Posts Tagged ‘seams’

Weird Cracks

March 24, 2020


I have just finished stripping off wallpaper that I hung 12 years ago. The walls beneath are in perfect condition.

Except that, along just about the full height of just about every seam, I discovered these hairline cracks.

What is very odd is that the cracks have not made the wall unstable, and no material has pulled away from the wall (as often happens when you have layers of incompatible materials that will not adhere to each other – do a Search here on “delaminating”).

I believe that my original prep 12 years ago was to skim-float the walls and sand smooth. Then I wiped off the dust with a damp sponge, then followed with my favorite primer at the time, KILZ Original oil-based primer.

My thought is that the KILZ, or possibly the underlying joint compound, has separated due to tension put on it by the wallpaper seams, possibly shrinking and expanding over the years due to minute fluctuations in humidity and temperature.

Why that happened I don’t know.

This past year, I’ve had opportunity to remove wallpaper from several jobs that I hung as far back as 20+ years ago. All were over the very same original prep conditions. But none showed these little hairline cracks.

I always like to understand why something happens. That way, you have the potential to prevent it from happening in the future.

Not that I’m particularly concerned in this case. The tiny cracks have not created any problems, and the wall is not unstable.

I felt perfectly comfortable hanging the new paper right on these walls – however, I made very sure that no seams of the new paper landed exactly on top of those cracks. That would eliminate the chance of any stress put on the cracks by the new seams potentially causing them to weaken and pull away from the wall.

Schumacher Pyne Hellyhock

March 22, 2020


We don’t call this company “Schitmacher” and “Poomacher” for nothing … With so many quality substrates and inks out there, and so many other companies making top-notch papers, why, oh WHY does Schumacher continue to use outdated materials and methods – especially when they’re crappy?!

The wrinkles here are referred to as “waffling” or “quilting.” This is caused by the wallpaper backing (substrate) absorbing moisture at a different rate from the ink on the front. This moisture causes the substrate to expand more than the ink, which creates wrinkled areas.

I had this problem with the Bibliotheque I blogged about last week. But that was not as severe, mostly because the inked area covered most of the paper.

In this Pyne Hollyhock, most of the ink is concentrated down the center of the strip, leaving large un-inked areas along the outer edges.

I was able to smooth out many of the smaller wrinkles in between the blue flowers. Others may disappear when the paper dries.

But the blank / white areas had wrinkles so big that they would not be smoothed out. See third photo. The other thing is, because this white area was twisting and warping so dramatically, you can bet that the edges of the strip will not butt up properly with the next strip.

Sometimes you can double cut (splice) seams that are not butting up correctly. But since this paper also presented the huge wrinkles, it still is gonna look bad at the minimum, and have large gaps at the worst.

A liner might help (do a Search here), but I doubt it would tame the worst wrinkles, especially at the edges. In addition, it adds more material cost and at least another day’s labor.

I did a couple test strips, employing different approaches with each. Such as dampening the front before pasting to even out the moisture distribution. Booking for extended lengths of time. Booking and then opening and repasting. Different smoothing techniques. I even got out the heat gun to speed up drying to see if the wrinkles would flatten.

But I never got a result that I felt was acceptable. And certainly not what this family deserved, nor worth the price they paid for this so-called high-end brand.

It’s not often that a paper beats my butt, but I did end up throwing in the towel on this one.

Too bad, because the homeowner and interior designer really love the pattern, which is one of Schumacher’s most popular. Right now, it’s undecided if they will see if one of my buddies wants to tackle it, or if they will choose something else.

This was to have gone in the dining room of a newly renovated home in the Woodland Heights of Houston.

Balancing Grasscloth Panels

January 18, 2020


Because grasscloth does not have a pattern that can be matched, the seams are always visible. And, due to the characteristics of natural materials, the strips will have color variations within themselves. This means that you will distinctly see each individual panel on the wall.

Because each panel is noticeable, walls usually look better if each panel is the same width. In other words, on a wall 14′ wide, it looks better to have five strips that are each 33.5″ wide, rather than four strips that are 3′ wide and one that is 2.’

In addition, grasscloth invariably comes with edges that have been abraded during shipping. On top of that, it’s common to have color issues at the edges – either a light band, or a dark band, or irregular bands of shading along the edges.

For that reason, many paperhangers trim the edges off both sides of each strip of grasscloth. This allows the installer to trim the width to fit the wall’s dimensions, it gets rid of most of the damage caused by shipping and handling, and it reduces the shading that the manufacturer’s dye process may have left along the edges.

If you study the photo closely, you will see that all these panels are the same width.

And, while some jagged color variations do appear along some of the edges, it is not pronounced, as the darkest areas have been trimmed off.

There is still a color difference between the three strips on the right and the four strips on the left – but that is just the nature of grasscloth and its manufacturing process

As you can imagine, all this measuring and plotting and trimming takes extra time. If you’re like me and like math and geometry and logistics, hanging grasscloth can be a whole lot of fun!

Sweet, Creamy Classic Toile in a NW Houston Kitchen

January 10, 2020


I hung this “American Landmarks” wallpaper (top photo) 12 years ago – and it was still in perfect condition. 🙂 But now the homeowner was ready for an update.

Her original choice was a large murky blue plaid, and it was a low-end, pre-pasted, paper-backed vinyl from a big box store. These types of vinyl papers generally have bad, visible seams, and very often curl at the seams or even delaminate (vinyl separates from paper backing), especially when there is humidity (read: Houston).

All the paper I hung in this home (several rooms) 12 years ago was paper (not vinyl), and has held up perfectly all this time. Luckily, the homeowner listened to me this time around, and nixed the vinyl and went shopping at my favorite source (below), and selected a paper wallpaper.

Both patterns are toiles (line drawings using just two colors). But the new design has a softer look, and the light yellow background adds a whole lot more warmth to the room.

Oh – and the new paper has dogs on it – a perfect choice because the homeowner is a big fan of her three pooches!

The new paper is pre-pasted (I added a little extra paste) and is a thin paper that hugs the walls tightly, and the seams are next to invisible.

The home is in near-northwest Houston.

This wallpaper pattern is by Thibaut Designs, and 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.

Calming Blue Silk on Bookshelf Backs – Schumacher

November 9, 2019


This is a somewhat nubby silk fabric mounted on a non-woven backing. The soft blue coordinates nicely with other elements in the room, and makes a lovely backdrop for the books and decorative items that will fill the shelves.

Silk wallcoverings are much like grasscloth, because the pattern cannot be matched. You will see all the seams. And there will be color variations and irregularities. This is all expected with these natural materials.

I was pleased with this one, because it was fairly homogeneous in color.

I used the paste-the-wall installation method. Silk, like grass, stains easily, so you have to keep your hands clean and dry, and don’t let any paste get onto the surface or ooze out at the seams.

The manufacturer is Schumacher, and the interior designer is Stacie Cokinos of Cokinos Design. She works primarily in the Heights, Oak Forest, and Garden Oaks, and mostly does new builds or whole-house remodels.

Farrow & Ball – Disappointing Quality

October 10, 2019


First three photos – Burnish marks from smoothing paint-coated paper to wall. Read below.

Last two photos – Fat seams caused by poor trimming and thick paper and paint. You man need to enlarge the photo to see clearly. Read below.

I’m disappointed in the quality of the Farrow & Ball paper I hung recently. (See my post from September 1st.) For a high-end brand, their quality-control is definitely lacking.

The seams are thick and dark, and many areas had to be repasted because they didn’t hold to the wall. As one of my highly-skilled, decades-long installer buddies put it: “This is a common problem caused by …… incompetence of factory trimming and poor choice of substrate. This substrate is thick and the trimming from F&B often gives us a “rounded” edge, for want of a better word.” Another installer described the seam edges as “scalloped.” You can never get a good, tight seam with thick paper and paint, and improper factory trimming.

Another disappointment was a sheen on the paper. F&B is proud of their paint, and, instead of using ink (like other successful manufacturers do), they coat their wallpaper with their paint. To get wallpaper stuck to the wall, to eliminate bubbles, and to set seams, you need to use tools, notably a smoothing brush (“sweep”) and/or a plastic smoothing tool.

No matter how gently I swiped with the brush, the paint burnished (left a sheen). Using the plastic smoother to try to coax the cantankerous seams to stay down left worse sheen along the length of each seam. I tried covering the smoother with soft T-shirt cloth, but that didn’t help. This sheen is caused by sensitivity of the paints. I hung three different F&B patterns, and had the same problem with each.
I worked as cleanly as possible, because trying to wipe even a small speck of paste off the surface left another shiny spot. The sheen was more noticeable when the paper was viewed from the side, with light hitting it at an angle.

If other manufacturers use inks that are designed to bond to paper, and that will withstand the light brushing and occasional wiping during the installation process, why does Farrow & Ball persist in using paint on their wallpaper??! Matt-finish paint is designed to be looked at, not rubbed or wiped or washed. And why use a thick, poor-performing substrate, when so many other companies have found wonderful papers to print on??

One solution for the sheen might be to coat the paper with a matt-finish varnish or other product that will even hide the shininess. As for the fat, noticeable seams, there is no solution. For now, we’re leaving everything as it is, because the client doesn’t see what I see, and she is delighted with her new wallpaper.

Test Strips

October 10, 2019


Yesterday, I hung Farrow & Ball wallpaper in another room in this home, and was not pleased with its quality and performance.

The seams were very obvious, due to the thick and stiff nature of the substrate, and to faulty trimming at the factory that left rounded and scalloped edges on the paper. In addition, the paper – which is coated with paint instead of the traditional ink – developed a sheen wherever my brush, smoother, or damp cloth rubbed against it.

So before I started in the powder room today, I did a “test run” by hanging a few short strips cut from scrap paper.

This way I could gauge what I could expect in the way of seams and sheen on this new pattern.

The consensus was that:
~ the seams were again wider / thicker than desirable
~ the seams again did not want to adhere to the wall properly in all areas
~ the ground (background color) developed shiny streaks where my smoothing brush or damp cloth came in contact with it. This was not as obvious as on yesterday’s “Feather Grass” pattern, because the textured raised ink on this “Hornbeam” pattern helped disguise it.

These test strips helped me plan what techniques to employ for today’s installation.

Peel & Stick = Piece of Sh!t

September 24, 2019


We’re seeing more and more of this peel-and-stick, supposedly “removable” and “repositionable” plastic wallcovering. Unfortunately, many homeowners read the lofty claims by the manufacturers and think it will be a perfect alternative to traditional wallpaper. It is not.

The stuff is awful – I won’t hang it, and most of my friends won’t either.

First of all, you don’t NEED an alternative to traditional wallpaper – you just need quality paper and someone who will properly prep the walls and then properly install the paper.

Getting back to P&S, the stuff is virtually impossible to hang. Imagine a 9’x2′ strip of Contact Paper, trying to position that on a wall without it wrinkling or sticking to itself, and then trying to butt another strip up next to it. Not gonna happen. It also does not “remove easily” … well, it does, but it will tear your wall apart in the process.

These homeowners had some guys doing other work in the nursery, and they said they could hang the wallpaper, too. They weren’t experienced paperhangers, and they weren’t up to the battle against this P&S. Virtually no one is.

First, they should have smoothed out the textured wall. Second, most P&S products spec that the wall should be sealed with a semi-gloss paint, which needs to dry and cure for two weeks. As you can see, this adds time and labor charges to the job.

I’m not sure why there are gaps at the seams (top two photos), but better prep would surely have helped prevent this. The large wrinkles are due to the inflexiblity of the material and its unwillingness to twist or stretch into position. With the baby on the way, the homeowner dad got desperate and used nails to try to tack down the curling paper.

The baby girl arrived, the parents lived with this wall for a while, and, when life settled down, they contacted me. I counseled them to forget the P&S and to choose a traditional wallpaper.

They zoomed in on this butterfly pattern by SuperFresco. This material is one of the newish non-woven materials, which contain a component of fiberglass and thus don’t expand or shrink, and won’t tug at the wall, so fewer worries of seems popping loose. These qualities also make it possible to dry-hang the paper, by pasting the wall instead of pasting the paper. I usually paste the paper, but on a single accent wall such as this (no toilets or sinks or fancy moldings to work around), pasting the wall works beautifully. It also saved me lugging my heavy, bulky work table up to this townhome’s third floor. 🙂

Removing the P&S paper was easy – it is strong and held together while I tugged it off the wall … I could do it all from the floor, without even climbing the ladder. Unfortunately, it took much of the paint along with it. So much for the “removable” claim.

It was still as sticky as the day it was born – so I rolled it all up and stuck it to itself and tossed the whole mess into the trash. Done and gone!

I skim-floated the wall to smooth it, sanded smooth, vacuumed, wiped residual dust off the wall with a damp sponge, and then rolled on Gardz, a penetrating primer-sealer, that also is a great undercoat for wallpaper.

All that (especially waiting for the smoothing compound to dry) took several hours. I think it was about 6:00 before I started hanging wallpaper!

Thin non-wovens generally go up with pleasingly invisible seams, and this one did, too. I was surprised to discover more than a few large wrinkles and bubbles. This could have been because the paper got twisted during installation, because the wall was smooth but not flat, because of some uneven reaction between the substrate and the paste which caused off-gassing (burps!), or some other reason. But it meant that I had to go over the wall several times, checking to be sure all areas were firmly secured to the wall.

The finished accent wall looks great! It’s a gentler pattern and a quieter color, and doesn’t hit you in the face as the original floral pattern did. There’s a little bit of fun shimmer in the scattered pearlized butterflies, and the blue-grey wings coordinate nicely with the three grey walls in the rest of the room.

Finally, Baby Girl is ready to move into her own room!

Big Pink Flowers for New Baby Girl

August 7, 2019

Here is a nursery accent wall, getting ready for a baby girl in a few months.

I like Spoonflower’s paper, and it’s been a while since I’ve hung it, so today was fun.

Spoonflower is different from other papers. For starters, it comes in strips of certain lengths, so you have to figure out how many strips of each length you need. For an accent wall like this, that was easy – but it can get complicated in chopped up rooms like bathrooms. Each strip comes packaged separately, in it’s own long, skinny zip-top bag.

The paper is pre-pasted, which you don’t see much these days. I find this type much faster to hang. The paper is also designed to be overlapped at the seams (instead of butted). This means you will see a 1/2″ wide ridge from floor to ceiling down either side of each strip. (See third photo.) In the grand scheme of things, this is not very noticeable. (In the old days, all papers were hung this way, and I have some authentic 1940’s paper in my home office to prove it. 🙂 )

The material is thin paper, and it gets very wet when it is pasted, and it expands. When the paper dries, it shrinks a tad. If the seams were butted, you would end up with gaps between the strips. By overlapping the strips a tad, gaps are prevented. This method also puts less tension on the wall, so you have less chance of layers inside the wall delaminating. (Do a search here for more info.)

The composition and the thinness of the paper also make it difficult to cut, because it wants to tear. So you have to keep a supply of sharp, new blades handy.

This paper is very similar to one I blogged about on December 25, 2018. I’m betting it’s made by the same manufacturer, but sold under different brand names.

Note that Spoonflower also offers a peel & stick so-called “removable” option – do NOT go with this one – horrible stuff, that P&S.

This home is in the Heights / Timber Grove area of Houston.

Brunschwig & Fils’s Bibliotheque in a Heights Library

July 14, 2019


Another installer hung the paper in the first photo. For some unknown reason, two half-walls were left unpapered. I was called in to finish those two areas.

Brunschwig & Fils is a French manufacturer, with a long history. Like many higher-end brands, this product came with a selvedge edge that I had to trim off by hand (see last photo), using a razor blade and a 6′ long straight edge (not shown).

And, like many higher-end brand papers that are printed with ink that smells like mothballs, once paste is applied to the back of the paper, the inked surface absorbs moisture from the paste differently from the back side. When the top inked layer expands at a different rate from the substrate, you get waffling, or quilting. Sorry, no photo, but you can do a Search here to see previous blogs on this topic. Essentially, it’s a wrinkly mess.

One way to deal with this is to even out the moisture differential by lightly sponging water onto the face (inked side) of the wallpaper. The front can then absorb moisture from the sponging at the same time that the substrate is absorbing moisture from the paste.

As I worked with the paper, I discovered that it wanted to dry out quickly. So it helped a lot to also use a sponge to get a little moisture onto the back side of the wallpaper strip, before pasting.

Other tricks to slow drying out are to 1.) Book the paper (fold pasted side to pasted side and then roll up loosely like a newspaper) and then dunk the ends into a bucket of clean water. 2.) Place the booked strip into a black trash bag, which will prevent evaporation during the time the paper books. 3.) When the wait time is up, gently unbook the paper and lightly spritz the back with clean water from a spray bottle. Alternately, you could sponge the surface once again. The idea is to introduce a little more moisture, to loosen up the paste and to make the paper more malleable.

I had been told that this paper was difficult to work with, and that the seams wanted to curl. I had the opposite experience – I thought it was lovely to work with. The seams laid nice and flat, and the paper was easy to manipulate, and it clung tightly to the wall. Applying moisture to the surface and back got rid of the waffling, and any that did remain (there were small puckers in the white horizontal “shelf board” areas) disappeared as the wallpaper dried.

This home is in the Houston Heights neighborhood, and the interior designer is Stacie Cokinos, of Cokinos Design.