Oddly enough, the Association does not mention using a rented wallpaper steamer, perhaps the primary way OHJ readers have stripped wallpaper over the years. The steam saturates the old paper quickly with the added advantage of heat to loosen the adhesive. This method is recommended for plaster walls only; steam may delaminate the surface of drywall. Prep the room carefully, taping over outlets and using waterproof dropcloths on the floor. Perforate or score the paper as described above. The steamer will make a mess, and create streams of super-hot water, so wear heavy gloves and eye protection.
Fiberglass wall liners like Texturglas provide a smooth, optimal surface for new paint or wallpaper.
Courtesy Pinturas Apliastig
Pro Tip: Instead of trying to butt seams, trim the edges of wall liner about 1/8″ to 3/16 ” short on all sides. This helps keep the liner edges from showing and allows the finish paper to have a tight bond directly to the wall. Wall Liners
Walls in older houses present all sorts of problems you don’t find with fresh drywall or plaster. The solution for previously patched plaster, small cracks, bumps, and cracked and flaking paint—even for old wood paneling and sand-finish plaster—is to use a wall liner. A time-honored tradition, wall liners smooth away defects so that almost any wall can accept new paint or wallpaper.
To a professional, a wall liner is the best way to guarantee a long-lasting, trouble-free wallpaper installation. The techniques date to the early 18th century, when delicate imported papers were pasted to strips of canvas before hanging.
Since a liner is essentially monochromatic, it goes up faster than a patterned wallpaper with repeats. Pasted and unpasted wallpaper liners are usually available from wallpaper dealers as well as online. Other options include acid-free lining paper and blankstock (try
paper-hangings.com) and fiberglass mat systems like Nu-Wal ( nu-wal.com, abatron.com).
Acid-free papers These moderately heavy papers are ideal for situations like historic restorations where longevity is a goal. Made from traditional rag paper, acid-free liners are highly porous and can expand about 1 percent. Paper-Hangings recommends applying acid-free papers with a paste with a high water content, such as a thinned premixed clear paste or a wheat/cellulose blend. Blankstock This traditional product provides a smooth, receptive surface for wallpaper, especially block-printed papers that contain distemper inks. It absorbs excess moisture from the finish paper, allowing it to dry quickly. It’s also a good choice for very thin papers, such as handprints. Blankstock requires sizing, or prewetting with a wheat-paste sizing product, followed by overnight drying.
Fiberglass Durable fiberglass matting makes an excellent substrate for wallpaper, especially over walls that have surface flaws. The matting is cut to rough size and applied with an elastomeric saturant that’s vapor retardant. Once the excess material has been trimmed away, a second coat of saturant is applied. When the walls have cured, they can be painted or papered. Although the system is very forgiving, the walls still have to be stripped of peeling paint or paper, and any damaged plaster repaired and reinforced before installation can begin. Hanging Fiberglass Liner
Installing a fiberglass wall liner is something you can do yourself. The material is strong, doesn’t need sizing, and can be ordered with all necessary materials, including the saturant that also acts as the adhesive. Here’s a step-by-step guide:
> Measure a section of wall and cut the fiberglass mat to size, with about 4″ to 6″ of overage on all sides.
> Apply the saturant to the section with a paint roller.
Use a paintbrush for hard-to-reach areas. Apply the mat to the wet wall surface, smoothing in place with a 4″ or broader putty knife.
> Trim the excess material at ceilings, baseboards, mouldings, and outlets. Smooth out any air bubbles by dragging the putty knife over the liner. Follow with another coat of saturant.
> Once all the sections are hung, apply a second coat of saturant and allow to dry for at least 48 hours before priming walls.
Illustration of double cutting.
Double Cutting When you hang a new section of liner next to the previous one, here’s a trick to make the seams disappear. It’s called double cutting.
Hang the second section of liner so that it overlaps the first by about 1″.
• Once it’s in place,
hold a 6″ level or another straightedge down the center of the lapped seams.
Run a sharp utility knife or new razor blade along the straightedge. If the cut is a long one, change the blade every couple of feet so that it’s sharp.
Carefully peel away the strips of liner on both sids of the cut.
Smooth the panels back together. You should have an almost invisible seam between the two sections.
If you plan to hang a dark-color wallpaper, prime or paint the walls in a similar shade before you begin. Once the paper is on the wall, it may shrink slightly; a dark color underneath eliminates the potential for white lines to appear between the panels.
This frieze was one of several “virtual room” digital mock-ups.
Customizing for the Room
Lavished with original stained woodwork and built-ins, the dining room in a 1912 Arts & Crafts home was near pristine. The scenic wallpaper hanging above the plate rail, however, had seen better days. Dating to the 1950s or ’60s, it was cracked, peeling, and discolored from water damage.
To replace it, the owners asked Bo Sullivan and Gwen Jones of
Bolling & Co. to create a custom paper based on a period original. After looking through the studio’s collection of vintage wallpapers and sample books, they decided to do trial runs of several options from around 1910 to 1915. Rather than reproduce new papers based on each design, Bolling & Co. created digital mock-ups of each pattern, shown in the context of the room, to be previewed on a computer screen.
After considering an English paper with a peacock motif, a subtle “leather” embossed paper, and a hawthorn-berry frieze, the winner turned up: an Arts & Crafts pendant frieze with a coordinating border paper. Machine-printed on a buff oatmeal paper with soft colors and gold metallic accents, the ca. 1915 paper had a nice balance of detail and simplicity, with warm colors in a subtle yet rich palette.
Original paper (right), and the rescaled version.
There was enough of the full design repeat in the sample that it was possible to scan and re-create the paper without losing any distinctive details. Digital printing allowed Sullivan and Jones to tweak the size, scale, and layout to make the frieze easier to apply, especially around corners and doorways. Bolling & Co. also tested the design in different colorways to get just the right blend to coordinate with other furnishings in the room.
Since the height of the wall area was only about 36″, it made sense to print the new paper in a horizontal orientation rather than the more typical vertical strips. That eliminated most vertical seams and allowed the decorative pendant and border patterns to be integrated
directly into the plain oatmeal fill paper in a single printing.
The overall design was adjusted for size so that it perfectly fit the wall space, with
a bit of blank space at the edges to accommodate changes in wall height and trim lines. Additionally, to minimize waste, the pendant pattern for areas over the tops of doors, windows, and cabinets was printed separately in multiple side-by-side strips.
Subtle and geometric, the custom paper designed by Bolling & Co. brings out the rich tones of the original woodwork and built-ins in a 1912 Arts & Crafts dining room.
Beast Before Beauty
After stripping two layers of existing wallpaper and an original liner paper from the walls, wallpaper pro Shannon Russell made an interesting discovery. The original plaster had been painted with a cold-water or distemper paint in an intense deep blue. (Other common colors of the time included deep red and deep green.) This original paint was made by mixing ground pigments with cold water, the usual formula for calcimine.
As everyone quickly realized, the old cold-water paint posed a problem for the new installation. Calcimine paints are notoriously unstable and tend to cause delamination of successive applications of paint or wallpaper. Once all surrounding surfaces were protected with plastic and drop cloths, Russell moistened the layers of wall covering with a diluted solution of Dif, an enzyme-based wallpaper stripper. Once the solution had soaked through the layers, Russell carefully removed the mess, using
a scraper and broad knife.
Once stripped, the next task was to remove the original wallpaper paste. The moisture from the stripper had freshly dissolved the pigments underneath, and the deep matte color spread everywhere. To stabilize any remaining colorants, Russell primed the walls with Draw-Tite, a penetrating sealer designed for chalky surfaces. Once the walls were fully dry, plaster cracks were repaired using mesh tape secured with screws. All the walls were then smoothed, sanded, and primed with a Gardz, a paintable wall sealer intended for use over chalky surfaces with adhesive residues. Russell finished the preparation by adding a white, acid-free wall liner to help achieve strong cohesion and a smooth installation. Finally, the new paper was ready to hang, using a premixed clear paste, Pro-880 from Roman Adhesives.
Pro Tip: Before installing new wallpaper, lightly sand any surface covered with oil paint. This helps the new paper grip the surface.