On Patching Wallpaper
The reason we originally got involved in the media was because we had enjoyed good fortune as home improvement contractors and wanted to put something “back on the shelf”. This all happened about 15 years ago when our company offices were located in a turn-of-the-century building that our grandfather originally had built during the turn of the century. We first rented a small space in the rear of the building and later – as our business grew – we moved to the front where we occupied several offices. The building was originally a hotel with a bar and later became a bordello. How’s that for family history. Anyway, a fellow named Gordon Fisk tackled the restoration head on and not only saved all of the original woodwork, but insured that every detail right down to the carpet and wallpaper were period matches.
The wallpaper in our office was simply gorgeous. Swirled patterns of paisley and flowers – wild! When we decided to install our new phone system – grow, grow, grow – we were forced to make holes in two of the walls. Oh, God! What a mess. Back then none of us knew how to repair wallpaper, so we called in Mr. Russo – a local expert. His advice was that we repair the walls perfectly smooth first – keeping the patch area as small as possible – and he would come back and perform the wallpaper repair after that.
We completed the wall patch and called Mr. Russo to begin his task. First, he cut a patch out of a matching piece of wallpaper (Mr. Fisk had left some in the attic). He made it slightly larger than the area to be repaired. He placed the patch over the damaged area and once he had aligned the pattern in the patch with the pattern on the wall he used masking tape to hold the patch in place. With the patch firmly in place he then used a brand new razor blade to cut a wavy, squiggly shape around the perimeter of the damaged area – but inside the area of the patch itself. He pressed the blade firmly and cut through both the patch material and the wallpaper on the wall. We were to learn later that the technique he used was called “double cutting” – cutting through two layers at once. Both layers ended up being cut to precisely the same size and shape.
We learned that for larger patches cutting wavy lines helps to hide the cut. For smaller patches square and rectangular shapes work just as well. He then removed the paper on the wall (between the patch and the cut). Adhesive was then applied to the patch and to the wall. Once the glue had softened the patch, it was applied to the wall and gently squeegeed. A moment or two later he cleaned the area with a damp sponge and went on to repair the second patch in exactly the same way.
None of us could believe our eyes. The patch literally was invisible. We have since used Mr. Russo’s technique on dozens of occasions. And it works every time.
Loose seams and bubble are even easier to repair as long as you remember the most important secret – “soften the wallpaper in and around the area of the repair first”. There is kind of a trick here because if the paper is not wet enough it will split or rip as you work with it and if it gets too wet then it will easily tear. We can’t recommend anything but patience here. Once you’ve made one or two repairs you will become an expert yourself.
To repair a curling seam you will need the following tools:
- A sponge
- A seam roller
- A tiny paint brush or a cue tip
- A small container of wallpaper adhesive
Use the sponge and warm water to soften the wallpaper. Apply the adhesive to the wall side of the wallpaper and to the wall using a small artists paint brush or a cue tip. Let the adhesive absorb into the surfaces for a few minutes and then use a seam roller to reaffix the wallpaper to the wall. After about 10 or 12 minutes use the sponge again to clean excess adhesive from the surface.
A bubble repair is really easy. Use a razor to slice open the center of the bubble. And then inject a small amount of adhesive with a construction syringe. You can pick one up at a paint store for about $5. Use a damp sponge to soften the paper and then use a seam roller to reaffix the paper to the wall. And that’s all there is to it!