Posts Tagged ‘straightedge’

Difficult Hang Today – Lots of Work to Get Good Seams

June 17, 2018



I don’t recall ever having seen a wallpaper product labeled “heavyweight paper” before. I wasn’t thrilled with this stuff. It was thick, and that made it difficult to work with. I prefer thin papers because they form to the walls better. This paper didn’t have any coating on it, so it is not any more durable than a thinner paper, so I don’t see the reason for the “heavyweight” treatment.

And any time you apply paste and the edges of the paper curl backward (Photo 1), you know you are in for a tough install.

The room was already prepped, and it was just 9 single rolls on an easy top of a dining room – no tricky moldings to trim around, no toilets to reach beind, no awkward spaces to situate the ladder in… It should have taken 5-6 hours. Instead I toiled for 12 hours.

I hung three strips, and wasn’t happy with the two seams between them. They pouched just a little and would not lie down flat. (Photo 2) With strong light coming in from the windows, the seams looked bad. There was no way of knowing how the seams would look once the paper was good and dry. But for now, I couldn’t stand the look, and I didn’t want to leave the homeowners with these pouchy seams.

I removed two of those strips, refreshed the paste, and kept them “open” by placing them in a plastic trash bag so they would remain useable (we didn’t have a lot of paper to spare). I ran to the truck and got supplies so I could double cut new seams (splice on the wall). I needed a special trim guide, and a special polystyrene padding strip to protect the wall so that the razor blade wouldn’t score into it (which could compromise the surface and lead to delamination of layers … too complicated to get into here, but you can do a Search and read previous posts on this subject).

From then on, instead of using the factory edges for seams, I double cut. Double cutting involves padding the wall behind where the seam will be, overlapping the new strip onto the old strip while carefully matching the pattern, and then using the handled straightedge and a sharp new razor blade to cut through both layers of paper. Then you peel back the paper at the newly cut seam and remove the two thin strips of excess paper that were just cut off. Then you remove the plastic padding strip.

Now you can put the edges of the freshly cut new seam back together. Because they were cut into each other, they will fit together perfectly. But because the padding strip has some thickness, the two newly cut edges are now a teeny tad wider than needed, so you’ll have to do some finessing to get the seam to butt together, instead of pouching up just a bit.

Because one strip of pasted paper overlapped onto another, once the excess paper strips are removed, there will be paste residue left on a 1″-2″ edge of one of the wallpaper drops. This has to be washed off with a damp microfiber rag, and you will have to rinse the rag and wash the wall several times to get all the residue off.

And all of this has to be done on a time frame, because while you’re working on one seam, the edges of the next are rapidly drying out, which is a whole new can of worms.

My finished double cut seams were perfect. (Photo 3)

But after I had worked my way around the room a bit, I looked back at the first wall, and saw that, as the paper dried, it shrank just a little. This left a visible gap between the two strips. (Photo 4) This gap isn’t visible from a distance, and it’s not visible if you look at the walls at an angle. But if you are standing three feet away and looking head-on, you will see the gap. I think it’s too much.

Oh, and, one more thing … the paper was easily marred if it was touched by any bit of metal. (Photo 5) Scissors, straight edge, trim guide, even the metal eraser housing on the end of my pencil would leave a grey mark if it happened to rub against the wallpaper. Most of these marks would wipe off, but not all of them. And wiping the paper leads to abrasion, so you want to avoid overdoing it. I worry about how the wallpaper might be marked up when the homeowners innocently go about hanging their art and mirror.

Considering what the homeowners paid for the wallpaper and installation, I think they should have a better outcome than this. This paper is manufactured by Thibaut. Thibaut makes many types of wallpaper, and most of them are lovely to work with, and they perform well. It makes you wonder why they would use this “heavyweight” stock, which produces a less-than-desireable outcome.

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Hand-Trimming Rebecca Atwood “Dashes” Wallpaper

June 1, 2018


The wallpaper from my previous post is sold by the yard, and was digitally printed to order. Instead of coming in standard-length rolls / bolts, it comes in one continuous roll.

Like many high-end materials, it has an unprinted selvedge edge that has to trimmed off by hand. Here you see my straightedge and razor blade, carefully removing the excess paper.

Finishing Touches to the Stacks of Blocks (Previous Post)

May 25, 2018


Because walls are never plumb, and because ceiling lines are never perfectly level, and because wallpaper can twist and distort once it gets wet with paste, with a pattern like in the previous post, it’s not advisable to place a key element, such as the gold horizontal line, at the top of the wall. It will begin to run crooked – either up into the ceiling, or fall down below it. So for this install, I raised the pattern so that the horizontal gold line would be cut off. This made that top block about 3/4″ shorter than the blocks below it. Not a biggie – at 10′ up, no one is going to notice this small discrepancy.

I did want to make the blocks look more homogenous, though. I thought that having a gold frame around all sides of the top blocks would make them blend in better with the other blocks all around the room.

So I used my straightedge to trim some narrow strips of the gold double-stripe out of left over wallpaper scrapes. Then I appliquéd them on top of the paper, just at the ceiling line.

Mid Century Modern Bookshelves Get Grasscloth on Back

May 6, 2018


This 1960 ranch style home in the Westbury neighborhood of Houston is like a time capsule of Mid Century Modern design. The doors, windows, moldings, cabinetry, and even most of the bathrooms are original – and in mint condition. The homeowners love the look, and wanted to honor that, while updating some of the rooms. Grasscloth was all the rage in the ’60’s, so it was the perfect choice for the backs of these bookshelves in the family room.

I have to tell ya, covering this beautiful, original, perfectly maintained 1960 wood paneling with mud and a primer just about killed me. But since the wallcovering choice was grasscloth, the new look would be in keeping with the original feel of the house.

I don’t usually like grasscloth, because of the color variations (and many more reasons – do a Search – upper right corner) – But I was pleased with today’s product. The color was very uniform, and the material was very soft and pliable, as well as thin. It turned corners nicely and hugged the wall tightly.

This particular grasscloth has a bit more of a “nubby” texture than those with straight reeds, and this one had a nice sheen, too.

I wanted to avoid getting paste on that pristine wood, because I was afraid it might not wipe off without leaving residue, and also because I didn’t want to run a damp rag along the grasscloth, for fear of staining or bleeding. So I used my craft store cutting mat and a couple of different straightedges, to pre-trim the pieces to perfect right angels, so they would fit into the bookshelf alcoves, and also butt up against one another precisely.

I also used blue plastic tape (not shown) on the edges of certain pieces, to keep paste off the wood bookcase.

This grasscloth wallpaper is by Phillip Jeffries, a higher-end brand, and was bought at below retail price from 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.

Metal Leaves Marks on Wallpaper

July 31, 2017

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There are some wallpapers that can be marred by metal… In the photo, I have purposely run a metal trim guide over the surface, so you can see how it looks.

The bad news is, we paperhangers use a lot of metal items – scissors, trim guide, smoother, and even things like a ring or bracelet could leave a mark, and even my expensive magnesium straightedge, which I bought because magnesium supposedly will not leave marks on paper, will, in fact, leave grey marks where it moves against the paper.

The good news is that most of the time, these marks will wipe off the surface with gentle rubbing with a damp cloth. Of course, you don’t want to overdo that.

The other good news is that, with some extra attention, it is possible to avoid most of these blemishes. Leave your jewelry at home. Blue painter’s tape will seal off the ends of the straightedge, and plastic trim guides can be substituted for metal for some tasks. And care should be taken when using scissors and other equipment to not slide it across the surface of the paper.

Trimming Wallpaper With a Selvedge Edge

December 20, 2016
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Many of the higher-end wallpapers come with an unprinted selvedge edge, which has to be trimmed off, so that the seams can be butted together on the wall. The first photo shows this selvedge, along with the proofs for ink colors that are used in the design.

The second photo shows my straightedge, razor blade, and some of the selvedge that has been trimmed off. The trimming process is exacting, tedious, time consuming, and not always as accurate as I want it to be.

The third and fourth photos have poor lighting, but look closely and you will see the deep red dotted lines forming much of the pattern.

This wallpaper was bought on-line from Grow House Grow, and I hung it in a rear entry in a Mid-Century Modern home in the Highland Village neighborhood of Houston.

Crooked Walls = Wrinkly Paper

December 3, 2016
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Walls in homes are usually never perfectly plumb, just as ceilings and floors are never perfectly level. Not a problem if you’re painting. But if you are hanging wallpaper, that wallpaper wants to hang straight, and so it wants a straight wall to hang on to.

All of which is a long-winded way of saying that if a wall is crooked, bowed, or off-plumb, wallpaper will have difficulty hanging butted up against it.

In this case, I had turned a strip of wallpaper around an outside corner – very tricky for several reasons, and more so because virtually no outside corner is perfectly plumb, which compounds the trickiness. If you wrap wallpaper around a wall / corner that is not plumb / straight, the far edge of the wallpaper will likewise become bowed or un-straight. So when you go to butt the next strip of wallpaper against this one, one straight edge will not be able to find another straight edge to “marry with,” and the strips will want to gap or overlap. Not good.

So what I did was, once I got around the outside corner, I made sure that the far edge of the strip of wallpaper was plumb and straight. I used a 6′ magnesium straightedge and a 4′ level as guides.

But making the far edge of the wallpaper strip comply to plumb caused the body, or central area, of the wallpaper strip to become wrinkled due to excess material. Thankfully, this was a forgiving pattern.

What I did was, I cut along some lines of the wallpaper design motif. This created some relief, so I could ease out the wrinkles and smooth the paper against the wall. Voilà! The wrinkles and stress on the paper are gone; cuts, splices, and overlaps are invisible, and the the far edge of the paper is straight and ready to butt against the next strip of wallpaper.

Hand-Trimming Wallpaper

October 4, 2016
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Two wallpapers I hung this week came untrimmed, with the unprinted selvedge edge still intact. This means that the paperhanger has to take a razor blade and a straightedge and trim off the selvedge, following trim marks from the manufacturer, or an element of the design.

It’s tedious and time-consuming, and you have to be mindful of what you are doing at all times, or risk getting a crooked cut, or a seam that won’t butt together properly.

Usually, it’s the higher-end papers that come untrimmed. Hmmm… you pay more for the paper, but the manufacturer puts in less work on his end. Hmmm.

Non-Skid Straightedge

October 8, 2014

Digital ImageMy magnesium straightedge is worth its $100 price tag. It is nice and straight and makes for neat cuts. It’s flat and holds tight to the cutting table. It won’t mark the wallpaper, like other metals will. BUT – it’s slick surface allows paper to slide, and that can mean a bad cut.

So – a little non-slip tape on the bottom edge is all that’s needed, to hold the guide and the paper in place. A fellow paperhanger friend in Knoxville, Tennessee, Bill Armstrong of Armstrong Wallcovering, https://www.facebook.com/pages/Armstrong-Wallcovering/262306247124122, generously sent me this self-stick grip tape, which he got at his local Ace Hardware. It is working GREAT! Thank you, Bill!

Metal Mars Wallpaper

September 9, 2014

Digital ImageSee the black smudges and scratches on this wallpaper? They were caused by metal coming into contact with the paper. I’m not talking about rough-handling the paper – I’m talking about my straightedge, or my scissors, or even a razor blade, brushing across the surface of the wallpaper. It’s not uncommon for certain papers to be marred with a black mark when this happens. And it can happen down the road, too, if someone happens to brush against the paper with something metal – purse strap, zipper, or a piece of jewelry.

Luckily, usually, these marks can be removed by rubbing lightly with a damp rag. I have invested in a (expensive!) straightedge made of magnesium, and that metal will not leave marks on wallpaper. I also take extra care when working with material like this.