Posts Tagged ‘walls’

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.

Teal and Peach for 5-Year Old Girl’s Room

May 18, 2020

For a 5-year old girl, you can’t beat the color combination in this room! .. .. Peach walls, a floral wallpaper in teal and peach on an accent wall, and other accents not pictured, like twin teal shelves and chest of drawers, and a turquoise scrolled-metal headboard.

She can live with this pattern and these colors well into her teen years.

In the first photo, I have skim-floated to smooth over the textured walls. My three fans (plus the ceiling fan and the home’s A/C system) are working hard to dry the smoothing compound. I also engaged the services of my heat gun, to speed drying along.

This wallpaper is by Eijffinger, a Scandinavian company. It is a non-woven material, with a high fiberglass content, and won’t expand when wet with paste. Also, it is designed to strip off the wall easily and cleanly when it’s time to redecorate.

These qualities mean that it was possible to hang it using the paste-the-wall method. That made me happy, because I did not have to lug in my heavy and cumbersome trimming / pasting table.

The home is a newish townhome in the Montrose neighborhood of central Houston.

Sticky Dots

May 7, 2020


This grasscloth wallpaper by Thibaut is called Union Square. It has not just the texture from the natural reeds of grass sewn onto the backing, but also 3-D square “dots” of thick plastic or resin or vinyl … Doesn’t matter what the material is … There are raised, textured “dots” marching across this paper in a neat, orderly fashion.

But plastic can be sticky. On all of the bolts, the paper labels stuck to the plastic dots. Unrolling the grasscloth caused the labels to tear off strips, which remained stuck to the plastic dots. These scraps of paper could not be removed, so I had to cut off and discard the top 16″ or so of each bolt.

The really sad thing about this is that the wall height was such that I could have gotten three strips out of each double roll. But with having to discard paper from the start of each bolt, we were left with only enough remaining paper on the bolt for two strips.

Even worse on a few other bolts, the plastic dots stuck to not just the paper label, but to the paper backing of the grasscloth itself. This left strips of paper stuck to the dots, and also peeled bits of paper off of the back of the wallpaper – leaving the possibility of paste leaking through and staining the surface.

This sticky defect went through the entirety of each bolt, so there were three bolts that were unusable.

This meant that I could not finish wallpapering the remaining walls. And that we’ll have to send back the defective paper, and the homeowner will have to wait for the company to find non-defective paper, and ship it, and for me to have an opening on my schedule to finish the job.

The Thibaut Customer Service rep has told me that the company is aware of and has worked on this problem. (Thibaut is one company that actually LISTENS to us installers, and makes changes as needed.) Their solution is to place thin plastic wrap inside the bolts, to prevent the dots from coming into contact with any other material, like the paper backing.

I hope the replacement paper comes with this new innovation.

Lotsa Color, and a Nice Faux Silk

April 16, 2020


I have worked for this couple in their charming 1929 bungalow in West University (Houston) several times since the 1990’s. They definitely are not people to go with the all-white or all-grey or minimalist trends that are popular today. These folks like COLOR!

The dining room walls were originally upholstered in a botanical print on blue (which the homeowner did himself, and did a mighty find job of, too). So the room never was bland white. 🙂 But now, 20 years later, they were ready for an update.

Their contractor removed the fabric and then skim-floated the walls smooth. Usually I have to go back and re-smooth the walls … but this guy did a really good job, and I was able to simply prime, and then hang the paper.

This is a vinyl product named “Wild Silk,” and is by Thibaut. It’s much more stain-resistant and durable than real fabric. Unlike real silk and other natural materials like grasscloth, this product has a pattern match. This means that you are not going to see each separate panel or visible seams, like you do with real silk. So the walls have a much more homogeneous and pleasing look.

The challenge lay with the old house and its un-plumb walls and un-level ceiling and window/door moldings. Since the ceiling was not level, if I hung the wallpaper true to plumb, then it would start “tracking” off-kilter at the ceiling line, and appear to be running either uphill or downhill. This effect was further complicated by the way the pattern ran along the window and door frames.

I decided to keep the pattern parallel to the ceiling molding line. This meant letting it go crooked along the door and window frames, if that’s how it turned out. The ceiling line was more visible and more important.

Since the pattern was tracking off-kilter, I used a razor blade and a straightedge to trim off a wedge-shaped chunk from one side of the wallpaper. This forced the pattern to move up (or down). After a few strips, I had tweaked it enough that the design was moving straight across under the crown molding.

Even though the strips were not hanging plumb, it looked wonderful along the ceiling line. This “silk” pattern was very accommodating of that. If it had been a design with a prominent motif that the eye wanted to see marching straight across the ceiling AND straight down along a door frame, it would have been much more difficult to pull off – maybe impossible.

Going around the window (no pic) was even more complicated. Because I was tweaking the three strips above the window to follow the crown molding, and also the three strips below the window – and you can’t guarantee that these will all adjust at the same rate. So getting the strip to the left of the window (no pic) to match up with the strips above AND below the window would be pretty impossible.

So I was extremely pleased when the pattern on all these strips did match up, within about 1/16″.

This is a vinyl material and was somewhat difficult to push tightly into edges and corners, and to cut through. I was glad that I didn’t have intricate decorative moldings to cut around. I used orange chalk to color the edges of the material, to keep the white substrate from showing at the seams.

I love the way the salmon color coordinates with the painted trim. Who paints door moldings orange??! THESE people do – and I highly applaud it! No boring all-white rooms in this house!

The look is bold, but surprisingly warm. The orange moldings against white walls would have been jolting. But with the salmon colored wallpaper, the whole effect is unified, inviting, and invigorating!

Bringing Color and Life to a Garden Oaks Dining Room

March 6, 2020


This family bought a new home in the Garden Oaks neighborhood of Houston, and then lived for a year with dull, lifeless walls in the dining room – all the while craving color and personality. Finally, the husband had a chance to tackle the textured walls (see previous post), and shortly thereafter, I came along.

This print is fun but not cutesy or trendy. And – while monochromatic, it adds a whole lot of color to the once-bland room.

Printed on a non-woven substrate, this product could be hung using the paste-the-wall method, or the paste-the-material method, which is what I did, for many reasons. It went up very nicely.

This wallpaper pattern is by A-Street Prints, 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 in Cypress Powder Room

February 18, 2020


The walls and ceiling in this large powder room in a newish home in the Bridgeland Creek neighborhood of Cypress (northwest Houston) were originally a dark gold. I like dark rooms, but this one felt oppressive. It needed to be a little lighter, and to have a bit more interest on the walls.

The walls had a heavy texture, typical of new homes in the suburbs of Houston. I skim-floated the walls, then let dry overnight. The next day, I sanded the walls smooth, wiped off the dust, primed – and then was ready to hang wallpaper.

The pictures don’t adequately show the color of the new grasscloth, but we have natural brown grass color overlaid onto a really deep blue paper backing. The designer had the ceiling painted a dark, sort of murky blue, which coordinates really nicely with the blue in the grasscloth.

Lighting is funny … While I was working in the room, I had two 100 watt light bulbs; one suspended from the ceiling and one attached to where the light fixture belongs. The grasscloth just looked “normal.”

But once the room’s decorative light fixture went back up, it cast light on the textured surface in such a way that the “nubs” and knots really showed up! (see photo) The homeowner loved it!

As a note … With grasscloth, there is no pattern match, and you can also plan on seeing color differences between strips. So it’s important to plot where your seams will fall.

The electrical box, the light fixture, and the faucet were all in different vertical positions on the wall. Because the mirror would take up most of the wall behind the faucet and block the seam, I chose to center the seam on the light fixture, because it would be visible above the mirror. Well – sort of visible … as you can see, light rays from the fixture are so strong that no one can see where the seam is, anyway. 😦

The room had a “floating” sink. One of the photos shows the area under the sink. This area is open to view, and, because there are so many obstacles, it is difficult and time-consuming to wrap the paper underneath and trim around all those pipes and brackets.

The grasscloth wallpaper is by York. I was pretty pleased with the consistency of the material. Although some of the strips did present “paneling” and “shading” – color variances between strips – even strips that came off the same bolt and that were reverse-hung. One strip even had a rather abrupt color change mid-way from top to bottom. (no photo)

But that’s par for the course with grasscloth, and it’s considered to be “the natural beauty of this natural material.”

The interior designer for this project is Neal LeBouef, of L Design Group.

Faces in Unexpected Places

January 26, 2020

How’s this for something no one else is gonna have?! The homeowner of this Galleria-area home in Houston is a big-personality gal, recently divorced, and she wants her new home to reflect who she is. Everything in the house that could have glitter, shimmer, mirror, or glitz does – including the dog bed and the kitchen backsplash.

This wallpaper in the adjoining powder room (with a huge crystal chandelier!) fits right in with that new life.

This is a sort of mural, composed of rectangular panels about 3′ wide x 2′ high. It was bought on-line, and came with no information or installation instructions.

It was a paper substrate, and was meant to be butted at the seams, as opposed to overlapped, as many mural panels are. After experimenting, I found that a powdered wheat or cellulose paste hydrated the paper best, and that a little of my traditional wallpaper paste added to the mix helped hold the paper tightly to the wall and minimize shrinkage as the panels dried.

The paper curled badly when it was wet with the paste (see third photo), which made it difficult to paste it, book it, and then get it to the wall.

It also expanded a lot when it got wet – almost an inch in each direction. Uneven expansion meant that it developed large wrinkles and warps that were difficult to remove.

In addition, the walls were bowed and uneven in the corners, the walls were not plumb, the ceiling was not level, the crown molding was at different heights on different walls, and we didn’t have a lot of paper to play with.

It took a lot of work to keep the pattern matched as well as possible in the corners, to keep the pattern running at the right point below the crown molding, to eliminate the aforementioned wrinkles, to butt the panels, to minimize white showing at the seams due to the panels drying and shrinking, the paper getting saturated and tearing or dragging when I tried to trim it, and lots more challenges.

All this could have been easier if the manufacturer had chosen a better substrate to print on. But – well, hey, we’ve got a digital printer, so let’s just dig up some paper stock, print cool designs on it, and market it as wallpaper.

Actually, this material worked out pretty well in this small powder room. But I would not want to paper a large, wide wall with it.

Most companies who make murals like this, on this type of thin paper substrate, allow for the edges to be overlapped about 3/8″ at each seam. This allows the installer to make adjustments for wonky walls and ceilings, and it eliminates the gapping at seams as paper dries and shrinks. It does, however, leave a ridge along each seam where the edges are overlapped.

Overall, though, I was not unhappy with this product in this room. And working out all the challenges was mighty fun. I was glad to have a nice, quiet, empty house to do all this in. All in all, this medium-sized powder room that I had prepped the weekend before, took me nine hours to hang.

The Atomic Age Comes to a Small Master Bathroom

December 24, 2019


This small master bath in a newly-renovated 1935 home across from Rice University (Houston) has a black & white checkered floor and a shiny black tiled shower (no pic). The homeowner wanted to move up a couple of decades in decorating theme, and so chose this fun space-age pattern. Now the room is ready for the George Jetson family to move right in! (All the Baby Boomers know whom I’m talking about.)

The wallpaper is by Spoonflower, comes pre-pasted (water-activated), and was pretty easy to work with. The hard part was keeping all those horizontal dashes lined up, in a house with mega wonky walls due to foundation issues and to just plain old Father Time.

Animal Blocks in a Baby’s Room

December 25, 2018


A new baby will soon be welcomed into the home of this young couple in the Houston Heights neighborhood called Norhill (or Woodland Heights). Mom wanted something gender-neutral, and found this colorful and adorable shapes-and-animals-in-blocks print on line at Lulie Wallace.

This went on just one accent wall of the room, but it is tame enough that it would work OK if put on all four walls.

I skim-floated the walls first, to smooth out the light texture on them, then followed with a primer coat of Gardz.

This wallpaper is a bit atypical, because it is pre-pasted, which means it comes with a thin layer of paste on the back that you activate with water (instead of having to roll paste on the back of every strip). I do like the pre-pasted papers. I do roll a light coat of paste on the wall, to augment the manufacturer’s pre-paste.

Another dissimilarity is that the paper comes packaged in individual strips, rather than traditional rolls with several strips rolled up together.

Even more unusual is that the strips were meant to be overlapped, instead of butted together. Overlapping the seams creates a vertical ridge under the paper which is somewhat visible. You also have to have an adhesive that will stick to the acrylic coating on top of the paper.

There are some good aspects to overlapping seams. For one, this makes for a very strong bond. For another, it takes stress of drying and shrinking paper off the seam and distributes it across that 3/4″ of overlapped area. In this 80-year-old house, with it’s many layers of paint with a history of not sticking to each other, this is important, because it greatly reduces the chances of the tension on the seams causing the paint layers to come apart, which would cause gapping at the seams. See previous post.

Another positive feature about overlapping the seams, and how that worked with this particular pattern, is that, in this 1930 home, with its unlevel ceiling and floor and its greatly-out-of-plumb walls, I was able to manipulate the strips of wallpaper so that they looked straight and plumb – even though they were actually hung quite off-plumb.

This wallpaper pattern is by Lulie Wallace, and was bought on line.

Cole & Son Woods in a Powder Room

November 13, 2018


This powder room in a newish townhome in the Rice Military area of Houston was originally papered in a darkish jungle/ethnic/animal-themed wallpaper. It was a good look, but the new homeowners wanted something brighter and fresher. Plus, the original paper had been hung over the textured walls, and the bumps were showing through.

It would have taken me two long days to strip the original paper, smooth the walls, and hang the paper. So the homeowner tackled the removal of the original paper (following instructions on my blog (see page on the right side) plus info she found on the internet), which saved her the price of a day’s labor. It also made my job a bit easier.

But this job still required a lot of prep, which took a lot of time. The homeowners were out of town (they let me into the house via remote access), and it was nice because I could work in peace and quiet, and I could stay as late as I needed.

I skimmed on smoothing compound, waited while it dried, sanded smooth, wiped off the dust, primed, and then finally hung the paper.

The pedestal sink was tricky to get around, as they always are. And the bull-nosed / rounded edges of two outside corners in the room were a challenge. Additional hurdles were crooked walls, un-plumb walls, and a ridged non-woven wallpaper material that would not bend or yield to crooked, un-plumb walls. 🙂 The pattern itself was a bit forgiving of these imperfections, and I used a few tricks to make things look straight and true.

This wallpaper design is quite popular, and I have hung it a bunch of times. It is called “Woods,” and is by Cole & Son, a British company. It is printed on a non-woven substrate, and is designed to be a paste-the-wall installation – but I find that paste-the-paper is a superior method.

Best of all, the homeowner loved what the pattern and light color did for the room. The powder room is instantly brightened, and the images of tree trunks give the room a whole lot of dimension and draw you in, as if you were actually walking in a forest.

The strong diagonal repetitiveness of the tree branches usually bothers me a bit. But in this room, with each wall holding only two or three strips, the pattern is dispersed nicely and the diagonal effect is minimized. So, what you see is the forest, and not so much the trees. 🙂

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.