Posts Tagged ‘tension’

More William Morris Strawberry Thief in Houston Heights Hall Bathroom

June 24, 2022
Because I feared unstable walls in this 1920’s bungalow in this neighborhood (do a Search for previous posts), before hanging the decorative wallpaper, first I hung a non-woven liner paper on all the walls. That’s the white material you see in the photo.
The liner was hung horizontally so its seams can’t line up with the decorative paper. The idea is to disperse tension from drying wallpaper and changes due to humidity and etc., so as to deflect tension away from sketchy wall surfaces, and thus prevent delamination of multiple unstable layers deep inside the wall. Again, do a Search here to learn more.
Finished vanity area, with pattern centered on the light fixture.
Corner shot.
This colorful and symmetrical pattern is quite popular; I’ve hung it a number of times just this year.
Englishman William Morris designed wallpaper and fabrics during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.
The styles then were Art Nouveau and Arts & Crafts. This design reflects a bit of each.
Wallpaper expands when it gets wet with paste, and then can shrink just a tad as it dries. The liner helps prevent that, but you can still end up with teeny gaps at some seams.
To prevent the white backing from showing through, I run a stripe of dark paint under where each seam will fall.
I use matt finish craft paint from the hobby store, diluted with a little water (in the orange bottle cap) and smeared on the wall with a scrap of sponge. Use a ruler or level and a pencil to mark where you want to stripe the dark paint.
Remember to allow for that expansion as the paper absorbs moisture from the paste. Meaning, if the paper is 20.5″ wide, and expands 1/2″, you’ll want to run your line at about 21.” And make sure that your painted swath is about an inch wide.
I also run a bit of dark chalk along the edges of each strip, to prevent the white substrate from showing at the seams (no photo).
Morris & Co. makes this iconic Strawberry Thief.
Interestingly enough, most times when I’ve hung a Morris paper, it’s been a non-woven paste-the-wall material.
Today’s option was a surprise – a traditional British pulp . This is a pretty basic and somewhat old-fashioned type of substrate . Sort of like construction paper, or the pages of an old family Bible .
The paper is very fragile , and can tear easily. You have to keep using new razor / trimming blades, because the material dulls blades quickly, and when dull they will drag and tear the paper.
Pulp papers also require a soaking / booking time after pasting , to allow time for the material to absorb the paste , soften a bit, and expand . The edges of the strips like to dry out , so I’ve learned to dip about 1/4″ of the booked ends ( booked means the pasted side of the wallpaper strip is folded onto itself, bottom edge folded up and top edge folded down to meet in the middle), into a bucket of clean water.
Then it goes into a black plastic trash bag to soak and relax for a few minutes before hanging. I use this opportunity to paste the next strip.
Non-woven wallpapers have advantages, because they do not expand when wet, and therefor you can get accurate measurements. They also can be pasted and hung immediately, with no waiting time. Alternately, you can paste the wall .

Another Installer’s Problems With British Pulp Paper

May 31, 2022
Scroll down a few posts to see where I hung this exact same pattern, and coincidentally just a few blocks away. I had absolutely no problems. Yet this poor installer struggled and ended up with many dissatisfactory issues.
In this photo, you see where the wallpaper has shrunk at the seams and left a gap, some tears, and a patch to cover a mishap.
More tears and gaps.
Paper coming lose from the wall. Not taking primer or paint with it. But you can see the adhesive clinging to the back of the paper. I’m suspecting this is clay adhesive. Nothing wrong with clay, but I prefer one of the vinyl-based adhesives.
Not sure what the guy used as a primer (if any).

This is the popular Strawberry Thief by William Morris , usually sold by Morris & Co. I’m believing the problem here is the material on which this pattern was printed.

The site from which this was purchased called it a ” heritage ” paper. It is, indeed, made of what we call a British pulp material. Old-fashioned, it is. These days, most wallpaper coming from the U.K. is printed on non-woven stock. The paper I hung a few days ago was non-woven.

Pulp wallpapers have a nice look. But they have no protective coating, so become soiled easily. They soften when wet with paste and tear easily, and can also shred under the razor blade while trimming. They expand when wet with paste, and then shrink as they dry, which often results in gaps at the seams.

Even skilled installers can have difficulties when working with this stuff. In fact, on the private Facebook page of the Wallcovering Installers Association ( WIA ), we have just been discussing this very same topic.

I believe this previous installer had a few shortcomings, such as lack of skill and maybe used the wrong or no wallpaper primer. But I think the real and unsurmountable culprit was the substrate.

Moral: If given the option, choose a non-woven material. They are made with minimum 20% polyester content, and thus are resistant to shrinking, tearing, and tension at the seams. Many other advantages, too. Non-wovens are also referred to as paste 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.
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.
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.

” Shrinking ” a Strip to Make for a Good Corner

February 5, 2022
I’m hanging wallpaper moving from right to left. The wallpaper is 21″ wide. The width between my last strip (over the door) and the corner is 19″ wide. This means that my next strip is going to wrap around the corner by 2″.
This is not good. You never want to wrap wallpaper around an inside corner, especially a tiny amount like 2″. Corners are never straight, and thus the wrapped bit will be warped and un-straight. The next strip will never butt up correctly with it, leaving gaps and overlaps. You will also end up with a new strip that is not hanging plumb.
Also, wrapping around corners doesn’t allow for movement in the corner as the temperature changes in the room, or as the house shifts on its foundation.
The goal is to wrap the corner by about 1/16″ – 1/8″, and then overlap the new strip on top of that narrow wrap.

This is how I want my strip to land in the left corner.
Bottom line – if I want my next strip to wrap just 1/8″ around the corner on the left, then it’s going to overlap by 2″ onto the existing strip on the right. If that happens, we’ll lose 2″ of the pattern and have some eye-jarring cut-off pattern motifs.
So, somewhere, I need to “lose” 2″ of paper. Looking at the short seam above this window, I see where I can remove some paper without messing up the pattern too much.
I’ve removed the strip and used my straightedge and a razor blade to slice off 3/4″ of paper.
The blue plastic is there to keep paste off my table, and the shiny thing is a protective plastic strip I use to keep from cutting into the wooden table.
3/4″ removed.
Slid back together, you don’t much notice the very minor pattern mis-match created by the absence of the narrow strip.
This could work on a longer strip as well, depending on the pattern motifs.
Now the left corner is how I want it.
But the right edge of the strip is overlapping 1″ or more over the existing strip over the window. You can see there is a pattern mis-match, not to mention a bump where these two pieces overlap. So I’m going to do a double cut and splice these two strips together.
Splicing means you press hard to cut through both layers of wallpaper. Your blade will probably cut a bit deeper and dig into the wall, scoring the surface. This is bad, because an un-intact surface can give way when wallpaper paste dries and the material shrinks, tugging at the surface. This can actually cause layers of the wall to come apart ( delaminate ), which means the wallpaper will come up at the seam. Do a Search here to learn more.
To prevent this, I’m using a Boggess Strip (a clear, thin, flexible strip of polycarbonate Lexon plastic padding ) to put under where the splice will take place, to protect the wall. You can’t cut through this stuff!
The strip in place.
I’ve smoothed the left strip back into place overlapping the existing strip. Next I’ve used a short straightedge and a sharp (important) new (important) single edged razor blade to slice through both layers of wallpaper. Here I’m removing the top strip of excess cut-off paper.
Now I’ve pulled back part of the strip on the left so I can remove the excess wallpaper on the bottom. Note that the cut is a little uneven in areas, to cut around the leaves in the design.
Removing the Boggess Strip. This does put tension on your wall, so you’ve got to have a good wallpaper primer underneath, applied over a sound surface.
The two strips smoothed back together.
The view from below.
I used a pencil to touch up the edges of the leaves, to make them look more rounded and natural.

The polycarbonate strips are named after the inventor, Steve Boggess, a colleague and fellow member of the Wallcovering Installers Association. Get them here:

More Work on Yesterday’s Delaminating Wall

January 15, 2022
Re yesterday’s post … after I got the wall stabilized, I skim-floated the surface to smooth it. That dried overnight, and today I sanded it smooth, vacuumed up the dust and then wiped residual dust off the wall with a damp sponge, and then primed with good old Gardz. I feel pretty confident that that wall is secure enough to withstand the tension of drying wallpaper. But, just to be sure, I applied a liner. A liner is a special paper that goes on the wall under the decorative wallpaper. In this case, the purpose is to distribute tension so that no stress is placed directly on the wall. So it’s important that the seams of the liner and the decorative wallpaper do not line up or fall on top of each other. This way any tension is dispersed and distributed, and any inner surface that wants to delaminate will be held in place by the layers of paper over it. In this photo, the section to the left has the new white liner, and I am moving toward the right to finish this wall.
t’s important that the liner be flat and that the seams lie down tightly, so no bumps or ridges show under the new wallpaper. I was really pleased with how these seams just melted away.
There are all kinds of liner papers out there. This one is a stiff, somewhat thin non-woven option made in Germany.
Using a liner does add to the cost of the installation, for both material and labor to hang it.

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.

Contractor Cuts Into Wall Surface – Bad

December 28, 2021
Due tomold issues, there isnew Sheetrock on the wall to the right, and some of the paper removed by the contractor around areas where he was working. He also added crown molding at the top of the wall, so removed a few inches of wallpaper below the molding. This is preferable to him putting the molding right on top of the wallpaper.
Unfortunately, his blade cut through not just the wallpaper, but through the wallpaper primer and into the drywall. Here you can see the top paper layer of drywall peeling loose.

This is bad, because it allows for an unstable sub-surface, and creates the potential for anything (paint, wallpaper) put on top of it to also come loose as it dries and puts tension on the wall.

I skim-floated over the areas, then primed on top. Hopefully this will keep everything buried and sound.

Re Yesterday’s Post – Tricks to Stave off Wall Delamination

October 14, 2021
One way to (hopefully) prevent an unstable wall from delaminating to to hang a liner paper. A liner is a special paper that goes on first, and your finish paper goes on top. Usually, liners are hung horizontally rather than vertically. The idea is that the seams of the two papers will not line up, so that eliminates the worry of stress from drying and shrinking wallpaper tugging at the wall surface below. But liners add more materials cost, and also labor cost to hang it, plus time, because it has to dry overnight. This homeowner had already shelled out a lot of money for this Schumacher (high end brand) “Acanthus” pattern. So I devised a method to do a “mini-liner” effect. I took liner paper and cut 2″ strips, and applied them to the wall under where the seams would fall.
Here I am using my laser level to mark where the next seam would fall. Next I rolled paste on the wall, and then I applied the strip of liner paper. The liner will straddle the area where the seam lands, and thus disperse the tension on the wall across its width. Any stress put on the unstable wall will be covered by the liner strip and by the wallpaper, hopefully preventing any chance of delamination (the wall coming apart).
I like the product I used today because it’s “non-woven” material, which has a high polyester content and shouldn’t shrink or tear. But it’s not as thin as I thought … I had hoped the thin strips would be undetectable under the textured grasscloth. But I was disappointed that, in certain lighting, the vertical ridges from this very thin material do show a tiny bit. I was unable to go back and open the seam and remove the strips, because – you guessed it – the surfaces of the wall began to come apart. Tomorrow I will try a different material.
The next day I tried a trick recommended by colleagues on my paperhanger’s Facebook page – to use cash register receipt print-out tape, available at office supply stores. This material is a lot thinner – but it is also not nearly as strong. I hope it holds up to the tension placed on the seams by the wallpaper. It is thin, and much less noticeable under the textured grasscloth … although I did see one area where the vertical ridge was just just barely detectable under the paper.

This is a grasscloth pattern called ” Acanthus ” by Schumacher.

Danger Signs of an Unstable Wall Surface

October 13, 2021
These nails were holding picture hooks to the wall. The hooks had an adhesive backing. When they were removed from the wall, chunks of latex paint stuck to them and pulled away from the wall, revealing a crumbly sub-surface. This is bad news for wallpaper that might be hung on top of this.
Other spots. What happens is, this is a 90 year old house. Over the years, many coats of paint and other surface treatments have been applied to the walls of this dining room. These coatings are not necessarily compatible with each other. Plus they may have been applied without the proper surface preparation. Oil based paint, then latex, then someone rolls on a gloss paint, the next guy follows with latex but neglects to de-gloss the previous layer so the new layer doesn’t really stick well.
Somewhere along the line, something got chalky. Here you see I have wiped crumbly chalky substance from inside the wall. This is why the latex paint is not adhering well and pulled away so easily. Nothing sticks to dust or grit or chalk.
Gardz is cool stuff. It’s a penetrating sealer that soaks in and actually binds crumbly materials together, drying into a hard, solid mass. The problem here is, it won’t penetrate the paint that is on top of the unstable layer, so we’re still dealing with a wall that has potential to come apart (delaminate).
Gardz applied. You can see how it has soaked into the porous areas, but is sitting on top of the latex paint.

The problem with an unstable wall and wallpaper, is that, as wallpaper sits on a wall and the paste dries, the paper shrinks just a tad, and this shrinking puts tension / torque on the wall beneath it. Sometimes this is actually powerful enough to pull the layers inside the wall apart, resulting in seams that split open.

These are not “loose seams,” but the paper actually taking layers of paint and dust along with it. Really can’t be repaired.

So best to find a way to prevent it from happening in the first place. More on that later.

Fun Over-the-Door Kill Point With Swirled Damask

October 10, 2021
Often when hanging wallpaper, you start in a corner. As you work your way around the room and make your way back to that corner, and your final strip meets up with the first strip, this virtually always results in a pattern mis-match (not shown). That’s why we try to hide it behind a door or in another inconspicuous place. But sometimes, as in this powder room, there is no out-of-the-line-of-sight corner to put the “kill point,” as we call it. I think the room looks better when the pattern matches in all four corners (as in the photo).
So, instead of ending with an 8′ long pattern mis-match in a corner of this room, I decided to put it in a 1′ high area over the door – where not many people are going to be looking, anyway. Here is the gap where my last strip (on the right) will meet up with the first strip (on the left) .
Positioning the last strip in place.
Here I have overlapped the final strip on top of the first strip. Amazingly, the pattern looks like it matches. (The pattern doesn’t really match, but the design is so similar that no one is going to detect the difference.)
Once the strip on the left is overlapped onto the strip on the right, I’m ready to make a double cut – a fancy term for a splice. I cut through both layers of wallpaper – in this case squiggling a little to follow the contours of the design, rather than make a sharp straight cut. In the photo, I’m removing the cut-off piece from the top layer.
Here I have removed both cut-off pieces, from the top and bottom layers, and am getting ready to fit the two remaining strips together.
Strips smoothed together, pasted wiped off the surface, and this looks pretty darned good!
Here I’ve done a few touch-ups with pencil, to soften the look of the two very small motifs that got chopped off straight. A little more artistry with colored pencils, chalk, or paint would disguise these even more.
It’s important to note that you don’t want to make your splice directly on the wall. You don’t want to risk that your razor blade could score the wall surface. Because if the wall becomes un-intact, when the wallpaper dries and shrinks and puts torque / tension on the seam (and this doesn’t always happen right away … it can happen over time, with changes in temperature and humidity), it can cause the disturbed / cut portion of wall to delaminate and pull apart. This means that this weak point in the wall can come apart, resulting in a seam that pops open, taking interior layers of the wall with it. This is a lot harder to fix than a strip of wallpaper that simply comes loose from the wall. The best way to prevent this is to not cut into the wall in the first place. The best way to ensure that is to use something to protect the wall when you make your cut. Some people pad the wall with scrap wallpaper, or strips of old vinyl. But I much prefer these ingenious strips of polycarbonate plastic (pictured). They are thin and flexible, but hard enough that there is no way you could push a razor blade through them. They’re about 2.5″ wide, and come in rolls of … I forget how many feet are on a roll. If you are interested in getting your hands on some of this stuff, send me a Message, or email me at