Posts Tagged ‘toilets’

Peel & Stick = Piece of Sh!t

September 24, 2019


We’re seeing more and more of this peel-and-stick, supposedly “removable” and “repositionable” plastic wallcovering. Unfortunately, many homeowners read the lofty claims by the manufacturers and think it will be a perfect alternative to traditional wallpaper. It is not.

The stuff is awful – I won’t hang it, and most of my friends won’t either.

First of all, you don’t NEED an alternative to traditional wallpaper – you just need quality paper and someone who will properly prep the walls and then properly install the paper.

Getting back to P&S, the stuff is virtually impossible to hang. Imagine a 9’x2′ strip of Contact Paper, trying to position that on a wall without it wrinkling or sticking to itself, and then trying to butt another strip up next to it. Not gonna happen. It also does not “remove easily” … well, it does, but it will tear your wall apart in the process.

These homeowners had some guys doing other work in the nursery, and they said they could hang the wallpaper, too. They weren’t experienced paperhangers, and they weren’t up to the battle against this P&S. Virtually no one is.

First, they should have smoothed out the textured wall. Second, most P&S products spec that the wall should be sealed with a semi-gloss paint, which needs to dry and cure for two weeks. As you can see, this adds time and labor charges to the job.

I’m not sure why there are gaps at the seams (top two photos), but better prep would surely have helped prevent this. The large wrinkles are due to the inflexiblity of the material and its unwillingness to twist or stretch into position. With the baby on the way, the homeowner dad got desperate and used nails to try to tack down the curling paper.

The baby girl arrived, the parents lived with this wall for a while, and, when life settled down, they contacted me. I counseled them to forget the P&S and to choose a traditional wallpaper.

They zoomed in on this butterfly pattern by SuperFresco. This material is one of the newish non-woven materials, which contain a component of fiberglass and thus don’t expand or shrink, and won’t tug at the wall, so fewer worries of seems popping loose. These qualities also make it possible to dry-hang the paper, by pasting the wall instead of pasting the paper. I usually paste the paper, but on a single accent wall such as this (no toilets or sinks or fancy moldings to work around), pasting the wall works beautifully. It also saved me lugging my heavy, bulky work table up to this townhome’s third floor. 🙂

Removing the P&S paper was easy – it is strong and held together while I tugged it off the wall … I could do it all from the floor, without even climbing the ladder. Unfortunately, it took much of the paint along with it. So much for the “removable” claim.

It was still as sticky as the day it was born – so I rolled it all up and stuck it to itself and tossed the whole mess into the trash. Done and gone!

I skim-floated the wall to smooth it, sanded smooth, vacuumed, wiped residual dust off the wall with a damp sponge, and then rolled on Gardz, a penetrating primer-sealer, that also is a great undercoat for wallpaper.

All that (especially waiting for the smoothing compound to dry) took several hours. I think it was about 6:00 before I started hanging wallpaper!

Thin non-wovens generally go up with pleasingly invisible seams, and this one did, too. I was surprised to discover more than a few large wrinkles and bubbles. This could have been because the paper got twisted during installation, because the wall was smooth but not flat, because of some uneven reaction between the substrate and the paste which caused off-gassing (burps!), or some other reason. But it meant that I had to go over the wall several times, checking to be sure all areas were firmly secured to the wall.

The finished accent wall looks great! It’s a gentler pattern and a quieter color, and doesn’t hit you in the face as the original floral pattern did. There’s a little bit of fun shimmer in the scattered pearlized butterflies, and the blue-grey wings coordinate nicely with the three grey walls in the rest of the room.

Finally, Baby Girl is ready to move into her own room!

City Scape Zig Zag Lines

April 26, 2019


I love this headboard. The homeowner and his father-in-law made this from scratch, and they made the bed frame, too. I think it’s supposed to look like rough ship-lapped wood … but to me, it looks like the skyline of a major city.

Realizing that the dark navy paint on the accent wall behind the headboard was flat and boring, the couple went to Dorota (read below) and found this fun and lively wallpaper pattern. It echoes the shape of the headboard, while adding a modern, urban edge to the room. And I think it looks like a city skyline!

Note that this pattern very much resembles one by York, in the Candice Olson line, which I have hung a number of times. I guess there is nothing wrong with a company riding the tide of trends, and making a knock-off of a proven design winner.

This is in a master bedroom in a newish townhome in the Cottage Grove neighborhood of Houston. My photo of the label didn’t turn out (Note to self: Always check your phone’s photo log before leaving work for the day.), but I can tell you that the manufacturer is Designer Wallpapers.

The material is a crisp, stiff, medium-weight non-woven material. This stuff has a fiberglass content, so it does not expand when it becomes wet with paste, and it also is designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece when it’s time to redecorate.

This material would have been more flexible if I had pasted the paper. But since this was one solitary accent wall, with no corners or toilets or sinks or windows to cut around, and since I didn’t feel like lugging my 7′ long and 30lbs table up the three flights of stairs to the master bedroom, I chose to paste the wall.

Because it was a dark paper adhered to a white backing, I used artist’s chalk to color the edges of the strips, so that the white backing would not peek out from the seams.

After cutting the non-woven strips, I roll them up backwards, with the colored surface rolled up inside, and the top coming off the roll first, and then secure it by wrapping an elastic hairband around it. This way, after paste is spread on the wall, when I climb up the ladder with the paper and unroll it, the printed surface will not come in contact with the paste on the wall.

Pasting the wall is a clean way to work, because no paste gets on the woodwork or ceiling, so there is nothing to wipe off. And the excess paper that is trimmed off at the ceiling and baseboard has no paste on it, so it’s clean and won’t stain anything it might fall onto.

The paper went up nicely, and the seams were positively invisible. Oddly enough, because the paper was supposed to not stretch or expand, I did have a little trouble with the pattern match dropping – the pattern matched at the top of the wall, but as you followed it down the 9′ high wall, the pattern began to rise. In order to accommodate this, I had to lower the pattern and allow a slight mis-match at the top of the wall, which permitted me to have a perfect pattern match at eye-level.

Also odd, since the paper was supposed to not expand, even though I hung my first strip against a plumb line (laser level beam), as it moved down the height of the wall, the pattern started to track to the right. As subsequent strips were hung, the paper became more and more off-plumb, until I reached the far left corner, and it was out of whack by more than half an inch from ceiling to floor.

If this had been some wild floral pattern, it would not have mattered. But with a rigid geometric pattern, and especially a vertical one like this, and on a dark background, even with a mere 1/8″ discrepancy, you’re going to notice when things get crooked.

Since the paper is not malleable, I was not able to stretch it into plumb. But I was able to pull a few tricks out of my hat to make it look like the paper was perfectly parallel to that left wall. I didn’t take photos, so no sense in my trying to explain it here. 😦

This wallpaper pattern is by Designer Wallcoverings, 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.

Large Silvery Metallic Damask in a Down-Sized Home’s Powder Room

September 22, 2018


Apologies for the bad pictures of a beautiful paper!

This couple lost their home in Kingwood (northeast Houston) to the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. They relocated to a new-but-smaller spec house in Somerset Green near central Houston, and are using interior designer Anthony Stransky of L Design Group to decorate their new home, while giving their traditional taste a tad more modern feel.

Damask wallpaper patterns are quite traditional, but the large scale and metallic sheen of this particular selection bring it into the modern age. And the over-sized pattern fills the walls nicely, in this sizeable powder room with 10′ high ceilings.

The pattern is in the Anna French collection by Thibaut Designs. It is printed on a thickish non-woven material. I usually prefer thin papers, but this was quite nice to work with. It didn’t crease like many N-W papers do, the seams were practically invisible, and, once pasted and softened, it was flexible and stretchable enough to accommodate some pretty un-straight and un-plumb walls.

This non-woven paper could have been hung using the paste-the-wall method. But I prefer the pliability that comes when the material itself is pasted. Plus, pasting the material definitely makes it easier when working around pedestal sinks and behind toilets.

The builder coated the walls of this large powder room with a bland dark tan paint. These homeowners had never used wallpaper before, but, once they went for the interior design team’s suggestion, there was no learning curve – They LOVE the newly papered powder room!

Anthony Stransky and founder Neal Leboeuf of L Design Group serve the entire Houston metropolitan area. They assist homeowners with interior design, new home buyers with all choices such as flooring, faucets, window coverings, fixtures, etc., and – when they get breathing room – they do events planning. Super guys, energetic and fun, with a look that’s modern and fun, with an urban edge. See them in a summer 2018 issue of Houston House & Home magazine – on the cover and in a story inside.

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.