Posts Tagged ‘substrate’

Farrow & Ball Difficult Paper – Taming the Beast

September 13, 2020


Farrow & Ball is not among my favorite wallpaper manufacturers. For starters, they coat their wallpaper with their paint, instead of ink like every other manufacturer in the world uses.

Paint is not a good substitute for ink. It flakes, it doesn’t apply evenly so if you are standing at the right angle, you can see unevenness in the ground (background color). Plus, it burnishes with even the lightest brush stroke across it. Do a Search here to read my previous posts about this.

Look at the first photo, and you will see what we call gaps and overlaps. This happens when the trimmer blades at the factory are wobbly and / or dull, resulting in edges that are not cut straight. Thus, when two strips are butted together, you end up with some areas gapping and some areas overlapping.

Also, the seams like to give argument to staying down tight against the wall. Again, so a Search for previous posts about this.

This “Lotus” install was a little less problematic than my experiences with other patterns. The gaps and overlaps due to poor factory cutting were still present.

But the burnishing was less of an issue, because this pattern has so much printed area that there was not a lot of ground exposed to my smoothing brush.

I also found a way to get the seams to lie down better. For starters, I used a bit more paste (their special brand of powdered cellulose paste), than usual, and that wetted the paper out better, which made it want to hug the wall better.

Next, I found that if, before hanging each strip, I rolled a thin layer of paste onto the wall under where the seams would fall, the edges of each strip would grab the wall and lie down more tightly and uniformly.

In the second photo, you can see my laser level marking the vertical line where I will run my roller of paste.

Most British manufacturers are printing on the newish non-woven substrates, which offer many positive features. Farrow & Ball, however, continues to use the traditional British pulp. When coated with their paint (instead of ink), this stuff tends to be pretty thick and stiff. The thickness adds a bit to the visible seams as seen in the top photo.

Also, once the paper becomes wet with the company’s cellulose paste, it becomes quite flexible and delicate. Meaning that it can be difficult to cut, as it often drags along even a brand new razor blade, leaving jagged edges. It tears easily. And, while unbooking, it sure felt like some of the strips were so weak that they wanted to break in two.

All in all, this install went well. But I sure would prefer if F&B would get with the rest of the wallpaper world and print on a better substrate, as well as ditch the paint in favor of good, reliable ink. And outfit their factory with some straight and sharp trimming blades.

Serena & Lily’s “Fallbrook Cut Leaf” Wallpaper in West Houston Powder Room

September 8, 2020


Sego palm fronds is what this pattern reminds me of. Serena & Lily call it “Fallbrook” or “Cut Leaf,” depending on where you’re looking. No mind – it’s a fresh, crisp look with a lot of movement and fun.

I hung this in the powder room near the rear entrance and breakfast area of the home of a young family in the Energy Corridor area of west Houston.

Usually Serena & Lily prints on paper, and I am a great fan of that product. But this is the first time I’ve encountered a non-woven material from that company. I can’t say that I loved this stuff. It was quite stiff, and very translucent.

Lots of manufacturers are starting to print on non-woven. There are many benefits of that material – but it has to be a good non-woven. If S&L is moving in this direction, I hope they will do some research and networking and come up with a better substrate to print on.

Serena & Lily Wallpaper Too Translucent

September 8, 2020


I guess that Serena & Lily is starting to print on non-woven substrates. I am not a fan (see yesterday’s post).

Besides being very stiff and uncooperative, this material is very translucent. As you see in the photo, the leaves of the second layer of wallpaper are clearly visible through the top layer.

This means that it’s likely that color imperfections on the wall will show through. New Sheetrock, for example, with its grey drywall interspersed with bands of white joint compound. Or hanging this product on a dark painted wall will result in a “dirty” cast underneath the paper, and will not yield the bright, crisp white look that S&L is known for.

As a primer, I like Roman’s Pro 977 Ultra Prime, which is a white-pigmented primer, and an ideal choice under thin, see-through material like this. But it is not a heavily-pigmented primer, so there is still the worry that the finished walls will not look as bright as they should.

I do hope that S&L will improve this product. There are tons of nice non-wovens available, so let’s hope they do some research and come up with a better substrate.

Bringing Color and Life to a Garden Oaks Dining Room

March 6, 2020


This family bought a new home in the Garden Oaks neighborhood of Houston, and then lived for a year with dull, lifeless walls in the dining room – all the while craving color and personality. Finally, the husband had a chance to tackle the textured walls (see previous post), and shortly thereafter, I came along.

This print is fun but not cutesy or trendy. And – while monochromatic, it adds a whole lot of color to the once-bland room.

Printed on a non-woven substrate, this product could be hung using the paste-the-wall method, or the paste-the-material method, which is what I did, for many reasons. It went up very nicely.

This wallpaper pattern is by A-Street Prints, 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.

Stripping Wallpaper

January 30, 2020


Eeewww – I’m stripping wallpaper off the walls of a bathroom. What a mess!

(Don’t worry – there are dropcloths under there.)

For a few years now, I’ve been using Roman’s Pro 977 Ultra Prime wallpaper primer, and this was my first chance to remove paper that has been hung on it. I must say – I was very pleased.

The paper came off nicely enough, and the primer stayed stuck to the wall. It did not rewet or bubble. There was NO damage to the walls, and no need for repairs, nor any need to reprime.

One key to this is to wet-strip the paper. You cannot come in and just try to yank the paper off the wall. First of all, that won’t work. But if it does, it is likely that the paper will take some of the primer and even some of the wall or drywall along with it.

The proper, more gentle way to strip wallpaper is …

You’ve gotta understand that wallpaper is made of at least two layers – the top, inked layer, and the underlying substrate layer.

I use plain water and a 3″ stiff putty knife to strip paper. The water will re-wet the paste on the back of the paper, and once it is wet and softened, the paper will (usually) peel away from the wall easily and in large pieces.

The thing is, water will not penetrate the top, inked layer of wallpaper. That’s because the manufacturer has applied a coating to protect the paper from stains, and it is resistant to water.

So I take that putty knife and use it to get under the top layer of wallpaper – withOUT gouging into the substrate or into the wall. Then I peel off that top layer of paper. I have found that wetting the surface with a sponge helps strengthen the fibers, so that larger chunks of paper come off. You will also find that there is a “nap” to the material, and it will pull off in larger chunks once you figure out if it wants to be pulled from top to bottom and / or from left to right – or vise versa.

It will separate and leave the backing / substrate stuck to the wall.

Once that top layer is off, I use a sponge and a bucket of hot water to wet the backing. Over and over as needed. The backing is porous and the water will soak through, allowing the paste to reactivate. Once that paste gets wet enough, it will let you pull the backing away from the wall.

You will have the most success with this if the walls were properly prepped and primed before the original wallpaper went up.

That’s it in a nutshell. Time consuming, but sort of methodic and meditative. And it will leave your walls in good condition to receive the new wallpaper.

Faces in Unexpected Places

January 26, 2020

How’s this for something no one else is gonna have?! The homeowner of this Galleria-area home in Houston is a big-personality gal, recently divorced, and she wants her new home to reflect who she is. Everything in the house that could have glitter, shimmer, mirror, or glitz does – including the dog bed and the kitchen backsplash.

This wallpaper in the adjoining powder room (with a huge crystal chandelier!) fits right in with that new life.

This is a sort of mural, composed of rectangular panels about 3′ wide x 2′ high. It was bought on-line, and came with no information or installation instructions.

It was a paper substrate, and was meant to be butted at the seams, as opposed to overlapped, as many mural panels are. After experimenting, I found that a powdered wheat or cellulose paste hydrated the paper best, and that a little of my traditional wallpaper paste added to the mix helped hold the paper tightly to the wall and minimize shrinkage as the panels dried.

The paper curled badly when it was wet with the paste (see third photo), which made it difficult to paste it, book it, and then get it to the wall.

It also expanded a lot when it got wet – almost an inch in each direction. Uneven expansion meant that it developed large wrinkles and warps that were difficult to remove.

In addition, the walls were bowed and uneven in the corners, the walls were not plumb, the ceiling was not level, the crown molding was at different heights on different walls, and we didn’t have a lot of paper to play with.

It took a lot of work to keep the pattern matched as well as possible in the corners, to keep the pattern running at the right point below the crown molding, to eliminate the aforementioned wrinkles, to butt the panels, to minimize white showing at the seams due to the panels drying and shrinking, the paper getting saturated and tearing or dragging when I tried to trim it, and lots more challenges.

All this could have been easier if the manufacturer had chosen a better substrate to print on. But – well, hey, we’ve got a digital printer, so let’s just dig up some paper stock, print cool designs on it, and market it as wallpaper.

Actually, this material worked out pretty well in this small powder room. But I would not want to paper a large, wide wall with it.

Most companies who make murals like this, on this type of thin paper substrate, allow for the edges to be overlapped about 3/8″ at each seam. This allows the installer to make adjustments for wonky walls and ceilings, and it eliminates the gapping at seams as paper dries and shrinks. It does, however, leave a ridge along each seam where the edges are overlapped.

Overall, though, I was not unhappy with this product in this room. And working out all the challenges was mighty fun. I was glad to have a nice, quiet, empty house to do all this in. All in all, this medium-sized powder room that I had prepped the weekend before, took me nine hours to hang.

Farrow & Ball – Disappointing Quality

October 10, 2019


First three photos – Burnish marks from smoothing paint-coated paper to wall. Read below.

Last two photos – Fat seams caused by poor trimming and thick paper and paint. You man need to enlarge the photo to see clearly. Read below.

I’m disappointed in the quality of the Farrow & Ball paper I hung recently. (See my post from September 1st.) For a high-end brand, their quality-control is definitely lacking.

The seams are thick and dark, and many areas had to be repasted because they didn’t hold to the wall. As one of my highly-skilled, decades-long installer buddies put it: “This is a common problem caused by …… incompetence of factory trimming and poor choice of substrate. This substrate is thick and the trimming from F&B often gives us a “rounded” edge, for want of a better word.” Another installer described the seam edges as “scalloped.” You can never get a good, tight seam with thick paper and paint, and improper factory trimming.

Another disappointment was a sheen on the paper. F&B is proud of their paint, and, instead of using ink (like other successful manufacturers do), they coat their wallpaper with their paint. To get wallpaper stuck to the wall, to eliminate bubbles, and to set seams, you need to use tools, notably a smoothing brush (“sweep”) and/or a plastic smoothing tool.

No matter how gently I swiped with the brush, the paint burnished (left a sheen). Using the plastic smoother to try to coax the cantankerous seams to stay down left worse sheen along the length of each seam. I tried covering the smoother with soft T-shirt cloth, but that didn’t help. This sheen is caused by sensitivity of the paints. I hung three different F&B patterns, and had the same problem with each.
I worked as cleanly as possible, because trying to wipe even a small speck of paste off the surface left another shiny spot. The sheen was more noticeable when the paper was viewed from the side, with light hitting it at an angle.

If other manufacturers use inks that are designed to bond to paper, and that will withstand the light brushing and occasional wiping during the installation process, why does Farrow & Ball persist in using paint on their wallpaper??! Matt-finish paint is designed to be looked at, not rubbed or wiped or washed. And why use a thick, poor-performing substrate, when so many other companies have found wonderful papers to print on??

One solution for the sheen might be to coat the paper with a matt-finish varnish or other product that will even hide the shininess. As for the fat, noticeable seams, there is no solution. For now, we’re leaving everything as it is, because the client doesn’t see what I see, and she is delighted with her new wallpaper.

William Morris Pattern in Bellaire Powder Room

July 27, 2019


The owner of this powder room in the Bellaire neighborhood of Houston lived for several years in England, and fell in love with the British aesthetic for the Arts & Crafts period of the early 1900’s. William Morris was a popular designer of that era – and still loved today.

Most of the patterns are intricate, while rhythmic and repetitive, with nature being a popular theme.

The wall sconces, mirror, and sink faucet were all off-center from one another. Figuring that the mirror was the most noticeable feature on that wall, I decided to center the pattern on the mirror, rather than the sconces or faucet. (Sorry, no pic of the mirror.)

This particular pattern had enough swoopy flowery foliage that the background trellis design was pretty obscured. In addition, I plotted the layout so that the dark green trellis would not fall close to the faucet (where it would be obvious that it was off-center). And the large flower to the right of the faucet helps obscure the off-center trellis, too.

Once the mirror went up, it became the eye-catcher. The room is a true beauty.

This wallpaper is by William Morris, a British manufacturer, and this paper was the traditional pulp material, rather than the newer non-woven substrate.

Brunschwig & Fils’s Bibliotheque in a Heights Library

July 14, 2019


Another installer hung the paper in the first photo. For some unknown reason, two half-walls were left unpapered. I was called in to finish those two areas.

Brunschwig & Fils is a French manufacturer, with a long history. Like many higher-end brands, this product came with a selvedge edge that I had to trim off by hand (see last photo), using a razor blade and a 6′ long straight edge (not shown).

And, like many higher-end brand papers that are printed with ink that smells like mothballs, once paste is applied to the back of the paper, the inked surface absorbs moisture from the paste differently from the back side. When the top inked layer expands at a different rate from the substrate, you get waffling, or quilting. Sorry, no photo, but you can do a Search here to see previous blogs on this topic. Essentially, it’s a wrinkly mess.

One way to deal with this is to even out the moisture differential by lightly sponging water onto the face (inked side) of the wallpaper. The front can then absorb moisture from the sponging at the same time that the substrate is absorbing moisture from the paste.

As I worked with the paper, I discovered that it wanted to dry out quickly. So it helped a lot to also use a sponge to get a little moisture onto the back side of the wallpaper strip, before pasting.

Other tricks to slow drying out are to 1.) Book the paper (fold pasted side to pasted side and then roll up loosely like a newspaper) and then dunk the ends into a bucket of clean water. 2.) Place the booked strip into a black trash bag, which will prevent evaporation during the time the paper books. 3.) When the wait time is up, gently unbook the paper and lightly spritz the back with clean water from a spray bottle. Alternately, you could sponge the surface once again. The idea is to introduce a little more moisture, to loosen up the paste and to make the paper more malleable.

I had been told that this paper was difficult to work with, and that the seams wanted to curl. I had the opposite experience – I thought it was lovely to work with. The seams laid nice and flat, and the paper was easy to manipulate, and it clung tightly to the wall. Applying moisture to the surface and back got rid of the waffling, and any that did remain (there were small puckers in the white horizontal “shelf board” areas) disappeared as the wallpaper dried.

This home is in the Houston Heights neighborhood, and the interior designer is Stacie Cokinos, of Cokinos Design.

Dark Surface / White Substrate

August 21, 2018


Re yesterday’s post, because it was a dark pattern printed on a white substrate, I worried that some of the white backing might show at the seams. This is especially pertinent with thick papers and with papers that may shrink as they dry.

To help prevent any white from peeking out at the seams, I used a mud-hued artists’ pastel chalk to color the edges of the paper. In the top photo, you can just barely make out the line of muddy grey chalk along the right edge of the wallpaper.

This trick worked great. The seams pretty much melted together and disappeared. However, as you see in the second photo, there were a few sections where seams shrank and opened up just a tad – a half a tad. If the paper had a white background, you would never notice. But with a strongly-colored choice such as this one, you have to be prepared to see minute gaps in between the seams.