide strips between these 35″ panels. Although the look would be uniform and mirror-image from the center outward, moving from right to left you’d have: 35,” 35″, 7,” 35,” 7,” 35,” 35,” … those 7″ breaks were just not going to look right.
One option was to determine the width of the wall (189″) and make each strip an equal width. This worked out to six strips, each at 31.5″ Not good, because this would mean a seam down either far side. And since those sides were 34″ wide, that would mean a 31.5″ wide strip and a strip 2.5″ wide. Not attractive at all, and it would use up an extra strip of wallpaper.
This six strips @ 31.5″ wide scenario might also land with a seam smack in the middle of those 7″ wide interludes in between the windows. Not attractive at all.
So I decided to make the two outer strips 35″ wide. That left 119″ of wall space above the windows to be covered with wallpaper. Do some math and you get four panels of 29.75″ wide. This gave a balanced and uniform look to the area over the windows, and also prevented seams from landing between the windows.
Moving right to left, I cut and hung the full length outer strip first. Then I cut and hung the strip over the window on the right. Then I measured to find the centerpoint of the window in the middle. Turns out it was a bit less than 29.75″ away. So I trimmed that next over-window strip accordingly.
Once that was in place, I measured from that center point above the middle window out to where my left full-height panel would fall, 35″ out from the wall. Took the resulting measurement and divided by 2. Lo and behold, each of the next two panels over the window was going to be a bit wider than 30.” No problem. No one (but a paperhanger or maybe an engineer) is going to notice a 1/4″ or even a full 1″ difference in widths between this strips over the windows.
Another thing to point out … it’s important that I took measurements before cutting these strips for this second left-hand section. Because, since grasscloth comes at 36″ (and walls can be wonky), if my strips had been narrower (say, 28″), that last full-height panel on the left might have ended up needing to be 37″ wide – and that wouldn’t work because it only comes 36″ wide – plus you need at least 1/8″ to wrap around the corner.
Luckily I had the flexibility to be able to trim the panels over the windows to any width needed, to accommodate all this.
If you’ve followed all this so far, let me also toss in that we also need to figure how to get paper in between those windows. More on that below.
In this scenario, I’m moving from right to left.
Area beneath the windows needs to be treated in the same way, and preferably with widths that match what’s going on above the windows. In addition, it’s tricky because after you move across 12′ of wall space, the strips above and below the windows are going to twist and torque out of shape, so that last full-length panel on the far left might not butt up perfectly with the last strip under the windows.
The grasscloth is black , and my wallpaper primer is white . It’s common for teeny gaps to appear at the seams . In this case, it’s likely that white wall would peek out from those gaps. So I like to stripe under where the seams will fall with dark (diluted) paint . This takes measuring , plotting , and also a heat gun to get the paint to dry before the wallpaper hits it, to avoid staining. You can do a Search here to read more about this technique .
Now let’s talk about getting wallpaper in between those windows.
As you can see in the photo, if I hang a 30″ wide strip, a whole lot of paper is going to be cut off and thrown away. Also, a whole lot of sticky, pasted paper is going to bump against that window molding and maybe even the window glass. A lot to clean up! And unwieldy, to boot.
My solution was to stop the wallpaper just a little below the tops of the windows. Then I would patch in a 7″ wide strip in between the windows. This is trickier than it sounds, because, if it were a paper wallpaper, I could simply cut along a design motif and overlay the 7″ wide piece. But grasscloth is thick and overlaps don’t look good. Also grass has no design elements , and the reeds of grass don’t necessarily fall perfectly horizontal , and even if you cut everything perfectly true to square , if the window molding is a teeny bit off-plumb , then your edges won’t butt up perfectly.
So that’s a good reason for striping the black paint under where the butt join will occur.
Same thing for the sections under the windows. I measured and positioned the strips so that the top edge (which I had trimmed to be perfectly horizontal) fell between the narrowest part of the windowsill molding, for less visibility.
I admit, instead of butting the two pieces, here I did overlap the 7″ wide strip about 1/4″ onto the piece under the window, right at that narrow junction. It’s only about 3″ wide, and I figured no one is going to be examining it that closely, anyway. This saved me about a half an hour of measuring, trimming, testing, repeat, repeat.
This is my second window interlude, and by this time I had realized that it’s hard to trim stiff grasscloth around intricate moldings precisely . So I used paint to fill in the edges around the window molding, just in case there might be any gaps between the grasscloth and the molding, so you would see black instead of the white molding paint. I did this with a small sponge; if I had used an artist’s brush it would have been a bit neater and tighter to the conforms of the molding. But sometimes you’ve gotta relax and realize that no one’s going to be scrutinizing the insides of moldings below shin-level.
Area over windows finished, with drapes back in place.
Turns out this particular grasscloth is so uniform in color (quite unusual, I will add), that you can’t really see the panels , nor their equal widths , anyway. I’m still glad I took the time to do all this math and trimming.
Area below the windows, done. That last seam on the left bears some explanation, too. Moving across the top of the windows, I measured that that last strip – the full-length strip – would need to be exactly 35″ wide. It butted up nicely to the last strip above the windows.
But, due to twisting , shifting , expansion , unlevel and unplumb walls and ceilings , and other factors, there is a really good chance that that last 35″ wide strip would not butt up perfectly with the last 30″ wide strip under the window . So I planned to splice these last two strips together.
Yeah, the drapes are hanging there, I coulda overlapped the two strips about 1/2″ and the drapes would have covered it. With a thin wallpaper, I probably would have done this. But grasscloth is thick, and an overlap would be visible , and also the adhesive / paste can’t be trusted to adhere as well to grass as it would to paper .
So I plotted for a splice. Instead of trimming my last strip under the window to 30″ (read above), I trimmed it to 32″ wide. That way, when I hung the last full-length strip to the left, which was 35″ wide, it overlapped the piece under the window by a few inches. Then I did a double cut and spliced the two pieces. See below for details about that technique.
Grasscloth is 36″ wide, and this wall area is wider than that. So two strips were needed. This means you’re going to have a seam, and since grasscloth seams are always visible, it looks best to plot to have the seam fall down the center. It uses more wallpaper to do this, but it looks much better than having, for example, a 36″ wide strip next to an 8″ wide strip.
As mentioned above, in case you get thin gaps at the seams, a dark stripe of diluted craft paint under where the seam will fall, will prevent white wall from showing through.
Rounded / bull-nosed edges and corners have been popular in new construction for at least 10 years. I wish they’d go away. They’re very difficult to trim around, and hard for the paper to conform to and adhere to.
It’s very hard to trim around that rounded edge, because the paper is hanging over and blocking your view, because grasscloth is thick and stiff and your fingers can’t feel through it, and because the edges aren’t necessarily true and plumb so a laser level or other level won’t help you much.
I use this little gadget as a trim guide. It’s actually a small section of the same corner bead material that drywallers use when they assemble these walls. Cut to about 1″ long and notched in different places where you might trim along the edge of the wall.
It’s intended that you place your trimming knife in one of the notches and slide the gizmo along the edge and make your cut. I find that awkward and also inaccurate. So I prefer to use the notches as a guide and mark where I plan to trim with a pencil. Since this wallpaper is black, I used this marking pencil from my home sewing kit instead. Chalk might work, but I was afraid it might now wipe off completely.
The pink pencil line was barely visible, but it was enough for me to use a scissors to trim along the grasscloth. I like this better than using a razor blade as I can see better, and also less chance of scoring into the primer or wall. Which raises its own set of issues – do a search here to find previous posts.
Inside view of the trim guide.
Finished arch. Note the four panels of equal width above the arch. And two flanking full-height panels also the same widths.
I was lucky that there was no pattern to match, so I was able to butt my two flanking strips right up to the edge of the bull-nosed corner. No trimming needed! Then I measured the remaining width between these two strips (the area over the arch), divided by four, and cut four strips of equal widths.
I hung the two on the left, and then one on the far right. This left one strip still to be positioned to the right of center. So the pieces are going to meet over the arch, rather than the last strip falling in a corner.
Same as the last strip under the window (discussed above), it’s really difficult to get your last piece to fit in here perfectly. I’ve done it, but it takes a lot of measuring, trimming, testing, retrimming, and often starting all over again.
So I did a double-cut / splice.
A double cut involves cutting each strip an inch or so wider than it should be, and overlapping the two. Then you take a straight edge and sharp razor blade and cut through both layers. This handy tool is a wonderful non-slip guide for this process. It was invented by an installer colleague in the Wallcovering Installers Association ( WIA ) and she has them fabricated in various lengths (along with other cool tools ) and sells them on-line. Contact me if you’re interested.
Anyway, it takes a lot of strength to cut through two layers of grasscloth, so somewhat difficult for lil’ ol’ me.
You also want to be sure to not cut / score into the wall, because the tension of drying wallpaper can tug at the wall and cause it to actually come apart, leaving an open seam that’s difficult to repair.
So you’ve got to put some padding under the wall where the cut will take place. I use special strips of polystyrene (hard but flexible plastic) to pad the wall. Also invented by a colleague in the WIA , who also sells other cool tools and supplies. Contact me if you’re interested.
This black grasscloth was printed on a white substrate. If the seams aren’t absolutely tight, there can be worries about the backing showing through to the front. So sometimes we’ll take a piece of chalk or pastel (never oil pastel or permanent markers because they bleed and stain ) and run it along the edge of the paper – from the back, and taking care to not get chalk on the surface.
I do this frequently with dark papers ( do a search here to see previous posts ) but opted not to do it with this grasscloth. It wasn’t necessary, and might have stained the porous reeds of the grass. It was beneficial, though, to have striped dark paint on the wall under the seams, as mentioned above.
Ugh. Grasscloth comes 36″ wide, and this section of wall is 38″ wide. It’s not visually pleasing, nor is it easy from an installation point of view, to have a 36″ wide strip next to a 2″ wide strip. Or to use scraps and put a 25″ wide strip next to a 13″ wide strip.
So best to plan two strips of equal widths. Two strips, each 19″ wide, with the seam down the middle.
Actually, the strip on the left was 19″ wide, but I trimmed the strip on the right to 21″, because I like the wallpaper to extend 2″ over the top of the door molding. This provides a more stable surface in case of shifting foundation or walls, and less likelihood (knock on wood) of the seam opening up should the house / drywall experience shifting.
Note that design “rules” caution against seams down the middle of spaces. But it would have been more visually distracting (and used up more paper) to have made three strips of each 12.75″ wide. And would have looked even dumber to have used scraps left from other walls and put together two strips of disparate widths.
So the homeowner and I discussed during our initial consultation , and she was happy with the center seam. Once it was all finished, this particular grasscloth was so even in tone that you barely see the seams, anyway. Win-win!
This did use up additional paper, though, as noted in a previous photo above.

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.