Posts Tagged ‘straightedge’

Clever Over-the-Door Kill Point

October 2, 2021
When you hang wallpaper on all four walls of a room, you get to the point where your last strip meets up with the first strip you hung. We call that the kill point. That last strip gets split vertically in order to bridge the width of the distance to meet up with the first strip. The cut-off part gets thrown away. This virtually always results in a pattern mismatch in the corner where the first and last strips come together. So, when possible, you hide this mismatch in a corner behind a door, or somewhere else that is not noticeable. But in this powder room, ALL the corners were out in the open and very visible. But I think the corners look better when the pattern matches exactly, as shown in this photo.
But there is still going to be SOME point in the room where the last strip meets the first strip – and where the pattern will not match. I chose the least conspicuous place in this room – over the door. After all, not many people spend much time looking 10′ up over a door that’s behind them. Still, a pattern mismatch here would be very noticeable; maybe more broken up and obvious than in a corner. But I had a plan …
Moving from right to left, I plotted where my next strip would fall. The sequence of “high” and “low” maps at the ceiling line was in sync with the strips on either side. But I’m going to end up with a 5 1/2″ gap on the left side. Since the figures / maps were about 8″ wide, cutting one down to 5 1/2″ wide would distort it too much. So instead I decided to “grow” the white areas in between the map figures.
I could do this because there were “stripes” of white areas in between the maps that were uninterrupted from top to bottom; if there had been a motif that crossed horizontally, this would have been much more difficult. I took that strip of wallpaper slated for over the door and slit it vertically along the “empty” white area into three parts.
Then I took some scrap paper from the waste pile (always buy a little extra paper!) and used my straightedge to trim off slices that had no printing on them. Each of these ended up being only about 1″ wide. I was looking for about 6,” so I made six slices, plus one more for good measure. Because these slices were all white, and because the backing was also white, I put a pencil mark on the back side, so I could tell which side to put the paste on. Because the paper was thin and somewhat transparent, I had to remember to make my marks lighter than usual. Going back to the third photo, you will notice a tiny bit of ink on the far left edge of the piece mocked up above the door; I used my straightedge to trim off this 1/4″ wide area, too.
Here is how the all-white strips would be placed in between the printed sections. In actuality, each gap took two 1″ strips, not the single one shown in the photo.
Here is the first printed section going in next to the strip to its right. I couldn’t use a 1″ strip in between these two because there was a tad of pattern that had to be matched between the two strips, due to various logistics. But I could add two of the 1″ strips to the left of the new printed section, as shown here. Moving to the left, I did that two more times, with two more sections and two more sets of 1″ wide strips. At the last juncture, I did do a vertical overlap of the excess 1/2″ resulting from the gap of 5 1/2″ and the six 1″ wide fill-in strips. I could have done a double-cut (splice), but the strips were awfully narrow to work with, I wanted to avoid scoring damage to the wall, and the overlap would be obscured by the vertical elements in the pattern motifs. Plus, it was 10′ up, after all.
Here is the finished look. The seams will be less visible once the paper is dry. The three spaces between these three map motifs are 2″ wider than the spaces between the maps around the rest of the room. But the difference is virtually undetectable. And, like I said, who’s looking way up there, anyway? And … it’s a whole lot more attractive than the other option – of having a pattern mismatch running the entire 10′ height of a corner in the room.
The pattern is “City Maps” and is by Rifle Paper, which is made by York, one of my favorite brands.

Hand Trimming Wallpaper

May 13, 2021

Some wallpapers (usually the higher-end brands) are not pre-trimmed at the factory. They come with an unprinted selvedge edge, much like fabric. This needs to be trimmed off before the paper can go up on the wall.

If you’re lucky, the manufacturer will have provided printed trim guides / marks. And if you’re really lucky, the trim guides will be “true” (accurate).

Trimming off this selvedge takes concentration, precision, and the right tools. Here you see my table, protective polystyrene strip, brass-bound straightedge, plus a good old trusty single edge razor blade.

Grasscloth Repair Today

April 14, 2021
Whoops! Somebody dropped a bottle of nail polish and look what happened!
Damaged area removed.
First approach – trimming replacement piece along horizontal grass reeds.
A better approach – splicing in the replacement piece. Blue plastic tape keeps paste off the paper on the wall.
Splice has been made, excess grasscloth and its paper backing below the splice have been removed, and I begin smoothing the patch into place.

The spliced area is undetectable.
Bottom is trimmed at the baseboard, push pins removed – done!

Good thing this family kept their scraps left over from the original install. They had a roll that had about two 8′ strips on it, plus a shorter piece that was maybe 4′ long.

Often, a repair means that you replace the whole wall, from corner to corner. For one thing, it eliminates the worries of color differences due to the existing paper fading from exposure to light over time. And the potential of buggering up one strip while removing the damaged strip next to it. And other issues like variables in the rate of expansion of wallpaper when it gets wet with paste, between what’s on the wall compared to the new replacement piece. Lots of factors.

Replacing the whole wall also would have eaten up all of the left over paper. I wanted then to keep that paper, in case something else happens down the road.

So I figured a way to use just 18″ or so of the shorter scrap they had left over.

First I took a razor blade and trimmed along a horizontal grass fiber, from the seam on the right, moving to the left and around the corner to where the paper meets the vanity. Then I peeled off the top layer, which was the grasscloth. That left the paper backing remaining on the wall.

I used a sponge to apply water to this backing, being very careful to touch only the paper and not the grasscloth that was to be left on the wall – water will stain grasscloth. After a while, the water reactivated the paste, and I was able to use my “dull” stiff 3″ putty knife to gently scrape the paper backing off the wall, making sure to get every bit that butted up to the grasscloth left on the wall, to be sure the replacement paper would sit flat against the wall and not on top of bumps of paper residue. All the while making sure to not damage the existing paper.

I cut a piece of replacement paper off the 4′ roll, cutting it a little longer than I might need, because I wasn’t sure if my first technique would work, and I wanted to avoid having to cut a whole new strip from that precious 4′ roll.

My first approach was to trim the replacement piece horizontally along the top reeds of grass. I hoped that this would butt up against the bottom of the strip on the wall. It did not. This is because the reeds of grass are uneven, and there were undulations between the top and bottom pieces that left gaps and overlaps between the two strips. (sorry, no photo)

I have used this technique successfully in the past. But that was with grasscloth that was coarser and had more distance between the reeds, so the eye would see the gaps as “normal.” Didn’t work with this finer textured grasscloth.

So my next option was to do a splice. What we in the trade call a double cut. A double cut will give you a perfectly fitted seam. But I try to avoid them, because there is the potential to score into the wall, which can cause an un-intact area that may delaminate over time, resulting in a “popped” seam.

(When hanging new wallpaper (not doing a repair to paper already adhered to the wall), it is possible to use polystyrene strips under the seam area to protect the wall when you make your cut. You can do a Search here to learn more about that.)

So a double cut was my best option. I had cut the replacement piece long enough that, after the failed attempt at butting the strips, I still had enough length to do the splice. I pasted the strip, let it book a few minutes to relax, and then unfolded it and ran a strip of blue plastic tape along the top edge. This tape will keep paste off the existing wallpaper. (Remember – grasscloth stains easily, and it’s difficult to wash, so it’s important to keep paste and other substances off of it.)

(The blue tape, and also the polystyrene strips and a lot of other cool tools, are available from fellow paperhanger Steve Boggess in Virginia. http://boggesspaperhangingtools.com/index.php )

Then I put the replacement strip in place, butting it up against the existing strip to the right, and overlapping the strip above it by about 3/4.” I used push pins to keep the strip from sliding. See 4th photo.

Next I took a single-edged razor blade and cut horizontally through both strips. Grasscloth is much thicker and harder than regular wallpaper, so I had to press hard to get through both layers – while still trying to not cut into the wall itself underneath.

Normally I would use a straightedge as a guide, but because the grass reeds are not straight themselves, I chose to free-hand the cut, following the horizontal line of one of the fibers of grass.

Once the cut was made, I removed the sections of paper that had been cut off. On the original piece that was already adhered to the wall, I had to pull off the grass, and then, once again, use my sponge and water to wet the remaining paper backing, reactivate the paste, and then carefully scrape that backing off the wall.

Once all that was done, as you see in the 5th photo, I peeled away the blue tape, and smoothed the two pieces together. They butted together perfectly!

The homeowner is going to paint over the little dabs of nail polish on the baseboard. (I told her I’d read her the riot act if she used remover or solvent and got any on that delicate grasscloth! 🙂 )

Printing Defects – Serena & Lily Wallpaper

March 6, 2021

Obviously, the factory’s printer or its trimming rollers got off-kilter, creating this pattern mis-match at the seams.

It might have been possible to use a straightedge and razor blade to trim off 1/16″ from one edge. But since the mis-match ran off at a diagonal and was inconsistent throughout the bolt, that would have been extremely difficult and time consuming.

We sent the paper back, and requested new paper from a different run. When the paper arrives, I will visit the clients’ home before the install date to check the paper to be sure the pattern matches correctly.

What a disappointment! The walls are all prepped, the homeowners have dismantled the powder room, and were anticipating a beautiful, fresh new look by the weekend. 😦

S&L is one of my favorite companies, so this is doesn’t make me happy. But it appears that the company is quick to rectify problems with minimal hassle. New paper, from a different run, is already on its way!

ADENDUM: The new paper – from a different run – did arrive. I checked it, and it also had the same printing defects, although not as severe. Very disappointing. Interestingly enough, I have another client using this same pattern but in a different color just yesterday (March 17th). Her paper had NONE of these defects. It’s hard to understand what the colorway has to do with printing problems… But I guess that is a factory issue. See my post of March 20, 2021 to see how this finally turned out.

“Shrinking” the Pattern, to Avoid a Seam

February 2, 2021

If I had hung this paper the way the pattern sequentially worked its way around the powder room, the width of the strip over the door would have forced me to place two strips to the left of the door frame – with a seam down the middle. See where the arrow is pointing.

Sometimes it’s best to avoid seams when you can, for a variety of reasons. Especially at eye-level on a dark paper that is likely to shrink as it dries and thus expose the white edges of the substrate and the white wall beneath it all. Seams in an area that can be splashed by water have the potential to wick in moisture and cause curling. And in this case it would have also meant cutting all of the fish motifs into fragments.

After taking careful measurements, I used my straightedge to cut off the fish on the left (third photo), creating a new vertical edge.

Then I took the next strip of wallpaper and butted it up against the newly-narrow strip over the door. Even though the horizontal pattern repeat meant that we were missing a fish (that green one that got cut off), and that the very faint horizontal waves of shading in the design would not match across the seam – neither of those instances was detectable at all, when looking at the finished wall. See last photo.

The fish motifs also are dispersed in a pleasing way as they move down the wall.

This non-woven, easy-to-remove wallpaper is by the British company Cole & Son, in their Fornasetti line, and is titled Acquario.

The 2-Hour Wall

January 9, 2021

Re my previous post, the wall in the photo above took me a full TWO HOURS to get three strips of wallpaper onto.

Part was access – narrow space, difficult to maneuver the ladder, squeezing around the toilet, wall height a little taller than I could reach comfortably,,, for starters.

But the main issue was wrapping wallpaper around this jutting wall with its two outside corners.

You’re not supposed to wrap wallpaper around outside corners, especially with a double corner as pictured here. The reason being that framing, drywall, corner beads, and all sorts of other construction components are never perfectly straight or plumb or level. Thus, attempting to wrap wallpaper around them will usually result in various things – the paper going off-plumb, the paper warping or developing wrinkles, the far edge of the paper twisting and not being straight so the next strip cannot butt against it without gaps and overlaps, stretching the paper to force it to cooperate, which will result in it shrinking when it dries and exposing gaps – among other unfortunate situations.

I did run into some of that in the instance pictured above. This new (and expensive) home had walls that were more “off” than most, with one corner being off by a full 3/4″ over a drop of only 9′. On this particular wall, the paper developed a pretty sizeable wrinkle toward the bottom 1/3 of the wall. I had to find a way to relieve wrinkle by eliminating the excess paper, while still keeping the left edge of the strip intact and straight, so the subsequent strip could butt up against it.

My solution was to cut through the paper vertically along the right edge (along the edge of the wall’s outside corner), about 1/4″ in from the edge, and from the floor to about 3′ up. Then I pulled the strip away from the wall, which enabled me to work out the wrinkle, making sure to maintain the straight edge along the right.

I smoothed the strip back against the wall, again, easing out the wrinkle. The excess from the wrinkle moved to the right, and left a bit of wallpaper hanging over the corner to the right. I used a straightedge and very sharp razor blade to cut off this sliver of excess.

This method did mean that there was a bit of an overlap, and thus a bump / ridge, along the right edge. I was worried that this would show, especially with the somewhat shiny paper, as well as light shining unforgivingly from the fixture to the left (not pictured). But once it was all done, the small overlap was barely noticeable. And definitely better than a large wrinkle.

Because I was able to keep the left edge of the strip straight, the next strip butted against it very nicely, with no gaps or overlaps.

I will mention that it also did help that this particular paper was a bit more flexible and fluid than many non-woven materials. Also, because I pasted the paper instead of the wall, the paper had a chance to relax and become malleable. The primer I used gave it a solid surface to cling to, so there was no shrinking or gapping as it dried.

These three strips on this one wall took me two full hours.

Hand Trimming off the Selvedge Edge of Wallpaper

January 2, 2021


Some wallpapers, particularly the higher-end brands, come with an unprinted selvedge edge, much like fabric. This needs to be trimmed off so the pattern will match when the wallpaper strips are butted together on the wall.

Here you see how I am using my 6′ straightedge and a sharp new razor blade to remove this selvedge.

Fixing Weird Things That Happen To Wallpaper

December 6, 2020

The top photo shows a stain on the wallpaper that is probably related to a rain or hurricane event a few years ago.

Water stains (and also other substances, like rust, blood, ink, oil, tobacco, tar, cosmetics, and more) will bleed through wallpaper. So, before patching the area, it is imperative to use a stain blocker to seal the problem. My favorite is KILZ Original oil-based.

KILZ will seal off the stain all right. But wallpaper won’t stick to it. So, in the third photo, you see where I have primed over the KILZ with a wallpaper primer (tinted light blue, for visibility). It’s not necessary to prime the entire wall area to be patched, because this type of wallpaper will stick to itself with just plain old adhesive.

The striped pattern made for an easy repair. I took a straightedge and sharp razor blade and trimmed along the striped design, creating a long skinny patch. See fourth photo. You can also see the strip pasted and booked (folded pasted-side-to-pasted-side).

Once that sat and relaxed for a few minutes, I took it to the wall and appliquéd it over the damaged area, going the full height.

There was a very slight color difference between the paper that had been on the wall for 20 years and the paper that had been in a dark closet. Had I placed the white area of the patch next to the white area on the existing paper on the wall, the color difference would have been noticeable. But trimming along the blue stripe gave the eye a logical stopping point, and so the color difference is not detectable.

In the finished photo, you would never guess there had been anything amiss with this wall.

I used this same technique to patch over the bug-bite holes in yesterday’s post.

And another good reminder that it’s always best to order a little extra wallpaper, in case of the need for repairs later. Store the paper in a climate-controlled space … not the garage or attic.

The wallpaper is by Schumacher, and appeared to be an old-school pulp paper material.

Arts & Crafts Authenticity in a 1908 Heights Home

July 16, 2020


This home in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston dates back to the very early 20th Century, back when the Arts & Crafts movement was in full force. The style emphasized nature, earthy colors, blocky features, and stylized designs.

I like this look a lot, so it was really fun to work with the wallpaper and help bring their living room to their vision. They have the period furniture to go with it.

The wallpaper is by Bradbury & Bradbury, a California company that makes wallpaper in vintage and antique designs – Victorian, William Morris, Art Nouveau, Arts & Crafts, Oriental, Atomic Age, ’20’s, and more.

Their paper is a little tricky to work with. First, there is an unprinted selvedge edge that has to be trimmed off with a 6′ straightedge and razor blade (search here for other posts showing that process).

The manufacturer calls for clay-based paste, which I hate, for various reasons. But to comply with their specs, I bought a $50, 50lb, 5-gallon bucket of it – and used only about 1/2 gallon. Clay is a low-moisture paste, which helps with this material.

When wet with paste, the heavy inks on this paper absorb moisture differently from the paper backing, and the result is “waffling” or “quilting” – which is when you get wrinkles inside the unprinted areas (do a search here for more posts on this issue). To prevent this, it helps to lightly dampen the surface of the paper with a sponge and clean water. This helps even out the moisture ratio. I found that this pattern also fared better with a little water sponged lightly onto the back, as well.

To handle the 20′ long horizontal strips, after pasting, I folded the strips accordion-style. I also added blue plastic tape to the bottom edge, to prevent paste from getting onto the painted woodwork, which would eliminate the need to wipe it off during installation. Then all went into a plastic trash bag to “book” for a few minutes.

I set up two ladders, so I could step between them as I unfolded the accordion pleats, and I also used push pins to hold the booked strip up while I got down and moved the ladders.

The paper adhered nicely to the wall without curling at the edges. There were a few wrinkles in the inked areas, but these disappeared as the paper dried.

A wide decorative border like this, especially dating to this era, is called a “frieze.”

What’s really cool is that the homeowner (a former contractor), added the block wood molding because he wanted to unite the heights of the door molding with that of the windows (both just barely visible in the photos). That was way before they thought of adding a wallpaper border. Once they discovered Bradbury and started hunting for a wallpaper, turns out that the height of the space between the two moldings was exactly the height of the wallpaper frieze.

Even more amazing is that the paint colors were chosen before they went searching for wallpaper – but are magically perfectly harmonious with the colors in the frieze.

This wallpaper pattern is called “Birchwood Frieze,” by Bradbury & Bradbury. They have lots more gorgeous stuff on their website.

Warping Wallpaper – Grasscloth

June 17, 2020

Well, this was a first for me. I can’t say that I remember having a grasscloth that stretched and warped out of shape this badly.

What’s odd is that, after I pasted and booked the wallpaper, it was perfectly lined up and flat. It was only after the paper had sat for the resting period, and then I unfolded it and took it to the wall, that it started warping out of shape.

My first strip laid against the wall nice and flat, but did not line up against my laser level’s red beam, moving to the left the farther down the wall the strip went. The subsequent strip to its right, naturally, would not butt up against the first strip. However, this second strip did line up against the laser plumb line, on both the right and left sides. So I left it on the wall.

But I had to tear off and discard that first strip.

I had problems with many of the strips. As you can see, there was major warping and wrinkling. I was unable to smooth out most of these warps.

Some of my colleagues have suggested that my trimmed edges were not straight. And I admit that I sense that my ($200!) straightedge is not true (perfectly straight). But a 1/8″ discrepancy over a 9′ drop should not result in wrinkles of this magnitude.

I think that the substrate that S&L is using is absorbing moisture from the paste unevenly, and thus creating the warps and twists.

The only way I could make this work was to do a double-cut (spliced seam). I smoothed the grasscloth onto the wall as best I could, even though both the right and left edges still presented wrinkles.

I carefully pulled away from the wall the left edge of the previous strip (having applied extra paste, to keep everything wet and “open”). Between that edge of the strip and the wall, I placed a “Boggess Strip,” (invented by a fellow WIA member) which is a thin strip of 2″ wide polyethelyne plastic, that will protect the wall from my razor blade.

Now hanging the next grasscloth strip, I then covered the underside of the right (wrinkled) edge with blue plastic tape (also invented by the same WIA genius member). This would keep paste off the surface of the strip I was overlapping it onto. Then I smoothed the paper onto the wall, allowing the right side of the strip to overlap on top of the previous strip, by 1.5″.

I worked out wrinkles as best as I could, but some insisted on remaining. I then took my EuniTool straightedge (invented by yet another WIA member), and used it as a guide, along with the red light line from my laser level, and a new, fresh razor blade, to cut a straight, plumb line between the edges of the two strips.

The grasscloth was thick, and I had to press really hard to cut through both layers. The Boggess strip prevented scoring into the wall. This is important, because an un-intact wall can delaminate under the stress of drying / shrinking wallpaper, and this can cause the seams to pop open.

Back to the double-cut. Once the cut was done, I removed the plastic Boggess strip from the wall, and the protective blue plastic tape from the edge of the grasscloth, as well as the two excess strips of paper that I had just cut off. (Do a Search here to see pics and read more about the double cut / splice process.)

I could then smooth the newly-cut edges of the two strips together.

All this takes a lot of time.

I still had more strips to hang – and each required the same procedure. You only have so much “open” time before a piece of wallpaper starts sticking to the wall and cannot be jacked around with anymore.

I had to jump to the left edge of the current strip I was working with, and add a Boggess strip behind it. And then I had to paste and book my next strip, and apply some blue tape to the area that would overlap the previous strip. Wait a few minutes for it to book and absorb the paste.

Then repeat the double cutting procedure used on the first strip.

All this caught me off guard, and it threw off my engineering of the wall and my planned width of the strips. It also took a lot more time … I spent 5 hours hanging just these 5 strips.

Bottom line – I got ‘er done … But I am definitely NOT going to recommend Serena & Lily grasscloth to future clients.

And I am VERY grateful to my WIA colleagues for inventing tools and gadgets that help with these tricky situations, which I’m glad I bought and had stashed in my van, and for sharing their knowledge and experiences so I knew what techniques I might try.