Home>Discussions>PAINTING & FINISHING>WHAT are my walls made of and how can I wallpaper them?
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alas
WHAT are my walls made of and how can I wallpaper them?
alas

Hi folks,

I just bought a house in West Philadelphia that was built around 1925. I immediately started scraping the texture off the walls in the foyer (fortunately it had never been painted and comes off easily) with the plan to wallpaper the walls once I got the texture off. I found the wall underneath to be made of something unfamiliar to me. It is speckled with black dots with a few tiny holes here and there and is quite smooth and even to an extent that makes me think it can't be any kind of plaster. It can be scratched easily and sounds like drywall when i knock on it (somewhat hollow and low). It seems most similar to drywall that just doesn't have paper on it-- it's clear that there is no paper in what I'm scraping off. Can anyone tell me what it is?

In this photo you can see the texture on the top region of the picture and the wall in question on the bottom.

And secondly, what would I need to do to prepare it to be wallpapered?

Thanks so much in advance.

Darian

HoustonRemodeler
Re: WHAT are my walls made of and how can I wallpaper them?
HoustonRemodeler

Darian,

You have the classic plaster walls typical of that era.

I dunno much about wallpaper.

A. Spruce
Re: WHAT are my walls made of and how can I wallpaper them?
A. Spruce

Yep, definitely plaster!

Hopefully the removal of the texture will be easy and damage free. You might try wetting it to see if that makes it peel off any easier, if so, dampen it before you start and you'll save yourself a whole bunch of work and possible damage to the plaster underneath.

Once texture free, you're going to want to smooth out any damage or irregularities with drywall topping compound, let it dry, sand it smooth.

Before hanging paper, you'll want to size the walls, this basically seals the surface and eliminates any dust that would interfere with paper adhesion. Additionally, sizing the wall will make removal/replacement of the paper later MUCH easier!

dj1
Re: WHAT are my walls made of and how can I wallpaper them?
dj1

Once you remove ALL the plaster, you will have to smooth and sand the walls, fill in holes with Spackle, fill cracks too. Wide cracks should be meshed and filled with joint compound, then sand, sand, lija !

Wall paper will show imperfections under it, therefore you should prime the walls, let them dry completely before wallpapering.

HoustonRemodeler
Re: WHAT are my walls made of and how can I wallpaper them?
HoustonRemodeler

I think DJ meant remove all the texture......

Clarence
Re: WHAT are my walls made of and how can I wallpaper them?
Clarence

It is plaster with a the brown coat troweled smooth.
The texture appears to have been applied at a lated date.
From the picture I think it is a coating of Joint Compound with will detatch itself from the plaster.
Try what Spruce said mist it with water and if it is joint compound it will loosen it.
Make all repairs with a Gypsum plaster type material DO NOT use any Joint or Toppings compound that require sanding.

alas
Re: WHAT are my walls made of and how can I wallpaper them?
alas

Thanks so much, everyone. I have been spraying the texture with water with a spray bottle which allows it to come off easily when sc****d. I did come across one area where I am assuming the original plaster was damaged, where the texture goes down to below the level of the original plaster (like there was a hole that they just built up with texture). I figured I would have to fill it in until it is even with the rest of the wall and then sand it until it is smooth, but Clarence, you're saying I should fill it in with plaster, not joint compound? Can plaster not be sanded? I know that I'm going to have to make sure it's really flat, smooth and even before I put the wallpaper on.

A. Spruce
Re: WHAT are my walls made of and how can I wallpaper them?
A. Spruce

No ill-intent towards Clarence. Clarence is a plaster guy, and plaster guys don't like seeing plaster repairs done with drywall compound. However, minor repairs to plaster have been done with drywall compound since the dawn of drywall compound, and done with success. Now, if you've got big cracks or holes to repair, I'd recommend contacting a plaster person to do it for you because it's easy to screw it up and hard to get it right.

For small nicks and dings, topping compound will suffice.

Clarence
Re: WHAT are my walls made of and how can I wallpaper them?
Clarence

Yes plaster can be repaired using most anything that will adhere to the plaster finish and brown coatings.
Some materials that will adhere to plaster Drywall compounds , Auto bondo , most epoxy resins , cement ,
Elmer's glue with sand added.
All the above will fail depending on the humidity in the area where it is applied.
Plaster will retain moisture that will cause the coatings to detatch from the plaster coatings.
If you are in a very dry climate you most likely won't have a big problem.
I am on the East Coast with very high humidity , drywall compounds over plaster anywhere fron 5 to 15 years depending on the humidity change and how often.

A. Spruce
Re: WHAT are my walls made of and how can I wallpaper them?
A. Spruce
Clarence wrote:

I am on the East Coast with very high humidity , drywall compounds over plaster anywhere fron 5 to 15 years depending on the humidity change and how often.

This is why I love this site, we pros are from all over the place, and it's easy to forget details that are not part of our environmental experience on a day to day basis. I was having a conversation with another tradesman just today on the benefits of coping molding joints over miter cuts. Similarly, here on the dry, low humidity west coast, it really doesn't matter what you do, things will be just fine. On the east coast, with it's stifling humidity, you do get problems with molding joint movement and in the case of this thread topic, wall composition.

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