Posts Tagged ‘smoothing’

Smoothing Textured Walls = Sanding Dust

May 19, 2021

This master bedroom had textured walls that needed to be smoothed before the wallpaper could go up. (Texture looks bad under the new wallpaper, plus it interferes with good adhesion.)

I “skim-floated” the walls with drywall joint compound (what we call “mud”). This is akin to troweling on plaster.

Once that was dry, I sanded the walls smooth. In the first photo, you see the amount of dust that is created!

In the second photo are my “sanding sponges.” Some are coarse, some are fine, and one is angled, all with specific uses. These became available maybe 25 years ago, and are a huge improvement over the sandpaper-wrapped-around-a-block-of-wood that everyone used previously.

The putty knife is used to knock off big globs or high ridges, before hitting the wall with the sanding sponges.

Actually, I used to use a hand-held electric sander. That tool was fast, but it put a whole lot of dust into the air, and it traveled all over the room.

The sanding sponges are hand-operated and don’t throw dust up into the air. Also, manufacturers have made improvements to the joint compound formula which encourage the dust to sink to the floor rather than become air-borne.

You still end up with a lot of dust, though. And it does sift all over the room.

No problem. I simply bring in my Shop Vac (not pictured) and vacuum up all the dust. There’s still residual dust, so I use a damp rag to wipe dust off the floor, and a damp sponge to remove dust from the walls. (Important, because wallpaper will not adhere to a dusty wall).

Note that the photo shows an empty room. In rooms that have furniture, I cover it with painter’s plastic. And in most situations, which are usually one accent wall, I put up a sheet of plastic along the wall, draped from ceiling to floor, which contains dust to the 3′ along the wall, and prevents dust from getting to the rest of the room.

I also want to note that I am a big proponent of drop cloths. The reason you don’t see them in this scenario is because you can’t vacuum dust off a dropcloth, because the dropcloth gets sucked up into the vacuum nozzel. Much easier to vacuum dust up off a solid floor, and then wipe up any residue.

I also want to note that all my ladders wear “booties” / baby socks on the feet, to cushion the client’s floors and protect against scratches.

Challenges With 40″ Wide, Thin Vinyl Mural

March 13, 2021

See other recent post(s) for more info on this material and its install.

When ordering, from the materials offered, the homeowner chose this vinyl option, because she loved the slightly textured, “pebbled” surface. I would have much preferred she went with the more predictable and cooperative non-woven material.

The instructions said to paste the wall. Which is what I did. But I believe this material would have performed better if they had said to paste the product.

Pasting the product would have evened out moisture absorption from the paste, as well as expansion as the substrate wetted-out. That may well have eliminated the wrinkles you see in the photo.

It took a lot of patient work with both the smoothing brush and the plastic squeegee to work these wrinkles and bubbles out of the wallpaper. The resulting flat surface was not necessarily the Holy Grail … because often the far edge of the wallpaper will get distorted and / or warped / bowed.

It’s really difficult to hang a new, subsequent strip next to a strip with a warped edge. It’s hard to butt the seams, and plus additional strips get more and more warped. Eventually, you get to where the resulting wrinkles are so large that you cannot work them out.

This is one reason why you start hanging from the midpoint of the wall. This helps disperse any such wrinkles or other imperfections equally across both the right and the left sides of the wall.

I was lucky that I had only four panels and three seams on this install.

As mentioned above, a non-woven substrate would must surely have eliminated the wrinkle problem. Non-wovens are made of synthetic fibers (including fiberglass), so they do not expand when wetted by paste or water. So you can paste the wall and then apply the wallpaper, without worries about the paper stretching out of shape

Weird Bubbles Develop on Wall

January 21, 2021

This wall had a slight texture that needed to be skim-floated and then sanded smooth. After I applied the smoothing compound (drywall joint compound), a half hour or so later, these tiny blister bubbles appeared. This is off-gassing. But from what is a mystery.

The only clue is that this area is around where the hand towel was positioned next to the sink. So this area would have received a lot of splashing of water and also soap and other toiletries.

My guess is that some of these substances stuck to the wall. And for whatever reason, when they were covered by the joint compound, they released air / gas, which caused these bubbles.

I’ve seen this before. But this time, some of the bubbles were large enough that they did not sand down smooth and even with the wall surface. So I had to do a light touch-up skim-coat on top.

Once I got the wall smoothed, I wasn’t too concerned. I don’t believe that anything causing these tiny blisters would be something that would bleed through and stain the wallpaper.

Some substances do stain wallpaper, though. For more on that, do a Search here.

“Easy Removal” of So-Called “Temporary” Wallpaper – Peel & Stick

July 29, 2020


This homeowner did a nice job of smoothing and priming the walls in her powder room.

Installing the peel & stick wallpaper – the so-called “removable” new innovation in wallcoverings – was not so successful.

No wonder – that stuff is the Devil to work with. I won’t hang it, and virtually none of my colleagues around the country will, either. Click the link to my page on the right.

So she pulled off the woeful strips and, well, yes, it came off easily enough.

But the manufacturer neglected to mention that the “easy to remove” wallpaper would also take much of the paint along with it.

I had to skim-float and sand this section of wall, before priming and then hanging her new choice – a traditional paper wallpaper made by a long-standing and reputable company.

Smoothing a Heavily Textured Wall

February 9, 2020


The first photo shows the typical heavy texture that is put on many tract homes in the suburbs around Houston. You can’t hang wallpaper on these walls – it will look bad, and it will not adhere well.

The second photo shows how I have used a trowel to apply smoothing compound (drywall joint compound – I use the lightweight version, because it sands more easily).

Because the texture was so very thick, this had to dry overnight.

In the third photo, I have sanded the walls smooth, and applied a penetrating primer called Gardz.

Gardz works nicely as a wallpaper primer, too, so, once it is dry, I will be ready to hang wallpaper.

Smoothing Knock-Down Textured Wall

December 20, 2019


This newish home in Kingwood (northeast Houston) had a typical suburban tract home knock-down texture. This would look horrible under the new wallpaper, as well as interfere with complete adhesion.

So I skim-floated the wall by troweling on joint compound (like plaster), and then sanded smooth. After wiping sanding dust off the wall with a damp sponge, I primed with Gardz, a penetrating sealer / primer by Zinsser. Sorry, no “during” photos. 😦

The last photo shows the smoothed surface, primed and ready for wallpaper. (The dark spots are where the original texture was thick and therefore peeking out from under the smoothing compound.)

Contractor Patches On Top Of Wallpaper – Bad Idea

February 19, 2019


This home experienced a water leak, and the bottom 2′ of drywall had to be cut out and replaced. When taping-and-floating in the new drywall, the contractor didn’t bother to remove the existing wallpaper, but put his smoothing compound right over it. This is bad enough if the old paper is paper, but this wallpaper is vinyl – something you really don’t want buried under layers of joint compound and new wallpaper.

Vinyl is shiny, and few materials will stick well to it over a period of time. It is also thick, and that increases the likelihood that seams will pop up, even if they are buried under this “mud,” as we call it.

So I took a razor and cut above the contractor’s patch. Then I stripped off all the wallpaper above the patch. This left a difference in height between the patched area and the newly-stripped area, which would create a visible ridge under the new wallpaper. So then I took my own smoothing compound (joint compound) and floated over his patch and the now-bare wall, to eliminate any uneven areas.

Waited for it to dry, sanded smooth, removed dust, primed with Gardz, and finally was able to hang the new wallpaper.

This took a LOT more time than I originally planned for this job, but it was worth it to keep vinyl wallpaper from being underneath the new paper, and to prevent any bumps or irregularities from showing under the new paper.

Smoothing Sandy Textured Wall

September 11, 2018


Walls in the under-the-stairs powder room of this 1945 home in River Oaks (Houston) were covered with a sand-textured paint. The bumps would look awful under the new wallpaper, and would also interfere with good adhesion. So I needed to smooth the walls.

I troweled on drywall joint compound. Because the sand texture was so thick, the smoothing compound needed fans blowing on it overnight to become completely dry.

Once dry, I sanded it smooth. See second photo. Wiped clean of dust and primed, the walls are now ready for wallpaper.

Smoothing Textured Walls

June 16, 2018


I like walls to be nice and smooth when the wallpaper goes up, first so the texture doesn’t show under the new paper, and second so the paper has an intact, flat surface to grab ahold of. When homes have textured walls, I skim float them with joint compound (which we calls mud) to smooth them.

To skim float, I use a trowel to spread the smoothing compound onto the walls. In the top photo, the upper portion of the wall has been skimmed, and you can see the compound drying around the edges and in high areas. It goes on grey, and when it’s dry, it will turn white. The second photo shows the box that the mud comes in, enclosed in a plastic bag, to retain its moisture.

To help speed the drying process along, I set fans up blowing on the walls, as you see in the second photo. I have three fans, and they will be positioned differently for maximum air blastage. Having the air conditioner cranking away and the house fan on also help to circulate air and pull humidity out of the air. In small powder rooms where the door can be closed and the climate supervised closely, I get a space heater going, which also helps pull humidity out of the air. For stubborn areas, I get out the heat gun – it’s like a hair dryer on steroids. 🙂

Once the mud is dry, I sand the walls smooth, then vacuum up the dust that falls to the floor, then wipe residual dust off the walls with a damp sponge, and then finally prime the walls. For this application, I use Gardz, a penetrating sealer which soaks into the joint compound and binds it together, and which is also a good primer to hang wallpaper on. Sorry, no photo of the Gardz or of the finished wall – but you can Search here to find previous posts.

One More Reason to NOT Let Your Handyman (or Contractor) Prep the Walls

November 6, 2017

Digital Image


Can you see the vertical line dead-center in this photo? That is the ridge in a swipe of wall-smoothing compound that is showing under the wallpaper.

For various reasons, the homeowners elected to have their contractor’s guys smooth the textured walls of this powder room. They didn’t do a bad job. But, well, I would have done better.

The crew did a good enough job smoothing the center areas of the walls. But when it came to corners and edges, and especially around the ceiling light fixture, they left a lot of rough areas. Rough areas mean that the wallpaper won’t have a sound, solid surface to adhere to. And they mean that these rough, irregular spots will show under the wallpaper.

In the case of what you see in the photo above, they must have forgotten to sand the smoothing compound, because the ridge between swipes of their trowel is still there. Depending on how the light hits it, it is not – or is – visible.