Posts Tagged ‘surfaces’

Tape Test for Unstable Walls

September 21, 2022

There can be reasons for unstable walls, mostly cheap or poor quality paint, dust, someone applied paint over dust, improper prep, incompatible layers inside the wall built up over years (oil based paint, latex paint, dust, gloss paint, joint compound, etc.).

These can cause problems with wallpaper, mostly with the layers delaminating (coming apart), which causes the wallpaper seams to come away from the wall. Sometimes sheets of wallpaper simply fall off the wall.

This isn’t so much a problem with paint, because it just sits on the surface. But wallpaper shrinks when the paste dries, or expands and contracts with humidity, and can put tension on the seams

Before wallpaper goes up, one way to test for such unstable surfaces is the tape test . Use a razor blade to cut an “X” into the wall, scoring through the paint and maybe into a few layers beneath. Place a strip of blue painters tape over the cut. Pull the tape off the wall.

If paint comes away from the wall along with the tape, or if layers inside the wall come apart, you know you have to do a lot of specialized prep to stabilize the wall before hanging / installing the wallpaper.

This example is an interesting twist. The homeowner used a piece of tape to hold up a wallpaper sample. Then used an ink pen to write notes on it. When removed, the tape took the paint off – in the shape of the writing!

Let’s Blame It On The Paperhanger

August 27, 2022
Obviously, this manufacturer has had complaints about their product. So they’ve come up with a CYA paragraph(s) designed to throw blame onto the wallpaper installer.
Only thing is, most all of the above points they are trying to dodge ARE the fault / responsibility of the manufacturer – NOT the paperhanger .
Gaps: poorly trimmed paper at the factory, possibly due to dull or wobbly trim rollers .
Raised edges: poorly trimmed edges, or incompatible inks and substrates.
Blisters: Usually due to off-gassing due to surfaces that don’t breathe and therefor trap moisture. Or to inks and substrates that are incompatible. … The substrate absorbs moisture from the paste and stretches , but the inks do not, resulting in wrinkles , warps , waffling , and / or quilting .
But, hey – instead of doing some research and product development to improve our wallpaper , let’s just blame it on the paperhanger .

Bright and Fun Retro Look in Powder Room

March 12, 2022
No boring beige or all-white walls in this home of a growing and active family in the Cypress / Jersey Village area of Houston.
Throughout the home, the mom has added touches of blue, green, yellow, and pink, along with a heavy dose of mid-century modern furnishings and accessories.
Time to pull the powder room into the mix!
Originally, this room was wallpapered in a typical ’80’s pattern, complete with a border running below the ceiling. Did I say ’80’s ?!
That wallpaper had been removed, and the walls were painted a dark tan. The room was very boring and boxy and uninspiring.
But … add a little wallpaper and – nothing boring here!
And the look definitely invokes the ’50’s, ’60’s, and ’70’s – can you say Flower Power ?
Spoonflower sells several types of wallpaper. Definitely do NOT get their peel & stick (see my page to the right), and I’m not fond of their vinyl material. I do like their pre-pasted smooth , which is what my client chose.
Spoonflower doesn’t come in standard dimension rolls. It comes in 24″ wide ” rolls ” of 1′, 3′, 9′, or 12′ lengths. So measuring and calculating is a little more complicated than for traditional wallpapers.
(The mermaid kitchen towel on the right is also by Spoonflower – and they have wallpaper to match!)
Strips of this material are designed to be overlapped at the seams. This is good, because it prevents gapping at the seams as the paste dries, and it also eliminates stress on the wall that could cause underlying surfaces to delaminate and come apart. Do a Search here to learn more.
The downside is that this overlapped area does leave a ridge running the length of the seam. Most people don’t mind the look, especially with a busy pattern like this one.
Pattern # 4330883 is called Party Posies.
This material is custom-printed. The homeowner ordered 11 rolls, and here you can see how the manufacturer has numbered each of the rolls in sequence (5th roll of 11 total).

Fixing Drywall Damage From Where Vanity Was Removed

January 20, 2022
The powder room in this 1990’s home in the Houston Heights is being updated, and that means replacing the wall-to-wall vanity. Here the vanity has been ripped out. The areas where the backsplash was adhered to the wall have pulled the top surface of the drywall off. In addition, the plumber had to cut out a section of drywall in order to gain access to the pipes, so he can install the new faucet and handles. You can see the connections roughed in.
You can’t hang wallpaper over this mess. First of all, it way too uneven – all those bumps will show under the new wallpaper. And the outline of the ” trapdoor ” will leave a big square ridge under the paper. Thankfully, the plumber secured the panel with drywall screws – most plumbers just leave you with a chunk of drywall floating in space, or even just an empty hole.
Back to patching issues … in addition, the torn areas of drywall will absorb moisture from the wallpaper primer and / or paste and expand, creating bubbles that will show under the new paper.
I needed to fill in dips and gouges, even out high areas, and prevent bubbling drywall.
Gardz by Zinsser to the rescue! This is a penetrating sealer that soaks into porous surfaces and then dries hard, binding them together and creating a stable surface, as well as resisting moisture from water-based top coatings.
This picture doesn’t look much different, but here the torn drywall is a little darker, indicating that the Gardz has soaked in and dried. The surface is now ready for a skim-coat.
But first, the trap door needs to be addressed. I covered the cut areas with four strips of self-adhesive mesh drywall tape (no photo).
Then I went over everything (wall to wall) with joint compound (commonly referred to as mud ) (no photo).
Because of the thickness of the high and low areas, this had to be a thick coat of smoothing compound, and would take a long time to dry. So I went to the jobsite two days ahead of our install date, to do these initial repairs.
And – no – you can’t use quick set or hot mud or 5 or 20 minute mud to do these repairs. These products are intended for repairs of small areas. Top coatings like primers, paint, and wallpaper paste do not stick well to them. Don’t let a contractor sweet-talk you into letting him use any of these to smooth a large area of wall.
Here is the wall after my first, heavy, coat of smoothing compound. I use Sheetrock brand’s Plus 3.
The bubbles you see just left of center show that Gardz didn’t 100% do its job of sealing out moisture, as a little expansion and blistering has occurred. Not a biggie. These will disappear when the surface is sanded. There is usually not a problem with these re-appearing.
When I got to work two days later, the smoothing compound had dried. I sanded pretty smooth. Then vacuumed up the dust on the floor, and then used a damp sponge to wipe residual dust off the wall. This is important, because no coating will stick to dust.
The wall still wasn’t perfectly smooth, so I did another skim-coat. This was much thinner, so didn’t need a lot of time to dry. I used a fan and my heat gun to speed things along.
Once that was dry, I sanded it smooth, vacuumed and then wiped off all dust. Then rolled on my favorite wallpaper primer Roman Pro 977 Ultra Prime. I have the paint store (Murphy Brothers in central Houston) add a little blue tint, so I can see it when I apply it to the wall.
What a transformation! Now this wall is ready for wallpaper!

Wallpaper Coming Off – Delaminating Wall

January 14, 2022

An Unfortunate Situation

This Brooklyn Toile wallpaper by Flavor Paper on an accent wall in a nursery went up beautifully. The contractor had added new Sheetrock to one wall, and painted the other, old/original wall. I skim-floated both walls and sanded smooth, primed, and hung the wallpaper. Perfect! (Search here to see my original post.) But within less than a month, the homeowner contacted me and said that the wallpaper was ” coming off the wall .” It was a 1920’s bungalow in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston. And therein lies the brunt of the problem.
The wallpaper itself is not ” coming off the wall .” What’s happening is that the wall surface itself is coming apart – or, delaminating . This is because multiple layers of paint and other substances on the wall may not be compatible. A probably scenario: In 1920 oil-based paint was used. Later someone rolled on a coat of latex paint. Then the homeowners redecorated and used gloss paint. Then some ” flippers ” who had watched too much HGTV slapped on more paint without bothering to de-gloss or prime first. And somewhere in the mix you’ve got cheap paint and dust and other incompatible materials.
Over time, and especially when stress is put on the wall surface, such as when wet wallpaper paste dries and the paper shrinks, this stress can tug at the wall and actually pull these layers apart. There are other contributing factors, too, such as humidity, temperature, and location. I find it interesting that the worst parts of the affected seams were toward the top of the wall. This speaks of heat, humidity, and forced air (either hot or cold) coming out of the air vent just to the right of this wall. This photo is of the area over a door, very close to the air vent.
See how thick that is? It’s not just the wallpaper. There are several layers of wall coming apart. Some layers are clinging to the back of the wallpaper, and some are staying stuck to the wall.
Multiple layers, many years of coatings on this wall.
Easy to see the many layers. The paper itself, my blue primer, my layer of smoothing compound, paint, more paint coming off the wall. Then multiple layers of paint and texture still clinging to the wall. This shot is just below the ceiling.
Same thing happening at the baseboard at the floor.
Layers of paint separating from the wall in chunks. Some pulled off easily, and some I had to chop off with my 3″ putty knife.
Most of the paint and unstable surface material clung to the back of the wallpaper. This pile is just three strips – only half the wall. But it’s thick and stiff and heavy because of the paint stuck to the back of the wallpaper. There was so much and it was so heavy and bulky that I had to carry it out to my van in two trips. When I got home, it totally filled my trash bin.
Here’s the wall once all the other layers came off. Brushing my hand over it revealed a layer of dust. No wonder the paint and other coatings wouldn’t stick. Nothing sticks to dust. It’s like flouring a cake pan… The paint or wallpaper will kinda stick – but won’t really stick. Paint on top may be fine. But add a little stress from drying / shrinking wallpaper, and you may end up with layers that pull apart.
Wiping the walls with a damp sponge removed a lot more dust. But the wall still felt chalky. Whatever type of paint this was, it was not holding together.
I had to stabilize this chalky surface. Enter Gardz, a wonderful product – Gardz is a thin, penetrating sealer that soaks into porous surfaces and binds substances together. It dries hard and creates an intact surface. The darker area in the picture is where I’ve rolled on a test area. Gardz is thin like water, and it runs and drips and splatters. It’s imperative that you cover floors, countertops, and baseboards, and roll carefully, and roll upward rather than downward, to minimize runs and drips. A microfiber roller holds the liquid well, and reduces drips.
Gardz is made by Zinsser.
No photo of the finished wall, but I was very pleased with the stability of the surface. No more chalk or dust. Now, there still could be unstable or incompatible layers deeper inside the wall. (Latex paint over oil without proper prep.) But for now I feel pretty confident that this wall is solid and will hold up to the next process in preparation for getting the new wallpaper up.

Patch Disguises Delaminated Wall

December 19, 2018

I hung this paper for a young couple in a cute 1930 bungalow in the Heights neighborhood of Houston a year or two ago. After a year or so, the wallpaper began to gap at the seams. Turns out this is not the wallpaper coming loose from the wall. What is happening is that the various layers of paint and etc. inside the wall are actually coming apart.

The wallpaper dried and shrank and put torque (tension) on the wall at the seams. Also factoring in is humidity in the air, poor air circulation in the air, and possibly a moisture problem inside this wall. Oh, and this wallpaper manufacturer, Hygge & West, is known for using inks that curl away from the wall at the points where they cross the seams.

But the real culprit is years’ worth of paint and other wall surfaces that are not compatible with one another. Back 80 years ago, you had oil-based paint. Cover that with latex paint, then do a project that creates dust that sifts onto the walls, add some gloss paint, roll on a coat of latex, then a layer of texture, then more paint … all without proper prep between.

Proper prep or not, most of these wall coatings are not prepared to adhere to one another, and when drying / shrinking wallpaper puts stress on the surface, the various layers can let go from one anther and “delaminate” – which means to come apart.

In the photo, you can see the thickness of the separating layers. Some layers of paint have held fast to the wall, but others have let go and curled back. Because there is dust and gloss and other factors underneath, it’s not guaranteed that anything will hold the layers back tight to the wall.

Adhesive silicone caulk was my glue of choice. It will stick to porous or glossy surfaces. I squeezed some carefully into the popped seams, spread it around, closed the seam back up, and then waited for the caulk to tack up and grab ahold of the layer above it.

Eventually the caulk dried enough and became tacky enough that it held the layers together. Not perfectly, but at least there was no gaping opening at the seam.

The gap and a slight “pouch” still showed, so I thought of covering them with a patch that would span the seam, holding both sides together.

So next I took some left over paper (ALWAYS save your left overs!) and cut out dark green palm leaves. I made sure to leave a wide section on either side that was cut along the individual fronds, so they would mimic the pattern on the wall, and so there would be a wide area to straddle the seam and add stability. The area I cut out between each front helped the patch blend in with the pattern that was on the existing paper on the wall.

The stupid camera ate my picture of the patch after it was cut and pasted, but before it was applied to the wall. Dang it, because that would have explained a lot of my process.

Anyway, I made several of these frond-leaved patches, pasted them, and then applied them to the wall, directly straddling the popped seams. Not only did this cover and hide the open edges of the seams, but the width of the patch helped strengthen the bond while at the same time lessening the possibility that a seam would open up again.

In the last photo,  at the top of the picture, you can see one appliqué patch applied, straddling the seam.  Moving down the wall, I would add two more similar patches over the seam.

From a distance – heck, even from up close, you could not see the repaired areas.

Wha-Oh….Contractor’s Poor Job at Smoothing Wall

December 22, 2017


We had a “situation” on this job, and the contractor had to rip out some drywall and quickly replace it. The work crew did a good job on the interior areas of the drywall. But where the drywall met the corners and edges of the room, and where it abutted the balusters on the stairway as you see in the photo, they dropped the ball. Some of their joint compound (the plaster-like substance that is used to smooth surfaces and to cover joins in drywall), got onto surrounding areas. See photo.

Joint compound will wipe off easily enough with water and a rag. But in this instance, it’s thick enough that I am not sure it will wipe off. And, if it does, or if it can be chipped off the painted surfaces, it will probably leave a gap or rough surface, neither of which is good for wallpaper to stick to.

When I smooth walls, I have a special technique that I use in corners and along edges, that ensures that the paper will have “a good bed to lie in.” I also remove any smoothing compound that gets onto walls or woodwork.

Just another reason to let the Wallpaper Lady do ALL the prep.