Posts Tagged ‘wheat paste’

Wallpaper Too Old & Brittle to Work With

February 28, 2017
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This kitchen wallpaper was stained by a water leak. There was enough left over paper to replace the damaged section. BUT – the paper had been stored in a hot Houston attic since the ’70’s – that’s 35 years! It was far too brittle and fragile to work with.

I found that lightly wetting the back with a damp sponge allowed it to relax enough that I could unroll it. I tried my usual wallpaper paste, but once the sample piece dried, there were stains caused by the paste. See third photo.

Then I tried powdered wheat paste, which is for more delicate materials. This did not stain the paper, but it did cause it to become too wet, crack, split, tear, and created crevices where staining would be likely to occur. See last photo.

I am glad I tested methods and products before I ripped off the old wallpaper. We ended up leaving the old paper on the wall, and I used craft paint to cover the worst of the stains. See previous post. This turned out to be the best solution.

Different Strokes for Different – Brushes

June 15, 2014

Digital ImageThese are smoothing brushes, used to press wallpaper against the wall, and to chase out bubbles or wrinkles. I usually use the one with the shorter bristles.

But sometimes you need something that is softer and more suited for delicate papers. For hanging my authentic 1930’s wallpaper from Hannah’s Treasurers (do a Search – upper right hand corner), since the paper was so fragile, and since I was using a thinner wheat paste, a gentler touch was called for. So I used the longer bristled brush on the left.

I also have one with even shorter bristles, in a stiffer material, which I use rarely, mostly for heavy vinyl material.

Vintage Wallpaper for My Own Home

April 2, 2013

Digital ImageDigital ImageDigital ImageI just picked this up from the Post Office today.  This is the real deal, actual paper from the 1940’s.  This is from Hannah’s Treasures, an on-line site that sells vintage papers, from the ’20’s through the not-so-vintage-in-my-eyes ’80’s.

This is going on one wall in my entry.  I have a “new” circa 1930’s/40’s curio cabinet that will go in front of it, and that will hold a collection of 1930’s/40’s panther statuary and mantle clocks.

Need I say, in another life, I think I lived in the 1930’s & ’40’s.

When we had our wallpaper & paint store in St. Louis (now decades gone), the basement was full of rolls and rolls of paper like this.  And my father and uncles would rewallpaper my grandmother’s apartment above the store again and again, with gorgeous patterns and rich colors like this.

The paper is somewhat brittle from age.  I have previously used a wheat paste, which is pretty much what was available back when these papers were made, but friends in the National Guild of Professional Paperhangers (NGPP) have hung similar papers using modern pre-mixed clear vinyl paste.  I’ve not decided yet what I will use.

The selvedge edge is still intact, meaning that the paper has to be hand trimmed before hanging.  You can see the unprinted selvedge in the photos.   Again, in the past, I have trimmed only one edge of the paper, and overlapped the other.  This eliminates the chance of gapping if the paper shrinks, but it leaves a raised area along the length of every seam.  But that’s how it was done “back in the day,” and back then they were often hanging on a sort of cheescloth tacked over ship lapped wooden walls – which is not the case in my house!

I will probably hand-trim both edges and butt the seams instead, which is how modern papers are hung, and which will eliminate the ridge along the seam.  I don’t expect shrinking with this paper, and see no reason why butted seams would not work.

Along the selvedge is printed, “Water Fast.  Union Made.”  The paper is from Hannah’s Treasures, which is definitely worth a look, if you like vintage.

Bradbury & Bradbury Job – Paste III

December 21, 2011

Well, my fascination with the various pastes suitable for this specialty paper has faded. In fact, I am a little disappointed with the way the paper and paste worked.

The dining room walls had three sections – a bottom, a middle, and a top, all seperated by dark woodwork molding, like plate rails.

The bottom section took “Bird & Anemone” pattern, in a gold color.  (B&B calls this “Aesthetic Green.” Sure looked gold to me. Go figure.)

B&B paper is not pretrimmed; this means it has the unprinted selvedge edge still attached, like fabric. It needs to be hand-trimmed. The strips for this section were about 5′ long, which meant double cutting (splicing) on the wall. This technique involves overlapping the sides of each strip, then using a very sharp razor blade to cut through both strips, being careful not to score the wall surface beneath. Then the unprinted selvedge ends of each strip are peeled away, the seam edges butted together and smoothed down, and excess paste wiped away.

The only thing is, the clay paste did not wipe away cleanly. It left smeary streaks on the paper. Now, this is the sort of thing that I see, and many other people do not see. Still, I was not happy with the way it was looking. To make matters worse, some of the seams had come loose (not due to lack of paste, but due to the clay paste not holding).

Worse yet, there was a noticeable dark line down the length of every seam. “Dark seams,” as the manufacturer calls them.

The finished walls didn’t look awful, but they didn’t look as good as I thought they should.

For the middle section, which took strips only 34″ long, I hand cut the paper dry, before pasting and taking it to the wall. This pattern was “Claire’s Willow” in the same colorway. Trimming the edges before taking it to the wall eliminated the scenario where the paper is overlapped, so no paste got on the surface.

But still a dark line showed up along the length of each seam. Not “real” noticeable, but still noticeable, especially since this pattern is very plain and doesn’t have much pattern to hide flaws. In addition, more smeary clay paste marred the surface, impossible to wash completely off.

I tore off this first section, and retried, this time double cutting the seams. Same dark seams. I ripped it off again. In despiration, I got my trusty Romans 880 paste, which a zillion paperhangers across the nation use for the majority of the goods they install – and got even worse dark seams.

Again, I stripped off the paper and scrubbed the wall clean. Now I got my Shur Stik C-11, the ultra clear paste used for delicate fibers like silk and grasscloth. I pre-trimmed each strip, and treated them like grasscloth – taking great pains to get no paste on the surface or edges of the paper. This is tricky, because you have to get enough paste on the edges to hold the paper, but not enough to squish out when you butt and seal the seam. (Standard pasting method is to brush or roll your paste way past the edge of each strip, to ensure you get enough paste on the edges.)

This paste is very “wet” and will leave splotches all over the paper, which eventually disappear as the paper dries. Takes a little faith, but it inevitabely dries and looks just fine. Usually. But not this time. Still dark seams! Even worse, there were a few blotches that never disappeared when the paper dried.

I came to work the next day, expecting to hang the final, upper section. But I could not. The paper I had done the previous day just looked horrible.

Time for a call to the manufacturer. I phoned B&B and asked for Tech Support. The lady sounded puzzled. Turns out they don’t have an official tech support department – because anyone there can answer any question about their paper. Gotta love a company like that!

So I talked to Beverly, who is the person most knowledgeable about the paper composition and pastes. She was a wealth of knowledge. Turns out, their paper always results in dark seams when pasted with Romans 880 or the clear grasscloth paste. But there was no explanation for the dark seams when using the clay-based paste they recommended. The Sure Stik brand I used is one they recommend. As for the smears of paste left on the surface of the paper, Beverly recommended scrubbing the paper well, and following that with a dry micro fiber cloth. None of this worked, BTW.

I had to redo the section I had hung the day before, and still had the upper third of the room, plus a border to hang. The border, if you remember from a previous post, required a special dry wheat paste that is mixed with water on-site. I asked if it were possible to use this paste with the Claire’s Willow pattern. (Whenever I have hung B&B paper in the past, this type paste was always recommended, and I have never before had problems with dark seams or paste smears or poor adhesion.) Beverly said yes.

What?! When I had called B&B months before, in preparation for this job, to get their recommendations for pastes and any other special instructions, I was specifically told NOT to use this clear wheat paste. We even debated abit about it on the phone. “But I have always used wheat paste on your paper in the past.” “No, we recommend clay paste, as it is the only paste that works with our paper.” Back and forth several times, and I was specifically told not to use the wheat paste.

Now it turns out that information was incorrect. Apparently, it is possible to use this paste on any of their papers. The main reason they don’t push it is that it’s a very wet paste that leaves scary blotches until it dries, and because it’s the weakest paste used in the industry, and they want to be sure their paper stays on the wall!

OK, so I stripped off all the paper I had done the day before, scrubbed the walls, and then reprimed, to be sure no paste residue remained that could get into the new paper. I dry trimmed the strips, got out my immersion blender and mixed up the box of paste sent from B&B, and carefully pasted and hung the paper.  Much better.

But still not great. There were still dark seams – not horribly dark, but still noticable, plus occasional blotches that did not disappear as the paper dried. This was very disappointing, to say the least. We had used an immense amount of very expensive paper, taken more days than we should have, and the room didn’t look as it should.

My clients could see this, but they happen to be about the sweetest people in Texas, so they didn’t complain. I, on the other hand, couldn’t stomach the look of it, and ended up ripping off the worst wall.

By this time, we had run out of paper. (Redoing a wall FOUR times, and redoing the entire middle section twice does eat up a lot of paper!) The clients had to order more paper, in order to have enough to do the top section, and had to pay outrageous postage to have it arrive 2nd day air. Unfortunately, I was booked with other jobs, and couldn’t get back any time soon to finish the room. The poor lady was considering cancelling their Dec 23 Christmas party.
But, I live something of a charmed life.  As luck would have it, I was able to juggle around two other clients, and this made it possible to go back to finish this job the day after the new paper arrived.

For the final section, the top, the Claire’s Willow pattern went at the bottom, and the Prairie frieze went at the top. The section was narrow enough that I was able to “railroad” the paper – meaning, run it horizontally instead of vertically. This meant one long horizontal strip for each wall, instead of many many short vertical strips – I was dead set on eliminating seams, so as to prevent any more of those awful dark seams.

I used the wheat paste for both the fill and the border, and it looked just fine. At least, when I finished cleaning my brushes and packing up my table and walked out the door at 10:30 p.m. that night, all looked well. I have every confidence that it looked as good when it dried and the clients took their first peek the next morning.

Once the furniture is back in, the original 1907 chandeliere is hung, and the room decorated for Christmas, the final effect will be stunning.  I hope to have a photo to post on my website,  In the meantime, you can get a preview by going to and looking up the pattern names.

Bradbury & Bradbury Job – Paste II

December 16, 2011

Interestingly, although Bradbury & Bradbury specifies clay-based paste for most of it’s patterns and colors, the roll of border chosen by these homeowners came with a day glow orange highlighted note – to use special paste for that colorway only.

For this color, which has clay incorporated into the ink, they want you to use wheat or cellulose based paste. !! This is what I used to use for all B&B papers, but now they recommend clay paste for most of their colors. (See my previous post on.)

The reason they want the plant-based paste for this particular color is because there is clay in the ink, and a clay-based paste would react negatively with the ink, causing flaking or bleeding or staining. So another non-reactive paste is recommended.

This is interesting on many fronts. For on thing, clay paste is very low moisture, and the wheat pastes are rather high in moisture, meaning that two very different pastes would work with the same paper. Also, I find it fascinating the amount of science that goes into perfecting and producing a product – the precise formula for ink, for paper, how they interact, etc. Not to mention the gal who answered my call to B&B, who was completely knowledgeable about their products and techniques.

They also sold the necessary paste – which is a good thing, because it can be hard to track down such a specialty product. Also, if you’re using their own paste, if there should be a problem, you can always go back to them for help.

Good product, good service, good company!

wallpaper installation houston

Bradbury & Bradbury Job – Paste

December 14, 2011

When dealing with a high-end wallpaper such as Bradbury & Bradbury, it’s always a good idea to check with the manufacturer to see their recommendations for paste, primer, and other necessities. I’m glad I called B&B to ask about paste.

When I’ve done their papers in the past, it was always recommended to use powdered wheat paste, mixed on-site, or a similar product which is cellulose-based. I haven’t done B&B in a year or two, however, and their specifications have changed.

Now they suggest using clay-based paste – quite different product from the wheat or cellulose based pastes.

And – YUCK! I don’t like clay paste and don’t use it – have not touched it for nearly two decades, and I know other paperhangers who feel the same. It’s slimy, colored, stains, hard to wipe from surfaces, and just a mess to deal with putting up and then later when taking down a wallpaper.

However, it’s a “low moisture” paste and a very strong paste, so it does have its uses. Commercial installers working with very heavy goods usually use clay-based paste. And that’s what B&B recommended.

So, for the first time ever, I ordered a 5-gallon bucket.

And then told the homeowners that I sure hoped the big strong husband was home when I got there – regular pre-mixed vinyl wallpaper paste is pretty darned heavy in a 5-gallon bucket (40lbs or so) but this clay stuff had to be close to 60lbs!!

Anyway, the reason B&B recommends this earthy product for their paper is that they found it works best with their paper stock and inks. They said that the clay in the paste does not react with their inks as other paste formulas might, and won’t cause the ink to flake off and won’t stain the paper.

I did find that the clay paste did dry faster than my usual vinyl type, which meant a shorter “open” time – which is not a good thing when hand-trimming paper. It also was harder to remove from woodwork and from the suface of the paper, nor does it have the “slip” I am used to, so sliding paper into place and positioning as needed was more difficult.

On the positive side, it does hold well, which is important when doing those hand-trimmed seams. And it sticks well enough to the B&B paper that no VOV (vinyl over vinyl) paste is needed when doing overlaps such as in corners or when applying borders.

wallpaper installation houston

The Galveston Home Tour pt II

May 18, 2011

In addition to the beautiful lived-in homes, the Galveston Home Tour always includes a “work in progress” by the Historical Foundation. This year’s home was a cottage that had been badly burned – and I mean, most of it was nothing but charred studs and lath and a roof open to the elements.

In the dining room and front room, some of the plaster walls were still partially intact. I was tickled to see some shreds of wallpaper clinging to them. The paper had to be quite old, as it appeared to be the original paper, since it was applied directly on the plaster walls. The house dated to the late 1800’s or early 1900’s.

Of interest to me:

The paper was installed directly on the plaster walls. Usually there is a “cheescloth” type fabric tacked to the walls, and the paper is applied over that. So this installation was unusual.

The paper was installed directly on the plaster, with no primer. (A sizing could have been used, as it usually was in those days.) There was so little paper left to examine, it was hard to tell, but new plaster, or even cured plaser, for that matter, can bleed or weep, causing stains on wallpaper.

As time went on, a homeowner redecorated. The new wallpaper was applied directly on top of the original wallpaper. Since the plastic coatings of today were not used back then, I think it was OK to do this, since adhesion would be possible because there was no slippery plastic coating.

The original paper was a very plain off-white with a barely-there white or silver design. The second paper had maroon flowers, green leaves, and a sort of geometric pattern.

As I usually note, the colors were as bright and attractive as they originally were. Only smoke had darkened the paper, not age.

I tried to wipe off some of the smoke from a section of paper, and it was pretty successful. This means the wallpaper was durable and washable, and has stood the test of time.

Hand-mixed wheat-based paste was used in those days. They must have added insecticides and mildewcides, as there were no signs of insects have eaten the paper or paste. (Since wheat is a food, bugs will eat the paste off the paper, if no insecticide is added.)