Posts Tagged ‘seams’

Jungle Paneled Installation, Italian Product, for a Nursery

June 22, 2019


The top photo shows a sample panel of the wallpaper taped to the wall of the nursery. You can see the sharply sloping ceiling line to the right.

The mother-to-be fell in love with the jungle theme and the colors of this paper. She bought it on-line from an Italian company. Unlike most wallpapers that come in rolls, this product came in sets of panels, each of which was 27″ wide x 39″ long. In the second photo, you see the first three tiered along the left, and the next two strips positioned to the right. Other panels will be filled in above and below, and to the right.

Precious little information was available on how to install this product … and what there was came in Italienglish, which was little help. There was a brief on-line video, plus you could read the experiences of previous DIY clients in the customer reviews section. In such cases, you have to use the scant available information, along with your own experience, to decern an install method.

Turns out, this is similar to the old-school paper murals that come in panels and call for powdered paste. Except this company did not include paste (as most do), nor were the panels meant to be overlapped.

Luckily, I have sources for wheat, cellulose, potato starch, and other powdered wallpaper adhesives. These are mixed up on-site, are less aggressive as far as stickiness goes, and are more wet than the pre-mixed pastes used for most installations today.

More wetness, along with the particular type of paper these murals are printed on, means that the paper will absorb more moisture and can expand substantially. This is why most of these types of murals are designed to be overlapped at the seams. The seams of this product, however, were meant to be butted … which means that when that paper dries, it could shrink, and that could result in gaps at the seams.

Because the mural came in panels instead of continuous strips, the edges of the strips could not be lined up exactly perfectly, neither vertically nor horizontally. And this was exacerbated because each panel absorbed paste and expanded differently from the others, so there could be a difference in width or height between panels of as much as 1/8″.

This meant that there were some pattern mis-matches between strips. It also resulted in some seams overlapping. I left before the paper was completely dry, but I imagine there are areas where the some seams gap, too.

But I tend to overthink things, and fret about minute details that most people never see. The bottom line is, the accent wall looks fantastic, and will set a theme for the new baby’s room.

Note that this paper gets really wet when it’s pasted, and so you see a bit of blotchiness in the photos. This will disappear and the paper will be much lighter and brighter when it’s all good and dry.

The product is also not really technically a “mural.” But it comes in panels like many murals do, so I’m using that term for simplicity’s sake.

Besides the special paste, because this product was printed on a rather flimsy paper, I used a softer brush to apply the paste (as opposed to a roller), and I used a soft, long-bristled smoothing brush.
The video showed the guy using his hands to attempt to smooth the paper into place. If you looked closely, his finished wall had a lot of bubbles and wrinkles. My long soft smoothing brush was much more appropriate.

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A Nice Faux Silk

June 19, 2019


Recently, I’ve had a number of young client families interested in silk wallpaper. For their bath or powder rooms.

Silk is beautiful, and certainly creates a calming mood. But it is also highly stainable. Which makes it a bad choice for rooms where it may be splashed with water, sprayed with toiletries, or touched by peanut butter and jelly-stained hands.

There are faux product that make good alternatives, though. The lower-end paper-backed vinyls are not a good option, due to issues with seams (do a Search here).

Today I at Dorota’s store and she showed me this new product, from Thibaut, in their Texture Resource Volume 6 collection. It’s vinyl, so it’s extremely resistant to water and stains, and the backing is a synthetic non-woven material, which will not absorb moisture and curl at the seams like the lower-end vinyls do.

Dorota works in a Benjamin Moore store near the Rice Village. By appointment: (713) 520-6262.

Light-Hued Geometric Updates a Hollywood Bath in West U

June 8, 2019



The kids are grown and gone, so it’s time for an update to this bathroom. The original black & white floral wasn’t bad, but perhaps a bit outdated. And most of the seams had succumbed the curling and pouching that happens when you use the lower-end pre-pasted paper-backed solid vinyl wallpapers in humid rooms – like two teenaged girls showering. 🙂 Besides all that, Mom wanted a fresh new look for her empty nest.

I stripped the paper and prepped the walls – both of which took a lot more work than expected, and way more detail than you want to read here. The install also took a long time … Let’s just say it was way after dark when I finished and went home.

The room had its share of complicated elements. But also working with a geometric print requires a lot of extra steps, to keep the design elements plumb and aligned with the ceiling and woodwork (which are not necessarily plumb), and to keep the pattern matched up as it turns corners – most of which are wonky.

Also, it took a certain amount of plotting and measuring to have the pattern look uninterrupted as it played out above and then below the chair rail.

This paper is in the SureStrip line by York, and is one of my favorites to work with. It is a thin non-woven material, and is designed to strip off the wall easily and with minimal damage to the walls when it’s time to redecorate. It’s pre-pasted, which means that there is a thin layer of dry adhesive on the back, that is activated by water – you can use several methods to do this. SureStrip is always a nice, cooperative paper to hang, and on the wall, it performs well over time.

Swirling Dragons and Swooshing Garments

May 25, 2019


OK, that’s a really dumb title. 😦 But every time I look at this restless dragon surrounded by roiling foliage and water, I think about the clothing tumbling in endless summer-saults in the washing machine in this room. Yes, this fun and mystical wallpaper is enhancing a laundry room.

The home is in the Rice University / Medical Center neighborhood of Houston. The wallpaper has bright shades of green-blue on a silver metallic background. It’s a non-woven material, and could be hung by the paste the wall method. Since this room had a lot of obstacles and weird angles and obstructions like non-removable shelving, I opted to paste-the-paper instead. This also rendered the material a lot more flexible and malleable, which was much appreciated, since the room had a lot of features that made it quite difficult to hang.

Normally, I wouldn’t be too crazy about wallpaper in a humid room like a laundry – especially since the air circulation is pretty poor. Humidity can cause wallpaper seams to let loose and curl. But because these newish non-wovens are made of natural and synthetic materials (such as fiberglass), they are more breathable, and thus shouldn’t present issues of curling seams or delaminating. They are also designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece, when it’s time to redecorate.

This wallpaper is made by York, one of my favorite companies, in their Dwell Studio Line. It 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.

Sophisticated Look With White-Washed Metallic Cork

May 24, 2019


I’ve hung lots of metallic cork wallpaper (do a search here), but this is the first time I’ve seen one with a white-wash over the surface, and that has a plaid / stripe sort of design worked in. It’s quite becoming!

The white paint tones down the sheen of the dark gold metallic inks, so you get a bit of glam, but are not overwhelmed. And the crosshatching effect brings a whole new dimension to the look, adding texture and warmth – sort of like a man’s suit fabric.

I was afraid the striped effect would be very evident, but it’s really very subtle and pleasing. And it did a good job of disguising the seams, so there is virtually no paneling or shading like you would have with most natural material wallcoverings.

Of course, this accent wall has only two full-height seams, and the product could look quite different if you had it spread across a larger wall or room. Still, I am very pleased with the way it turned out.

This is on one wall of a living room in a 1939 house in the Rice University / Medical Center area of Houston. It is by Brewster, 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.

Fairytale Wonderland for Young Boy’s West U Bedroom

May 9, 2019


This young family in the West University Place neighborhood of Houston started out with another installation company that was not a good fit. They also started out with a wallpaper selection from a company that I find to be of poor quality (Hygge & West). I was honored that they let me take on the wallpaper install. AND that they listened to my suggestion to explore other manufactuers … the paper they chose is superior in quality, and is a far more charming and fitting design for their young son.

The walls originally had a light texture that I skim-floated over, then sanded smooth, and then primed with Gardz.

The new wallpaper is very similar in color to their original choice of palm leaves, so they could keep the trim and wainscot paint that had already been applied.

Whereas paper from the original manufacturer is known for curling and disappointing “pouches” at the seams, their final selection from Boras Tapeter (a Scandinavian company) is some of the most cooperative and best performing paper I have every worked with.

The seams are invisible, the material doesn’t expand (no pattern distortion or screwed up measurements) and it doesn’t shrink (no gaps at the seams). There is no booking time, so each strip can be pasted and then hung immediately. It can also be hung via the paste-the-wall method. It hugs the wall tightly and turns corners nicely. It doesn’t crease easily, as many thicker non-wovens do. When it’s time to redecorate, this non-woven material is designed to strip off the wall easily and with minimal damage to the wall. And the surface is more washable than most, making it well suited to a young child’s room.

And best of all, the “Wonderland” design, with frolicking animals and whimsical foliage, is much better suited to a child’s room than the original palm leaf option.

This wallpaper pattern is by Boras Tapeter, 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.

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. 🙂

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.