Posts Tagged ‘wallpaper’

Roiling Clouds Wallpaper in a Montrose Bathroom

July 4, 2019


Historic British manufacturer’s Fornasetti Line “Nuvolette” wallpaper pattern… I have long wanted to hang this paper, and finally got my chance today!

The walls in this first-floor bathroom of a newish contemporary styled home in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston were textured and covered with a semi-gloss paint. (top picture) It took me a day and a half to skim-coat the walls with smoothing compound, let dry, sand smooth, vacuum up the dust, wipe dust off the walls, prime, and let the primer dry. (second photo shows the smoothed and primed walls)

You would see this pattern better in a larger, less broken-up room, but here you can tell that it is a powerful depiction of roiling thunder clouds storming powerfully toward the west.

The product is unusual, in that it comes in a 2-pack set of “A” and “B” rolls. Each bolt is the same width and length as many Cole & Son papers. But the pattern is placed on those bolts very atypically, and the pattern match is equally unexpected.

Usually, wallpaper patterns match straight across from strip to strip. (straight across match) This means you see the same design element at the top of the wall on every strip. Or they drop down bit on every other strip, then pop back up to the top of the wall on the third strip. (drop match)

A much less common and much more complicated patter match is when the pattern motif repeats itself at the top of the wall only on every fourth (or more) strip. It can take a lot of mind-bending to figure out how to get the pattern placed correctly, and without wasting more paper than necessary.

Look at the upper left of the label, and it says that when placing the A strip to the right of the B strip, it’s a straight match. But when you position the B strip to the right of the A strip, it’s a drop match. This makes everything even wackier and more complicated!

What helped me here is that this home had plenty of room to roll out the bolts of paper, and plot out how the pattern would fall. (see photo) No one was home, so I had peace and quiet to concentrate and get my head around the intricacies of the pattern.

It turned out that the “straight match” indicated on the label was an error – no strips featured a straight match. Good thing I had all that floor space to roll the bolts out, so I could determine that.

Because the pattern match was so unpredictable, it was not possible to cut all of the “odd” and “even” strips ahead of time. And the very unlevel / unplumb qualities of the room also stepped in to make this impossible.

One thing that helped was that this was a non-woven material, which meant that the wallpaper did not need to be booked (left to sit and absorb paste and expand) before hanging. So as soon as I was able to figure out the pattern match for the upcoming strip, I was able to paste and hang the strip-in-hand.

If I had had to figure, measure, plot, paste, book, and then finally hang each strip individually, it would have taken a lot more than the eight hours it did take me to hang this 8-roll bathroom.

A big help on this pattern is that I belong to the Wallcovering Installers Association, and I check our Facebook page every day. (Sorry – it’s private … you can’t peek!) It was there that I learned about others’ experiences with this Nuvolette design, and how they tackled the pattern repeat and the install.

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Fudging the Pattern To Squeeze It All In

July 2, 2019


For various reasons too complicated to explain here, the pattern working its way across the top of this window, and then down the side with the goal of placing a full flower in the narrow space between the window and the shower tile, was not moving in sync with the pattern underneath. My job was to make it look like everything matched up.

I had about 3 1/2″ of excess paper horizontally that I needed to eliminate. I was able to take my straightedge and trim 1 1/2″ off one side of one strip, and another 1″ from the side of another strip. Then I split one piece in the middle, and removed a 1/2″ wide section. I was able to do this because there were a few areas in these short strips that had no flowers – so there were no design motifs that got chopped off.

Thus, I had removed 3″ of material. To get the left side to match up with the right side, I still needed to loose 1/2″ of paper. You really can’t measure precisely enough, nor trim straight (or at an angle, if need be), to get these strips to butt together perfectly.

So I opted to use an overlap to ease out the excess paper. I cut the paper in two vertically, following along the lines of the flower pattern (top photo). Note that the flower reaches from the tile to the window molding, so the printing disguises the cut area. This would be much more visible if you did it in an area where there were no printed motifs.

Then I positioned the two pieces of wallpaper next to the existing paper on the wall, and overlapped the center sections with the flowers. A half inch or so of pattern has been lost – but no body’s going to notice that. And even though there is a slight ridge where the overlap is, in a 4″ high section under the window, no one is going to notice that, either.

Another cool thing is that, because the pattern did not have to match any elements at either seam, I was able to raise the flower design up, so that you see as much of the flower as possible (instead of half the flower being chopped off where it hit the top of the tile).

Similar Color, But More Uplifting Pattern

June 29, 2019

The original wallpaper in this rear powder room / pool bathroom of a home in the Memorial Villages neighborhood of Houston was very dark blue with tiny black dots on it – from a distance, it looked like a solid color. It was an interesting pattern, but didn’t have personality of its own, so needed artwork to set it off.

This new pattern is very similar in background color, but the upward-moving foliage, accented by the beautifully painted hummingbirds, add a whole lot of movement and character to the room.

The leaves are a shimmery metallic champagne sort of color, and the hummingbirds have a mesmerizing iridescence; they almost look like photographs.

The stained glass window, which had been a bit of an odd duck – mostly because of the baseball in the center – became an asset when the wallpaper went up, because the colors of the birds miraculously matched the colors in the window.

Because the dark paper was printed on a white substrate, I used chalk to color the edges, so that white would not peek out at the seams.

This paper is by Harlequin, a British company. It is on a non-woven backing, and could be hung by the paste-the-wall method, or, as I did, by pasting the paper. It was nice to work with, but it could be creased easily, which would have made it difficult in a room that required more turns and intricate cuts and objects to trim around.

The wallpaper 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.

Trouble Brewing? Paint Not Adhering to Wall

June 26, 2019


Top photo: A small circle of paint had been pulled away from the wall. When I picked at it, I was able to easily detach more paint.

Second photo: When I removed the light switch plate, some paint had stuck to it, and pulling the switch plate off the wall took some of the paint underneath along with it.

The exposed wall underneath the paint was gritty and dusty. I could not tell if it was a layer of old paint, drywall, dust, residue from ancient wallpaper paste, or other. I had the feeling that if I had tried, I could have peeled all the paint off the dusty subsurface.

This is not good.

This is an old house, and many layers of paint and other treatments have been added to the walls over the decades (100 years!). Many of these substances are not compatible with each other, and especially not if the walls were not prepped properly before applying another coat of paint.

Latex paint won’t stick to oil based paint. New paint won’t stick to a glossy paint. Nothing sticks to a dusty surface.

All these various materials will adhere to one another – for a while. But when a stressor is added to the formula, there is the potential for the layers to delaminate (come apart). That’s what happened in the two areas above, when a bit of a tug was all it took to peel several layers of paint away from the wall.

The issue here is that wallpaper comes with its own stressors. Wallpaper gets wet when it’s pasted, expands a bit, and then when the paste dries, the paper shrinks a tad and puts tension on the walls. Over time, with changes in temperature and humidity, foundations shifting, and just plain old passage of time, this tension could cause the paint to give way from the walls – this usually manifests at along a seam.

I use a wallpaper-specific primer, and among its attributes is the ability to withstand this type of tension.

Let’s hope that over the years, the many layers of paint, the new coat of primer, and the wallpaper all work together to stay nice and tight to the wall.

Note: If I had known about the wall condition earlier, and if the homeowners’ budget had allowed, a liner would have been a good option in this case. A liner is a special type of paper that is applied to the primed wall the day before the paper goes up. It serves several purposes, but one is to distribute tension across the wall. Because the seams of the liner do not line up with the seams of the wallpaper, drying and shrinking wallpaper puts tension on the liner, and not onto the unstable wall itself, thus pretty well eliminating the chance that the wallpaper seams could cause the wall to delaminate.

The downside is that using a liner adds an extra day (or more) of labor, plus the cost of material.

The Source of Yesterday’s Drama

June 25, 2019


Before I learned to put plastic over the smoke detectors, I’ve had sanding dust set off the alarm. But this is the first time that fumes from my primer tripped the blasted thing!

It was EAR SPLITTING, and went on forever! Finally I climbed up on the ladder and disconnected it from the power source. Still going off!! Turns out there was an alarm up on the next floor, that was also going off! Luckily the homeowner was reachable quickly by phone, and apparently this is a common problem in their home. She said to turn on the ceiling fan … and that did the trick.

I was smoothing a textured wall, and the penetrating sealing primer I like for that is Gardz, by Zinsser. The fumes won’t make you high like the KILZ Original that I used to use (even that never triggered a smoke detector), so I was surprised that it had anything in it to be detected by a smoke detector. Maybe it includes a carbon dioxide detector, and that somehow got tripped.

Either way, I’m sure glad we got the danged thing turned off … I like hanging wallpaper in peace and quiet so I can THINK!

Soft Geometric in Bedroom Niche

June 23, 2019


This is an alcove leading into a master bedroom in a new townhome in the Houston Heights. This niche is recessed between bookshelves on either side, and above.

The geometric pattern adds a modern touch, and the soft color promotes the feel of calm relaxation. Brass sconces will be mounted over the electrical boxes, and the homeowner has a settee that will be placed in the center.

This was a non-woven wallpaper, and I hung it using the paste-the-wall method.

I Did Not Hang This Wallpaper. How Do I Know?

June 20, 2019


I hung wallpaper in several rooms of this house back in the ’90’s. I thought the homeowners said that I had hung this bathroom, too. But once I got to looking more closely, I knew that I had not.

Top photo – hard to see, but the wallpaper had been wrapped around the inside corner. Wallpaper strips are supposed to be measured, and then split in two vertically, so that one half of the strip wraps a wee 1/8″ or so around the corner. Then the second half of the sheet is hung on the new wall so that it overlaps that 1/8″ bit, and then continues on along the wall.

Also in the top photo, to the right of the corner, the pooching seams on this vinyl wallpaper are probably caused by moisture in a humid room (do a Search here to learn more, or read my page to the right). But I do think that if the original installer had used a more appropriate primer, the paper would have performed better.

Photos 2 & 3 – Some papers can get soggy when wet with paste and become difficult to trim. But, gee, I do hope that I would never leave a homeowner with torn, jagged cuts like this.

Likewise with Photo 4 – See the patch above the window molding and the splice above the backsplash?

Photo 5 – Trimming along shower edges like this is difficult, but I would endeavor to give a straighter cut than the previous installer did.

Last photo – Not my handwriting, not my terminology, and, OMG, my father would roll over in his grave … definitely not my spelling!

Painter’s Tape Can Pull Off Paint

June 14, 2019


Painter’s tape is definitely useful. But you’ve got to be careful when you remove it. We already know that it can / will pull the inked layer off of wallpaper. (Do a search here.)

But, as this photo shows, it can also pull paint off the wall.

Possibly, if the painter had pulled gently, the tape would not have pulled the paint off the wall.

But it’s also possible that the wall surface beneath the paint was unstable (dusty, or some other factor), and that caused the paint to give way and come apart from the wall.

Getting Smoothing Compound To Dry

June 13, 2019


The walls in this powder room were textured. (see top photo) To ensure that the new wallpaper looks good, and that it has a solid surface to cling to, the walls need to be smoothed. This is called floating, or skim coating, and I do a lot of it here in Houston. To do that, I trowel on a plaster-like substance, let it dry, then sand it, vacuum up the dust, wipe residual dust off the walls with a damp sponge, and then prime.

What takes the most time is waiting for the smoothing compound (drywall joint compound, which we also call “mud”) to dry. If the texture is heavy, often it has to dry overnight. The downside of this is that it adds an extra day of labor and expense. But when the texture is lighter, the drying can be speeded along.

In the second photo, you see some of the ways I get mud to dry more quickly. On the counter* you see two box fans, and on the floor is a much stronger fan. On the counter is also a space heater. Hot air in the room absorbs moisture, sucking it out of the wet smoothing compound. I let the room heat up, and then I have to open the door and let the moist air out – over and over again.

The yellow objet on the floor is a heat gun. A heat gun acts like a hair dryer on steroids, and can get small stubborn areas to dry pretty quickly.

A few other things help speed drying … Walls coated with flat paint will dry more quickly than with glossy paint. And having the air conditioning and / or heat cranking away will help, because, while regulating the temperature, these climate-control systems also pull humidity out of the air. I also like to turn the HVAC system’s fan from “Auto” to “On,” so that air is circulating continuously, which also pulls humidity out of the air and helps the walls to dry.

*I normally keep a dropcloth on the vanity counter. But the vibrating fans can cause the dropcloths to slip, and you don’t want anything crashing down on the homeowner’s countertop. I do have lengths of self-grip shelf liner that help keep the fans from moving around too much.

Water and Hands Stain Walls and Wallpaper

June 12, 2019


See the stains from water drips, finger prints, and smudges? They’re faint, but they’re visible.

These photos were taken in a powder room, right next to the light switches – you know, the spot where everyone touches as soon as he enters the room. And the next two photos are from under the hand towel – you know, right where everyone is shaking water off his hands as he reaches for a towel.

This is pretty normal use in a home where you have children. And even minus the kids, water is likely to get splashed on walls around a sink or when reaching for a towel. And hands fumbling for a light switch will leave stains on the walls (even clean hands contain oils that will stain surfaces).

The point is, learn to live gently in your home, especially when you add wallpaper. Wallpaper is not as cleanable as paint, and can be stained by everyday wear and tear.

For this particular home, the designer has ordered grasscloth. Grasscloth and other natural materials are even more easily stained than plain wallpaper. This home has young children, so, once the new grasscloth goes up, you can bet they will be receiving the Wallpaper Lady’s lecture about not splashing or touching the new paper.