Posts Tagged ‘seams’

Stroheim Playful Geometric – A Tough Hang Today

March 24, 2019


This colorful and playful geometric pattern went in an elevated “nook” in an open play area in a new home in the Oak Forest neighborhood of Houston. It wakes up an otherwise all-white house, and coordinates perfectly with bright artwork in the room.

The paper is by Stroheim, and was somewhat difficult to work with, especially in a room that presented the challenges it did – wide window, and four cubbyholes around three fixed built-in shelves.

First, the paper had a selvedge edge that had to be trimmed off by hand, a straight edge, and a razor blade. This is tedious and took about an hour to trim eight single rolls.

Second, any time you have wallpaper whose ink smells like mothballs, you know you are in for a tough day. The ink absorbs moisture from the paste at a slower rate than the substrate, so the paper backing puckers (called waffling or quilting). This doesn’t go away, even after booking and sitting in a closed plastic bag for several minutes – so you end up with wrinkles and blisters on the wall.

One thing that helps with this is lightly wetting the surface of the paper with a damp sponge. This allows the ink to absorb moisture, and relax at the same time the paper backing is expanding and relaxing.

You will also notice in the photo that the edges of the paper are curling toward the front. This is, again, the result of uneven absorption of moisture from the paste. Unfortunately, this continues once the paper is on the wall. I had to keep going over the seams to make sure they were down and that edges were not coming away from the wall. No matter how much paste I put under the seams, or how tacky I let the paste get, it didn’t seem to want to grab those edges.

Once the paper is good and dry, though, usually the seams lie down nice and flat, and any blisters or wrinkles will disappear.

Clay-based paste has less moisture content, and could possibly help reduce the waffling. I hate clay paste, though, because it’s hard to wipe off woodwork and off the surface of the wallpaper, and because it works its way through the paper and casts a tan tinge on the paper.

One thing that will help with issues like these is a liner paper. A liner is a plain paper of a special material that is applied to the wall before the decorative wallpaper goes up. It’s job is to absorb moisture from the paste, which causes the paper to dry more quickly, and to “lock down” the seams quickly. So a liner has its place, but it does add an extra day of labor, plus the cost of the liner material.

Interestingly, the Stroheim instructions did not spec a liner; only a good quality wallpaper primer (which I did use). They also did not spec clay-based paste, but recommended three different types of clear pastes (vinyl, wheat, or cellulose), each of which is distinctly different and contains different moisture contents. I would think wheat or cellulose to be too thin and weak to adequately adhere this particular material.

I’ve hung plenty of their products and had no problems with waffling or curling seams; it’s clear that the company has a blanket set of instructions that they stuff into every roll, with no regard to the substrate it’s printed on or the type of ink that was used.

The other thing is, most of the time, you don’t know what you’re going to be working with until you show up at the job site. Even if you research the brand and pattern number ahead of time, there will likely be no mention of the type of substrate or the “mothball” smelling ink. If I had known, I would probably have suggested that this homeowner use a liner. Beyond that, it’s good to have your truck stocked with a variety of primers and adhesives.

Back to the difficult room … I always say that a window like that is easy for you to look at, but very difficult for me to get paper around, at least while keeping the pattern straight and properly lined up. That’s because papers stretch and twist when they get wet with paste, and can contort out of whack. And the wider the obstacle you are working around, the more the paper can go off-kilter. So you can start perfectly lined up on the left of the window, but by the time you get to the right side, the strip coming down from the top of the wall may not line up with the pattern coming across horizontally below, and the two edges may not butt up perfectly, either.

It didn’t help that the pattern had an irregular hand-drawn look, so I couldn’t use a ruler to make sure every horizontal line was equidistant from the window molding. So that window wall took about two hours in itself.

Then there was the wall on the right, with the four cubbyholes in between the three shelves. I had to get two strips of paper on the backs of each of those cubbies, keep the seams from curling, and keep the pattern straight, continuing to four more strips on the wall to the right (the inside side of the wall you see on the right of the photo next to the door molding), so that all four of those strips would line up with one long piece coming down from the ceiling. Oh, and did I mention the extremely unlevel ceiling? This wall in itself took about three hours.

Actually, the irregular hand-drawn look of the pattern helped immensely, because the pattern didn’t have to line up exactly perfectly. Also, the way it was printed on the paper, the design motifs didn’t cross a seam, so that allowed me to raise or lower a strip slightly, to keep the pattern where I wanted it, without disrupting the look of the design. In fact, it was possible to not follow the correct pattern match, and the eye really couldn’t detect it. I could also cut strips vertically to narrower widths, to suit the area I was working in.

There were a few other tricks I pulled out of my hat, in lining up the design after coming around the window and shelf walls, to plumb up the pattern after turning a corner, and to disguise the very unlevel ceiling. The kill point (last strip meets up with first strip) turned out amazingly undetectable, with very little tweaking from me.

In the end, the nook turned out fantastic, and is ready to host children’s performances, reading marathons, or just gazing out the window.

The interior designer for this job is Stacie Cokinos, of Cokinos Design. She works mostly on new builds and on whole-house remodels, and is a great resource for finding and coordinating all the details – tile, plumbing and light fixtures, rugs, furniture, lamps, accessories, paint colors, and, of course – wallpaper. 🙂

Advertisements

Disappointing Seams, Stringcloth

February 24, 2019


Here is a stringcloth / grasscloth / linen sort of material that has a nice, tailored look. The thing is, when people make their buying decision, all they see is the page in a selection book, or the 8 x 10″ sample sent from the vendor. What they don’t see is how their selection will look when it’s actually up on a wall, with several strips next to each other.

The thin and close-together black and grey strings running vertically up the length of each bolt of wallpaper are not absolutely straight. So there are places where the black strings get closer to the edge of the wallpaper, and places where the grey strings get closer to the edge. And there are areas where the strings cross the edge of the paper and got chopped off by the trim rollers at the factory, leaving voids along the edges of the paper that now have no strings.

Look at the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th photos… the left edge of the sheets, to see what I am talking about.

All this is fine if you’re just looking at a bolt of wallpaper. But when it comes to placing a strip of paper next to another strip on the wall, what can happen is what you see in the photo at the top…. If an area where a grey string is closer to the right edge of the paper is placed next to a strip that happens to have a grey string closer to the left edge, then those two grey strings will butt up against each other, and they will create a wider-than-expected expanse of grey. That’s what you see in the photo.

The same can happen with a black string, or with an area where the string was cut and fell out of the edge, creating a void. Even if I forgo the factory edge and hand-trim my own edge, because the strings are not exactly straight on the paper, some will continue to land closer to or further from the edge, or even be cut and fall completely off the paper – When those edges meet up with one another on the wall, there will always be areas where grey meets up with grey (or black with black, etc.), and you get an effect like what you see in the photo.

This wallpaper is by York. More on how the install went on yesterday’s blog post.

Contractor Patches On Top Of Wallpaper – Bad Idea

February 19, 2019


This home experienced a water leak, and the bottom 2′ of drywall had to be cut out and replaced. When taping-and-floating in the new drywall, the contractor didn’t bother to remove the existing wallpaper, but put his smoothing compound right over it. This is bad enough if the old paper is paper, but this wallpaper is vinyl – something you really don’t want buried under layers of joint compound and new wallpaper.

Vinyl is shiny, and few materials will stick well to it over a period of time. It is also thick, and that increases the likelihood that seams will pop up, even if they are buried under this “mud,” as we call it.

So I took a razor and cut above the contractor’s patch. Then I stripped off all the wallpaper above the patch. This left a difference in height between the patched area and the newly-stripped area, which would create a visible ridge under the new wallpaper. So then I took my own smoothing compound (joint compound) and floated over his patch and the now-bare wall, to eliminate any uneven areas.

Waited for it to dry, sanded smooth, removed dust, primed with Gardz, and finally was able to hang the new wallpaper.

This took a LOT more time than I originally planned for this job, but it was worth it to keep vinyl wallpaper from being underneath the new paper, and to prevent any bumps or irregularities from showing under the new paper.

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.

Rolling Roiling Waves on a Heights Dining Room Wall

January 18, 2019


This pen & ink-like drawing of rolling waves is obviously a knock-off of the very popular (and very expensive) “Nuvolette” in the Fornasetti collection by Cole & Son.

I have to say – I think I like this one better. The pattern is more homogeneous and less overpowering. Yet you still get the same feel of movement from the rolling waves. And it has the same scratchy pen-and-ink feel as the other, plus a few seagulls tossed in, too.

This design is by Eijffinger. I hung it in a newly-remodeled and expanded home in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston. It is a non-woven material, and is designed to be hung via the paste-the-wall method. I did use this method this time, as it was one accent wall in a dining room, with no intricate cuts nor difficult spaces to access. It went up beautifully, with near-invisible seams.

Animal Blocks in a Baby’s Room

December 25, 2018


A new baby will soon be welcomed into the home of this young couple in the Houston Heights neighborhood called Norhill (or Woodland Heights). Mom wanted something gender-neutral, and found this colorful and adorable shapes-and-animals-in-blocks print on line at Lulie Wallace.

This went on just one accent wall of the room, but it is tame enough that it would work OK if put on all four walls.

I skim-floated the walls first, to smooth out the light texture on them, then followed with a primer coat of Gardz.

This wallpaper is a bit atypical, because it is pre-pasted, which means it comes with a thin layer of paste on the back that you activate with water (instead of having to roll paste on the back of every strip). I do like the pre-pasted papers. I do roll a light coat of paste on the wall, to augment the manufacturer’s pre-paste.

Another dissimilarity is that the paper comes packaged in individual strips, rather than traditional rolls with several strips rolled up together.

Even more unusual is that the strips were meant to be overlapped, instead of butted together. Overlapping the seams creates a vertical ridge under the paper which is somewhat visible. You also have to have an adhesive that will stick to the acrylic coating on top of the paper.

There are some good aspects to overlapping seams. For one, this makes for a very strong bond. For another, it takes stress of drying and shrinking paper off the seam and distributes it across that 3/4″ of overlapped area. In this 80-year-old house, with it’s many layers of paint with a history of not sticking to each other, this is important, because it greatly reduces the chances of the tension on the seams causing the paint layers to come apart, which would cause gapping at the seams. See previous post.

Another positive feature about overlapping the seams, and how that worked with this particular pattern, is that, in this 1930 home, with its unlevel ceiling and floor and its greatly-out-of-plumb walls, I was able to manipulate the strips of wallpaper so that they looked straight and plumb – even though they were actually hung quite off-plumb.

This wallpaper pattern is by Lulie Wallace, and was bought on line.

Starburst Diamonds in a North Houston Hall Bath

December 22, 2018


The owners of this 1970’s house in the Cypressdale neighborhood of north Houston have done some outstanding updates that have brought the home right into the modern age.

In this hall bathroom, the larger-scale, rough-surfaced shower tiles work with the sleek, white trough sink to create a clean-yet-warm feel.

A little pizazz on the walls was all that was needed to make the whole room pop!

This fun diamond starburst pattern in a metallic gold on raised-ink (embossed vinyl) covers the walls with the right scale, sheen, and theme.

The wallpaper is by York, and is in their Modern Metals line. I was quite pleased with it. While many wallpapers printed on non-woven substrates are thick and stiff and prone to creasing or having the inks crack and flake off, this one was thin and pliable and happy to hug the wall tightly, and then meld beautifully into turns and intricate cuts (like around detailed moldings). The seams were practically invisible.

What’s more, this wallcovering, with it’s 3-D embossed vinyl surface, will resist water splashes and stains much better than a paper-paper. A little caulk along the top of the sink will prevent water from wicking up under the paper (which could cause the paper to expand and curl and push away from the wall).

I pasted the paper, rather than the alternate installation method of paste-the-wall. Pasting the paper made it more supple and gave it more pliability, so it was easier to work with. It also allowed the paper to absorb moisture from the paste and then expand a tad before going to the wall. (Papers that expand after they are placed on the wall are likely to bubble or warp.)

This York wallpaper 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.

Loose Wallpaper; Wall Layers Delaminating

November 15, 2018


Look closely between the seam of the wallpaper in the top photo. You can see little crumbly things. In the second photo, the issue is even more pronounced.

This is in the upstairs bathroom of a 1950 house in central Houston. Over time, compounded by humidity, poor air circulation, poor air conditioning / heating, and possible influences from the outdoors, various layers inside the wall have let loose of one another.

What are these layers? Originally the walls were probably painted with oil-based paint. Over the years, layers of latex paint, gloss paint, joint compound, and etc. were piled on, probably without proper prep between coats.

Some of these materials are not compatible with one another, and, over time and with stressers like humidity, they can let go of one another.

If just the wallpaper has come loose, as in the second photo, it can be pasted and readhered. But when the wall itself is coming apart, there is no fix, other than to scrap everything down to the original drywall (huge mess) or go over everything with 1/4″ drywall.

In this case, the homeowner had me repaste the few loose areas of paper, and then chose to live with the other visible cracks, chalking it up to an old house full of character and quirks.

Another Courageously Bold Pattern

October 26, 2018


Go BOLD or go home – this homeowner is stickin’ with bold.

This home in the Bellaire neighborhood of Houston was flooded during Hurricane Harvey. The homeowner loved the wallpaper in the powder room, and after the renovation, she wanted the same thing.

One disappointment is that the original installer had done a poor job. He was the son of a friend, and reportedly did a “great” job – but his work was not pleasing to the family. So, this time around, they called me. 🙂

The wallpaper pattern is called “Providence,” and is by Thibaut, one of my favorite brands. It was nice to work with, no shrinking at the seams, and the inks are strongly hued and have a rich matt finish.

Large Silvery Metallic Damask in a Down-Sized Home’s Powder Room

September 22, 2018


Apologies for the bad pictures of a beautiful paper!

This couple lost their home in Kingwood (northeast Houston) to the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. They relocated to a new-but-smaller spec house in Somerset Green near central Houston, and are using interior designer Anthony Stransky of L Design Group to decorate their new home, while giving their traditional taste a tad more modern feel.

Damask wallpaper patterns are quite traditional, but the large scale and metallic sheen of this particular selection bring it into the modern age. And the over-sized pattern fills the walls nicely, in this sizeable powder room with 10′ high ceilings.

The pattern is in the Anna French collection by Thibaut Designs. It is printed on a thickish non-woven material. I usually prefer thin papers, but this was quite nice to work with. It didn’t crease like many N-W papers do, the seams were practically invisible, and, once pasted and softened, it was flexible and stretchable enough to accommodate some pretty un-straight and un-plumb walls.

This non-woven paper could have been hung using the paste-the-wall method. But I prefer the pliability that comes when the material itself is pasted. Plus, pasting the material definitely makes it easier when working around pedestal sinks and behind toilets.

The builder coated the walls of this large powder room with a bland dark tan paint. These homeowners had never used wallpaper before, but, once they went for the interior design team’s suggestion, there was no learning curve – They LOVE the newly papered powder room!

Anthony Stransky and founder Neal Leboeuf of L Design Group serve the entire Houston metropolitan area. They assist homeowners with interior design, new home buyers with all choices such as flooring, faucets, window coverings, fixtures, etc., and – when they get breathing room – they do events planning. Super guys, energetic and fun, with a look that’s modern and fun, with an urban edge. See them in a summer 2018 issue of Houston House & Home magazine – on the cover and in a story inside.