Posts Tagged ‘skim-coat’

Roiling Clouds Wallpaper in a Montrose Bathroom

July 4, 2019


Historic British manufacturer’s Fornasetti Line “Nuvolette” wallpaper pattern… I have long wanted to hang this paper, and finally got my chance today!

The walls in this first-floor bathroom of a newish contemporary styled home in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston were textured and covered with a semi-gloss paint. (top picture) It took me a day and a half to skim-coat the walls with smoothing compound, let dry, sand smooth, vacuum up the dust, wipe dust off the walls, prime, and let the primer dry. (second photo shows the smoothed and primed walls)

You would see this pattern better in a larger, less broken-up room, but here you can tell that it is a powerful depiction of roiling thunder clouds storming powerfully toward the west.

The product is unusual, in that it comes in a 2-pack set of “A” and “B” rolls. Each bolt is the same width and length as many Cole & Son papers. But the pattern is placed on those bolts very atypically, and the pattern match is equally unexpected.

Usually, wallpaper patterns match straight across from strip to strip. (straight across match) This means you see the same design element at the top of the wall on every strip. Or they drop down bit on every other strip, then pop back up to the top of the wall on the third strip. (drop match)

A much less common and much more complicated patter match is when the pattern motif repeats itself at the top of the wall only on every fourth (or more) strip. It can take a lot of mind-bending to figure out how to get the pattern placed correctly, and without wasting more paper than necessary.

Look at the upper left of the label, and it says that when placing the A strip to the right of the B strip, it’s a straight match. But when you position the B strip to the right of the A strip, it’s a drop match. This makes everything even wackier and more complicated!

What helped me here is that this home had plenty of room to roll out the bolts of paper, and plot out how the pattern would fall. (see photo) No one was home, so I had peace and quiet to concentrate and get my head around the intricacies of the pattern.

It turned out that the “straight match” indicated on the label was an error – no strips featured a straight match. Good thing I had all that floor space to roll the bolts out, so I could determine that.

Because the pattern match was so unpredictable, it was not possible to cut all of the “odd” and “even” strips ahead of time. And the very unlevel / unplumb qualities of the room also stepped in to make this impossible.

One thing that helped was that this was a non-woven material, which meant that the wallpaper did not need to be booked (left to sit and absorb paste and expand) before hanging. So as soon as I was able to figure out the pattern match for the upcoming strip, I was able to paste and hang the strip-in-hand.

If I had had to figure, measure, plot, paste, book, and then finally hang each strip individually, it would have taken a lot more than the eight hours it did take me to hang this 8-roll bathroom.

A big help on this pattern is that I belong to the Wallcovering Installers Association, and I check our Facebook page every day. (Sorry – it’s private … you can’t peek!) It was there that I learned about others’ experiences with this Nuvolette design, and how they tackled the pattern repeat and the install.

Getting Smoothing Compound To Dry

June 13, 2019


The walls in this powder room were textured. (see top photo) To ensure that the new wallpaper looks good, and that it has a solid surface to cling to, the walls need to be smoothed. This is called floating, or skim coating, and I do a lot of it here in Houston. To do that, I trowel on a plaster-like substance, let it dry, then sand it, vacuum up the dust, wipe residual dust off the walls with a damp sponge, and then prime.

What takes the most time is waiting for the smoothing compound (drywall joint compound, which we also call “mud”) to dry. If the texture is heavy, often it has to dry overnight. The downside of this is that it adds an extra day of labor and expense. But when the texture is lighter, the drying can be speeded along.

In the second photo, you see some of the ways I get mud to dry more quickly. On the counter* you see two box fans, and on the floor is a much stronger fan. On the counter is also a space heater. Hot air in the room absorbs moisture, sucking it out of the wet smoothing compound. I let the room heat up, and then I have to open the door and let the moist air out – over and over again.

The yellow objet on the floor is a heat gun. A heat gun acts like a hair dryer on steroids, and can get small stubborn areas to dry pretty quickly.

A few other things help speed drying … Walls coated with flat paint will dry more quickly than with glossy paint. And having the air conditioning and / or heat cranking away will help, because, while regulating the temperature, these climate-control systems also pull humidity out of the air. I also like to turn the HVAC system’s fan from “Auto” to “On,” so that air is circulating continuously, which also pulls humidity out of the air and helps the walls to dry.

*I normally keep a dropcloth on the vanity counter. But the vibrating fans can cause the dropcloths to slip, and you don’t want anything crashing down on the homeowner’s countertop. I do have lengths of self-grip shelf liner that help keep the fans from moving around too much.

Smoothing a Textured Wall

June 16, 2017

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The bumps on textured walls (see top photo) will show under wallpaper and look horrible, and the texture also impedes good adhesion. So I “skim-coat” the walls with joint compound (“mud”), which is much like plaster, let dry, and then sand smooth (see middle photo).

The walls need to be sealed before wallpaper can go up, and for this, I like Gardz, a penetrating sealer that soaks into the surface, binds everything together, and dries hard. It’s also a wonderful primer to hanging wallpaper on.

Prepping Heavily Textured Walls for Wallpaper

February 15, 2017
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Wow. Some DIY remodeler / house flipper loved this textured wall finish, and sprayed it on EVERY WALL AND CEILING in this otherwise-beautifully-updated home near Gessner & Kempwood. The young couple who bought the home want wallpaper in their two daughters’ rooms and in a front room study, plus they want chalkboard paint on one wall in the kitchen.

Wallpaper looks best and sticks best to smooth walls, and the chalkboard wall needs to be perfectly smooth, so I am spending two days smoothing these surfaces. The wallpaper will go up later.

Today I skim-floated the walls with joint compound. (It’s kind of like plaster, and is applied with a trowel.) I went through nearly FIVE boxes of the stuff (see photo). Each box is 44 lbs. Need I say that my arms and shoulders are tired and sore? 🙂

Applying it thickly enough to cover the 1/4″ – 1/2″ bumps means that it will take a looong time to dry, so I have turned on the heat in the house (to help draw moisture out of the smoothing compound) as well as the house fan (to circulate air), set several fans up blowing against the walls, and left it to dry overnight. Tomorrow, I will sand the walls.

Because the skim coat was so thick, even when it is sanded, the surface will not be perfectly smooth, and will also have many holes caused by air bubbles. So I will trowel on a second, much lighter coat, to cover these irregularities. With the heat cranking, and the fans blowing, this second skim coat should dry fairly quickly.

Then I will sand one final time, vacuum up the dust, wipe the walls free of dust with a damp sponge, and finally roll on a sealing primer called Gardz.

The painters can then apply the chalkboard paint to the kitchen wall. And when I come back to hang wallpaper in a month or so, the messy part of the job will be over and done with, so no more dust or mess or smells in the clients’ home – just new, pretty wallpaper for the little girls’s rooms and for Mom’s study.

Waiting for Hubby – It’s Good to Have a Back-Up Plan

April 1, 2015

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A few days before the install date, I usually send my clients a “what to expect and how to prepare for your wallpaper installation” e-mail. I must have forgotten this time, because the homeowers were not aware that I need 18″-24″ of space around the wall for my ladder, and that 5’3″, 100 lb me is unable to move that large and heavy bedroom set.

My task for today was to “skim coat” or “float” the textured wall, with a plaster-like substance, which will dry and then be sanded, leaving a perfectly smooth wall, ready for the new wallpaper. Since I couldn’t get over or behind the bed, I smoothed the areas I could reach from my ladder.

When the husband gets home tonight, he will pull the bed away from the wall, so I can reach the entire space. Tomorrow, I will finish floating the wall, get some fans blowing on it to quicken the drying time, sand it, and then prime it.

This back-up plan is going to add at least two hours to my work day tomorrow. But it’s a good option, and it’s a way to get as much done as possible today, lessening the amount of work that’s needed to be done tomorrow.

Bye-Bye Drab and Funky

July 6, 2014

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Digital ImageDigital ImageNot too long ago, I blogged about “wallpaper the color of mud,” which I thought was really pretty. Today I’m working in a powder room which has walls painted the color of army-green mud. The color itself is beautiful, but in this small, windowless room, it just makes the whole space feel cramped and dingy. The rather heavy and uneven texture on the walls is not helping, either.

The first photo shows the original paint color and texture, and a little bit of my “skim coat” of “mud” (joint compound) that I’m using to smooth the wall. It’s troweled on, left to dry, then sanded smooth, vacuumed, wiped with a damp sponge to remove residual dust, and then primed.

In the second shot, you see the fully prepped wall, ready for wallpaper tomorrow. And in the last shot, one day later, the finished look! The homeowner kept asking, “Do you have an extra light on in here? (I did not.) It’s so much brighter!”

The lighter colored walls and simple pattern greatly brightened the room, and visually enlarged it.