Posts Tagged ‘smoothing compound’

Secrete Weapon for Drying Smoothing Compound

January 25, 2022

Walls need to be smooth before wallpaper can go up, both for good appearance and good adhesion. Once troweled on, the smoothing / joint compound takes a while to dry. I use fans to speed that along.

But in a small room like a powder room, this space heater really helps a lot. I close the door and let this thing run for a while. It will heat up the area quickly. The warmed air holds moisture well, and actually pulls the moisture out of the smoothing compound.

Once the air in the room is hot and humid, I’ll shut off the heater and open the door. I turn on the exhaust fan to pull, and then set a fan in the doorway blowing outside air into the room, exchanging damp air for fresh, dry air. This works amazingly well.

I keep my smaller fans running inside the room along with the heater. But my more powerful floor fan – I’ve learned the hard way that operating that and the heater at the same time will trip the electrical circuit. So it’s a juggling act between those two very useful tools.

I really like this heater, because it’s older and doesn’t have all those safety features that cause them to shut off when you want them to be on. But don’t worry – it still will stop if tipped over, and when the room gets to the set temperature, it will turn off.

Fixing Drywall Damage From Where Vanity Was Removed

January 20, 2022
The powder room in this 1990’s home in the Houston Heights is being updated, and that means replacing the wall-to-wall vanity. Here the vanity has been ripped out. The areas where the backsplash was adhered to the wall have pulled the top surface of the drywall off. In addition, the plumber had to cut out a section of drywall in order to gain access to the pipes, so he can install the new faucet and handles. You can see the connections roughed in.
You can’t hang wallpaper over this mess. First of all, it way too uneven – all those bumps will show under the new wallpaper. And the outline of the ” trapdoor ” will leave a big square ridge under the paper. Thankfully, the plumber secured the panel with drywall screws – most plumbers just leave you with a chunk of drywall floating in space, or even just an empty hole.
Back to patching issues … in addition, the torn areas of drywall will absorb moisture from the wallpaper primer and / or paste and expand, creating bubbles that will show under the new paper.
I needed to fill in dips and gouges, even out high areas, and prevent bubbling drywall.
Gardz by Zinsser to the rescue! This is a penetrating sealer that soaks into porous surfaces and then dries hard, binding them together and creating a stable surface, as well as resisting moisture from water-based top coatings.
This picture doesn’t look much different, but here the torn drywall is a little darker, indicating that the Gardz has soaked in and dried. The surface is now ready for a skim-coat.
But first, the trap door needs to be addressed. I covered the cut areas with four strips of self-adhesive mesh drywall tape (no photo).
Then I went over everything (wall to wall) with joint compound (commonly referred to as mud ) (no photo).
Because of the thickness of the high and low areas, this had to be a thick coat of smoothing compound, and would take a long time to dry. So I went to the jobsite two days ahead of our install date, to do these initial repairs.
And – no – you can’t use quick set or hot mud or 5 or 20 minute mud to do these repairs. These products are intended for repairs of small areas. Top coatings like primers, paint, and wallpaper paste do not stick well to them. Don’t let a contractor sweet-talk you into letting him use any of these to smooth a large area of wall.
Here is the wall after my first, heavy, coat of smoothing compound. I use Sheetrock brand’s Plus 3.
The bubbles you see just left of center show that Gardz didn’t 100% do its job of sealing out moisture, as a little expansion and blistering has occurred. Not a biggie. These will disappear when the surface is sanded. There is usually not a problem with these re-appearing.
When I got to work two days later, the smoothing compound had dried. I sanded pretty smooth. Then vacuumed up the dust on the floor, and then used a damp sponge to wipe residual dust off the wall. This is important, because no coating will stick to dust.
The wall still wasn’t perfectly smooth, so I did another skim-coat. This was much thinner, so didn’t need a lot of time to dry. I used a fan and my heat gun to speed things along.
Once that was dry, I sanded it smooth, vacuumed and then wiped off all dust. Then rolled on my favorite wallpaper primer Roman Pro 977 Ultra Prime. I have the paint store (Murphy Brothers in central Houston) add a little blue tint, so I can see it when I apply it to the wall.
What a transformation! Now this wall is ready for wallpaper!

COVID Supply Chain and Wallpaper Hanging

January 18, 2022

This sign was posted on the door at eye level when I visited Sherwin-Williams today.

The COVID-induced shipping container jam-up, driver shortages, fires and freezes at chemical plants – all these contribute to the lack of supplies in stores.

Luckily for me, as a wallpaper installer, few of the items I use have been affected.

To be honest, I don’t mind paying a bit more for materials. I’m mostly concerned about being able to obtain what I need to get my clients’ paper up on their walls!

Mostly I use primer, paste, and smoothing compound, plus razor blades. Luckily, all of these remain available in my Houston area. Sherwin-Williams is doing a great job of keeping me supplied!

Just in case, though, I’ve got a (small) stockpile in my garage. Just enough to get through a month or so, if needed. I don’t want to hoard and prevent someone else from taking care of his own clients.

Dining Room Faux Silk Repair – Foundation Shifting Twisted Drywall

December 14, 2021
Always save the leftovers from your wallpaper install! I hung this textured vinyl faux silk ” Wild Silk ” wallpaper by Thibaut ( # 839 T 344 ) at the beginning of the pandemic, a year and a half ago (April 2020 to see my blog post). Since then, the house had significant shifting of the foundation, which caused damage to the drywall over doorways. Here the homeowners’ ” guy ” has very skillfully cut into the Sheetrock, replaced studs inside the wall, and closed up the hole, leaving everything amazingly smooth, with no damage to the surrounding wallpaper. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a contractor do work this well.
I didn’t get pictures of my “during.” But here is the area right after I used left over scraps to replace the missing piece. I used a double cut / splice to to meld the two strips together at the bottom. (sorry, no pic). It was tricky getting the replacement strip of wallpaper in there, because the new strip expanded and twisted differently from the original wallpaper. Too difficult to explain here, but the bottom line is that the new strip was too wide for the space, plus the pattern drifted and so would not line up on the left side of the new strip. All this is evidence, I believe, that, with time and weather, the wall continues to shift and stretch. I did a lot of tweaking and twimming and touching up with pastel. All said and done, it turned out great. The white line you’re seeing is fishing line hung from the ceiling – not the wallpaper. 🙂
Still, there was a bit of a white line at the edge of the original strip on the right side. (not pictured) This was caused by the contractor either abrading from overworking or from smoothing compound infiltrating into the edge of the wallpaper. Either way, it was extremely minor, and unavoidable. Still, it left a pretty noticeable white line along 18″ of seam area. In the photo above, I have used chalk pastels to color the edges and even out color differences. From three feet away, you can hardly see it!
Here are the artist’s pastels I used to disguise the white area. They’re from Texas Art Supply (right around the corner from me!) I also used these chalks successfully on a 2″ circle of wall where someone had either abraded the surface by rubbing, or possibly bleached the area. No pic of that, but I was very pleased with how it turned out.

Rifle Paper “City Maps” – Fun Stuff

October 1, 2021
Wall smoothed and primed; ready for wallpaper. I used craft paint to color the putty-colored edge along the top of the backsplash.
Finished
Pattern centered nicely on the faucet and on the light fixture above (not shown).
The original heavy texture and lifeless khaki paint in this powder room. At the far top right, you see my smoothing compound over the door. Once this is spread over the entire wall surface, it will be allowed to dry, then sanded smooth, residual dust removed with a damp sponge, and a wallpaper-specific primer applied.
Done! So much brighter and more fun! Note the blue ceiling – a lovely touch!
View from outside the powder room.
Close up.
Rifle Paper is made by York, one of my favorite brands. Previously I’ve worked with their non-woven (synthetic fibers) wallpaper material, so I was surprised to see they also print on traditional stock like this one.

This powder room is in a newish home in the Heights neighborhood of Houston.

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.

Whoops! Someone Painted Over Old Wallpaper

April 21, 2021

Just looking at the walls, I had not noticed . But when I removed the light switch cover, it was clear that someone didn’t bother to remove the old wallpaper, and just painted over it.

Actually, they probably did do some prep, because you could not see seams under the paint. They must have taken steps to cover the seams.

And there was no flashing … difference in texture between paint over wallpaper, for instance, and paint over smoothing compound that was used to disguise those seams.

And there were no bubbles (caused by latex paint on top of wallpaper that absorbs moisture from the paint and swells) and only a few tiny loose areas.

Still, it would have been better if the previous guy had put some effort into removing the wallpaper, and then washing the paste off the wall and then sealing with a stain blocker, to prevent paste residue from causing the new paint to crackle and flake off the wall. Then the room would be adequately ready for paint.

Repairing Damage from Remodeling

March 5, 2021

I hung this paper in a little boy’s bedroom about two years ago. Now a new baby is coming, so Son #1 is moving from the nursery to his “Big Boy’s Room” next door. In the process of the shuffle, the parents had the connecting Hollywood bathroom updated, and this involved moving a door – which meant messing up the wallpaper.

As you can see in the top photo, instead of taking the time and effort to remove the wallpaper, the workmen put their patching compound right on top of it. I don’t like hanging paper on top of paper, for many reasons. There are adhesion issues. And also, for one thing, it’s not good to have seams fall on top of seams. For another, because the new paper is somewhat thick, you would have a visible ridge from top to bottom along the edge of the new strip.

So I took a razor knife and cut roughly around the workmens’ patch. Then I stripped off the paper around it, up to the edge of the adjoining strip. I did this on both sides of the corner.

This wallpaper is of a non-woven material, and is designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece when it’s time to redecorate. I was pretty disappointed that that turned out to not be the case.

On the other hand, I was happy that it didn’t. Stripping paper that way puts a lot of stress on the wall surface, and you can end up with delamination (coming apart) of various layers under the paper (primer, skim-float, paint, drywall).

So I used a more labor-intensive, but lower-impact method. Click my page to the right for more info on the process. I first stripped off the top, inked layer of paper. That left the white backing still adhering to the wall. I used a sponge to apply plenty of water to this backing. The idea is to reactivate the paste that is holding it to the wall. Once that paste was wet enough, the backing pulled off the all cleanly and easily.

I was really pleased that my primer from the original install held up perfectly under all this soaking and tugging. I had worried that it might “rewet” and pull away from the wall, which had been my experience with it before. I had used Gardz, a penetrating product designed to seal torn drywall. It’s also good at sealing new skim-coated walls. And wallpaper sticks to it nicely, so all the better!

One photo shows you the stripped off area next to the edge of the remaining strip. You can see the thickness of this existing strip. The new wallpaper will butt up against this, and there will be no ridge because the thicknesses of both strips are the same.

Another photo shows my stripped-off area next to the contractor’s patched area. There is a difference in height between the newly revealed wall and the patched area – and that will show as a ridge or bump under the new wallpaper.

To eliminate that difference in height, I skim-floated over the area. In one photo, you can see the wet (grey) smoothing compound. I set up a strong floor fan to assist in drying. My heat gun also came in handy.

Once it was dry, I sanded it smooth. Now you don’t see any transition between the newly exposed wall and slightly higher patched area. I applied Gardz to the all the newly patched areas. Set up the fan again. And once it was dry, I put up the replacement paper.

It’s a good thing the family had paper left over from the original install. If they had had to purchase new paper, it could have come from a new Run (slight difference in color shade), and that would have meant stripping off and replacing three walls.

We had barely enough paper. The corner was out of plumb by as much as 1/2″ from floor to wainscoting, on each side of the corner. That adds up to an inch out of whack. That one inch meant we needed a whole new strip of wallpaper, to get the paper on the wall to the left to match up with that on the wall to the right.

Long story short, the whole thing turned out great. There is a bit of a mis-match in that corner, but it’s not very noticeable at all.

The wallpaper is by the Scandinavian company Boras Tapeter.

The home is in the West University neighborhood of Houston.

Updating from Decorative Paint to Beautiful Wallpaper

November 18, 2020

The walls in this small entry in a pretty original condition 1935 home in the Montrose / Upper Kirby neighborhood of Houston had been painted by an artist with a wide stripe pattern in deep orange and gold, with a darker wash over the surface. It was probably done in the ’90’s, and was a good look then.

But the new homeowner never loved it. As for me, I think the look is too modern to suit the era and style of the home, and also the colors have a sort of dirty cast to them. After living there several years and focusing on career and raising kids, the homeowners were finally ready to bring a new concept to the entry.

The first photo shows the existing wall finish. The white stuff is my smoothing compound, which I have started to apply over the lightly-but-irregularly textured walls.

The next photo shows the walls sanded smooth, vacuumed and then wiped free of dust, primed with a wallpaper primer, and ready for wallpaper.

In the “after” photos, note that the dark or blotchy areas are simply wet with paste or water, and will disappear as the paper dries.

This is a particularly pretty pattern that suits the room well. There is a slight Chinoiserie / Asian feel to the design. And the grey is a good colorway for this home’s décor. I love the arched moldings that frame the passageways to both the living room and the dining room. Typical adorable 1930’s architecture!

The wallpaper is by Anderson Prints. It was pretty nice to work with, but did tend to dry out even before the booking time was up, so presented a bit of a challenge in that respect.

In the distant shot, you can make out a sort of hourglass figure in the branches and vines. I plotted the placement so a full “swoop” would display over the doors.

And also so the “hourglass” would play out down the center of the main wall, as shown in the photo. This will look nice as the vines and flowers gently surround the chest of drawers and oval mirror when they are placed back into the room.

’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 …