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Paper Hanging Problems

The questions that are most often asked about problems people have with wallpaper.
By Ray Lewhite.

Emulsion Paint over Paper

Readers Question: My dining room was papered four years ago with a patterned wallpaper. It is still in good condition with the exception of one or two places, such as by the door, where it has become dirty. Is it possible to apply a washable emulsion paint over the wallpaper or must the paper be removed?

paper hanging problems
Micks Solution: Although it is not unusual to apply emulsion paints,etc. to wallpaper that has been hung for several years, and mostly it can be done very successfully. But! before attempting this job, a test must be carried out on the paper to ensure that the colours of the pattern do not contain any coloured inks that will "bleed" through the emulsion after this is applied. This may sometimes appear several days later. Certain types of deep red are colours that will penetrate through the emulsion causing stains. Also make sure the paper is firmly attached or blisters that are hidden by the pattern will become apparent when emulsion is applied. Moisture from the emulsion soaking into the paper may also cause parts of the paper to become loose. If these faults occur it would be wiser to remove the paper. Followed by washing the walls and stop up the cracks and holes and apply the emulsion paint. However, if the plaster is in a poor condition, a lining paper should be hung to cover up the defects, etc., in the plaster work. When dry apply the emulsion.

Cleaning Wallpaper

paper hanging problems
Readers Question: Is there a means of cleaning wallpaper that has become dirty with wear and heat from a radiator?

Micks Solution: There is a prepared dough like substance for cleaning wallpaper that a few years ago was obtainable at most stores. Naturally the amount of dirt it can remove is limited. For future reference it would be better to buy a wallpaper that has been made washable. There is an untold amount of patterns to choose from. These papers can be sponge cleaned at frequent intervals rather than allow a year or more accumulation of dust and dirt to collect on the surface. Warm soapy water can be used, but do not use any strong detergents as they are liable to break down the protecting film on the wallpaper.

To Make it Washable

paper hanging problems
Readers Question:Because of the children marking the wallpaper I was advised to hang a washable paper when I redecorated my room. Although there was a good selection to choose from I could not find one I liked and was suitable. I, therefore, hung an ordinary type of paper and applied a coat of liquid that is supposed to make the paper washable. Unfortunately in one or two places the colours in the paper smudged a little. Please can you tell me what I did wrong?
Micks Solution: There are several makes of emulsion varnishes that can be bought and applied to the wallpaper to make it washable. There are however certain wallpapers to which it would be unwise to apply this solution, such as satinettes (these shine) for the shine will become patchy. Other papers have colours that soften when liquid is applied and should you touch the wet parts a second time with the brush whilst applying the solution, smearing of the colours will occur. I suspect you have unavoidably done this. Therefore it would be better to test a sample of the paper before attempting to apply the solution over the whole of the wallpapered walls. Follow the instructions carefully and apply the solution with a 3in. paint brush. All washable wallpapers are treated with a similar solution.

Removing Varnished paper

paper hanging problems
Readers Question: My staircase has been papered with a varnished paper that has been on for many years and I believe it has also been varnished over by the previous owner. Is there an easy way of removing it or can fresh paper (not varnished) be hung over this?
Micks Solution: Your questions has become rather involved because there are two ways of answering them. Take the first part "can it be removed?" Yes but not easily unless you can have the loan of a steam stripper from a hire shop. The other method is to remove the varnish by applying a coat of paint stripper. This solution will penetrate into the varnish, softening it and it can then be removed with a stripping knife. Next score the surface of the paper with a hacksaw blade or coarse glass paper and soak the paper with hot water to which a little common soda has been added. The water will penetrate through the parts of the paper that have been scored and so ease the removal of the paper with the stripping knife. However, if you think this method of removing the varnished paper is going to be too difficult, a fresh paper can be hung over it but not direct. First the varnished paper must be treated with a rubbing of coarse glass paper so scoring it to make a key. Apply a weak to medium coat of size to which a handful of fine plaster such as alabastine has been added. Next hang a lining paper horizontally to the walls, allowing it to dry out thoroughly. The wallpaper can then be hung in the usual way. It is essential to hang a lining paper first, as condensation is liable to occur on walls that are sealed such as yours. The lining paper, plus the surface paper, act as a barrier and so minimise the chance of the wallpaper damping up when humidity is prevalent.

Re-distempering ceiling

paper hanging problems
Readers Question:Is it possible to re-distemper my ceiling, that at present is papered and has a coat of ordinary distemper (not washable) on top of it, without removing the paper?
Micks Solution:It is doubtful whether you will successfully re-distemper your ceiling without first removing the old paper. There are several reasons for possible failure. One the old distemper must be removed and the wetting of this will cause the water to be absorbed into the paper. Owing to the fact that the paper has been on the ceiling for a number of years, the paste will have weakened and the water will cause the paper to blister and edges to loosen. Alternatively should you attempt to apply a fresh coat of distemper without removing the old you will find it difficult to do so. Also the old distemper being dirty will be liable to cause patchiness. Even if you are successful in the application there is a great possibility of the distemper flaking from the ceiling in a few months. The correct procedure is to remove the old paper and to re-paper the ceiling after the usual preparation of washing, stopping cracks and sizing the ceiling. Alternatively hang a lining paper and emulsion over it, if the ceiling is in a poor condition.

Paper over paint

paper hanging problems
Readers Question:My kitchen ceiling is at present painted and I wish to redecorate and apply a wallpaper to the ceiling. Please can you advise me if it can be done and how to set about the job?
Micks Solution:A painted surface is not a good one on which to apply wallpaper, owing to condensation being prevalent in kitchens and thus causing damping of the wallpaper, eventually causing it to loosen. An anti-condensation paint having a matt finish would be preferable such as any matt or vinyl emulsion. Should you however, decide to paper this surface, rub well down with glass paper (to give a good key) to remove the gloss from the paint. Follow this by rinsing the surface with water and then apply a coat of thick to medium strength size to which a handful of fine plaster such as alabastine, has been added. When dry hang a good quality lining paper (1000 grade) and allow this to dry thoroughly before hanging a washable wallpaper. Have the paste fairly thick but brush out well on the paper, otherwise too much moisture is liable to cause blistering

Blistering on Paper

paper hanging problems
Readers Question:I recently hung a fairly heavy embossed wallpaper that dried out leaving a number of blisters showing. As I have previously hung other types of paper without this trouble, can you tell me where I went wrong, and whether anything can be done with the blisters? The walls were stripped of old wallpaper and then sized. Surely they were in good condition for paperhanging?
Micks Solution:It is doubtful whether anything can be done with any success to improve the appearance of your wallpaper. However, you may try making slits in the blisters with a craft knife. Follow, if possible any lines or edges of the pattern where the slits will be less likely to be noticed. Lift these edges of paper, re-paste, and stick back. Take care not to squeeze any paste on to the face of the wallpaper. The reason for blistering occurring is usually that the paste was too thin, and/or the wallpaper was not allowed to soak sufficiently before hanging. When the paper is pasted moisture is absorbed, causing the fibres to swell. Naturally, the thicker the paper the more it can absorb. Should the paste be thin these papers will expand excessively, causing not only blisters but possibly loose edges as it endeavours to regain its normal size on drying. The correct procedure when hanging embossed papers is to use a paste such as "solvite". Mix it to a fairly stiff consistency so that the brush more or less stands up in it. Apply the paste, but brush it out fairly well. This gives the adhesive strength without the water content. Less water means less absorption of moisture and less expansion of paper. Allow about 5 minutes (the time varies with the nature of the wallpaper) before hanging to the wall. A second pasting should not be necessary. It would improve the grip of these papers if you hang a lining paper first in a horizontal direction.

Papering insulation board

paper hanging problems
Readers Question:On a partition in one of my rooms I have fixed an insulating board to help deaden any noise. I wish to hang wallpaper to the board, but the surface does not appear very suitable. What can you advise?
Micks Solution:There are several kinds of insulation boards and it would have helped if you had given us the name of the type used. I have tested a fibrous surface type to which paper will not stick satisfactorily. However, by following these instructions you will find you can cope with most fibrous types of insulating boards. All nails must be sunk below the board surface. Next apply a coat of paint as a sealer. A flat paint to which a little varnish has been added will do. This binds down the fibres. When dry, lightly rub down the surface to remove any loose fibres. All joints and sunken nails must be filled level with filler. Hang a fairly stout lining paper. Follow when dry, by hanging the wallpaper.

Colour bleaching

Readers Question:We are about to repaper one of our rooms. But before doing so we would like your advice on the cause of bleached patches on the present wallpaper. There is no damping up the wallpaper, and it feels perfectly dry. As we are going to strip the old paper off, we want to know if there is anything to be done to avoid colour bleaching re-occurring?
Micks Solution: There are various reasons for these patches bleaching. It may be due to efflorescence caused through salts in the brickwork. Atmospheric dampness re-activates the salts, which come out through the paper. This leaves a white fluffy material on the surface. However as you do not mention any such thing occurring, we can assume it must be something else. The walls may not be damp in themselves. But I am inclined to think that the plaster varies in porosity and there is invisible condensation moisture present in some parts of the paper more than in others. This sometimes happens if a previous treatment such as washable distemper, has not been evenly removed. Most wallpapers are continually absorbing and releasing moisture as the humidity of the atmosphere alters. Although the paper never gets wet enough to show noticeable dampness, patches may eventually appear where the moisture is arrested by the non-absorbent parts of the plaster. I suggest hanging a good, stout lining paper to give a more uniform background. Use starch type paste to keep down the moisture content of the paper.

Dampness and pitch paper

paper hanging problems
Readers Question:My old cottage has no damp course. Although I have treated the lower parts of the wall with pitch paper, it does not stay on for long. The dampness fortunately, is not very pronounced, but any suggested solution you can give me to overcome this trouble will be welcome.
Micks Solution: Unfortunately, there is no cure for your trouble unless structural repairs are undertaken by inserting a damp course in the brickwork. However, clear the earth away from the outer wall to the depth of about one foot. Render the lower brickwork, and for about one foot above the earth level with a water-proof cement. This will stop most of the moisture from coming through into the room. On the inner-side of this wall try to dry out the dampness by using gentle heat. The best method of applying the pitch paper is to treat the effected area with bituminous paint. Whilst it is still wet apply the pitch paper with the pitch side to the wall. Use a warm iron to fix it, thus fusing the paint and paper together. This should make a satisfactory job to which wallpaper can be hung. Unless the moisture is excessive, it will last for a considerable time.
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