Posts Tagged ‘smoothing compound’

Cole & Son Woods in a Powder Room

November 13, 2018


This powder room in a newish townhome in the Rice Military area of Houston was originally papered in a darkish jungle/ethnic/animal-themed wallpaper. It was a good look, but the new homeowners wanted something brighter and fresher. Plus, the original paper had been hung over the textured walls, and the bumps were showing through.

It would have taken me two long days to strip the original paper, smooth the walls, and hang the paper. So the homeowner tackled the removal of the original paper (following instructions on my blog (see page on the right side) plus info she found on the internet), which saved her the price of a day’s labor. It also made my job a bit easier.

But this job still required a lot of prep, which took a lot of time. The homeowners were out of town (they let me into the house via remote access), and it was nice because I could work in peace and quiet, and I could stay as late as I needed.

I skimmed on smoothing compound, waited while it dried, sanded smooth, wiped off the dust, primed, and then finally hung the paper.

The pedestal sink was tricky to get around, as they always are. And the bull-nosed / rounded edges of two outside corners in the room were a challenge. Additional hurdles were crooked walls, un-plumb walls, and a ridged non-woven wallpaper material that would not bend or yield to crooked, un-plumb walls. 🙂 The pattern itself was a bit forgiving of these imperfections, and I used a few tricks to make things look straight and true.

This wallpaper design is quite popular, and I have hung it a bunch of times. It is called “Woods,” and is by Cole & Son, a British company. It is printed on a non-woven substrate, and is designed to be a paste-the-wall installation – but I find that paste-the-paper is a superior method.

Best of all, the homeowner loved what the pattern and light color did for the room. The powder room is instantly brightened, and the images of tree trunks give the room a whole lot of dimension and draw you in, as if you were actually walking in a forest.

The strong diagonal repetitiveness of the tree branches usually bothers me a bit. But in this room, with each wall holding only two or three strips, the pattern is dispersed nicely and the diagonal effect is minimized. So, what you see is the forest, and not so much the trees. 🙂

It 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.

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Getting Smoothing Compound to Dry

September 11, 2018


Textured walls have to be smoothed before the new wallpaper can go up.

Getting smoothing compound (drywall joint compound) to dry takes – dry air, moving air, air-conditioned air, heat …. and a lot of time. Today’s job had particularly thick textured walls, which would take a long time to dry.

So I hastened things up with a few accessories. Here you see one box fan on the floor aimed at a wall, another box fan on the ladder aimed higher on a wall, a very strong black floor fan shooting dry air into the room, and a space heater under the sink cranked to “high.”

When I shut the door, the warmth from the space heater collects in the air, and pulls moisture out of the smoothing compound. Then I will open the door and let the floor fan pull dry air-conditioned air from the hallway into the room, pushing the hot, humid air out.

Done enough times over a long period of time, you can get smoothing compound to dry more quickly than it would on its own.

Lazy Drywall Contractor

September 7, 2018


These powder room walls were textured in a heavy “Tuscan” finish. The homeowner asked her contractor to smooth the walls, so they would look good under the new wallpaper. The guys did a good job in most areas. But, as you see here, they fell short in others.

First of all, it’s simple to remove a toilet paper holder. Why try to work around it, and get smoothing compound slopped all over it?

In the middle picture, this is a shot of the vanity backsplash. The smoothing compound falls short of the stone countertop. Since the wallpaper will end here, it needs a solid surface to grip ahold of. This gap between the smoothing compound and the stone will allow the wallpaper to gape open and curl away from the wall.

The third photo just shows careless work. Not horrible, but they could have done better.

In all these areas, and others, I was able to do touch ups, so when the wallpaper goes up tomorrow it will have a smooth, intact surface to adhere to.

The sad part is, the homeowner paid the contractors to do this work, but now is paying me to finish the job.

Air Bubbles from Latex Paint

June 13, 2018

The walls had a light texture covered with latex paint, so I skim floated over the walls to smooth them. When the wet smoothing compound got onto the wall, the latex paint absorbed moisture, expanded, and created these bubbles. It’s called “off gassing.”

After the mud dried and was sanded, most of the bubbles disappeared, but some rings were still visible. When I primed with Gardz, a water-borne penetrating sealer, many of the bubbles raised their heads again.

I will have to see if they dry flat over night, or if I will have to use my putty knife to knock them off in the morning. I don’t want bumps showing under the new wallpaper!

Torn Drywall – Gardz Cures All

May 17, 2018

Wallpaper - Torn Drywall Repaired
When the wallpaper was stripped off the wall, some of the top layer of drywall came off with it. This is bad, because the inner layer that has been revealed will bubble when wet paint or wallpaper paste gets on it. Which, of course, looks bad under the new paint or wallpaper.

Gardz is a penetrating sealer that will soak into the surface, and then dry hard and impenetrable, allowing you to paint, paper, or, as in this case, skim-float over it with smoothing compound, without worries of bubbles or an unstable surface.

Gardz looks milky-white in the can, but dries clear. It is very thin and runny, so be sure to cover the floor and baseboards. In the photo, it has been applied to the lower left corner of the torn area.

The second photo shows the wall after it has been Gardz’ed, skim-floated, sanded, and re-Gardz’ed.

Heavily Textured Wall – Venetian Plaster

April 13, 2018


A few years ago, this wall finish was quite popular. There are different levels of thickness, but the general name for the style is Venetian Plaster. To me, this looks rustic and “Tuscan,” yet people were putting it in modern homes, and even Victorian styled homes. Today it’s out of style, and people are going back to wallpaper.

The walls will have to be smoothed again, before wallpaper can be applied. Because this particular example is especially thick, it will take a lot of smoothing compound and a lot of drying time.

The second photo shows the wall after I applied the smoothing compound. It had to dry overnight, with three fans set at ‘high’ blowing on it. In the third photo you see all the dust on the baseboard and floor, from sanding the wall smooth. This is way more than usual, because of the thickness of the original texture that I was covering up.

The last photo shows the wall after I sanded it and primed it. It’s now ready for wallpaper!

Smoothing a Textured Wall

November 18, 2017

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A lot of homes in the Houston area have some type of texture on the walls. In the suburbs, the tract home builders are using a fairly heavy texture, intended to lend a ‘rustic” feel to the home.

But when the homeowners want wallpaper, the texture has to be smoothed over, so the bumps won’t show under the new wallpaper, and so the new wallpaper has a flat, sound surface to hold on to.

In the first photo you see the texture of the walls in a new home in Fulshear (far west Houston). In the second photo, I have applied an initial coat of joint compound (smoothing compound). Once it is dry (tomorrow), I will go back and sand it smooth.

The next two photos show how much dust is generated by the sanding process. The plastic did a good job of containing it and keeping it off the homeowners’ floor.

In the last photo, you see how smooth the finished surface was.

Then the walls were wiped with a damp sponge to remove dust. Next came a primer. Once the primer is good and dry, it will be time to hang the new wallpaper.

I’m Scared Of This Blue Dot

June 8, 2017

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I am going to hang grasscloth in this large master bedroom in the River Oaks neighborhood of Houston. To smooth the textured walls, I skim-floated the walls with “mud” (joint compound). As I was sanding the compound smooth, I discovered this small blue spot. It might be ink. Or maybe some cleaning solution, or a cosmetic or perfume, or some other agent. SOMEthing was on the wall before I applied the smoothing compound, and bled through.

Whatever it is, it worked its way through the smoothing compound and up onto the wall surface. If a substance works its way through the wall surfaces, you can be sure that it will also work its way through the new wallpaper.

To prevent this, there are a couple of options. One is to cover the area with a stain-blocking sealer. I love oil-based KILZ Original. Another product is BIN by Zinsser, or 123 also by Zinsser.

But in this case, since it is just a tiny dot, I decided to use a Stanley knife to dig out the stain. Gone. Done. No worries about anything bleeding through the wallpaper.

If the new wallpaper had a smooth surface, I would patch over the hole and sand the area smooth, and spot-prime. But since the new wallpaper is a rough-textured grasscloth, this 1/4″ dent in the wall will not be noticeable, so I’m going to leave it as it is. Tomorrow, before hanging paper, I will double check to be sure no additional blue stain has worked its way out from hiding.

Getting High Spaces to Dry

May 21, 2016

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Today, I am smoothing a textured wall, so it will be ready to receive wallpaper tomorrow. The thing is, this wall is very high – 14′ or so – and so access requires an 8′ stepladder and a 16′ extension ladder.

In this photo, I have troweled on the smoothing compound, and now am waiting for it to dry before I can sand it smooth. It helps to have fans blowing on the smoothing compound, so this is what you see in the photo.

The thing is, because the walls are so high, I’ve had to place the fans up on top of the kitchen cabinets, so they can direct their moving air onto the walls that need to be dried.

All this is more complicated than it sounds, because I have to climb up the wobbly extension ladder, making sure it does not touch / rub against the top of the cabinets, and hold on with one hand while my other hand carries the smoothing compound, or, as in the photos, the (heavy and unwieldy) fans up the ladder. The fans have to be placed on top of the cabinets (previously measured to be sure they had enough space to fit), and velocity adjusted, to be sure they would not vibrate too much or topple off the cabinets.

All this to get the smoothing compound to dry.

This is just one step among many in getting this wall prepped and ready for wallpaper.
Sanding, vacuuming, wiping, and then priming the walls with a very watery, drippy sealer were other challenges to the prep of this wall.

The clients are out of town, and have provided me with a key. I love this, because I can work in total quiet and solitude, and can concentrate on my footing and balance and weight distribution and etc.

The wallpaper will go up tomorrow, so watch for more photos then.

Apologies for the dark photo.

More Reasons NOT to Let the Painters Prep the Walls for Wallpaper

May 16, 2016
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This week, I got at least three calls / e-mails that declared: “Our painters prepped the walls for you, so everything is ready to go.” NOT TRUE! Painters are good at painting, and at prepping walls and woodwork for paint. For PAINT. So why would you have them prep the walls for WALLPAPER?

I run into this a lot. I think the painters are at the house working on something else (like PAINT), and they want to pick up a little extra money, so they tell the homeowners that they can prep the walls for the paperhanger. Folks – don’t fall for it. Let the wallpaper professional do what he / she is good at. Let the WALLPAPER HANGER prep the walls, not the painter (or anyone else).

Here’s what I encountered today. The walls in this bathroom were originally textured. The painters (or contractor or some other worker) skim floated the walls to smooth them. They did a decent job. In the middle of the walls.

But look closer. These guys did not bother to remove the switch plates or the light fixtures (top photo), so there are rough areas under where the new wallpaper will go, plus a difference in height of the wall surface. I always remove towel bars and light fixtures and smooth the wall as completely as possible.

They also did not get the smoothing compound tightly into corners or along the ceiling and baseboards (second photo). This leaves a gap or jagged area where the wallpaper is supposed to be trying to hold onto the wall. Not good at all. I ask myself, “Is this a good bed for the wallpaper to lie in?” What you see in the photo is not. I always squish the smoothing compound into the corner, and then take my finger and run it along there, like you would with caulk, creating a smooth transition, which gives the wallpaper something solid to grab ahold of.

The painters did a good job of sanding the walls smooth, but they did not wipe dust off the walls. Nothing sticks to dust. Not paint, not primer, and not wallpaper. These things will “kinda” stick, but once tension / torque is put on the wall (by drying / shrinking paint or wallpaper), the subsurface is likely to let go, resulting in peeling paint or curling seams. It is imperative that sanding dust be wiped off the wall with a damp sponge, rinsed frequently, before paint or wallpaper are applied.

One e-mail I got the week stated that the painters had “prepped the walls” (whatever that means), and then applied KILZ 2 as a primer. “These guys prep walls for a high-end interior designer all the time, and this is what they use.” But why would you not ask the paperhanger who is going to hang the paper which primer he / she prefers? KILZ 2 is a sealer and stain blocker. It is not a wallpaper primer. It was developed as a more environmentally-friendly alternative to KILZ Original, but is not nearly as good. It is also latex, which is not a good choice under wallpaper.

Once a product is on the wall, it’s on there. You can’t get it off. So you can only go over it with something more suitable. This results in more and more layers piled up on the wall, some of which may be compatible and may adhere to one another, and some of which may not. Now put paste, wallpaper, and tension-while-drying on top of that. See where this is going?

If you want to have your painter prep the walls for wallpaper – go ahead. But as I tell my clients: You can pay your painter to “prep the walls,” but you’re going to pay me to do it over again.