Posts Tagged ‘sealer’

Wallpaper Coming Off – Delaminating Wall

January 14, 2022

An Unfortunate Situation

This Brooklyn Toile wallpaper by Flavor Paper on an accent wall in a nursery went up beautifully. The contractor had added new Sheetrock to one wall, and painted the other, old/original wall. I skim-floated both walls and sanded smooth, primed, and hung the wallpaper. Perfect! (Search here to see my original post.) But within less than a month, the homeowner contacted me and said that the wallpaper was ” coming off the wall .” It was a 1920’s bungalow in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston. And therein lies the brunt of the problem.
The wallpaper itself is not ” coming off the wall .” What’s happening is that the wall surface itself is coming apart – or, delaminating . This is because multiple layers of paint and other substances on the wall may not be compatible. A probably scenario: In 1920 oil-based paint was used. Later someone rolled on a coat of latex paint. Then the homeowners redecorated and used gloss paint. Then some ” flippers ” who had watched too much HGTV slapped on more paint without bothering to de-gloss or prime first. And somewhere in the mix you’ve got cheap paint and dust and other incompatible materials.
Over time, and especially when stress is put on the wall surface, such as when wet wallpaper paste dries and the paper shrinks, this stress can tug at the wall and actually pull these layers apart. There are other contributing factors, too, such as humidity, temperature, and location. I find it interesting that the worst parts of the affected seams were toward the top of the wall. This speaks of heat, humidity, and forced air (either hot or cold) coming out of the air vent just to the right of this wall. This photo is of the area over a door, very close to the air vent.
See how thick that is? It’s not just the wallpaper. There are several layers of wall coming apart. Some layers are clinging to the back of the wallpaper, and some are staying stuck to the wall.
Multiple layers, many years of coatings on this wall.
Easy to see the many layers. The paper itself, my blue primer, my layer of smoothing compound, paint, more paint coming off the wall. Then multiple layers of paint and texture still clinging to the wall. This shot is just below the ceiling.
Same thing happening at the baseboard at the floor.
Layers of paint separating from the wall in chunks. Some pulled off easily, and some I had to chop off with my 3″ putty knife.
Most of the paint and unstable surface material clung to the back of the wallpaper. This pile is just three strips – only half the wall. But it’s thick and stiff and heavy because of the paint stuck to the back of the wallpaper. There was so much and it was so heavy and bulky that I had to carry it out to my van in two trips. When I got home, it totally filled my trash bin.
Here’s the wall once all the other layers came off. Brushing my hand over it revealed a layer of dust. No wonder the paint and other coatings wouldn’t stick. Nothing sticks to dust. It’s like flouring a cake pan… The paint or wallpaper will kinda stick – but won’t really stick. Paint on top may be fine. But add a little stress from drying / shrinking wallpaper, and you may end up with layers that pull apart.
Wiping the walls with a damp sponge removed a lot more dust. But the wall still felt chalky. Whatever type of paint this was, it was not holding together.
I had to stabilize this chalky surface. Enter Gardz, a wonderful product – Gardz is a thin, penetrating sealer that soaks into porous surfaces and binds substances together. It dries hard and creates an intact surface. The darker area in the picture is where I’ve rolled on a test area. Gardz is thin like water, and it runs and drips and splatters. It’s imperative that you cover floors, countertops, and baseboards, and roll carefully, and roll upward rather than downward, to minimize runs and drips. A microfiber roller holds the liquid well, and reduces drips.
Gardz is made by Zinsser.
No photo of the finished wall, but I was very pleased with the stability of the surface. No more chalk or dust. Now, there still could be unstable or incompatible layers deeper inside the wall. (Latex paint over oil without proper prep.) But for now I feel pretty confident that this wall is solid and will hold up to the next process in preparation for getting the new wallpaper up.

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.

Washing Texture Off of Walls

March 5, 2020


The owners of this new-build home in the Garden Oaks neighborhood of Houston knew that they wanted wallpaper in the dining room and powder room. So they instructed the builder to not texture the walls.

Well, as often happens, the drywall/paint guys didn’t get the message, so while they were spraying texture on the other walls in the home, they also textured the dining and powder rooms (sorry, no picture).

But – they got stopped before they primed or painted. This is good.

The textured surface had to be smoothed before wallpaper could go up. I’m quite good at skim-floating, and I quoted the homeowners a price for me to float and sand the walls smooth.

But the homeowner is also pretty handy. He opted to smooth the walls himself.

Since no primer or paint had been applied, the texture on the walls was raw mud (drywall joint compound). With no coating on it, this stuff is water-soluble. That means that the homeowner could simply wipe the walls with a wet sponge to remove the texture.

Well, it’s actually a bit more than that. You have to wet the walls well, and keep on scrubbing, to the point where the joint compound / texture softens up and can be scraped off the wall with a stiff putty knife, or scrubbed off the wall with a drywall sponge.

And that’s what the homeowner did. He did such a good job that he cleaned the walls all the way down to the bare drywall. That’s what you see in the first two photos. This guy was way more thorough and meticulous than any “professional” I’ve seen out there.

The best primer for bare drywall is Gardz (third photo). It penetrates and seals both the paper face of the drywall, as well as the joint compound “mud” that is troweled over the joints and tape (see white areas in photos).

So my task for today was not to work on smoothing the walls, because the homeonwer had done such a great job of that. OK, well, I did do a little tweaking in a few areas. But primarily, what I did today was roll on (and cut into the corners and edges) a good coat of Gardz.

Besides sealing drywall, Gardz is a good primer for wallpaper. So once the primer was applied and then dried (about an hour), the room was ready for wallpaper.

KILZ Stain Blocker to Cover Green Ink

October 26, 2019


See the green vertical line to the right of the paint can? The previous wallpaper installer probably had a little white wall showing at a seam, so used ink that matched the color of the wallpaper to disguise it.

Ink (along with other substances, like blood, rust, water stains, oil, tobacco, mildew, wood sap, and others) can bleed through joint compound, paint, and wallpaper. Sometimes it takes a few months or years.

So it’s important to discover these stains, and to treat them with a stain-blocking sealer. Water-borne products simply don’t work, no matter what the label claims. Shellac-based sealers like BIN are good. But I like KILZ Original, the oil-based version.

Do Bubbles Mean Trouble?

May 20, 2019

The walls in this dining room in a historic house in the Houston Heights had received many coats of paint over its 100 years. The latest was a coat of what appeared to be flat latex paint. Since this is not a suitable surface for wallpaper, I applied a wallpaper-specific primer.

I was surprised to see that, a few minutes after I rolled on my water-based wallpaper primer, blisters appeared.

I thought they would disappear as the primer dried, but they did not.

Obviously, the moisture in the primer was soaking into some of the layers below it, and causing something to expand and “off-gas”, which created the bubbles.

I switched from my wallpaper primer to a penetrating sealer called Gardz (also water-based) – and the same thing happened. (The Gardz dried so glossy that I feared the wallpaper would not stick to it, so I went back to my original Ultra Prime by Roman’s.)

Once the primer was good and dry, I used a stiff putty knife to knock off the high points of the blisters. The areas were not perfectly smooth, but they were OK for use under this particular wallpaper.

I’m doing some research, and am hoping to gain insight as to why this blistering happened, so I’ll know how to prevent it in the future.

Trick in Hopes to Stave Off Popped Seams from a Crumbly Wall

April 3, 2019


The walls in this powder room in the West U neighborhood of Houston had had many treatments over it’s life, including paint, more paint, skim-floating, wallpaper, and more. Sometimes, and particularly if prep is not done properly, these various layers are not compatible, and won’t adhere to one another well.

When the old wallpaper was removed, this was clear at the seams, where the various layers of the wall had pulled apart, leaving ridges along the length of each seam. This happens because the wallpaper dries and pulls taught and creates tension on the wall; if the wall is unstable, the layers can be pulled apart (delaminate). Sorry, no pics of the “before,” but you can do a search here to see pics of other rooms. This condition can happen over time, as the house fills with humidity and the paper absorbs it, then dries and shrinks again.

I dug out the raised ridges and applied tape over them, sealed with Gardz, a penetrating sealer that dries hard. Then I skim-floated over all the walls, to create a smooth surface for the wallpaper. Sanded, wiped dust off with a damp sponge (nothing sticks to dust), and primed all walls with Gardz.

One good way to deal prevent this from happening again is to cross-line the walls with a special liner paper. This is a thin paper that is usually run horizontally before the actual decorative paper is hung. The idea is that if the new paper shrinks and applies tension, it will be distributed by the liner paper, and will not pull at the wall. If the liner shrinks and pulls, the tension is off-set by the decorative paper on top of it. So the two layers are working together to distribute any harmful tension on the wall surface.

Unfortunately, using liner adds a day of labor plus the cost of the material. The homeowner’s budget had already been busted by other factors, so she wanted to keep the job to one day. After collaborating with my colleagues in the Wallcovering Installers Association on our Facebook page, I decided to try this method:

From Office Max I got some plain old cash register tape. I plotted where each seam would fall, and used my laser level to guide placement of a floor-to-ceiling strip of the tape. I adhered it with regular wallpaper paste. At first, I worried that it would soak up moisture and bubble, but once it was smoothed into place, it laid down nice and flat.

Then I hung the wallpaper. The seams fell nicely on top of the tape, held tightly, and looked beautiful. There is the possibility of seeing a very slight ridge under the paper because of the thickness of the tape, but it’s very minimal because the tape is quite thin. And it’s much preferable to popped seams or delaminated walls.

The idea is that the tape will bridge the seam, and distribute tension from the drying paper across the width of the tape, keeping tension away from the wall itself. The tape is very thin, and doesn’t appear to have much tensile strength, but my buddies who have tried this method say it works well.

Time will tell, but I have a lot of confidence in this method.

Mysterious Spot on Wallpaper – Air Borne Substances

January 3, 2019


If you look closely, you will see tiny tan dots all over this wallpaper. This is a paper wallpaper with a very light acrylic coating, that was installed maybe 30 years ago. The installer did a very good job – although he did not remove the previous layers (2!) of wallpaper backings, and did not use a primer.

I see spots like this almost exclusively in bathrooms – where you have enclosed spaces, toiletries, and humidity.

Since these dots are most prevalent around the upper areas of the room, I think they are stains from air-borne substances. However, an alternate theory is that they could be stains leaching through from the tan backing paper that was left on the wall, or possibly from the clay-based paste that was used for the installation.

Epounding:

My theory of air-borne substances is that if you spray something into the air, such as hair spray, air freshener, deodorant, or even onto a surface, such as glass cleaner, some of the substance becomes air-borne, hangs in the air, and eventually will come to rest on the walls. This results in perfectly round little specks on the walls. (See the Page to the right, “Care and Feeding of Your New Wallpaper.”

The stains could even be coming from cooking oils that splattered into the air, got sucked through the A/C ducts, and expelled into the bathroom.

Since this paper has just a light acrylic coating and no durable protective vinyl coating, most any substance floating around in the air would be able to land on the paper and penetrate into it, leaving these spots.

Don’t get me wrong – I MUCH prefer these thin acrylic-coated papers over thick vinyls and non-wovens. You just need to take appropriate steps to protect them.

Moving on…

Another possibility is because the installer didn’t remove the previous layer(s) of manila-type paper backing left from the original wallpaper installation(s), nor did he use a primer or sealer, it’s possible that chemicals from the old tan paper backing are leaching through onto the new wallpaper.

This is why art framers recommend acid-free mats and framing techniques. The same are available for wallpaper installations – but we’re getting into some pretty high-end topics now…

Getting back to our bathroom in Tanglewood (Houston).

Another very possible cause is the clay-based paste that was used to hang the wallpaper. I have seen many, many times, a “dirty,” tan discoloration coming through from underneath the paper, which I firmly believe is coming from the tan-colored clay-based paste that many installers like to use. I have many instances validating this theory.

The only discrepancy is that stains from the paste working their way through the wallpaper would not manifest as tiny, perfectly round specks, but as more generalized, mottled areas. Unless, the composition of the wallpaper included teensy dots in the paper fibers, intended to allow for porousity. Or humidity in the room forms miniscule droplets which land on the wall and then wick the tan paste up through the wallpaper. Which sounds reasonable to me. In fact, I like this theory a lot. And I really DISlike clay-based paste.

A final idea is that the wallpaper is just old. After 30 years on the wall, materials are bound to break down, humidity will take a toll, and it will be time for a change to a fresh new look.

Bottom line: Remove old wallpaper, properly seal and prime the walls, avoid clay-based pastes and instead use a clear wallpaper adhesive.

Check back tomorrow for more!

Leopards Walk the Room Right

August 19, 2018


I’ll be the first to admit – I love a darkly decorated room. But this all-black powder room in the home of a young couple in the Heights neighborhood of Houston was not making the grade. With shiny black paint on all four walls, there was nothing to define the room. You literally could not even see where one wall ended and another began. And the work had been done poorly, with zillions of bumps and bits of stuff stuck in the paint.

My first task was to use Liquid Sandpaper to degloss the shiny paint. Then I skim-floated the walls to smooth over the irregularities. Sanded smooth, wiped off the dust with a damp sponge, then primed with the penetrating sealer Gardz. Sorry, no pic of the prepped walls.

The new homeowner was fine with the dark idea, but she wanted something fun and a little sassy, that would wake you up when you walk into the room. These marching rows of leopards do just that!

The new wallpaper is still dark. But not quite as dark. And because it has pattern and some variations in color, you can easily see the corners, and each individual wall. The room is no longer stark and oppressive, but warm and fun.

This wallpaper design is called Leopard Walk, and is by Cole & Son, a British company. It is a thin and flexible non-woven material with a vinyl surface that will resist splashes and stains better than most papers.

Birds for the Bold of Heart

August 18, 2018


A lot of clients tell me they love birds, and are seeking wallpaper patterns with foliage and birds. (Do a Search here (upper right corner) on the word “birds.”) Most of those are what you would call sweet patterns. This design, on the other hand, can only be called BOLD.

The homeowner, also in the Houston Heights, is the sister to the guy mentioned in yesterday’s post. As you can see, they share an adventurous taste in decorating!

Although the pattern has a lot going on, it doesn’t feel busy, even in a powder room, partly because of the fairly homogenous color scheme, and also because of the all-over placement of the design elements. Besides, who can resist those intense faces? My favorite is the owl-like bird staring you dead in the eye.

The walls in this new home were heavily textured, so I had to smooth them first (see top photos) and then prime with a penetrating sealer called Gardz.

This wallpaper pattern is by Clarke & Clarke, a British company. As are many British products, it is printed on a non-woven substrate and is quite durable. It can be dry-hung using the paste-the-wall method – but I prefer to paste the paper. It was a little easier to work with than yesterday’s paper, being thinner and softer and less prone to creasing.

This was bought from my favorite source for good quality, product knowledge, expert service, and competitive price – 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.

Contractors and Painters Should NOT Prep Walls for Wallpaper

July 14, 2018


This home in the Meyerland neighborhood of Houston was flooded during Hurricane Harvey, and has been redone, and is now ready for final touches, like decorating, i.e. – wallpaper!

The first three photos show how the contractor left the walls. It’s hard to conceive how anyone could think these walls are “ready for wallpaper.”

What you are looking at is where the contractor ripped off the top, inked layer of the original wallpaper. Most of them don’t realize that there is a backing layer of paper that is left on the wall, that should be removed, too. Simply soaking this with a wet sponge will reactivate the paste and allow the paper to be removed easily, and with no damage to the wall (esp. if there is a good primer underneath the paper). Read my page to the right “How to Strip Wallpaper” to see how this should be done.

Instead, this contractor left the paper backing on the wall. Some of this porous backing is exposed. Other areas have been covered with the paint that was used on the woodwork. This solvent-based paint “raises the grain” of the surface it’s applied to – see all the hairy fibers from the wallpaper backing that have gotten stuck in the paint and raised up? Some of them are more than 1/4″ high. They create a gritty feeling on the surface, like really coarse sandpaper.

The surface is uneven, and the bumps will show under the new paper. The unevenness also means that areas of the paper will not be able to contact the wall, so there will be gaps and air bubbles and poor adhesion. The backing of the original wallpaper has been exposed, and when new, wet, pasted wallpaper gets placed on top of that thirsty paper backing, it will absorb moisture, expand, and bubble.

I had three missions. 1.) Seal the surface 2.) Smooth the surface 3.) Prime with a wallpaper-appropriate primer.

I rolled on a coat of the penetrating sealer Gardz to seal the surface, so that my following treatments would not cause the paper backing to bubble. When that was dry, I skim-floated the wall with a coat of joint compound. In the areas where the hairs were 1/4″ high, the skim coat was pretty thick, and took a good while to dry. Once that was dry, I sanded it smooth, then vacuumed the dust of off the floor, used a damp sponge to wipe residual dust off the walls, and then followed up with another coat of Gardz. It will soak into the joint compound and dry hard, forming a stable surface for the new paper to adhere to.

The last photo shows the wall once I finished.