Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Why? Totally Off The Wall !! ?

Why, Totally Off The Wall !! ?  Often-times I am praised for the 'clever' or 'evocative' name of my business.  I usually smile demurely and modestly say 'thank you' with true meaning and sincerity.

But, really –– WHY is the business named Totally Off The Wall !! ?  

Wallpaper removal (to the average person) is a seemingly 'no-brain' activity.  I mean, on the face of it, I can certainly understand that perception.  In fact, I had that very same belief when I started my business.  Well,– I did have 27 years as a wallpaper hanger under my belt when I started my wallpaper removal business... but I soon learned that I had a LOT to learn about wallpaper removal.

To this day, after 5 years of full-time wallpaper removal, I am still constantly challenged and actually 'amazed' by some feature of my job.

I'd like to share with you a just a brief 'glimmer' of what a wallpaper removal /wallpaper border removal job looks like from my professional perspective...

(Part 1)

•  The genesis of the name: Totally Off The Wall !!
It turns out that to be effective, wallpaper removal (for re-paint) MUST be a first-class job with no room for sloppiness in technique, human error, or laziness by the tradesman or tradeswoman.  For, you see, wallpaper 'paste' MUST BE COMPLETELY REMOVED or the job will 'fail'.  This is because 'paint' will not adhere to wallpaper paste without being adversely affected.  Nor will drywall mud (for spray-on textures such as 'orange peel' or 'knock-down') be unaffected by paste left upon the walls.  The paint will crackle (alligator), curl, or 'pop-off' and the drywall mud (for spray-on textures) will often 'slide' on the paste left upon the walls.  It is therefore 'VITAL' that the paste under your wallpaper be removed 'totally off the wall' –– thus the name!

•  Papers and other materials used for wallcoverings
Part of the challenge of wallpaper removal is the huge amount of different materials used in manufacturing wallcoverings.  The material that the pretty part of the wallcovering (only the inks, really) is printed upon is something called 'the ground'.  This is the paper, fabric, foil, etc. that we think of as the 'front' or 'face' of the wallcovering.  Often, in addition to the front/face of the wallcovering there is an entirely different material attached to this.  This would be called the 'back' or 'backing' of the wallcovering.  Then there is the complexities of the interaction of these two material layers to each other and of the backing material to the wall surfaces.  Sometimes, there is only one layer of wallcovering and this serves both as the printed-upon surface and the backing surface as well.  Unfortunately, there is no 'rule' over which type of wallcovering may be more 'advantageous' as difficulty of removal is dependent upon the totality of factors involved - such as...

•  Pastes and other materials used for wallcoverings
Another part of the wallpaper removal equation to consider is the paste (or other materials) used to adhere the wallcovering to the walls, ceilings, etc.  There are many types of pastes ranging from 'old-fashioned' wheat pastes, cellulose pastes and clay pastes, to newer pre-mixed pastes with starch base and added elements proprietary to each manufacturer –– that may be incompatible with other pre-mixed pastes –– and yet, are often mixed together by paperhangers.  How these various pastes 'react' to the 'ground' of your wallcovering and with what you/we think of as... 'the wall'... is often determined by the next factor in our equation...

•  Paint used on (or completely missing from) your walls
What we often think of as our 'wall' when we look into wallpaper removal... is a bit of a misnomer.  For, in truth, the wallcovering is actually adhered to the 'paste' (or other material) used and this 'paste' is actually adhered to an incredibly thin and quite vital layer of 'paint'.  There are many material properties of this thin layer of paint that affect the adherence of the paste and thus of the wallcovering.  The paint may have many different properties such as gloss/matte surface finish; oil-based paint, latex-based paint, or acrylic-based paint; it can be a 'primer' that was designed for good adhesion to you wall surface; or it can be a 'cheap' grade of paint with a weak or even a completely ineffectual 'bond' to your wall surface (in which case the paint will come entirely off the wall – attached with the paste on the back of your wallcovering).  In rare cases –  because of a 'missing' paint layer, wallcovering may be adhered directly to the wall surface.  Different wall surfaces (and, most importantly, their interactions with your paint layer) have a marked impact upon your wallpaper removal success chances...

•  Wall surfaces and their affect upon paints, pastes and wallcoverings
How your wallpaper removal or border removal job job proceeds (with incredible ease or with difficulty bordering upon impossibility) is affected in a major way by the wall surfaces that you have in your home or office, etc.  Almost all pre-1940's houses were made with wood lath and plaster construction.  These houses are wonderful for wallpaper removal, as the plaster provides a hard, solid base which allows for ease of work with wallpaper removal tools.  These walls were not often 'perfectly' flat, however, and one can 'chip' the walls a bit with one's steel wallpaper removal tools.  Otherwise, (barring major paint defects) [see above] these are the very 'best' walls from which to remove wallcoverings of any type.  Many houses that are of post-World War II vintage have a drywall (gypsum board sandwiched between heavy paper) surface.  The older houses made this way still had a thin layer of plaster applied over the drywall... for a plaster finish much like above.  After the 1960's nearly all houses made using drywall were simply finished with 'primer' paint and 'finish' paint over the paper surface of the drywall... and more often than we would like, builders even skip the primer paint and just use 'regular' or 'finish' paint over the drywall (which is an absolutely incorrect method of finishing drywall and is a 'painting' defect)

•  A major wall surface defect that will cost you money if your contractor/s allowed it to occur while building your house...  

NOTE: this defect can NOT be 'prevented' after-the-fact and has NOTHING to do with your wallpaper removal contractor (except that wallpaper removal WILL EXPOSE the general contractor's or painting contractor's error, poor quality control or laziness).
 When the sheets of drywall are placed together, they are 'finished' with drywall mud (a gypsum product) and these areas are sanded flat prior to painting.  SOME TIMES the drywall finisher crews or the painters DO NOT SWEEP-OFF THE SANDING DUST from the areas where the drywall sheets are joined together.  When this happens, any paint that is applied to these ('un-swept') walls only lightly adheres to the sanding dust areas (especially so in the case of walls painted with airless paint sprayers).  This is a major disaster, as you will see the painted surface of your wall come off with (and on the back of) your wallpaper.  While you may think – "So what!" – the reality is that 'paint', although seemingly a rather 'thin' or inconsequential layer on your walls, actually has a 'thickness' that you can easily 'see' when it is removed from your walls.  This means that you will have to do 'something' in order to replace this 'missing' paint layer (which in the case of failure to adhere to your walls due to sanding dust not being swept off – will create an unmistakable 'H'-pattern all around your room/s).  You see, the 4' x 8' drywall sheets are applied in a certain pattern and if the sanding dust is not carefully cleaned off the gypsum-finished edges– the pattern of the edges of the sheets can be seen... and this pattern often looks like a series of very large Capital 'H's on your walls.  This very thin missing layer of paint must be filled-in with drywall mud and then sanded smooth to match a flat wall or re-finished to match a textured wall.  This can be an expensive proposition and has NOTHING to do with wallpaper removal and has EVERYTHING to do with a general contractor or painting contractor who did not do their job properly.  Good luck at your house!

(Part 2)

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