Posts Tagged ‘skim float’

Trick in Hopes to Stave Off Popped Seams from a Crumbly Wall

April 3, 2019


The walls in this powder room in the West U neighborhood of Houston had had many treatments over it’s life, including paint, more paint, skim-floating, wallpaper, and more. Sometimes, and particularly if prep is not done properly, these various layers are not compatible, and won’t adhere to one another well.

When the old wallpaper was removed, this was clear at the seams, where the various layers of the wall had pulled apart, leaving ridges along the length of each seam. This happens because the wallpaper dries and pulls taught and creates tension on the wall; if the wall is unstable, the layers can be pulled apart (delaminate). Sorry, no pics of the “before,” but you can do a search here to see pics of other rooms. This condition can happen over time, as the house fills with humidity and the paper absorbs it, then dries and shrinks again.

I dug out the raised ridges and applied tape over them, sealed with Gardz, a penetrating sealer that dries hard. Then I skim-floated over all the walls, to create a smooth surface for the wallpaper. Sanded, wiped dust off with a damp sponge (nothing sticks to dust), and primed all walls with Gardz.

One good way to deal prevent this from happening again is to cross-line the walls with a special liner paper. This is a thin paper that is usually run horizontally before the actual decorative paper is hung. The idea is that if the new paper shrinks and applies tension, it will be distributed by the liner paper, and will not pull at the wall. If the liner shrinks and pulls, the tension is off-set by the decorative paper on top of it. So the two layers are working together to distribute any harmful tension on the wall surface.

Unfortunately, using liner adds a day of labor plus the cost of the material. The homeowner’s budget had already been busted by other factors, so she wanted to keep the job to one day. After collaborating with my colleagues in the Wallcovering Installers Association on our Facebook page, I decided to try this method:

From Office Max I got some plain old cash register tape. I plotted where each seam would fall, and used my laser level to guide placement of a floor-to-ceiling strip of the tape. I adhered it with regular wallpaper paste. At first, I worried that it would soak up moisture and bubble, but once it was smoothed into place, it laid down nice and flat.

Then I hung the wallpaper. The seams fell nicely on top of the tape, held tightly, and looked beautiful. There is the possibility of seeing a very slight ridge under the paper because of the thickness of the tape, but it’s very minimal because the tape is quite thin. And it’s much preferable to popped seams or delaminated walls.

The idea is that the tape will bridge the seam, and distribute tension from the drying paper across the width of the tape, keeping tension away from the wall itself. The tape is very thin, and doesn’t appear to have much tensile strength, but my buddies who have tried this method say it works well.

Time will tell, but I have a lot of confidence in this method.

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.

Leopards Walk the Room Right

August 19, 2018


I’ll be the first to admit – I love a darkly decorated room. But this all-black powder room in the home of a young couple in the Heights neighborhood of Houston was not making the grade. With shiny black paint on all four walls, there was nothing to define the room. You literally could not even see where one wall ended and another began. And the work had been done poorly, with zillions of bumps and bits of stuff stuck in the paint.

My first task was to use Liquid Sandpaper to degloss the shiny paint. Then I skim-floated the walls to smooth over the irregularities. Sanded smooth, wiped off the dust with a damp sponge, then primed with the penetrating sealer Gardz. Sorry, no pic of the prepped walls.

The new homeowner was fine with the dark idea, but she wanted something fun and a little sassy, that would wake you up when you walk into the room. These marching rows of leopards do just that!

The new wallpaper is still dark. But not quite as dark. And because it has pattern and some variations in color, you can easily see the corners, and each individual wall. The room is no longer stark and oppressive, but warm and fun.

This wallpaper design is called Leopard Walk, and is by Cole & Son, a British company. It is a thin and flexible non-woven material with a vinyl surface that will resist splashes and stains better than most papers.

Gently Updating a Sharpstown Dining Room

August 10, 2018


A few years ago, I papered the entry of this mid ’60’s ranch style home in the Sharpstown neighborhood of Houston. Now the homeowners were ready for an update to their dining room. As is typical of the homes from this era, just the top of one wall in this room was papered. The top photo shows the original wallpaper – still in perfect condition.

There were complications to getting the paper off the wall, so I elected to skim-float over it, sand smooth, and then prime with the penetrating sealer called Gardz.

The third shot shows the finished wall. The design has a metallic sheen to it, and an interesting pattern of color that changes subtly as you move around the room.

The homeowner is kicking around the idea of painting the bottom of the wall a darker aqua color, which will balance the wall nicely.  If they get brave enough, they might paint the whole room a soft aqua.  🙂

This wallpaper pattern is by York, 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.

Smoothing Textured Walls

June 16, 2018


I like walls to be nice and smooth when the wallpaper goes up, first so the texture doesn’t show under the new paper, and second so the paper has an intact, flat surface to grab ahold of. When homes have textured walls, I skim float them with joint compound (which we calls mud) to smooth them.

To skim float, I use a trowel to spread the smoothing compound onto the walls. In the top photo, the upper portion of the wall has been skimmed, and you can see the compound drying around the edges and in high areas. It goes on grey, and when it’s dry, it will turn white. The second photo shows the box that the mud comes in, enclosed in a plastic bag, to retain its moisture.

To help speed the drying process along, I set fans up blowing on the walls, as you see in the second photo. I have three fans, and they will be positioned differently for maximum air blastage. Having the air conditioner cranking away and the house fan on also help to circulate air and pull humidity out of the air. In small powder rooms where the door can be closed and the climate supervised closely, I get a space heater going, which also helps pull humidity out of the air. For stubborn areas, I get out the heat gun – it’s like a hair dryer on steroids. 🙂

Once the mud is dry, I sand the walls smooth, then vacuum up the dust that falls to the floor, then wipe residual dust off the walls with a damp sponge, and then finally prime the walls. For this application, I use Gardz, a penetrating sealer which soaks into the joint compound and binds it together, and which is also a good primer to hang wallpaper on. Sorry, no photo of the Gardz or of the finished wall – but you can Search here to find previous posts.

Bohemian Chic in a Master Bedroom

September 3, 2017

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The walls in this 2nd floor addition to a 1950 ranch style home in west end of the Houston Heights started with a heavy texture and gloss paint.  The project was an 18′ wide accent wall in a master bedroom.

I skim-floated to smooth the wall, and it took a full day of multiple fans blowing at high speed, hitting areas with the heat gun, and alternating between cold air-conditioning and warm forced-air heat to get them to dry.

The third photo shows how they looked after sanding and priming.

The homeowners have a real eclectic taste in decorating, with lots of furnishings and accessories that are vintage, worn, quirky, repurposed, colorful, and the like.  I love this medallion pattern because it goes with the home’s aesthetic… and just look at how it matches the bedspread!

Keeping the medallions straight at the top of the wall took some tweaking, because the walls were not plumb, nor was the crown molding level.  In the end it looks great.

The wallpaper is a non-woven material and a paste-the-wall installation.  The seams were positively invisible.  The paper is by A Street Prints, by Brewster, and came from the U.K.  It 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.

 

Prepping Walls When Existing Wallpaper Won’t Come Off

July 18, 2017

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Almost always, when homeowners are switching from an outdated wallpaper to a new pattern, I am able to get the old paper off the wall. But twice this week I have run into papers that would not come off the wall – at least, not without causing significant damage to the Sheetrock or creating other problems. Sometimes it’s because they were installed improperly in the first place. And other times it’s just the nature of the beast.

Either way, it is possible to hang wallpaper over old existing wallpaper – IF the walls are prepared correctly.

In these two rooms, I used joint compound (“mud”) to skim float over the seams in the original wallpaper, to ensure that they would not telegraph through and show up as vertical lines under the new wallpaper. These are the white stripes and patches you see in the photos.

Then I sanded the mud smooth, making sure that the edges were feathered out, so the joint compound patch would not be detectable under the new wallpaper. I used a damp sponge to wipe dust off the sanded areas.

The next step was to seal the walls with a penetrating sealer called Gardz (by Zinsser). Gardz is a thin liquid sealer that soaks into the surface and binds it together. It dries hard, and prevents moisture from passing through.

In other words, you can hang wallpaper that is wet with paste on top of this primer, and not worry about moisture passing through and causing the original paste to loosen, or the original paper to swell and bubble away from the wall.

In addition, Gardz dries with a crystalized molecular surface that is ideal for wallpaper and its paste to “bite into” and “get a hold of.”

Bottom line – Gardz is a super fixer of problem walls, it’s a wonderful sealer, and it is a great primer for using under wallpaper.

Old Wallpaper Could Not Be Stripped Off

July 12, 2017

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The homeowner is ready for a new look, so the red wallpaper with the “broken coral” pattern has to go. I am pretty darned good at removing wallpaper, but this stuff was not agreeable with the idea.

Normally, you peel off the top, inked layer, and then soak the remaining backing layer with water until the paste loosens, and then you can either lift the paper from the wall, or gently scrape it off.

But this top inked layer came off in tiny pieces – 1/2″ square. Which meant it would take a year and a day to get the whole room stripped off. Then, on my test area, when I tried soaking the paper backing to loosen the paste, it would have non of it.

The backing would not come away from the wall. And in the tiny 1/2″ square area where I finally did get the paper off the wall, there were more problems underneath. Meaning, a gummy, rubbery substance that would not come off the wall, and that left a residue behind that was unsuitable for hanging new wallpaper on top of – it would have necessitated a whole lot of additional skim-floating, sanding, sealing, priming, etc.

I believe that the previous installer either primed the walls with RX-35, or hung the paper with VOV ( Vinyl Over Vinyl), both of which are inappropriate for this type of paper, and both of which are nearly impossible to remove, and both of which leave the gummy, rubbery residue that is so difficult to negate.

I found it preferable to leave the existing paper on the wall. I removed any loose areas (virtually none), and then skim-floated over the seams with joint compound, to remove any vertical lines that could show under the new paper. That’s the white stuff you see in the 2nd photo.

When dry, I sanded that smooth, wiped off the residual dust with a damp sponge, and then primed with Gardz, a penetrating sealing primer. This will yield a smooth, stable surface for the new wallpaper to grab onto.

Here is How I Protect Woodwork While I am Priming

June 14, 2017

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I do a lot of skim-floating to smooth textured walls, so the wallpaper will be bump-free and have a smooth surface to adhere to. The penetrating sealing primer I like for this is Gardz, because it soaks in, dries hard, and binds the surface together. The downside is, it’s thin like water, and splashes and runs like crazy. There are tricks, like using a micro fiber roller, rolling in an upward direction, using light pressure on the roller, and paying attention to what you’re doing.

Still, splatters and drips will happen. And they can happen with other primers, too, as well as with paint or any other product you are rolling or brushing on a wall.

Most painters use a dropcloth to cover the floor. But I can’t stand the tiny “speckles” that fly off a roller and land on the shoe mold, baseboard, chair rail, or backsplash. Many people wouldn’t even notice them, but I do, and I think the homeowner deserves better.

So I protect the homeowner’s floors and countertops as you see in the 2nd photo. I put dropcloths down on the floor or counter. Then I cover the baseboards or chair rail or backsplash with an additional dropcloth, this time a thin flexible plastic-backed paper material. I use push-pins to hold it tightly against the wall, to catch any and all splatters and drips.

It takes more time and it increases my material costs, but it sure is a better way to treat the client’s home.

Prepping for a Repair Job Today

May 10, 2017

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This 1930 home just south of Houston’s Medical Center was being rewired, and the electricians drilled pilot holes into the wall in the room behind this room – and straight through the wall into this bathroom. Two smallish holes, but they totally ruined the wallpaper in this area. Top photo.

Luckily, this strip was next to a corner, so only this one strip had to be replaced. Which is a lot less complicated than dealing with multiple strips.

Also lucky is that the homeowners had saved the left over paper from when I hung it several years ago.

When I started stripping the wallpaper from the wall, it took chunks of the primer along with it. This surprised me, because that type of paper usually strips off relatively easily, and the primer I used usually holds nice and tight to the wall I think this is due to whatever paint or other treatment the contractors put on the wall before I got there. At any rate, the wall was left with jagged and uneven areas. Second photo.

Because the paper was heavily textured, it would probably have been possible to seal the damaged wall and hang the replacement paper over it with none of the uneven areas telegraphing through.

But I just couldn’t let myself do that.  I wanted the surface to be smooth and sound.  So I did a very light skim-float over the wall to smooth it. This added a lot more time, because I had to wait for the compound to dry, and then for the penetrating sealer / primer (Gardz) I applied to dry, also. But I felt better about the surface once these steps were done.

The last photo shows the finished wall – along with a few of my measurements and figures. Note that they are carefully written in pencil, because it’s about the only writing material that will not bleed through wallpaper.

Sorry, but I forgot to take a picture of the finished wall. But it turned out great.

This wallpaper is a textured vinyl product that is a wonderful alternative to real grasscloth, because it has none of the shading, paneling, color variations or staining problems of the real stuff.  This product is by Warner, but it is the exact same product as one I have done many times, called Bankin Raffia, by Thibaut.  This one did appear to have a slightly different backing than the Thibaut product, however.  I prefer the Thibaut.  You can Search here to see other jobs I have done with this very fine product.