Posts Tagged ‘water’

A Really Nice Vinyl Faux Grasscloth

February 8, 2020


Originally, this downstairs bathroom in a newish home in the Woodland Heights neighborhood of Houston was painted a mocha brown. It looked OK, but lacked luster and life. The homeowner envisioned more texture and color, plus a tiny bit of dazzle. She was considering grasscloth.

During our initial Sunday afternoon consultation, luckily she heeded my warnings about the problems with grasscloth – visible seams, color shading differences between strips, staining from water splashes or little ones’ hands, etc.

She chose this textured vinyl faux grass pattern by York instead. What a winner this turned out to be! Because there is no pattern that can be matched, you still see the seams. But, because the color is so homogeneous, there are no jarring shade differences. In the sink photo, note that you are seeing a shadow, not a shading of color.

The color variations within the grass-like design are more pronounced than in other brands (for instance, the Thibaut versions), and so it looks more like real grasscloth, and you can see the various colors even from a distance.

There is a pleasing texture that can be seen and felt. And, because the material is a heavy vinyl, it’s quite durable and water- and stain-resistant. What’s more, because there was no pattern to match (that’s called a random match), there was very little waste – in a room with a tad less than 9′ ceilings, I got three strips out of a 27′ long double roll bolt (usually you only get two strips).

I did follow typical grasscloth-installation techniques for this product.

Because the lack of a pattern match meant that the seams were visible, I took precise measurements and “balanced” the width of the strips in the various areas in which they were hung.

Because there was still a bit of a color difference between the right side and the left side of each strip, I also reversed the top and bottom of every other strip – a little trick that minimizes visible color differences by placing the right side, for instance, of each bolt of paper next to itself on subsequent strips. That sounds confusing, but it’s valuable trick of the trade.

The navy blue brings a welcome shot of color into the room. The gold metallic touches add sparkle, and coordinate smartly with the light fixture (not shown). The homeowner will soon trade the chrome faucet for one of brushed gold.

Stripping Wallpaper

January 30, 2020


Eeewww – I’m stripping wallpaper off the walls of a bathroom. What a mess!

(Don’t worry – there are dropcloths under there.)

For a few years now, I’ve been using Roman’s Pro 977 Ultra Prime wallpaper primer, and this was my first chance to remove paper that has been hung on it. I must say – I was very pleased.

The paper came off nicely enough, and the primer stayed stuck to the wall. It did not rewet or bubble. There was NO damage to the walls, and no need for repairs, nor any need to reprime.

One key to this is to wet-strip the paper. You cannot come in and just try to yank the paper off the wall. First of all, that won’t work. But if it does, it is likely that the paper will take some of the primer and even some of the wall or drywall along with it.

The proper, more gentle way to strip wallpaper is …

You’ve gotta understand that wallpaper is made of at least two layers – the top, inked layer, and the underlying substrate layer.

I use plain water and a 3″ stiff putty knife to strip paper. The water will re-wet the paste on the back of the paper, and once it is wet and softened, the paper will (usually) peel away from the wall easily and in large pieces.

The thing is, water will not penetrate the top, inked layer of wallpaper. That’s because the manufacturer has applied a coating to protect the paper from stains, and it is resistant to water.

So I take that putty knife and use it to get under the top layer of wallpaper – withOUT gouging into the substrate or into the wall. Then I peel off that top layer of paper. I have found that wetting the surface with a sponge helps strengthen the fibers, so that larger chunks of paper come off. You will also find that there is a “nap” to the material, and it will pull off in larger chunks once you figure out if it wants to be pulled from top to bottom and / or from left to right – or vise versa.

It will separate and leave the backing / substrate stuck to the wall.

Once that top layer is off, I use a sponge and a bucket of hot water to wet the backing. Over and over as needed. The backing is porous and the water will soak through, allowing the paste to reactivate. Once that paste gets wet enough, it will let you pull the backing away from the wall.

You will have the most success with this if the walls were properly prepped and primed before the original wallpaper went up.

That’s it in a nutshell. Time consuming, but sort of methodic and meditative. And it will leave your walls in good condition to receive the new wallpaper.

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.

Swirling Dragons and Swooshing Garments

May 25, 2019


OK, that’s a really dumb title. 😦 But every time I look at this restless dragon surrounded by roiling foliage and water, I think about the clothing tumbling in endless summer-saults in the washing machine in this room. Yes, this fun and mystical wallpaper is enhancing a laundry room.

The home is in the Rice University / Medical Center neighborhood of Houston. The wallpaper has bright shades of green-blue on a silver metallic background. It’s a non-woven material, and could be hung by the paste the wall method. Since this room had a lot of obstacles and weird angles and obstructions like non-removable shelving, I opted to paste-the-paper instead. This also rendered the material a lot more flexible and malleable, which was much appreciated, since the room had a lot of features that made it quite difficult to hang.

Normally, I wouldn’t be too crazy about wallpaper in a humid room like a laundry – especially since the air circulation is pretty poor. Humidity can cause wallpaper seams to let loose and curl. But because these newish non-wovens are made of natural and synthetic materials (such as fiberglass), they are more breathable, and thus shouldn’t present issues of curling seams or delaminating. They are also designed to strip off the wall easily and in one piece, when it’s time to redecorate.

This wallpaper is made by York, one of my favorite companies, in their Dwell Studio Line. 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.

Wall Prep – Missing Chair Rail and Stain Repair

March 31, 2019


What an unexpected surprise I got when I arrived at work to discover that the chair rail in this entry had been removed (top photo). Not only did I need to figure how to get enough paper to cover the additional wallspace, but I needed to smooth over the damaged wall area where the molding had been torn off. (See previous post)
I skim-floated the wall and sanded smooth. It looked great. But brown coloring from the torn Sheetrock had worked its way through the smoothing compound (second photo). Torn drywall is not something that I would normally worry about bleeding through wallpaper (you are concerned mostly with things like grease, ink, water, tobacco, rust, and the like), but this stuff was 60 years old, so who knows what its properties and characteristics were back then? And besides, it had already worked its way through a layer of joint compound – in just one night! No sense in taking the chance that it might bleed through this nearly-white grasscloth natural fiber wallpaper.

The Gardz penetrating primer / sealer (not pictured) I planned to use on the wall would be fine to hang wallpaper on, but could not guarantee that that brown stain would not work its way through the primer and through the wallpaper.

I applied the Gardz, because it’s a great penetrating substance that seals new smoothing compound, and also provides a good surface for hanging wallpaper on. Once that was dry, I followed that with a coat of KILZ Original, an excellent oil-base stain-blocker. But wallpaper paste will not stick to the new KILZ formula (required in order to comply with current EPA requirements.

A little 3″ width around the lower center of the room with wallpaper not sticking tightly to it probably would not be problematic. But you never know, and I didn’t want a “hula hoop” of delaminated wallpaper circling the room. So once the KILZ was dry, I followed up with a coat of a wallpaper-specific primer, Romans Ultra Prime Pro 977.

Now the room is ready for wallpaper, without fear of a band of tan bleeding through the new surface.

DON’T Write in INK On the Walls!

January 11, 2019


Today I was prepping a room in a home in Kingwood (far northeast Houston) that was damaged during the flooding from Hurricane Harvey in 2017. Look at what some contractor did – he went and wrote on the wall in INK!

Most EVERY workman of any type knows that you NEVER write on walls with ink – nor crayon, Sharpie, lipstick, or other.

Reason being, that these substances will work their way through wallpaper (and paint, joint compound, and other substances, too). It may happen quickly, or it may take a few years, but these materials will show themselves eventually, as ghost-like stains on the wall.

Other things will cause staining, too, like blood, water, rust, oil, grease, food, wood sap (knot holes), and more.

Luckily, there are dependable stain blockers on the market that can be brushed on. I like oil-based KILZ Original, but shellac-based BIN is good, too. Water-based products don’t perform as well, no matter what the label or salesman says.

I like to be extra sure, so, when I can, as in this case, I will take a knife and cut around the stain, then dig into the drywall and remove the top layer, taking the ink with it. This way it is GONE, not just covered up.

Of course, the remaining exposed / torn drywall needs to be sealed, skimmed over, sanded smooth, and then prepped for paint or wallpaper.

But all that is worth it, when you can be assured that no stains will bleed through the finish coat.

Calming Faux Grasscloth on a TV / Fireplace Accent Wall

October 16, 2018


If you’ve read this blog for long, or if you’ve read my informative page on grasscloth to the right, you know that I am not a fan of this material. So when clients want texture and an earthy, organic feel, I suggest some alternatives.

One of my favorite alternatives to real grasscloth is this textured vinyl product, called Bankun Raffia, made by Thibaut. It has none of the visible seams, shading, paneling, or color variations of the real stuff. What’s more, it is strong and durable, just about tear- and water-proof, and it is stain resistant.

The homeowner wisely chose this product to use as two panels flanking the fireplace wall (which is also the TV wall). The faux grasscloth adds warmth and texture and subtle color. It will hold up well against daily use, and it will be easy to remove when they are ready to redecorate.

Ink Spots Bleed Through Wallpaper

July 8, 2018


Well, this has been a month of issues with stains on walls! I was smoothing these textured walls with joint compound, and noticed some red splotches on the paint. I studied them, but decided they were paint, which is stable and not a problem. But a little after I had skimmed over the spots, I looked again and noticed that the red color had bled through.

Evidently it was ink, or lipstick, or child’s crayon, or some other such substance. Along with rust, blood, water, oil, mold and mildew, and a few others, these materials will bleed through paint and wallpaper. It might not happen right away, but eventually you will notice stains on the paper.

These stains can be sealed with a stain-blocker. I like oil-based KILZ Original, but the shellac-based BIN primer is good, too. Water-borne sealers may be environmentally-friendly, but I don’t trust them to work as well.

But in this case, I preferred to just get rid of the questionable areas. I took a knife and dug out the part of the wall that had the red spots. Those are the chips I am holding in my hand. Then I skim-floated over the area to smooth it, and proceeded with my wall prep and wallpaper installation.

No more red spots showed their faces. 🙂

Repairing Water Stains from Flooding During Hurricane Harvey

May 2, 2018


This home in Bellaire (Houston) received damage from flooding during Hurricane Harvey in August 2017. Water stains appeared on a small area of the wallpaper just above the baseboard in this powder room. Luckily, the homeowners had saved the paper left over from the original install, so I had material to use for the repair.

Certain substances, like grease, blood, smoke, rust, ink, tobacco, and water stains will bleed through wallpaper (and also paint and other materials, too). To prevent this, the discolorations must be treated with a stain-blocking sealer. Many of these are shellac-based, such as BIN, made by Zinsser, but there are others. I prefer oil-based KILZ Original (2nd photo).

I could have just cut some wallpaper and slapped it on top of the stain. But I wanted to be sure these flood survivors wouldn’t have to look at water stains again. So I used KILZ to cover the stains (3rd photo).

The next week, I came back to do the patch. Using my self-healing craft cutting mat with angles and measurements to trim on, along with a straightedge and razor blade, I cut appliqués to paste on top of the stained paper.

It wasn’t quite as simple as it sounds, because the wallpaper had to be hand-trimmed (use a razor blade to trim off the unprinted selvedge edge). And pasting the paper causes it to absorb moisture and expand, which can throw off the pattern match. So I was dealing with factors relative to what the other guy did and the products he used, compared to my own techniques and products / paste.

It took two tries, but with careful trimming and a little touch-up paint, the job turned out great (last photo).

I also used paint to cover some stains at the top of the baseboard, and also re-pasted some loose areas in other parts of the room (no picture).

Wallpaper and YouTube Don’t Mix

December 31, 2017


This West University mother of young children went to YouTube for some primers on how to hang wallpaper, and then, along with hubby, spent a 3-day weekend tackling the powder room redo project. They didn’t do a horrible job (first three photos), but there were some things that must not have been covered on YouTube.

First, and probably most important, the walls should have been primed with a product designed for wallpaper.

Second, seams should be butted, not overlapped.

Third, wallpaper should not be wrapped around the door moldings, but trimmed at the base.

Fourth, I’m not sure what’s going on with the cuts at the baseboard. I think the room had seen a number of redecorating efforts, and that the baseboards took a bit of a beating in the process, leaving a surface that wasn’t smooth and wasn’t willing to hold on to wallpaper.

I stripped off their wallpaper, patched bad spots, sanded the walls, then primed with Gardz, a penetrating sealing primer that bonds together porous surfaces and that is also a good base to hold wallpaper.

The rest of the photos are of the room after I hung the new paper.

This product is a pre-pasted, paper-backed, solid vinyl material. It happens to be one of my least favorite kinds of wallpaper. The homeowner chose it because she has young children and the vinyl is reputed to be more water-resistant and durable than other types of wallpaper. If she had consulted with me before she bought her paper, I would have steered her in another direction.

It’s true that the vinyl surface is resistant to water, and it’s more resistant to stains than a paper-wallpaper. But that doesn’t make the product wonderful.

The main problem is the paper backing. This stuff is not horrible, but it does have a reputation for curling a tad at the seams (do a search on my blog for previous posts). Humidity (such as in a bathroom with showering) can cause increased curling at the seams. Any water that falls on a cut edge of the paper (along backsplashes, seams under hand towels, etc.) can wick into the paper backing and cause it to expand, which will cause the seams to curl.

To reduce the potential for seam curling, I used a special pasting process (rather than following the manufacturer’s instructions). And I ran a bead of caulk along the top of the backsplash (see 4th photo – the caulk will be clear when it’s dry) to prevent splashed water from wicking up under the wallpaper.

My trim cuts along the baseboard looked better than the homeowners’, but I still felt the baseboard was compromised somehow and that wallpaper did not have a good surface to grip ahold of. So I ran a bead of caulk along the top of the baseboards, too.

This wallpaper is by Exclusive Wallcoverings, a British manufacturer. It is a faux grasscloth, and, unlike true grasscloths, it is pretty water- and stain-resistant, and it has a pattern that can be matched. In fact, the close-up photo above shows a seam – and I’ll bet that you can’t find it! The pattern number is FD44143

Next time around, when a mom has concerns about her kids touching or splashing the wallpaper, I would suggest she consider one of the newish non-woven products. Or, better yet, a scrim-backed (woven fabric-backed) solid vinyl product, such as something from the Thibaut brand Texture Resource line, particularly Volume 4. Everything in that book is beautifully textured and realistic, and virtually indestructible. Do a search here to see my previous posts.