Posts Tagged ‘wallcovering’

Using a Uni Tool

June 9, 2020

Digital Image

Digital Image

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I first saw this tool at the 2013 paperhangers’ convention, and it was lust at first sight. Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to buy one. It was designed by a member of the paperhangers’ guild (the Wallcovering Installers Association), and serves a number of purposes. The lady’s name is Eunice, so we call her tool a “Euni (or Uni) Tool.”

I’ll spare you the technical details and just focus on what I use it for mostly, which is a straight edge guide for double cutting wallpaper (splicing two pieces). There is a non-slip pad under the left edge, the pointy end allows you to get right up to the ceiling, and then you use the right edge as a guide when cutting. Today I used it when cutting through two layers of wallpaper, and also used it to cut through one layer, by butting it up against the next strip and then resting my blade against the edge of the trimmer.

In the bottom photo, you can see what a nice, tight seam this made.

Silver Cork in Art Niches

April 19, 2020

Digital ImageDigital ImageDigital ImageWallpapering just the back of a niche or bookcase is a wonderful way to get maximum impact for little money.

One of the first things the homeowner said when I arrived for work was how expensive this silver cork wallcovering was. The good thing is that we only need one double roll. That provided enough to paper the backs of both niches. One had a barely-noticeable seam down the middle, and the other, which was less than 36″ wide (the width of the material), was seamless.

The homeowners loved it, and are now happily searching for something to put in the niches. I think something three-dimensional would look best … an architectural piece, a statue, some old rusty object, etc.

The pattern is Thibaut #839-T-7047

Nubby Grasscloth / Not-So-Nubby Grasscloth

January 21, 2020


Grasscloth is made from natural fibers, and you never know quite exactly what you will get from bolt to bolt, and even from strip to strip.

In the first photo, you see a lot of “nubs” or knots – where the individual grass fibers have been tied together. You also see a seam, and see how uniform this particular material is. Quite often, the seams are a lot more visible. (see previous posts)

Back to nubs … In the second photo, a strip taken from the same bolt, there are far fewer knots.

Nothing right or wrong with either scenario – just showing how the material can change in appearance, even within the same bolt.

Personally, me, I prefer the more nubby texture.

Just an aside – most of this stuff is made in China. It is made by hand. And there really are workers who harvest tall reeds of grass, lay them in the sun to dry, and then come the little ladies who sit all day and grab handsfull of the grass and knot the reeds together, so these can then be sewn onto the paper backing and turned into wallcovering.

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. ­čÖé

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!

Sophisticated Look With White-Washed Metallic Cork

May 24, 2019


I’ve hung lots of metallic cork wallpaper (do a search here), but this is the first time I’ve seen one with a white-wash over the surface, and that has a plaid / stripe sort of design worked in. It’s quite becoming!

The white paint tones down the sheen of the dark gold metallic inks, so you get a bit of glam, but are not overwhelmed. And the crosshatching effect brings a whole new dimension to the look, adding texture and warmth – sort of like a man’s suit fabric.

I was afraid the striped effect would be very evident, but it’s really very subtle and pleasing. And it did a good job of disguising the seams, so there is virtually no paneling or shading like you would have with most natural material wallcoverings.

Of course, this accent wall has only two full-height seams, and the product could look quite different if you had it spread across a larger wall or room. Still, I am very pleased with the way it turned out.

This is on one wall of a living room in a 1939 house in the Rice University / Medical Center area of Houston. It is by Brewster, 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.

Man-Tailored Linen/Stringcloth/Grasscloth in a Former Boys’ Room

February 23, 2019


This large 2nd floor room in a 1934 home in the West University neighborhood of Houston was home to two boys, who took it on a 20+ year ride through crayons, toy cars, sports, school projects, first dates, college entrance forms, and professional careers. Now that the sons are grown and gone, Mom is calling the room her own. She got rid of the dorm look and is going for something calming and sophisticated, with a farm-house twist.

On the ceiling, I hung wallpaper that looks like ship-lapped wood… Joanna Gaines “Magnolia” book by York, in their SureStrip line.

To augment that, the homeowner chose another York pattern, this soft brown / charcoal linen weave stringcloth. It’s a textured material that resembles the fabric of a man’s tailored suit.

It’s beautiful with the wood plank look on the ceiling, and creates a snug, cozy feel in the large room.

I wasn’t happy with the quality of the product. See my previous post about the mismatches at the seams.

In addition, the material was thick and difficult to trim, and difficult to turn around corners. But worse, whatever backing the manufacturer used sucked up paste like the dickens. I pasted the back and booked according to directions. Yet when I went to hang a strip, it didn’t want to stick to the wall. There was virtually no paste on the back … it had all been sucked up into the backing, leaving little on the surface to hold the strip onto the wall. The strips also had a lot of memory, and wanted to keep curling up.

Although the instructions said the substrate was paper, I believe it was a non-woven material. That means it was dimensionally-stable and didn’t need to book or sit for any period after pasting. I tried various installation techniques and finally settled on lightly misting the back of each strip with water , rolling it up and letting it sit for a few minutes while I rolled paste onto the wall (not the back of the paper). Then I applied the paper to the wall.

The misting relaxed the paper and stopped the curling, and also made the material more pliable. Pasting the wall made sure that paste was there to hold the paper to the wall, instead of letting the thirsty substrate soak it all up.

Even so, this has been a difficult install. The paper is thick and hard to trim, and there are issues with the seams that do not make me happy (see yesterday’s post). I worked an 8-hour today and only got two walls done. So I have to go back tomorrow, and the job will take a day longer than I had planned for.

The wallcovering is made by York. I usually like their products, but, like I said, I am a bit displeased with this stuff. The homeowner, however, loves it.

From Fussy Victorian to Serene Home Office

February 10, 2019


Originally, this front bedroom in a 1925 bungalow in the Houston Heights was wallpapered in a dark green and red floral. It was lovely, and went beautifully with the home’s vintage vibe.

But the new homeowners (who have lived here many years, but are just now getting around to decorating this room) want to use this room as a home office, and they wanted something lighter and more modern. In the top photo, you see me stripping off this floral paper.

They were considering grasscloth, but, after reading my warnings about that product (see the page link to the right), they decided to avoid the color variations, staining, and fragility of that material, and instead went with a sort of faux grasscloth – this textured vinyl in a silvery grey color.

The color of the new paper goes perfectly with the gray paint on the woodwork. The paper has vertical lines in a striped pattern, as well as subtle horizontal shading that mimic real grasscloth, but in a more controlled and pleasing way. The commercial-grage vinyl is thick and durable, and will withstand bumps, splashes, and stains way better than most other types of wallcoverings.

On my end, though, the vinyl material was very difficult to work with. It is thick and stiff, and it is on an Osnaburg woven fabric backing, which is much like canvas. It takes a really sharp razor blade and a lot of strength to cut through it.

And because it is so thick, it’s very difficult to get it pressed up tightly against woodwork – so when you trim against the ceiling, doors, or baseboard, it’s very likely to get a gap that lets the wall behind it show. I have a special trim guide that makes a “fat cut,” which helps eliminate that gap.

Because the wallcovering is made of vinyl, it traps moisture behind it, so when the paste behind it dries, there is nowhere for the moisture to go, so you get off gassing – which is a nice way of saying that the paper “burps” and creates bubbles. I had to continually go back and chase bubbles out of the drying paper.

The design has a textured raised vertical stripe pattern. I had cut my first several strips with the intention to start hanging. Then I started measuring the wall, plotting the layout, and counting stripes. They were not laying out properly across the wall. After studying the paper’s pattern for a while, I realized that the stripes on the ends of the paper would not be spaced correctly – unless paper was trimmed off the edges of the wallpaper strips.

By removing 2.5″ from the edge, the stripes would be spaced correctly. I could trim this 2.5″ off, using my work table, a ruler, and my 6′ straightedge.

But the manufacturer’s trimming roller had left a slight beveled edge where it cut the paper. Since my hand-cut edge would be straight up, you would see an odd junction where my straight cut met against the manufacturer’s beveled cut at each seam.

So the only option for a very smooth seam was for me to trim some off both edges of the wallpaper. This worked out to 1.5″ off one side and 1″ off the other. Which was complicated further by the fact that some of the bolts of wallpaper were 1/4″ – 1/2″ narrower than others. So much for quality control at the factory!

But what this meant to me was that I had to carefully measure the width of each bolt of paper, compare that to the rhythm of the stripes crossing the paper horizontally, and determine how much to trim off each edge, in order to have the stripes be spaced correctly across the room.

In real life, most people are not going to notice a spacing difference of 1/2,” or even 1.” Especially in a room with very dim lighting and tons of shadows, and a pattern that is difficult to see in the first place.

But since I had to trim the paper’s edges anyway, it just made sense to trim it so that the spacing of the stripes fell as perfectly spaced as possible.

Try as hard as you may, hand-trimming wallpaper, especially thick, heavy, fabric-backed vinyl, is not as accurate as what they do at the factory. Thus there is always the potential for slight gaps or overlaps at the seams. With a thin paper, it’s possible to stretch and manipulate the material to make a good seam. But with this thick vinyl, I expected to see these gaps and overlaps. However, I was amazed that the vinyl was more malleable than expected – every single seam melted together perfectly.

Although the specs said that the trimmed paper would be 25″ – 26″ wide, by the time both edges were trimmed off and the stripes spaced as they should be, the paper was actually only 24″ wide (give or take an extra 1/4″ or so). Lose 2″ on each of eight strips going across a wide wall … and that can screw up your engineering of the wall and your plans of the number of strips needed and how many bolts of paper will be required.

All of this fiddlin’ and futzin’ took a lot of time, and I was only able to trim and hang paper on two walls each day. So, with prepping the walls and hanging the paper in this … it was something like a 16 single roll room… it took me a full three days. Which is what I had planned on, so we stayed right on schedule.

There was no brand name, so I don’t know the manufacturer, but the label said “JL 8008.” This commercial-grade paper is available in the 27″ width (which is what I can work with) or the wider 54″ (which is more for commercial settings). It 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.

After 30 Years, It’s Time for an Update

December 19, 2018


These homeowners were updating their 30-year old home in Sugarland. To the dining room and hallway, they added crown molding at the top and wainscoting with block-and-panel molding at the bottom. Fine moldings add a real touch of elegance.

But the wife has a bit of a renegade spirit, and really likes the new “industrial modern” decorating style. So it was time for the ’90’s era faux-finish wallpaper to go – along with the border which you can just see a tidbit of it peeking out from under the new crown molding.

The new wallcovering choice is a small “flame” textured vinyl in a steely grey/taupe/gold color. It perfectly pulls together the industrial modern light fixture and the classic paneling.

The cut edges of the textured vinyl, along with the sheen of the material, really reflect light and bounce it around the room.

Like most solid-colored wallcoverings with no pattern, with or without a texture, this selection was subject to some color differences between strips. The dining area with 5′ high walls went up with a very homogenous look. Ditto one wall of the 8′ high hallway to the right. But another wall in that same hallway showed some differences between strips.

To minimize these differences, I tried various things.

First, I made sure to hang each strip sequentially, as they came off the bolt. That would reduce color variations, if the ink had gotten lighter or darker as the printing process went on at the factory.

I colored the edges of the vinyl with chalk of a matching hue, so that if a “high” area of the textured vinyl butted up against a “low” area of the next strip, the white edges would be covered with a matching color.

Next I tried reversing every other strip. This means you hang one strip right-side-up, and the next one upside-down. This ensures that one edge of the paper is being hung against itself, so, if there is a color difference, it is gradual instead of abrupt. Difficult to explain, but it makes sense if your mind’s eye can follow it through.

Interestingly enough, reversing every other strip worked quite nicely on the dining room walls, as you see in the photo. But in the full-height walls to the right, reversing the strips resulted in paneling. So there I hung all the strips right-side-up – and it looked great.

But on the far wall, no matter if I hung right-side-up or reversed, you could see differences between the strips (last photo). I replaced one strip once, and another I replaced twice – but never really loved the way it turned out. On some of the other seams, even though I had colored the edges with chalk, the white vinyl still showed. At some point, you just have to say, “This is how the product is.”

This is also why you discuss this with the homeowner before starting the project – and hopefully before she makes her decision to purchase this product. In this case, the homeowner was originally looking at grasscloth – and that product would most likely have had much more noticeable color differences.

Lighting has a lot to do with it, too. Strong light, filtered light, incandescent or LED, light straight-on or light from an angle, all put their thumbprint on how the wallpaper looks.

This wallpaper pattern is by York (one of the homeowners is originally from York, Pensylvania!), 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.

Grasscloth the Color of Milk Chocolate in a Kingwood Master Bedroom

December 1, 2018


This couple got married, blended their families, built a house, then got flooded by 3′ of water during Hurricane Harvey – all within less than a year…. Talk about stress!

Well, now that the home is back together, this soothing master bedroom will give them a calm and quiet sanctuary. The wallpaper went on one feature wall, behind the headboard.

This is a grasscloth wallpaper the color of milk chocolate. Although there were some minor shading issues, I was very pleased that the color of the strips was pretty consistent from strip to strip. The bottom photo shows a discrepancy in the weaving – this is not considered a defect, but “part of the inherent beauty of this natural product.”┬á Luckily, it was in a┬álocation that would be hidden behind the bed.┬á There was one more similar spot, but it was much smaller and not anything to complain about.

The name on the label was something generic like “Quality Wallcoverings.”

The material 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.

Mildew on Wall Indicates Moisture Problem – Somewhere

October 9, 2018


I have just stripped off a solid vinyl wallcovering that had been up for at least 10 years, possibly twice that. The entire wall was covered with mildew. The mildew was present just on the exterior wall; not any of the walls that connected to interior areas of the home.

Mildew breeds when there is moisture. This indicates that there may be a leak in the home’s siding, or a leak in a window on an upper floor allowing water to get inside the wall and into the drywall. Another possibility is that plumbing inside the wall could have sprung a leak, and also caused the drywall to become wet.

Because the wallcovering was solid vinyl, it trapped the moisture between the wall and the wallpaper, and that allowed mildew to grow between the two surfaces. I’m rather surprised that the mildew didn’t penetrate through the wallpaper and show on the surface. The drywall didn’t appear to be soggy or rotted or compromised.

Another reason why I don’t like solid vinyl wallpapers.