Posts Tagged ‘skim float’

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Almost always, when homeowners are switching from an outdated wallpaper to a new pattern, I am able to get the old paper off the wall.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.

Wallpaper Wants To Sit On A Smooth Wall

February 8, 2017
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The walls in this powder room were way too heavily textured (Photo 1) to even think about putting wallpaper on them. For one thing, those ugly bumps would show under the paper – and might even poke holes through the surface. For another, the wallpaper would not have a smooth, intact surface to cling to, resulting in poor adhesion.

So I smoothed the walls. To do this, I trowled on joint compound, (we nick name it mud), which is a plaster-like substance used mostly for drywall installations. The initial layer was thick, and had to dry overnight.

In the morning, the surface was dried, as you see in Photo 2. Dry, but way unacceptable for wallpaper … All of those ridges and uneven surfaces would show under the paper.

I sanded this surface down, and it was much better – but still not acceptable for wallpaper.

So I skim floated again, with a very thin layer of mud. Once that was dry, I sanded one more time. And ended up with the perfectly smooth walls you see in the 3rd photo.

In the last photo, you see the wallpaper on the wall, perfectly smooth, and with no signs of bumps or texture or ridges or uneven areas.

Getting Smoothing Compound to Dry Quickly

August 30, 2016

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Here in Houston, many homes have textured walls. Texture prevents good adhesion of the wallpaper, and it looks, well, it looks cheesy under the wallpaper. So I do a lot of what we call “skim floating,” to smooth the wall. This involves skimming the wall with a plaster-like substance (joint compound, also referred to as “mud”).

Nothing can progress until that mud is dry. It will dry overnight, but then the homeowner would have to pay for a second day of labor. So I try to speed the process so that everything can be done in one day. Here you see my two box fans and one heavy duty fan, all aimed at this one short accent wall. The texture was heavy, and so it took a longer than usual time for the joint compound to dry.

Turning the air conditioner down (or the heat up) and having the house fan set to “on” also helps to circulate dry air through the room and pull moisture out of the wall. In a small room like a powder room, I use a space heater and close the door to keep in the heat. I also have a heat gun that can be used to spot dry stubborn areas.

Note that the black fan and the heaters all pull a lot of power, so they cannot be used at the same time or they might trip the circuit breaker. So it becomes a juggling match of turning something on and off, moving the fans to different positions, opening the door to let hot humid air out, etc.

Once the smoothing compound is dry, I sand it, then vacuum up the dust, then wipe residual dust off the wall with a damp sponge, rinsing it frequently. Then the wall has to dry again briefly, and then the primer gets rolled on. That needs to dry for about an hour, and then the wall is finally ready for wallpaper.

Flames, Tails, or Swirls?

May 17, 2016
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Top Photo: Which do you prefer? … The powder room’s original blue and white mini-print, or the grey and silver swirly geometric with feeling of upward movement? The original small pattern was good in its day, but the new homeowner had updated this under-the-stairs powder room in a Galleria-area townhome with a new marble countertop, and brushed nickel light fixture, faucet, and towel ring. The blue country-ish small print no longer cut it.

After studying magazines, HGTV, and HOUZZ, the homeowner thought she wanted a geometric pattern. She was also concerned about getting the right shade of grey to coordinate with the marble counter top. And she wanted something that was youthful, yet would not soon go out of style. The wallpaper seller (read below), and I both encouraged her to explore other patterns.

This homeowner took her time, did research, got samples, sought input – and settled on this softer, more fluid take on a geometric design. The shade of grey is on the cool side, and goes perfectly with the marble. She chose a complimentary mid-tone grey paint for the vanity cabinet (not shown).

The painters had prepped right over the old wallpaper, and it was intact and tight to the wall. So, in this case, rather than strip the old paper, which would have raised many ugly heads, I left it on the wall and skim-floated over it (the white areas show this), and then sealed everything with Gardz, a penetrating sealer. That’s what you are seeing in the first photo.

I love the way the metallic areas (really vinyl / Mylar) reflect in the top of the toilet. 🙂

This wallpaper pattern is by York, and I hung the exact same thing a few months ago, also in a powder room. It was bought at a discounted price from Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or dorotasouthwestern@hotmail.com. Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.

I was happy to consult with this homeowner several times before the wallpaper went up. She took her time and defined her likes and the parameters of the room. Result? She loved the finished powder room, with its soft, upward-moving swirly pattern.

What’s cool is, she said, “I realized that I don’t even really like geometrics.” She had been swept along with what is popular right now in the media. I’m glad she settled on this softer-yet-energizing pattern, which suits her taste and the room perfectly.

Priming a Newly Smoothed Wall

November 4, 2015
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My previous post talked about smoothing a textured wall, so that the new wallpaper would have an intact surface to hold on to, and so that ugly bumps would not show under the new paper. I did the same thing today, in a large powder room with 10′ high ceilings, in a new home off Fannin, south of Loop 610 in Houston.

Once the walls were sanded and wiped free of dust with a damp sponge (rinsed frequently) (a crucial step, because any dust left on the wall can, when paint or primer or wallpaper is applied, delaminate, which means to pull away from the wall, which results in curling or loose seams on the wallpaper).

Anyway, once the walls were wiped and then dried, I rolled on a primer. While I use different primers for different situations, when I have newly floated walls, as in this case, I like to use Gardz (see photo). Gardz is thin and watery and soaks into porous surfaces, such as the thirsty joint compound in this newly smoothed wall. Then it dries very hard and solid, binding everything together, and doing a super job sealing the surface.

It also lends a wonderful surface for wallpaper to adhere to.

In the photo, the areas that are white are unprimed, and where the Gardz has been applied but has not yet dired, you see grey. When the Gardz dries, it will be clear. The surface will look a little irregular, because you see white areas where the join compound is thicker, and the paint color where the joint compound is just thin enough to skim over the high points of the textured wall.

Soft and Serene Entry in Oak Forest

September 21, 2015
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Here is an entry in a typical ’60’s – ’70’s ranch style home in a tidy neighborhood to the west of Oak Forest, in Houston. Originally, the top 2/3 of the walls was papered in a flocked (three-dimensional velvet-like) stripe in black and gold. When the previous homeowners hung new wallpaper, they skim-floated over the flocked paper (because it can be the Devil to get off), and then coated it with a clear sealer. Which is fine, and pretty much what I would have done, except that the joint compound (smoothing material) shrinks, and so it’s best to do two coats. Since they did only one coat, some of the ridges between the stripes remained, and these showed under the new wallpaper they put up.

The current homeowners stripped off that top layer of wallpaper, and intended to hang their new pattern, but realized it was beyond them, so they called me. Wise decision!

In the first photo, you see the wall as it looked once they stripped off the top layer of wallpaper. In the second photo, I have skim-floated and sanded the wall so it is smooth, and then applied a coat of sealer (I used Gardz, by Zinsser, a penetrating primer which is exceptional on porous surfaces like this) mixed with a little 1-2-3, also by Zinsser, to add some white pigment.)

In the third and fourth photos, you see the new paper. This pattern is a medium scale damask with a little “raised ink” texture, in white on pale gold. The lady of the house has an extremely good eye for decorating, and her style is pretty much pale neutrals and sparse, clean settings. This entry, which is open to the living room and dining room, enhances that look.

This wallpaper pattern is by WallQuest, in their EcoChic line, is made of a thin non-woven material with raised ink. It was very nice to work with, and it is designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece, when it’s time to redecorate. It was bought at a discounted price from Dorota Hartwig at Southwestern Paint on Bissonnet near Kirby. (713) 520-6262 or dorotasouthwestern@hotmail.com. Discuss your project and make an appointment before heading over to see her.

Double-Header – Two of My Pet Peeves in One Shot

March 2, 2015

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Pet Peeve #1: A lazy painter (or an unskilled one) who paints the wall and, instead of taping the bottom of the crown molding to protect it from wall paint, or using a good angled trim brush and a steady hand and some pride in his work, instead takes the easy out and lets his brush push wall paint up onto the bottom edge of the crown molding. Crown molding is so pretty, and one of the key factors that really class up a room. But without that bottom edge, you miss much of it’s glamor.

Pet Peeve #2: Someone skim-floated the walls in this room. But when he got to edges and corners, instead of tapering the mud off, he simply stopped floating, leaving what I call a “drop off” (a gap and thickness) right the bottom edge of the crown molding. This won’t look good if the wall is painted, and wallpaper sure won’t look good, nor have anything to hold on to, with that little gap there.

It’s pretty hard to undo this, so what I did was to skim-float the whole area. But my little trick in corners and at the edges of molding is to push a little of the joint compound into the corner, then take my finger and run it along the edge, creating a smooth joint and a good place for the wallpaper to grab ahold of and lie in. Yes, a little mud gets on the molding. But once I put the paper up, I will wipe any residual paste off the molding, and the joint compound wipes off easily at that time, too.

My method looks sooo much better.