Posts Tagged ‘smooth’

Pink Horses for Baby Girl’s Nursery

September 8, 2021
The homeowners had this board-and-batten wainscoting added to one wall of the nursery. It compliments similar elements in other areas of the house.
Finished. The side walls are painted a very, very faint pink blush color – just enough to add warmth and unity to the room.
Horses! The mom-to-be had the manufacturer enlarge the scale of the figures, to better fit the size of the wall. That’s a nice service from Spoonflower.
This wallpaper is hung by overlapping about 1/2″ at the seams. This is not common, but there are several companies that work this way. I actually like it. It eliminates the chance of gapping at the seams as the paper dries and shrinks. And it distributes torque / tension on the wall cross that 1/2″, so less worry about a seam pulling up due to wall surface delamination.
This overlap does leave you with a bit of a visible ridge running the length of each seam. A little bit noticeable here, but less so on a busier pattern with less “blank” areas.
Spoonflower is a nice company. But I like ONLY their “Pre-Pasted Removable Smooth” option. I am not as fond of their “Pebble” – mainly because they can’t describe clearly what, exactly, it is. And definitely Do NOT get any peel & stick product, by this company or any other (see page to the right.)

This home is in a new subdivision in League City.

Crumbly / Unstable Wall Issues

June 2, 2021
Starting to strip wallpaper. You see the top, inked layer, the tan backing layer, and the white skim-floated wall beneath.
Wall surfaces delaminating at seams
Gardz, a penetrating sealer that binds surfaces together and dries hard.
My first idea was to just Gardz the lifted areas. The sealer is newly applied and still wet in this photo.
Gardz’ing the whole wall created a more stable surface. This doesn’t look much different from the photo above. But in actuality, the the Gardz has sealed and “locked down” the surface, as well as soaked into the material and sealed the inner layers as well.
Applying a skim-coat to even out the surface levels.
Once this skim-coat is dry, it will be sanded smooth.

The installer of the original paper did a good job of skim-floating the wall and creating a smooth surface. But he didn’t apply a sealer or primer. Thus, when I used water to strip off the old wallpaper, the moisture soaked into his skim-coat (drywall joint compound, a plaster-like substance, which we also refer to as “mud”). Some of the skim-coat came away from the wall,,, particularly in areas of stress, such as where the wallpaper seams had lain.

In fact, long (years) before I began stripping the wallpaper, many of the seams had started to pull away from the wall, taking inner layers of the wall along with them. This is because wallpaper shrinks as it dries, and that creates tension on the wall. If the wall surface is unstable, these layers can delaminate (come apart), and the result is an open seam with chunks of wall material stuck to it.

This can also happen over time, as temperature and humidity changes can cause the wallpaper and / or wall surface to absorb and then let go of moisture. All this puts stress on those wallpaper seams and on the layers inside the wall.

Besides these seam areas that let go, I had one wall where the entire surface came apart in a mottled effect.

Another factor is that the original skim-coat had been applied over a glossy paint. It’s hard for anything to stick to gloss. The guy probably should have rolled on a “bonding primer” before applying his skim-coat.

Of course, all that increases the time and materials needed, and ups the cost to the homeowner.

Gardz is a wonderful product that is designed to soak into surfaces and “bind them together.” It dries hard and is pretty water-resistant. It was originally intended to “lock down” torn drywall. But workmen quickly discovered that it would fix a whole lot of other surfaces – such as my delaminating skim-coated walls.

At first I thought I would just Gardz (we use it as a noun and as a verb!) the areas that were lifting. Once it dried, I intended to skim-float over these areas, sand smooth, and then prime the entire room with my usual wallpaper primer – Roman Pro 977 Ultra Prime.

But I realized that, even after I wiped down the walls with a damp sponge, they were still covered with powder or grit. This was powder from the layer of skim-coat, as well as residue from wallpaper paste. Neither my primer not wallpaper will stick securely to powder.

So I decided to roll Gardz on to all the walls, ceiling to floor.

Fifth photo – I was really pleased with the way the Gardz soaked in and drew all those layers together. There was no more power on the surface, and the inner layers of the walls were all pulled together.

To even over these vacant areas, and to create a pristine new surface, I skim-floated over the entire wall surface – all walls, floor to ceiling. See last photo.

Once that is dry, tomorrow morning, I will sand everything smooth. Next I’ll apply my 977 primer.

Then walls will be stable, and the surface will be ready to take on the new wallpaper.

Textured Wall Now Nice and Smooth

May 11, 2021
“Orange peel” texture on wall
Same wall smoothed and primed and ready for paper

You don’t want to hang wallpaper on a textured wall. The bumps will show through and look bad. Plus they impede good adhesion.

I’m pretty darned good at smoothing textured walls, through the skim-floating or skim-coating procedure. You can do a Search here to read more.

Note: The slight texture in the second photos is from the roller that applied the primer. The photo is magnified many times. In real life, this wall is nice and smooth and ready for wallpaper.

Getting Smoothing Compound to Dry Quickly

May 5, 2021

In my previous post, the wall had the thick, knock-down texture that is typical in new tract homes in the Houston area. You can’t hang wallpaper on this texture, because it looks bad under the paper, and because it interferes with good adhesion.

The solution is to “skim-float” the walls with joint compound, a.k.a. “mud,” which is much like plaster. The mud needs time to dry. When the texture on the walls is super heavy, as in this home, I usually let the smoothing compound dry overnight. That does add an extra day – and an extra day’s cost – to the job.

To save these homeowners from paying for that extra day, we pulled out all the stops. In this photo, you see my two box fans and my heavy-duty black floor fan blasting away at the wall. In addition, we have the room’s ceiling fan. And, in the lower left corner, the homeowner added his yellow “squirrel cage” fan.

Once the wall got half-way dry, I used my heat gun – the yellow gizmo you see lying on the dropcloth, which I call “The Great Persuader” – to speed up the drying process in stubborn areas.

Still, it took a long time for the wall to completely dry. Next I had to sand the “mud” smooth, vacuum up the dust, wipe residual dust off the wall with a damp sponge, and then apply a primer.

Start to finish, all that prep, plus hanging the paper – a whole 3.1 strips in 35 sq. ft. of space – took nearly eight hours.

Wild & Crazy & Fun Tiger Wallpaper

April 28, 2021
Before. The textured walls have been skim-floated and sanded smooth, and then primed.
Welcome to the Jungle!
Notice the watercolor-y look of this design. It reminds me of impromptu sketches by artists who work in “plein aire.”
“Frida” by Pepper Home

The homeowner was browsing Pepper Home’s website and was instantly smitten by this rather uncommon theme and design. It’s called “Frida.” It sure is fun!

This paper is sold by the yard, was custom-printed, and came in one continuous bolt (54 yards!). It had a selvedge edge that had to be trimmed off by hand (see future posts). The inks are clay-coated, which imparts a rich matt finish, and the substrate is way better than what many other companies are printing on.

I positively loved working with it. The trim marks were spot-on, minimizing a pattern mis-match at the seams. Once pasted and booked, the material became very supple and flexible, and it could be “worked” much better than standard brands. Even better – the seams virtually melted away (became invisible).

I ran silicone caulk along where the wallpaper meets the top of the sink. This will prevent splashed water from pooling on the sink and then wicking itself up into the new wallpaper – which could cause the new wallpaper to curl and peel away from the the wall.

The home is in the Memorial area of Houston.

Abstract Desert Mural for Baby Boy

April 4, 2021

Original textured wall skim-floated smooth, primed, and ready to hang.
Ready for the crib!
Close-up showing watercolor-like effect.
Rolling panels out on the floor, to check sequence, pattern match, measurements, layout, etc.

No teddy bears or rubber duckies for this baby-boy-to-be. His parents wanted a more earthy theme and color scheme, as well as a pattern that would grow with him.

This mural went on an accent wall. The crib will sit in front of it. The remaining three walls will be painted a light, earthy grey, which will make the whole room feel unified and snug.

It’s uncommon to have a door on an accent wall, and note that that 3′ wide door ate up a good chunk of the 12 1/2′ wide mural. I debated putting paper on that 1 3/4″ wide strip to the right of the door. But I’m glad I did, because it sets the door off and, most important, it provides visual continuity of the sand dunes and mesas moving across the wall.

That narrow piece took about 45 minutes. It felt really good that that was one of the first things the homeowners commented on when they came in to view the finished wall.

Anewall is the manufacturer. I really like most of their products. I had the homeowners avoid the vinyl version, in favor of this thin, pre-pasted option. You simply need to use water to activate the paste on the back, let book a few minutes, and it’s ready to hang. I always augment with a little extra paste, which this time I rolled onto the wall, especially under the seams. This will help prevent shrinking and gapping at the seams as the wallpaper dries.

The thin paper will hug the wall more tightly and be more resistant to humidity (curling seams) than the vinyl option. It’s not particularly soil-resistant, though, so the parents will have to make sure that little hands stay far away from the wall.

Although not printed on the label, I believe the actual manufacturer of this is York Wallcoverings, in their SureStrip line. I like just about everything this company makes.

The townhome is in the Rice Military area of close-in Houston.

Cole & Son Acquario – Super Cool in a Powder Room

January 31, 2021

This is a powder room off a TV / game / great room in the home of a family with school-aged kids. They had just done updates to the room (built in shelving and TV niche, carpet, pool table, huge snuggly sofa), to make it a family hang-out spot. The small adjoining powder room got an update with tile on the sink wall.

What a dramatic and shockingly fun wallpaper design! – This is called Acquario, and is in the Fornasetti collection by Cole & Son. I just call it “the Puffer Fish.”

Wallpaper shrinks as its paste dries, and so you can expect to see teeny gaps at the seams. This is normal. But since this wallpaper is dark, the white edges of the substrate, as well as even a minute bit of the wall under the seams, might be more prominent as the dark paper dries and shrinks.

In the top “before” photo, you see where I have used diluted craft paint to run a dark stripe along the wall where the wallpaper seam will fall. This, along with having colored the edges of the wallpaper strips with near-black chalk, pretty much eliminated any visible gaps at the seams.

This small powder room took me nearly 12 hours – to smooth the textured walls, prime, and hang the 6 single rolls (3 double roll bolts) of wallpaper.

The home is in the Pasadena area of south Houston.

Over Prepared??

January 16, 2021

I need to smooth the textured walls in this home’s powder room. I told the homeowner that sanding the smoothing compound would involve some dust.

The powder room is down the hall and, of course, I would keep the door closed, vacuum up all the dust, and wipe the walls and floors free of dust.

The night before my arrival, the homeowner – who has had bad experiences with dust during remodels in previous houses – did this.

In two short hours, she plastic ‘ed over nearly every surface on the first and second floors.

She said she had to use up her pent-up nervous energy due to watching the unfolding of the Capitol siege on January 6th.

And, no – my wall smoothing did not begin to get any dust out into the public areas of the home.

But – it never hurts to be prepared. 🙂

’90’s Era Tissue Paper Wall Treatment

November 14, 2020

Here is an innovative wall treatment that was (sorta) popular a few years (decades) back. It involves taking tissue paper (such as wrapping paper), wetting it with diluted adhesive, wadding it up, and spreading it out on the wall. The ridges and folds create a unique textured effect.

The artist was quite talented, and actually laid these ridges of tissue texture in a pattern of oblong rings as you see in the photo above, spread out in horizontal bands around the room. I’m sorry I didn’t take a shot of the walls from a distance.

In order to hang wallpaper, I need to get the walls smooth. Unfortunately, this stuff does NOT want to come off the wall. So I am skim-floating over the mess, hoping to build up enough smoothing compound to bury these ridges (some of which are up to 1/4″ or more thick).

The challenge now is to get that thick layer of smoothing compound to dry overnight – in a small, enclosed powder room with poor air circulation.

Many of the globs of tissue paper swelled when they got wet with the smoothing compound, and created bubbles. In other situations – usually – when the compound is sanded smooth, these bubbles disappear. I hope that is the case tomorrow.

Stay tuned …

Smoothing Suburban Heavily Textured Walls

November 1, 2020


In the tract homes in new subdivision developments all around Houston, it’s very common that the builder will use a heavy wall texture like this. You can’t hang wallpaper on this, because the bumps and dips will look horrible under the paper, and also they will impede good adhesion.

So the walls will need to be smoothed. This is accomplished by “skim-floating” or “skim-coating” the walls with joint compound. I do my own prep. And, as I like to say, I’m better at it than any “guy” you can hire. 🙂

The third photo shows the wall with half in original condition, and half with the smoothing compound applied over it.

Some people use a wide taping knife to spread the “mud,” as we call it. But I prefer the trowel shown in the fourth photo, because I am closer to it and can see everything that I am doing, and also I feel the position of the handle gives me better manual control.

Sometimes, using fans and playing with the A/C or heat systems, the compound will dry in a couple of hours. But with texture this heavy, the material must be left to dry overnight.

Tomorrow morning, I will sand the walls smooth, vacuum up the dust, wipe residual dust off the wall with a damp sponge, and then roll on a primer. Once that dries (again, call in the fans!), the wallpaper can go up. The second-to-last photo shows it finished and ready for wallpaper.

The last photo shows the brand I prefer, USG’s Sheetrock brand “Plus 3,” which you can find at most big box stores and most paint stores. It sands a lot more easily than the standard joint compound in the red, white, and green box.