Posts Tagged ‘skim-floated’

Mirror Tar Bleeds Through Wallpaper – Prevention

June 18, 2020



The owner of this newish home in the Woodland Heights (Houston) had her handyman remove the powder room mirror and its surrounding built-in wooden frame. Mirrors are often adhered to the wall with mastic, a tar-like substance. When the mirror comes off, some of the tar residue invariably remains.

In the top photo, you can see where removing the mirror took the blobs of mastic along with it, as well as round sections of the drywall. But there are small smudges of tar still remaining on the wall.

The problem is that tar (among a lot of other substances) will bleed through wallpaper (as well as paint, and a lot of other materials).

There are stain blockers like my beloved KILZ Original Oil Based, BIN shellac based, or others, that are designed to block these stains. But I don’t trust them. For water, rust, blood, wood sap, etc., yes. But for oil-based substances like tar, I want more assurance. The best way to prevent bleed-through is not to cover the stain, but to remove it.

So I take a Stanley knife and cut into the drywall and then peel up the top layer of drywall, taking along the offending tar residue.

So now the dangerous tar is gone. But you’re left with torn drywall. This is bad for several reasons. For one thing, you have an uneven surface that will look bad under the new wallpaper (or paint). And since the top, protective layer of drywall is gone, any moisture (such as from wallpaper paste or from latex paint) will penetrate into the torn paper layer – which will swell and cause bubbling.

All of which looks pretty bad under wallpaper or paint.

So I used the product Gardz to seal the torn drywall. It is formulated to soak into the paper; then it dries hard and acts as a sealer and moisture-blocker. It won’t block stains, but it will prevent moisture from penetrating the paper and causing bubbling.

Once that was dry, I skim-floated over the entire area with joint compound. It looks rough in the photo, but once it’s dry, I’ll sand it smooth. Then I’ll give it another coat of the penetrating sealer Gardz. See last photo. Once that is dry, I’ll cover it with a coat of Roman’s Ultra Prime Pro 977 wallpaper primer, when I prime the other walls in this powder room.

All of these various products do take a while to dry, especially the joint compound as thick as I applied it. So I went to this job site a few days before the install date, to do the initial prep, so it would have plenty of time to dry before I come back for the final prep and wallpaper hang.

Teal and Peach for 5-Year Old Girl’s Room

May 18, 2020

For a 5-year old girl, you can’t beat the color combination in this room! .. .. Peach walls, a floral wallpaper in teal and peach on an accent wall, and other accents not pictured, like twin teal shelves and chest of drawers, and a turquoise scrolled-metal headboard.

She can live with this pattern and these colors well into her teen years.

In the first photo, I have skim-floated to smooth over the textured walls. My three fans (plus the ceiling fan and the home’s A/C system) are working hard to dry the smoothing compound. I also engaged the services of my heat gun, to speed drying along.

This wallpaper is by Eijffinger, a Scandinavian company. It is a non-woven material, with a high fiberglass content, and won’t expand when wet with paste. Also, it is designed to strip off the wall easily and cleanly when it’s time to redecorate.

These qualities mean that it was possible to hang it using the paste-the-wall method. That made me happy, because I did not have to lug in my heavy and cumbersome trimming / pasting table.

The home is a newish townhome in the Montrose neighborhood of central Houston.

Lotsa Color, and a Nice Faux Silk

April 16, 2020


I have worked for this couple in their charming 1929 bungalow in West University (Houston) several times since the 1990’s. They definitely are not people to go with the all-white or all-grey or minimalist trends that are popular today. These folks like COLOR!

The dining room walls were originally upholstered in a botanical print on blue (which the homeowner did himself, and did a mighty find job of, too). So the room never was bland white. 🙂 But now, 20 years later, they were ready for an update.

Their contractor removed the fabric and then skim-floated the walls smooth. Usually I have to go back and re-smooth the walls … but this guy did a really good job, and I was able to simply prime, and then hang the paper.

This is a vinyl product named “Wild Silk,” and is by Thibaut. It’s much more stain-resistant and durable than real fabric. Unlike real silk and other natural materials like grasscloth, this product has a pattern match. This means that you are not going to see each separate panel or visible seams, like you do with real silk. So the walls have a much more homogeneous and pleasing look.

The challenge lay with the old house and its un-plumb walls and un-level ceiling and window/door moldings. Since the ceiling was not level, if I hung the wallpaper true to plumb, then it would start “tracking” off-kilter at the ceiling line, and appear to be running either uphill or downhill. This effect was further complicated by the way the pattern ran along the window and door frames.

I decided to keep the pattern parallel to the ceiling molding line. This meant letting it go crooked along the door and window frames, if that’s how it turned out. The ceiling line was more visible and more important.

Since the pattern was tracking off-kilter, I used a razor blade and a straightedge to trim off a wedge-shaped chunk from one side of the wallpaper. This forced the pattern to move up (or down). After a few strips, I had tweaked it enough that the design was moving straight across under the crown molding.

Even though the strips were not hanging plumb, it looked wonderful along the ceiling line. This “silk” pattern was very accommodating of that. If it had been a design with a prominent motif that the eye wanted to see marching straight across the ceiling AND straight down along a door frame, it would have been much more difficult to pull off – maybe impossible.

Going around the window (no pic) was even more complicated. Because I was tweaking the three strips above the window to follow the crown molding, and also the three strips below the window – and you can’t guarantee that these will all adjust at the same rate. So getting the strip to the left of the window (no pic) to match up with the strips above AND below the window would be pretty impossible.

So I was extremely pleased when the pattern on all these strips did match up, within about 1/16″.

This is a vinyl material and was somewhat difficult to push tightly into edges and corners, and to cut through. I was glad that I didn’t have intricate decorative moldings to cut around. I used orange chalk to color the edges of the material, to keep the white substrate from showing at the seams.

I love the way the salmon color coordinates with the painted trim. Who paints door moldings orange??! THESE people do – and I highly applaud it! No boring all-white rooms in this house!

The look is bold, but surprisingly warm. The orange moldings against white walls would have been jolting. But with the salmon colored wallpaper, the whole effect is unified, inviting, and invigorating!

Weird Cracks

March 24, 2020


I have just finished stripping off wallpaper that I hung 12 years ago. The walls beneath are in perfect condition.

Except that, along just about the full height of just about every seam, I discovered these hairline cracks.

What is very odd is that the cracks have not made the wall unstable, and no material has pulled away from the wall (as often happens when you have layers of incompatible materials that will not adhere to each other – do a Search here on “delaminating”).

I believe that my original prep 12 years ago was to skim-float the walls and sand smooth. Then I wiped off the dust with a damp sponge, then followed with my favorite primer at the time, KILZ Original oil-based primer.

My thought is that the KILZ, or possibly the underlying joint compound, has separated due to tension put on it by the wallpaper seams, possibly shrinking and expanding over the years due to minute fluctuations in humidity and temperature.

Why that happened I don’t know.

This past year, I’ve had opportunity to remove wallpaper from several jobs that I hung as far back as 20+ years ago. All were over the very same original prep conditions. But none showed these little hairline cracks.

I always like to understand why something happens. That way, you have the potential to prevent it from happening in the future.

Not that I’m particularly concerned in this case. The tiny cracks have not created any problems, and the wall is not unstable.

I felt perfectly comfortable hanging the new paper right on these walls – however, I made very sure that no seams of the new paper landed exactly on top of those cracks. That would eliminate the chance of any stress put on the cracks by the new seams potentially causing them to weaken and pull away from the wall.

Grasscloth in Cypress Powder Room

February 18, 2020


The walls and ceiling in this large powder room in a newish home in the Bridgeland Creek neighborhood of Cypress (northwest Houston) were originally a dark gold. I like dark rooms, but this one felt oppressive. It needed to be a little lighter, and to have a bit more interest on the walls.

The walls had a heavy texture, typical of new homes in the suburbs of Houston. I skim-floated the walls, then let dry overnight. The next day, I sanded the walls smooth, wiped off the dust, primed – and then was ready to hang wallpaper.

The pictures don’t adequately show the color of the new grasscloth, but we have natural brown grass color overlaid onto a really deep blue paper backing. The designer had the ceiling painted a dark, sort of murky blue, which coordinates really nicely with the blue in the grasscloth.

Lighting is funny … While I was working in the room, I had two 100 watt light bulbs; one suspended from the ceiling and one attached to where the light fixture belongs. The grasscloth just looked “normal.”

But once the room’s decorative light fixture went back up, it cast light on the textured surface in such a way that the “nubs” and knots really showed up! (see photo) The homeowner loved it!

As a note … With grasscloth, there is no pattern match, and you can also plan on seeing color differences between strips. So it’s important to plot where your seams will fall.

The electrical box, the light fixture, and the faucet were all in different vertical positions on the wall. Because the mirror would take up most of the wall behind the faucet and block the seam, I chose to center the seam on the light fixture, because it would be visible above the mirror. Well – sort of visible … as you can see, light rays from the fixture are so strong that no one can see where the seam is, anyway. 😦

The room had a “floating” sink. One of the photos shows the area under the sink. This area is open to view, and, because there are so many obstacles, it is difficult and time-consuming to wrap the paper underneath and trim around all those pipes and brackets.

The grasscloth wallpaper is by York. I was pretty pleased with the consistency of the material. Although some of the strips did present “paneling” and “shading” – color variances between strips – even strips that came off the same bolt and that were reverse-hung. One strip even had a rather abrupt color change mid-way from top to bottom. (no photo)

But that’s par for the course with grasscloth, and it’s considered to be “the natural beauty of this natural material.”

The interior designer for this project is Neal LeBouef, of L Design Group.

Grasscloth in Heights Master Bedroom

January 17, 2020


This is the 1st floor master bedroom of a nicely-remodeled-but-still-retains-many-original-details-and-all-its-original-charm 1920 bungalow in the Heights neighborhood of Houston.

The textured walls started out dark green. I skim-floated and sanded them smooth. The new wallpaper is a brown grasscloth with a faint greenish tinge, and it has a nubby texture with a lot of knots (more pics tomorrow!)

The homeowner ordered her paper before I measured the room, and I told her to get two additional double roll bolts. In the 4th photo, I am checking labels to be sure we have all the same run / dye batch; we lucked out and the new bolts were the same run as the original lot.

In the 5th photo, I have cut strips for a wall, and have them lined up and ready to paste and trim. In the background, you can see how I place bolts against each wall, as a way of keeping track of how many strips I need and which bolts I will take them from.

Because there are shading / paneling issues with grasscloth (do a Search here on those terms), it’s important to not mix strips from different bolts. That way, if there are slight color differences between bolts (as there usually are) these differences will be minimized. Still, as you see in the third photo, the three strips on the right came from one bolt, and the strips on the left came from another bolt – and there is a noticeable difference in shade. This is not a defect – it’s simply the nature of grasscloth – a product made from natural materials.

This one long wall used seven strips from three bolts, so a color difference could be expected. On the other, narrower, walls, all the strips came from the same bolt, so the color differences were minimized. When I had to use different bolts on the same wall, I was able to place the “break” over a door or window, with only 1′ of color difference. That’s a lot less noticeable than the 8′ you see on the long wall in the photo.

This wallpaper was bought through Sherwin Williams. There is no brand name on the label.

More photos tomorrow!

Don’t Skip the Wallpaper Primer!

October 30, 2019


A primer is imperative for a good wallpaper installation – and I mean a primer designed to be used under wallpaper, not a generic primer or a paint primer.

A good primer will

seal porous surfaces
mitigate a glossy surface (paper won’t stick to gloss)
allow for “slip” and repositioning while installing the paper
provide “tooth” for the adhesive to grab ahold of
withstand the torque created when wallpaper dries and pulls taught,
preventing “popped seams”
protect the surface, making future removal of the paper easier while
preventing damage to the wall

Ultra Prime Pro 977 by Roman’s is my preferred primer.

But different situations call for different primers. When hanging on a thirsty surface like new drywall or a textured wall that has been skim-floated, I will use Gardz by Zinsser. Other primers could be called for in other situations.

Knock-Down Texture on a Wall

October 3, 2019


Here is a new sheet of drywall, installed to repair damage from flooding during Hurricane Harvey. The drywall is grey.

The splats of white stuff you see on top is joint compound that has been sprayed on, and then “knocked down” to about a 1/8″ height by a worker with a wide taping knife.

This creates a texture on the wall that is pretty common in newer suburban homes.

The surface should be primed, and then a coat of paint can be applied.

In the case of wallpaper, the wall would have to be “skim floated” and sanded smooth, to get rid of the texture.

Sweetening an All-White Bathroom / Treating Trials

July 2, 2019



This homeowner was just trying to update her hall bathroom. She chose a new countertop, new tile, and new wallpaper. Unfortunately, some of the workmen who showed up for the job were less than stellar. I won’t say anything about the tile guys or the painters, but in the top photo, you can see how the “I can hang wallpaper” guy prepped the wall… which he proclaimed as “wallpaper-ready.”

I took down the light fixture, removed the remaining old wallpaper, and skim-floated the surface. Because the ridges in the original guy’s float job were so thick, I went there a few days early to get an initial layer of smoothing compound spread on the wall, so it would have time to dry. Then when I came back, I skim-floated the entire room. Because this second coat was thinner, it dried in a few hours (with fans, a space heater (to pull humidity from the air), and the home’s A/C unit cranking dry air through the room.)

I sanded smooth, vacuumed and wiped off the dust, and applied a coat of Gardz, which is my preferred primer for newly smoothed walls.

Mysterious tan dots worked their way through the smoothing compound and the Gardz. I didn’t know what they came from (mold, oil, tobacco, soft drink or food the workers splashed on the walls?), but I knew they would eventually bleed through the new wallpaper. So I rolled on BIN, a shellac-based stain-blocker made by Rust Oleum, to seal the wall.

This effectively sealed the stain, and the wall was nice and white after that.

A week later, I came back to hang the wallpaper. First I applied a coat of Roman’s Pro 977 Ultra Prime, a primer made specifically for wallpaper. For some reason, this product didn’t stick well to the BIN – which is surprising, because one reason I use this primer is because it sticks to anything, even glossy surfaces (the BIN was not particularly glossy). Look closely or enlarge the third photo, and you will see it sliding and dripping down the wall. Well, no fear. I brushed out the worst of the drips, and as the primer dried, it tightened up and clung flat and tight to the wall.

With the wall finally smooth and appropriately primed, I was ready to get that paper up on the wall. This was an old fashioned pulp paper, which the British companies were making before most of them switched to non-woven materials. I was looking forward to working with an authentic pulp paper, because it’s been a while since I’ve come across one.

But this one didn’t behave as most of them do… It was thicker and stiffer, which made trimming and intricate detail work difficult, and increased the potential for creasing (for instance, while fitting the paper into a corner at a ceiling line). And it sucked up paste and dried out way sooner than I could get a strip to the wall. So I ended up using a spray bottle to add extra moisture to the back of the paper while I was applying the paste. This did help a lot.

Some of the edges had been banged up during shipping, so some of the seams looked a little weathered. And the edges had not been cut perfectly straight at the factory, so we had a bit of what we call “gaps and overlaps.”

Still, the finished room looks great. With its sweet flowers and calming colors, the pattern reminds me of the Laura Ashley era. The blue really pops against the white woodwork and tile in the room, and the red roses are nothing short of romantic.

Such a happy turn-around, for a bathroom that started out full of trials and tribulations.

I’m not sure what the brand name is, but the label says “English Florals.” The homeowner found it on-line (free shipping!), and the cost was low – about $60 for a double roll bolt. The home is on the north side of Houston.

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.