Posts Tagged ‘unstable’

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 .

William Morris Strawberry Thief in Houston Heights Powder Room

May 26, 2022

Originally, the whole room was this not-quite-milk-chocolate brown. Dark can look good in a small room like a powder room. But stark dark with no pattern is often claustrophobic.
Since this is a 100-year old bungalow with many layers of paint and potentially incompatible wall coatings, I was worried about unstable conditions inside the wall. Long story short, these conditions can lead to stress on the wall and delaminating layers, which also mean wallpaper seams that don’t stay down. Do a Search here to learn more.
So the homeowners agreed to have the walls lined, as a way to avoid these potential problems. Read previous post for more info.
The photo above shows the walls covered in the white liner.
Finished!
William Morris’s designs, and Strawberry Thief in particular, have been very popular the last two years or so.
His patterns are studies in symmetry and rhythm , and evoke the era of Art Nouveau and even Art Deco .
Last corner magically ended up with virtually no mis-match.

Morris & Co is the manufacturer. This is a nice, supple, non-woven material, and can be hung by pasting the wall , although I prefer to paste the paper. It has a vinyl coating and will be fairly washable – good for this family with a toddler. It’s also designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece when it’s time to redecorate.
See previous post for a pic of the label of the liner paper.

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.

Wrapping Wallpaper Around an Unstable Corner

February 3, 2022
I’m not sure what’s going on in this corner over a shower. But it looks like maybe some foundation movement has caused shifting in the corner, and the painters have used caulk to bridge a gap.
When you hang wallpaper, you don’t wrap a full sheet around an inside corner. You wrap about 1/16″ or 1/8″ around the corner, and then cut the strip in two vertically, and overlap the new cut piece on top of that 1/8″ wrap.
That allows for crooked or un-plumb corners, and lets you plumb up the next strip. It also allows a little “give” if the corner or drywall should move, and prevents the wallpaper from buckling or tearing in the corner.
But I was afraid that 1/8″ wouldn’t be wide enough to withstand movement, and we might end up with a gap in the corner.
So I wrapped the paper a little more, like 3/8″ around the corner. Here I’m placing the next strip so that it overlaps onto this wrapped 3/8″.
BTW, the gooky stuff at the bottom of the picture is the top of the shower tile, grout, and etc. It looks bad, but is actually nice and solid – and way above eye-level.
Done. No worries about gaps opening up.

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.

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.

Paint Problem

May 30, 2020


Hard to see, but the paint on this wall is crackling. This is most likely because there are unstable and incompatible layers of paint underneath.

In an old house like this (1940’s), there will have been many treatments to the walls over the years. Original oil-based paint, covered by latex paint, gloss paint, dust, more colors and layers of paint. And virtually never does the workman prep the walls properly.

Latex doesn’t like to stick to oil, and most paints don’t like to stick to gloss, plus other factors. So what happens is that all these disparate layers rebel, and sometimes you end up with flaking or peeling.

If wallpaper is applied on top of these unstable walls, when it dries and pulls taught and puts tension on the wall surface, there is the potential for these layers to give way, and you can end up with a curled seam, under which are layers of delaminated wall.

Weird Cracks

March 24, 2020


I have just finished stripping off wallpaper that I hung 12 years ago. The walls beneath are in perfect condition.

Except that, along just about the full height of just about every seam, I discovered these hairline cracks.

What is very odd is that the cracks have not made the wall unstable, and no material has pulled away from the wall (as often happens when you have layers of incompatible materials that will not adhere to each other – do a Search here on “delaminating”).

I believe that my original prep 12 years ago was to skim-float the walls and sand smooth. Then I wiped off the dust with a damp sponge, then followed with my favorite primer at the time, KILZ Original oil-based primer.

My thought is that the KILZ, or possibly the underlying joint compound, has separated due to tension put on it by the wallpaper seams, possibly shrinking and expanding over the years due to minute fluctuations in humidity and temperature.

Why that happened I don’t know.

This past year, I’ve had opportunity to remove wallpaper from several jobs that I hung as far back as 20+ years ago. All were over the very same original prep conditions. But none showed these little hairline cracks.

I always like to understand why something happens. That way, you have the potential to prevent it from happening in the future.

Not that I’m particularly concerned in this case. The tiny cracks have not created any problems, and the wall is not unstable.

I felt perfectly comfortable hanging the new paper right on these walls – however, I made very sure that no seams of the new paper landed exactly on top of those cracks. That would eliminate the chance of any stress put on the cracks by the new seams potentially causing them to weaken and pull away from the wall.