Posts Tagged ‘surface’

Paint Peeling Off The Wall – A Bad Harbinger

March 16, 2022

Prior to prepping for wallpaper, I’ve removed a hanging shelf. It had stuck to the paint, and pulling the shelf off the wall also took some of the paint along with it.

This is a bad sign. If paint will release from the wall so easily, it’s an indicator of an unstable surface underneath, that the paint is not able to bond to.

That also bodes poorly for any coatings applied on top of it, such as my smoothing compound, primer, and wallpaper.

The most worrisome of these is wallpaper. Because unlike other substances, wallpaper expands when it gets wet with paste, and then as the paste dries, the paper shrinks a tad and puts stress / torque on the wall. If the underlying surface is unstable, these layers can actually pull apart, resulting in a ” popped ” seam.

This is not a ” loose ” seam and cannot be simply glued back together. It’s layers deep inside the wall coming apart / delaminating from each other, and virtually impossible to really repair.

So what causes this? Do a Search here to read my other posts on this topic. But causes can include incompatible surfaces, such as old oil-based paint covered with newer latex paint, gloss paint covered with new paint without proper prep / de-glossing, chalky or calcimine paint, or coatings applied to a dusty wall.

In all these cases, the top coatings won’t be able to adhere tightly, and can result in what you see here – the top layer(s) of paint pulling off the wall with just a little stress.

Even worse, in my world, is the potential of the surface beneath wallpaper seams coming away from the wall.

Kill Point Over Door, Ridge, More

February 25, 2022
After you’ve hung wallpaper on all the walls in a room, the point where your last strip meets up with the first strip is called the kill point . This virtually always ends up in a pattern mis-match. That’s why you engineer to place it in an inconspicuous place, such as behind a door.
This powder room, though, had no hidden corner or handy door. That meant that I would have a pattern mis-match a full 5′ high, to the left of the toilet you see here. I prefer to have the pattern match in a corner like this. As you can see – it does. I will explain how I accomplished that.
I decided to place the kill point over the door. Even though this space is 2′ high and a mis-match might be noticeable, not many people are looking up over the door, so it’s a better choice than in a 5′ or 9′ long corner.
The dark smudges on the wall in the photo are where I’ve spread paint, to prevent white walls from peeking out, should the dark wallpaper shrink as the paste dries.
Here I’ve positioned the strip on the left. This leaves a gap of about 3″. Once I match the new strip up to the piece on the right, its pattern will not match perfectly with the strip on the left.
Now I’ve positioned both strips, and the one on the right is overlapping the one on the left.
Here’s an idea of what the pattern mis-match will look like. To be honest, it’s not all that bad, with this busy pattern and being up over the door. Still, I thought I could make it look better.
I’m going to do a double cut , which is our installers’ fancy term for a splice. I’m going to cut through the two strips, splicing them together, cutting along the vertical foliage elements, to minimize cut-off motifs and to disguise the splice.
When double cutting on the wall, it’s really important that you slice through the two layers of wallpaper only , and not cut into the primer or wall surface beneath. This is because, if the wall surface becomes scored or compromised, when the wallpaper paste dries and the paper shrinks and pulls taught, it can put tension on the wall surface. If the surface is not intact, it can give way and actually come apart ( delaminate ), resulting in wallpaper that comes away from the wall – and there’s nothing beneath it to paste it back to.
I’ve blogged about this before, so do a Search here to learn more. It’s important!
Anyway, to protect the wall beneath where I will make my splice cut, I’ve placed three layers of scrap wallpaper, to pad the wall. I figure I can cut through the two top layers, but not all five.
Note that three layers of non-woven material have some thickness, and can “throw off” the splice cut and prevent the top two strips from fitting together perfectly. In this case, the paper is flexible enough that I’m not worried about that particular scenario.
The strips are in place, and I’m ready to make my cut. I prefer to use a single-edged razor blade held in my fingers, rather than a blade-holder. What’s most important is that the blade be brand new and spankin’ sharp!
Here I’ve made my cut and am removing excess paper from the right side of the top strip. Look carefully and you can see how my razor blade followed the contours of the vertical foliage design elements.
Here I’ve removed the excess paper from the left edge of the bottom strip. You can see they are poised to fit together nicely.
Before fitting the two strips back together, though, I’m examining the wall surface. Check the photo carefully, and you’ll see that I did, after all, score into the primer. 😦 The surface below is skim-coat that was used to smooth a textured wall – and another potential layer that may come apart when exposed to tension from the drying wallpaper.
Shoulda used a Boggess Strip. https://www.steveboggesspaperhanging.com/lexanpage.htm
One way to prevent the wall from delaminating is to put something over the compromised area, to distribute the tension of the drying paper and take it away from the cut wall. Here I’ve taken a scrap of wallpaper, which is a tough non-woven material, and carefully peeled the printed surface from the white substrate (no pic of that process). Now I have a thin material that I can use to pad the wall.
I’m using the black printed side facing out, in case the spliced strips shrink a little – anything peeping out will be black and not noticeable.
Here is the bit of paper in place, spanning across the cut on the wall.
Now I’ve smoothed the two top strips back into place. Since my double cut followed along the vertical foliage elements as much as possible, and because I cut around the gold flowers to keep them full and round, the pattern looks like it matches up just about perfectly.
But wait! … What’s that lump / ridge under the wallpaper, the full height of the seam? That’s my seam padding! Doesn’t look great.
I’m really surprised at this. The non-woven wallpaper material is thick. But that’s why I pulled the top and bottom layers apart, to make my patch piece thinner. I guess not thin enough. Once dried, this ridge is going to be obvious.
But, to be honest, this is up over a door where no one’s going to be spending much time looking. In addition, once I get my 100 watt light bulb out of there and replace the homeowners’ original, small light fixture, this bump under the wallpaper will be pretty much indiscernable.
Still, that lump was buggin’ me. Another invention from my colleague Steve Bogges to the rescue! Pictured is his seam tape , which was made specifically for this type situation. This is very thin – yet strong – paper tape that is used to bridge cut areas like this, and prevent tension from drying wallpaper from tugging at unstable walls.
The tape has a pre-pasted side (the gloss you see), and feathered edges, to make it less noticeable under wallpaper.
Hard to see, but here I’ve placed the seam tape over the cut wall areas
Now the two top strips have been smoothed back into place. Amazingly, no bump from the seam tape beneath shows. And the pattern mis-match is barely visible, too.
Win-win!
All that’s left to do is to wipe paste off the surface of the wallpaper. This overlapping and splicing does mean that wallpaper paste will get on the surface of the strip underneath. Actually, there is a way to prevent that, and it also involves products from Steve Boggess
But … that’s a blog post for another day …
This pattern is called Peonies and is by Rifle Paper.

Paste Stains on Wallpaper and Woodwork

November 6, 2021
This wallpaper has been up for nearly 30 years. Over time, ” shadows ” of wallpaper paste have begun to show.
The stains are most common at the seams. During installation, it’s typical for paste to ooze out at the seams, and for the installer to wipe the paste off with a damp sponge or cloth. If he doesn’t get it all, then, over time, the paste can manifest, as you see here. There are also darker blotches to the right of the seam.
Paste caught in the lightly textured surface, and probably spread around by the installer’s wiping.
Seam opening up, probably due to humidity and / or improper wall prep.
Stains showing over a window. I don’t believe the room looked like this when the installation was completed years ago. I believe that time and humidity and other factors caused the paste to darken and show itself on the surface. I also have a hunch that clay-based paste was used. I don’t like that stuff, particularly for this reason.
One sad thing is that this room didn’t have to look like this. Note this section “before.”
Here is the same section “after.” All I did was wipe with clean water and a sponge and the stains came off easily.
Here are stains from paste that was not completely wiped off the woodwork.
Here is the same woodwork after I wiped for just a half a minute with a damp cloth.

I hate that the homeowner lived for 30 years with gradually worsening staining like this. I guess that if someone had gotten industrious, he could have taken a bucket of clean water (refreshed frequently) and a rag, and spent an afternoon washing down the walls and woodwork, and a few spots on the ceiling.

Even better would be if the original installer had ” worked clean ” – meaning, working carefully so as not to get any paste on the surface of the paper in the first place. And being more fastidious in removing any paste that did get onto the wallpaper or woodwork.

Preventing a Stain from Bleeding Through

July 31, 2021

See that oval ring on the paint? That’s from someone lying on the bed and letting his head rest against the wall. Don’t know whether he used hair tonic or not, but even a clean head of hair will contain oils, and those oils will wick into the paint and cause a stain.

The bad thing about this and wallpaper is that certain substances will bleed through wallpaper, staining the surface. Oil and grease are sure contenders.

To prevent this bleed-through, I painted over the stained area with a stain blocker. My favorite is KILZ Original Oil Based. It stinks to high Heaven and breathing too much will make you high, but it is outstanding at sealing all sorts of nasty substances.

Wallpaper paste will not stick to this, so, once it’s dry, roll your usual wallpaper primer over it.

Rectifying a Mistake

July 2, 2021
Whoops! This wallpaper strip ended up too short. I suspect I forgot to add the 3″ extra for trimming at ceiling and floor. Sure would like to avoid replacing this whole strip.
I could have spliced a piece in horizontally. But that would have left a (slightly) visible horizontal seam, as well as put stress on the wall if the razor blade scored the surface. So I opted to patch in a piece. To disguise the patch, I cut along the design, and discarded the bottom piece.
Then I used scrap paper and cut along the same part of the design, making sure to leave a thin part of the design that would be overlapped (don’t want any gaps showing).
This patch was placed under the piece on the wall, with the top piece overlapping from above (less noticeable when viewed from above … the direction of lighting also affects this). Once all pieces were smoothed into place, it’s intact and homogeneous, and, best of all – undetectable.

Paint Pulling Off Wall Where Tape Was Removed – Surface Stability Test

May 12, 2021
Paint pulling off wall where tape was removed.
Paint pulling off wall when painters tape was removed.
Paint pulled off wall and stuck to back of tape that was pulled off wall on new construction site.

It’s important to have a stable surface under wallpaper.

That’s because, when wallpaper gets wet with paste, absorbs moisture from the paste, and it expands. Then, as it dries, it lets go of the moisture and shrinks. When wallpaper dries and shrinks, it puts tension / torque on the walls.

If the surface under the wallpaper is not stable, the tension of the drying wallpaper can cause the underlying surface to pull away.

This photo is not showing the wallpaper pulling away from the wall. What is happening (usually) is that the paint (or whatever has been applied to the wall), has actually delaminated (come apart) from the wall.

This results in a “curled” seam, or a “popped” seam.

One way to test for this is to apply a strip of tape (blue painters tape, tan masking tape, clear Scotch tape, or other), let it sit a few minutes, and then yank it off. If the tape takes any paint along with it, you have a potential problem of the wallpaper not adhering correctly.

This is why it’s important to:

1, Before applying any coating, you must remove all dust from the wall, using a damp sponge, which must be rinsed frequently

2, Before hanging paper, a primer formulated specifically for wallpaper should be applied / rolled on and cut in to edges

A wallpaper-specific primer is designed to withstand the torque put on the wall as wallpaper dries. And it facilitates installation by allowing sufficient “slip” (maneuvering the paper) and “stick” (adhesion). The chemistry behind all this is fascinating – but too complicated to get into here.

If a wall is too “iffy,” and you don’t feel like the mess and expense of scraping off all the old paint, a liner can be applied before the actual wallpaper is hung.

A liner lessens the drying time of the wallpaper, which reduces the time there will be stress on the wall. A liner also redistributes stress on the wall, so much less chance of having seems detach from the wall.

A liner also adds additional cost to the job – for both material and labor, which may include an additional day(s).

RePaste and Disguise Split Wallpaper Seams

October 10, 2020


Several seams in this bathroom, as well as some whole sections of wallpaper, had come away from the wall.

Most likely, this was due to a combination of things … Number 1, extreme humidity from teenaged son taking showers with no ventilation and over several years. Number 2, possible improper wall prep before the wallpaper went up. Number 3, Unstable surface, which allowed layers inside the wall to delaminate and separate from each other.

Whatever the culprit, I had success in using wallpaper paste to re-adhere most of the loose areas back to the wall. We were still left with visible gaps at some of the seams, where the wallpaper had shrunk.

I used water-based craft paint to color these areas. I didn’t use the brushes … I just daubed my finger in the undiluted darker tan paint and swiped it over the gaps, pushing to be sure it reached to the wall. Then I wiped excess off the surface of the surrounding wallpaper with a damp rag.

I used water to dilute some of the blue and red paint, and then added that over the appropriate colored areas. I used the tiny brush to dot on bits of near-black paint, to correspond with the black printed areas on the wallpaper map.

From a distance, you could not see the touch-ups. Even better – you could not see the touch-ups even if very close.

Don’t Skip the Wallpaper Primer!

October 30, 2019


A primer is imperative for a good wallpaper installation – and I mean a primer designed to be used under wallpaper, not a generic primer or a paint primer.

A good primer will

seal porous surfaces
mitigate a glossy surface (paper won’t stick to gloss)
allow for “slip” and repositioning while installing the paper
provide “tooth” for the adhesive to grab ahold of
withstand the torque created when wallpaper dries and pulls taught,
preventing “popped seams”
protect the surface, making future removal of the paper easier while
preventing damage to the wall

Ultra Prime Pro 977 by Roman’s is my preferred primer.

But different situations call for different primers. When hanging on a thirsty surface like new drywall or a textured wall that has been skim-floated, I will use Gardz by Zinsser. Other primers could be called for in other situations.

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 Paper Bringing Brightness to a Harvey Hurricane Flooded Home

June 28, 2018


This home in the Bellaire subdivision of Houston was flooded during Hurricane Harvey in August of 2017. Everything below the 4′ high water mark had to be cut out and thrown out. The homeowners loved the Mid-Century Modern vibe of their 1952 home, so, as the structure was put back together, they re-created everything as accurately as they could – baseboards, doors, cabinets, flooring – they even found a funky green refrigerator designed in the style of what I can only describe as an old Studebaker sedan.

When it came to wallpaper, they wanted something to reflect the vintage vibe. After much research, they agreed on two papers from the Bradbury & Bradbury Vintage ’20’s collection. This colorful bird-flowers-and-foliage-on-black pattern went in their sun room, which can also be called the piano room.

The ’20’s Vintage wallpaper collection is pretty new from Bradbury and Bradbury, which is out in California. This company produces historic-styled patterns from eras such as Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Victorian, Asian, and more, right on through into the new offerings based on designs from the “Modern Age.”

Like many higher-end or specialty and / or “boutique” wallpaper brands, this paper came with a selvedge edge that had to be trimmed off by hand (by me!). The manufacturer’s trim guidelines were spot-on, and so the edges were nice and straight, and the pattern design matched from strip to strip perfectly.

This pattern is digitally-printed on a paper substrate with a somewhat shiny surface. I found that it accepted the paste (clay paste is recommended, to mesh with the paper which is printed on a clay-coated substrate) with no protests, and, after appropriate booking time, the paper handled nicely and the seams laid down nice and flat. That slightly shiny surface also allowed me to wipe any stray spots of paste off the surface.

Because the paper was black, I did take the extra step of using a piece of black chalk to color the edges of the strips, to keep the white substrate from peeking out at the seams.

This room holds a grand piano, and is in the back of the house, where it looks out onto the patio and backyard. It gets a lot of sunlight in the daytime, and the colors in the wallpaper will really stand out, and will bring a lot of light into this very deserving home.