Posts Tagged ‘torque’

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.

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 wallpaperlady@att.net

Pink Horses for Baby Girl’s Nursery

September 8, 2021
The homeowners had this board-and-batten wainscoting added to one wall of the nursery. It compliments similar elements in other areas of the house.
Finished. The side walls are painted a very, very faint pink blush color – just enough to add warmth and unity to the room.
Horses! The mom-to-be had the manufacturer enlarge the scale of the figures, to better fit the size of the wall. That’s a nice service from Spoonflower.
This wallpaper is hung by overlapping about 1/2″ at the seams. This is not common, but there are several companies that work this way. I actually like it. It eliminates the chance of gapping at the seams as the paper dries and shrinks. And it distributes torque / tension on the wall cross that 1/2″, so less worry about a seam pulling up due to wall surface delamination.
This overlap does leave you with a bit of a visible ridge running the length of each seam. A little bit noticeable here, but less so on a busier pattern with less “blank” areas.
Spoonflower is a nice company. But I like ONLY their “Pre-Pasted Removable Smooth” option. I am not as fond of their “Pebble” – mainly because they can’t describe clearly what, exactly, it is. And definitely Do NOT get any peel & stick product, by this company or any other (see page to the right.)

This home is in a new subdivision in League City.

Compensating Around A Window

June 29, 2021

Going around windows, especially wide windows, can be tricky. Wallpaper expands, it twists, the design can travel up or down from the ceiling line – and all this can go on independently of each other, with the sections over the windows moving out of whack at a different rate than the strips below the window.

The challenge then becomes, when the next full-length strip is hung, joining the strips over the window with those under the window … getting the pattern to line up and the strip to lie flat on the wall without torquing out of shape.

In this case, the pattern lined up pretty well. But strips under the window ended up being wider than those over the top. So there was a 1/2″ overlap, which would mess up the pattern match. This 1/2″ also caused the full-length strip to warp and develop a wrinkle.

This was an easy pattern and placement for dealing with such issues. All I had to do was cut along one of the palm tree stems, slide the strip up so the palm leaf pattern lined up, straighten out the full-length strip and work out the warp, and overlap that 1/2″.

All that sounds simple. But the truth is, I probably spent the better part of an hour getting it all to work out.

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).

You’ve Gotta Get Dust Off The Walls

September 9, 2020


If you look closely at the right side of the corner, you will notice dust on the textured wall.

Before anything can go on the wall – primer, wallpaper, smoothing compound – all the dust needs to be removed.

This is because nothing sticks to dust. Any sort of stress on the wall, such as new wallpaper drying and shrinking and putting torque / tension on the walls, or wallpaper expanding and contracting with temperature and humidity changes, can cause the material to let go from the wall, most usually at the seams.

My example is that it’s like when you flour a cake pan – the paper will kinda stick, but it won’t really stick.

So before I started to apply my smoothing compound to the walls, I went around the entire master bedroom with a damp sponge and wiped the dust off. A little dust fills up a sponge quickly, so I had to keep rinsing it clean frequently.

Really High Walls

January 3, 2020


The walls in this bathroom are over 12′ high. I could not reach the ceiling – especially where I had to lean over the vanity and the linen cabinet – with my 5′ or 6′ ladders. So I had to bring in my 8′ ladder.

Even with the super-high ladder, it is still tricky and potentially dangerous to hang wallpaper here – especially reaching to the corners over the vanity and cabinet.

In addition, the bottom feet spread almost 5′ x 3′, which makes it difficult to maneuver in a small room like a bathroom. Not to mention that it’s heavy.

So while working so high up and on a tenuous structure, it’s crucial to pay attention to your reach, weight, weight distribution, torque / backward tension, pressure you’re putting on the wall while hanging the wallpaper, etc., as well as to have a very quiet and interruption-free setting, where you can concentrate on getting the wallpaper up and staying safe.

Another Reason to Not Let the Contractor Prep the Walls for Paper

May 10, 2018


Folks, please do NOT let your contractor or painter “prep the walls for wallpaper.” They simply don’t know how to remove wallpaper properly, and they don’t know what is required to prepare the surface for the new paper. Do a Search here (upper right corner) for more examples.

In this case, “I know that he removed the old paper, because I saw piles of it on the floor,” said the homeowner. But this photo proves that he didn’t. Nor did he bother to remove the towel bar, because when it was removed later, you can see the old wallpaper still under it.

I put the original wallpaper up back in the ’90’s, so I know that, with my good primer underneath, with a bucket of warm water and a little time, that paper would have come off easily and left the wall in perfect condition for new paper.

Instead of properly removing the old paper, this contractor skim-floated over it. That’s the thick white stuff you see in the photo. After sanding the wall smooth (which he did OK in most of the room, but, as usual, did a less than stellar job in corners and around moldings and door trim), he should have removed dust from the walls with a damp sponge – but virtually no contractor bothers with this step.

Removing dust is crucial, because if dust is left on the wall, it may hold up OK under paint, but when wallpaper is applied on top of it, when the paste dries, the paper shrinks a tad and puts torque / tension on the wall. When the walls are dusty, there is the potential for the surfaces to delaminate (come apart), leaving you with seams that gap and curl back. These cannot be glued back down, because the surface underneath is unstable and provides nothing for the paste to adhere to.

So next the contractor primed the walls. There was no mention of what primer he used. But I can tell you that primers formulated for paint are not advisable under wallpaper. PVA-based primers are commonly used under paint; they are designed to keep the paint from flashing. But they are soft and don’t provide a stable surface for wallpaper.

Primers formulated for wallpaper are designed to 1.) adhere to the underlying surface, 2.) provide a “crystalized” surface that the wallpaper paste can bite into and grab ahold of, 3.) provide a surface with “slip,” which will ease installation of the new wallpaper, 4.) allow for easier removal of the wallpaper later, with minimal damage to the wall, and 5.) withstand the torque / tension created by the drying wallpaper.

Ask a contractor or painter if he knows any of the information in the paragraph above. You will receive a blank stare.

All more reasons to NOT let the contractor prep the walls for paint.

A Good Reason Not to Double-Cut

April 10, 2017

Digital Image

Digital Image


A double-cut is a paperhanger’s term for splicing two strips of wallpaper together. The edges of the strips are overlapped about 1″ on the wall, and then, bracing against a straightedge, a sharp razor blade and plenty of pressure are used to cut through both layers of wallpaper. Remove excess paper from both layers, and you have a perfectly butted seam.

The only problem is that it’s virtually impossible to do this without scoring into the wall, slicing through the top layer (or more). This cut makes the surface unstable, and when the new wallpaper dries, it shrinks and puts tension (torque) on the wall’s surface. This shrinking and tension can cause the wall to split and curl back, leaving a gap or a gaping wallpaper seam.

This is what you see in the photo.

To remedy this, I wanted to bridge the gap with something that would move with any shifting in the drywall, and that would not cause ridges under the new paper.

The new wallpaper was a thick, textured material, so I was not overly worried about ridges from the patch telegraphing through it.

I used strips from the paper backing of the old wallpaper / grasscloth I had just stripped off the wall to cover the cut wall areas. I tore the patches, rather than cutting, because the “feathered” edges of the torn paper would be less noticeable under the new paper than a sharp, straight edge would be.

The strips were wet from having been stripped off the wall with water, and the wall’s surface had damp paste residue remaining on it, so the patching strips adhered nicely to the wall surface.

But, to be sure, I brushed on Gardz, a penetrating sealer and “problem wall solver.” It soaked in, bound the surfaces together, dried, and made a taught, strong surface for the new wallpaper to go over.

Still, I made sure that my seams did not fall in the same exact spots as these compromised areas of wall. That greatly reduces the possibility of seams in the new wallpaper from curling back or pulling away from the wall.

As it turns out, because of the way I engineered the wall and various other factors, I did end up doing a double cut splice over this door. But I made sure it was not in the same place as the compromised wall surface. In addition, I protected the wall by putting a thin polystyrene (plastic) strip under the wallpaper before I cut, so that when I pressed my razor blade hard to cut through the two layers of cork, it did not damage the wall. Sorry, no pics, but there are other photos of that process on my blog, if you want to do a Search.