Posts Tagged ‘smoothing compound’

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 …

You’ve Gotta Get Dust Off The Walls

September 9, 2020


If you look closely at the right side of the corner, you will notice dust on the textured wall.

Before anything can go on the wall – primer, wallpaper, smoothing compound – all the dust needs to be removed.

This is because nothing sticks to dust. Any sort of stress on the wall, such as new wallpaper drying and shrinking and putting torque / tension on the walls, or wallpaper expanding and contracting with temperature and humidity changes, can cause the material to let go from the wall, most usually at the seams.

My example is that it’s like when you flour a cake pan – the paper will kinda stick, but it won’t really stick.

So before I started to apply my smoothing compound to the walls, I went around the entire master bedroom with a damp sponge and wiped the dust off. A little dust fills up a sponge quickly, so I had to keep rinsing it clean frequently.

Rust From Water Damage Will Stain Wallpaper

August 11, 2020

Look to the right of the can. Notice the tiny spots of red. This is rust, and rust is bad because it (along with certain other substances, like ink, tar, oil, tobacco, water stains, wood sap (knots), mold, mildew) will bleed through wallpaper. Maybe not immediately, but, over time, it will work its way through the primer and the paper and to the surface, leaving a spot that cannot be washed off.

Actually, there was a whole lot of rust along the entire height of this wall’s corner. An air conditioning leak had kept the drywall wet for a period of time, and rust had formed along much of the metal corner – called a “bead.”

I skim-floated over the affected area with joint compound, and that buried the rust … for a while. But rust (and other substances), will eventually work their way to the surface, leaving spots on the wallpaper.

So a stain blocker was called for, which will prevent any stains from bleeding through. For this I love KILZ – but only the “Original” oil-based version. The water-borne products just don’t measure up

Some reasons I skim-floated over the area was to provide a buffer space between the rust and the sealer in hopes that the rust would not make it all the way up to the surface, to create more material over the very corner itself that could soak up the sealer, and because the stain blocker would soak into the porous smoothing compound more so than to the sharp corner of the metal bead.

Textured, Woven, Faux Grasscloth in Cypress Master Bedroom

February 2, 2020


Even with high (13′) vaulted ceilings, the original medium-toned purple paint in this master bedroom in a new home in the Town Lake neighborhood of Cypress (northwest Houston) made the room look a little closed-in. And the purple didn’t coordinate with anything the young homeowners own.

So they broke out the extension ladder and painted three walls a creamy white. Then they had me install a textured vinyl wallpaper with a woven grasscloth look on the wall behind the bed.

The job too two days. One day was to apply smoothing compound to the heavyish texture which is typical of new homes in the suburbs. The next day I sanded it smooth, wiped off the dust, primed, and then hung the paper.

Daylight was fading fast, so I had to take the “after” photo when only three strips were up. But you get the idea.

In the top photo, you see I have laid my rolled-up strips against the wall in the order they came off the bolt, and in the order in which they will be hung. This helps minimize color differences

As with most solid color and textured patterns, I used the “reverse hang” procedure to minimize shading – you hang one strip right side up, and the next strip you hang upside down. This way, the same side of each strip is placed next to each other. That way, if, for example, the left side of a bolt of wallpaper is slightly darker than the right side, you won’t notice an abrupt color change between your two strips, because the two darker sides are placed next to each other. I know that sounds complicated, but it’s a common practice when hanging wallpaper, and it does reduce color variations between strips.

One strip did end up a tad darker than the one next to it. They are all from the same run, so who knows what’s going on there. It’s a minor color difference, and not nearly as bad as if they had chosen real grasscloth instead. (Real grasscloth has tons of disappointing color variances between and even within strips.)

The close-up shows the beautiful texture of this embossed vinyl material. I have no idea why it came out grey – the paper is actually navy blue.

The vinyl wallcovering has a woven fabric (scrim) back, and is way more durable and stain-resistant than real grasscloth, or any other wallpaper, for that matter.

This wallpaper pattern is called “Bankun Raffia” by Thibaut Designs, 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.

Problem With Wall – Unstable Paint

October 22, 2019


Here’s where a little bit of paint has peeled away from the wall. Why? Most likely because over the 60 year lifetime of this house, various products have been applied to the walls.

Oil based paint, followed by latex paint, then gloss paint, maybe some smoothing compound, then more paint and then another coat of paint.

In all probability, improper prep, or, more likely, no prep at all, was done between all these surface treatments.

The thing is, all of these disparate materials are not likely to stick to one another, especially if no prep has been done.

The problem becomes, then, that when a new surface treatment (paint, wallpaper) is applied, and then dries, which results in shrinking, which results in pulling taught and putting stress on the wall’s surface, the stress can cause these various surfaces to actually pull apart (delaminate).

That’s what you’re seeing here.

Please Don’t Tell Me You’re Ready If You’re NOT

September 27, 2019


This young family in the Rice University neighborhood of Houston has been undergoing a weeks-long remodel of the master bed and bathroom suite in their 1939 home. They’re eager to get moved back in. I was scheduled for three days to smooth walls and hang paper.

I’d been told by both the homeowner and the contractor that the room is ready for wallpaper. So I showed up for work today to discover that it is not.

First photo – The painters are working in adjacent rooms and need to pass through my work area frequently. You can see piles of their equipment in my space. This is very disruptive to the thought process needed to hang wallpaper.

Second photo – There is no running water. I had to run down to the family’s kitchen to fill a gallon bucket so I could rinse tools and rags – which is not the same as keeping things squeaky clean with fresh, running water. And since there is no toilet, there is nowhere to dump the dirty water.

On the left, you notice an extension cord. Which leads to the third photo – there is no electricity. No lights. So I had to connect two extension cords and hang one measly 100 watt bulb from the ceiling fan, in hopes of having enough light to work.

The fourth photo shows where I am trying to spread smoothing compound onto the wall. The compound and the wall are virtually the same color, and, in the dim light, it’s next to impossible to see what I’m doing.

The contractor dug out a heavy-duty extension cord and borrowed the painter’s work light, which helped a bit. But later the painter (who was working in a room with no windows) came and took his light back.

There is also skimpy air conditioning in this room. It’s not about the temperature, folks – it’s about humidity. You need the A/C cranking to pull humidity out of the air. I won’t hang wallpaper when the HVAC systems are not running, because the resulting humidity is detrimental to wallpaper – adhesion, shrinking, yada. And smoothing compound won’t dry, primers won’t dry …

Fifth photo – the carpet has been ripped up, leaving nail strips along the walls, and leaving exposed nails here and there all over the floor.

I did what little prep I could and then left. I am not coming back tomorrow.

Unfortunately, because of mis/discommunication, this family’s wallpaper will have to wait until I have a client whom I can switch install dates with.

Also, due to this, I lost at least one day of work (self-employed people don’t get “vacation pay” 😦 ), and other clients of mine whom I could have helped that day didn’t get their paper up, either.