Posts Tagged ‘seams’

Bold Watercolor Floral for a Toddler Girl’s Bedroom Accent Wall

July 27, 2018


Here’s a bolder twist on pastel flowers for a 2-year-old girl’s room. I’ve hung similar patterns for other little girls (do a Search here) done in this water-colory look, but in “sweeter” colors of pink and peach.

Interestingly, these all appear to be made by the same manufacturer (Sure-Strip, by York), but the design and colors have been changed just a bit, and then distributed through different vendors. Today’s was sold by Caitlin Wilson, but most of the others came from Anthropologie.

No matter who makes it and what brand is put on the label, this pattern is a wonderful choice for this young gal. The charcoal greys “grow it up” a little. It is not “babyish” and will grow with her, and can last well into her teen, and even college age, years.

The paper is wonderful to work with. It’s pre-pasted, which means it has paste on the back that is activated by running it through a water tray – as opposed to having to apply paste with a brush or roller to the back of the paper. It’s printed on a “non-woven” substrate, and is designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece when it’s time to redecorate. Yet, unlike many non-woven materials, this one is thin and pliable and the seams lie very flat.

I hung this on one accent or feature wall in a newish home in the West University neighborhood of Houston.

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Faux Grasscloth Made of Vinyl – A Super Alternative to the Real Stuff

July 24, 2018
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Because natural grasscloth frequently has disappointingly visible seams, and jarringly noticeable paneling and shading (color variations between strips and even within strips, even if they came off the same bolt), as well as staining and color running and pets clawing it up, I try to steer clients away from real grasscloth. I much prefer the faux products, which are much more predictable as far as color and pattern.

This is vinyl product made by Thibaut called Bankin Rafia. It offers the texture that people are wanting these days, buy has a much more uniform color pattern, and virtually invisible seams. Further, it is very durable, washable, water-resistant, and less attractive to claw-happy pets.

Compensating for Crooked Walls

July 17, 2018

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Today I was to hang this cute bear wallpaper on one accent wall of a baby’s nursery.  The walls were 0ff-plumb, and the ceiling was not level, and the pattern was very plotted and symmetrical.  So let’s just say that the room presented challenges.

One thing that helped was the way the blocks of bears are printed on the wallpaper.  See Photo 1.  Unlike most wallpaper designs, the motifs did not cross the seams, so there were no elements to be matched from strip to strip.  This left me free to place the bears’ heads at the top of the wall with every strip.

Normally, when the ceiling is not level, the wallpaper pattern (the heads of the bears) would start to move up or down the ceiling, and that means that the heads would start to get chopped off horizontally.

But since this pattern did not cross the seams of the wallpaper and I didn’t have to match any parts of bears across the seams, I was able to pull each strip up to the top of the wall, and eating a uniform line (or head-count 🙂 ) at the top of the wall.  It meant that the lines of bears were not perfectly level from strip to strip – but that was not very noticeable, and was a whole lot better than seeing heads get chopped off.

The walls on either side were also not plumb.  As a test, I hung the first strip of paper butted into the corner, so it is parallel with the wall.  The second photo shows my laser level red line against the side of the paper.  If you could see above the top of the photo, that red line is butted against the edge of the paper at the top of the wall.  Yet as you move down the wall, the strip of wallpaper moves away to the left of the red level line.

I could pull the strip of paper into plumb so that it aligned with the red laser line – but that would cause a slew of bears to get their heads sliced off vertically where they hit the adjacent wall.  As well as when they got to the opposite wall.

Also, since the ceiling was not level, the bears’ heads would start marching either up or down the ceiling line, and, again, some bears would get their heads chopped off.

What to do?

I checked for plumb on both outer walls, and found that both walls were off-plumb by a fairly significant amount.  Luckily, both walls were out of plum parallel with one another.  This meant that I could hang the paper off-plumb and butted into the right corner, and it would come out on the left side of the wall nicely parallel to the opposite side (right corner).

So the pattern aligned nicely with both the right and left walls.  But since to do this I had to hang the paper off-plumb, it would also go off-level at the ceiling.  And since the ceiling was already no where near level, it was very likely that the pattern was going to track up or down that ceiling line, with a bunch o’ bears getting their heads cut off.

Here is where the placement of the pattern on the 20.5″ wide wallpaper made a difference… Because I didn’t have to match a bear’s head to a bear’s head horizontally across the seams. I could position each strip so that the tips of the bears’ ears were at the top of the wall.  (Read previous paragraphs.)

But because the ceiling was off-level by such a great degree, some of the pattern did get crooked, and so you see a couple of black feet starting to appear above the brown bear at the top of the wall (See photo 3).

But I’d rather have a few paws showing at the top of the ceiling, than have a bunch ‘o bears get chopped off vertically at the corners.  But still, I didn’t like looking at those paws hanging down from the ceiling.

The fix was easy.  I took some scrap wallpaper and from it I cut some thin strips of white paper that I then pasted over the offending paws.  Voilà!  No visible dangling paws.

AND the pattern looks amazingly equal in each corner,

This is a new townhouse in the Cottage Grove neighborhood of Houston.

Manipulating a Thick, Stiff Paper Around a Curved Wall

July 2, 2018


Curved walls like this pose a problem when wallpapering, because it’s virtually impossible for the framers and drywall guys to get the walls perfectly smooth and straight without bows or dips or humps. You may not see these imperfections when looking at the wall. But they can cause difficulties when hanging wallpaper.

Wallpaper wants to hang straight, and must have a straight edge for the next strip to butt up against. Walls that are not perfect can throw paper off-kilter, and can create wrinkles, bubbles, or an un-straight edge that will show gaps or overlaps when the next strip is butted against it.

Some papers are more pliable and malleable than others, and can be tweaked and twisted into compliance. In contrast, the non-woven material I am working with here is thick and stiff, and unwilling to conform to anything other than flat wall. As you can see in the second photo, by the time three strips were up on this curved wall, some wrinkles had inevitably formed in the last strip.

Non-woven goods have the installation option of pasting the wall. But I preferred to paste the paper, for several reasons, but mostly because that would give the paper a bit more softness and flexibility.

Because the paper had become soft and flexible, I was able to work those wrinkles out. It took time and finessing, but the paper ended up flat and smooth against the wall, and the seams were butted without gaps or overlaps.

This wallpaper pattern has a thick gesso-like texture on a metallic silver background – Quietly glamorous, really. It is by York in their Candice Olson line, and was bought at below retail price from 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.

Stretching Paper to Save a Seam

July 1, 2018


In this room, I was working from left to right. The last strip I hung ended under the air register, as you see in the top photo. By measuring and engineering, I knew that the way the next strip would fall would leave two seams in between the two doors on the right of the photo. (See last photo) But the width between those two doors was just a tad less than the width of two strips of paper, which would mean only one seam, so I really wanted to get away with that one seam, instead of two.

But if I hung just two strips between the doors, it would leave a 5″ gap over the left-hand door, between the strip on the left and the strip on the right. See top photo.

Never fear – I figured a way to bridge that gap – without screwing up the pattern match or horizontal repeat.

I found a piece of scrap paper with an appropriate design. I trimmed it so it would butt up against the strip on the left, and then overlap onto the strip on the right, with a bit of tree branch and flowers to disguise the area. Voilà! No gap! (See third photo)

This would not have worked on a full-height wall, and maybe not even on a 1′ high area over a door. But since we are talking about only 4″ or so of height, the eye never notices that the pattern is not exactly what it should be. And the rhythm of the design as it moves across the ceiling line is undisrupted – Your eye never notices that it is 5″ off.

This beautiful wallpaper is by Bradbury & Bradbury, in their new ’20’s Vintage line. I hung it in the master bedroom of a home in Bellaire (Houston), that was flooded during Hurricane Harvey.

By the way, the homeowners were talking about painting that air register a softer color to match the woodwork and blend with the wallpaper. The register had been stuck to the wall with caulk and paint, and was not removable. That blue tape is on there with a note to tell the painters to NOT put any tape on the wallpaper. Painter’s tape will pull the inked layer right off that beautiful new wallpaper. Actually, after I explained that to the homeowners, and also told them how the register would have to be deglossed with chemicals or by sanding, and then painted with paint specially formulated for metal and to withstand the condensation that happens around those air ducts, they decided to forgo painting it, and were happy to live with the color as it is. Whew!

Blue Birds Brighten a Bathroom – But Not A Good Quality Paper

June 27, 2018


The original wallpaper had fallen victim to curled seams. This happens most often with lower-end pre-pasted, paper-backed, solid vinyl wallcoverings, particularly in humid rooms, like this bathroom. Adding to the list of no-no’s were an improperly smoothed wall and the lack of a primer.

The seams on these papers are never great to begin with. When there is humidity, it will find its way into the seams and onto the paper backing of the wallpaper. When this backing gets wet by humidity, it expands. When it expands, it has nowhere to go but out – pushing away from the wall. This results in a curled seam. This is not “loose” wallpaper, and the seams cannot be glued back down. In many cases, the paper backing layer of the wallpaper actually delaminates (separates from) the top vinyl layer.

The homeowner loved the pattern, particularly the blue birds, and bought the same exact paper to replace the other. I stripped off the old paper, took various steps to stabilize the unsound wall surface, then skim-coated the wall to smooth it, primed, and hung the new paper.

The look is cheery and bright, and looks fabulous with the pale yellow bead-board wainscoting. The seams looked good when I left, and will pull down tighter as the paper dries.

Still, these economical pre-pasted, paper-backed, solid vinyl wallpapers are not my choice for use in any room. And this particular brand (Norwall) just about tops my list for brands to NOT purchase.

Budget-Friendly Solid Vinyl Wallpaper is NOT a Good Choice

June 19, 2018


This is an economical pre-pasted, paper-backed, solid vinyl wallpaper. As you can see, it has not held up well. Humidity exasperates this situation, but it can happen in any room … the seams allow humidity to get into the paper backing, which swells with the moisture. This causes the paper backing to push away from the wall, which causes the vinyl top layer to curl back. Sometimes the two layers even delaminate (detach from each other). These are not “loose seams,” and cannot be glued back down.

Please stick with paper wallpaper, or the newish non-woven materials. And stay away from these solid vinyl “bargains.”

Do a search here to read more posts on this subject.

Difficult Hang Today – Lots of Work to Get Good Seams

June 17, 2018



I don’t recall ever having seen a wallpaper product labeled “heavyweight paper” before. I wasn’t thrilled with this stuff. It was thick, and that made it difficult to work with. I prefer thin papers because they form to the walls better. This paper didn’t have any coating on it, so it is not any more durable than a thinner paper, so I don’t see the reason for the “heavyweight” treatment.

And any time you apply paste and the edges of the paper curl backward (Photo 1), you know you are in for a tough install.

The room was already prepped, and it was just 9 single rolls on an easy top of a dining room – no tricky moldings to trim around, no toilets to reach beind, no awkward spaces to situate the ladder in… It should have taken 5-6 hours. Instead I toiled for 12 hours.

I hung three strips, and wasn’t happy with the two seams between them. They pouched just a little and would not lie down flat. (Photo 2) With strong light coming in from the windows, the seams looked bad. There was no way of knowing how the seams would look once the paper was good and dry. But for now, I couldn’t stand the look, and I didn’t want to leave the homeowners with these pouchy seams.

I removed two of those strips, refreshed the paste, and kept them “open” by placing them in a plastic trash bag so they would remain useable (we didn’t have a lot of paper to spare). I ran to the truck and got supplies so I could double cut new seams (splice on the wall). I needed a special trim guide, and a special polystyrene padding strip to protect the wall so that the razor blade wouldn’t score into it (which could compromise the surface and lead to delamination of layers … too complicated to get into here, but you can do a Search and read previous posts on this subject).

From then on, instead of using the factory edges for seams, I double cut. Double cutting involves padding the wall behind where the seam will be, overlapping the new strip onto the old strip while carefully matching the pattern, and then using the handled straightedge and a sharp new razor blade to cut through both layers of paper. Then you peel back the paper at the newly cut seam and remove the two thin strips of excess paper that were just cut off. Then you remove the plastic padding strip.

Now you can put the edges of the freshly cut new seam back together. Because they were cut into each other, they will fit together perfectly. But because the padding strip has some thickness, the two newly cut edges are now a teeny tad wider than needed, so you’ll have to do some finessing to get the seam to butt together, instead of pouching up just a bit.

Because one strip of pasted paper overlapped onto another, once the excess paper strips are removed, there will be paste residue left on a 1″-2″ edge of one of the wallpaper drops. This has to be washed off with a damp microfiber rag, and you will have to rinse the rag and wash the wall several times to get all the residue off.

And all of this has to be done on a time frame, because while you’re working on one seam, the edges of the next are rapidly drying out, which is a whole new can of worms.

My finished double cut seams were perfect. (Photo 3)

But after I had worked my way around the room a bit, I looked back at the first wall, and saw that, as the paper dried, it shrank just a little. This left a visible gap between the two strips. (Photo 4) This gap isn’t visible from a distance, and it’s not visible if you look at the walls at an angle. But if you are standing three feet away and looking head-on, you will see the gap. I think it’s too much.

Oh, and, one more thing … the paper was easily marred if it was touched by any bit of metal. (Photo 5) Scissors, straight edge, trim guide, even the metal eraser housing on the end of my pencil would leave a grey mark if it happened to rub against the wallpaper. Most of these marks would wipe off, but not all of them. And wiping the paper leads to abrasion, so you want to avoid overdoing it. I worry about how the wallpaper might be marked up when the homeowners innocently go about hanging their art and mirror.

Considering what the homeowners paid for the wallpaper and installation, I think they should have a better outcome than this. This paper is manufactured by Thibaut. Thibaut makes many types of wallpaper, and most of them are lovely to work with, and they perform well. It makes you wonder why they would use this “heavyweight” stock, which produces a less-than-desireable outcome.

Rubbery, Problematic Smoothing Compound

June 15, 2018


I was stripping wallpaper by peeling off the top vinyl layer and then soaking the paper backing to reactivate the paste so the paper could be removed from the wall – and ran into this.

It looks like the previous installer smoothed the wall (which is good), but used a latex spackling compound instead of the more typical joint compound. The latex became wet from the water I was using to soak off the wallpaper, and began to pull away from the wall.

This is all bad, because it leaves a bumpy mess on the wall that will show through the new paper. But worse is that it is an unstable surface for the new paper to try to hold on to. When wallpaper paste dries, the paper shrinks and puts tension on the surface below, particularly the seams. If the surface is not solid, the layers can actually come apart (delaminate) resulting in curled or gapping seams.

This is not “loose paper,” and cannot simply be glued back down. The different layers inside the wall are actually coming apart, and will require a lot of work to make the wall sound again.

Once the paper was off and the wall was good and dry, the layers seemed to adhere to each other better, and the wall felt more solid. The way I treated it was to roll on a coat of Gardz, which is a penetrating sealer that binds things together. It did a good job. Then I skim-floated over that with joint compound, which, when sanded, would leave a nice, smooth surface.

One more coat of Gardz on top of that, and the wall was sound and ready for wallpaper.

Hygge & West Wallpaper – Curling at the Seams

June 4, 2018
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Hygge & West, an on-line company, makes some darling wallpaper patterns. But I don’t enjoy hanging their papers. Because they use ink that fight the substrate it’s printed on, which causes curling paper and “pouched” seams.

Some inks smell like moth balls, and those tend to cause the curling problems. What happens is, the inked areas absorb moisture from the paste differently from the paper backing (substrate). The substrate expands, and that causes the paper to curl backwards. The second photo shows an extreme example of that.

Usually, once the paste dries, the paper shrinks back and the seams lie flat. But you can never count on that – the first photo shows a seam that has been on the wall for an hour or so, and the green ink is still curling away from the wall. The tendency is to keep pushing the seams flat – and that can cause overworking of the seams, stretching, burnishing, or other damage.

It helps to lightly sponge the face of the paper with water before pasting the back. This helps equalize the absorption of water, and evens out the expansion rate of the wallpaper. Make sure there is paste all the way to the edges of the paper – but not past the edge or onto the surface, which could cause staining. And use a little less paste on the edges, so it will dry faster and grab onto the wall. It also helps to stripe the wall behind the seam with a roller of paste – not much, but enough to put a layer of paste onto the wall, which can be drying and tacking up, ready to grab onto the edges of the strip of wallpaper.