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How to prepare and line walls

Listed under Blog, preparation Posted Jun 24 2010

lining paperDecorating 101 – How to prepare and line walls –
I’m a big fan of lining paper as part of a high-end specification for decorating walls and ceilings. It provides a uniform base for painting over surfaces that have been patch plastered, and once walls have been well lined, future redecorating is easy. But is defaulting to lining, so clear cut?

On the other hand, Brighton Eco Painter, Tom White rightly pointed out to me that lining paper can cause more problems than it solves. Prior to painting, he prefers to thoroughly clean down plaster surfaces and fill everything meticulously under the harsh light of a halogen lamp. When the surface is perfectly smooth, he paints. I agree totally with his thinking and his approach too… The less to go wrong, the better.

However, if you encounter any of the following circumstances, I have found that lining paper is the most appropriate option, unless the historical nature of the job dictates otherwise.

If the walls are to be wallpapered »

Lining is a must-have base for a finish wallpaper. The main purpose of lining paper is to even out the porosity of plastered walls (not, as some customers want, to make a billiard table out of dinged and poorly plastered room.) When wallpapering, I was also taught to think of lining paper as a canary in a mineshaft. Better for lining paper to reveal any unforseen issues / oversights with preparation, rather than jump straight in with an expensive wallpaper and find a section of filler that didn’t get sanded properly.

If the walls have been stripped of wallpaper »

Removing every single trace of the residue from old glue and size can present a huge challenge. As I will show below, there is a very reliable alternative to squarting endlessly up and down extension ladders with buckets of water and sugar soap trying to scrub away all evidence of 100 year-old size made from melted down horses’ hoofs.

If isolated patches of old lath and plaster are flapping »

Flapping, or literally moving, lining paper is a practical alternative to complete removal and replastering.

The pitfalls of lining paper.

As Tom points out, lining paper CAN cause more problems than it solves. lining paper failed jointThe photo shows a typical problem where an otherwise perfect surface is spoiled by a few inches of inexplicably lifting joint.

Well, having fallen foul of this issue myself, even after double-pasting the joints, I’m confident I can tell you the inexplicable cause – and I’m very sure of the way to eradicate this potential issue at source.


Lining paper problems

Why does the lifting edge failure occur? Usually when your filler fails! And it is a pain.

lining paper where filler has failedOrdinarily, if you fill the dings in walls and ceilings prior to lining, (poly) fillers will stick well to plaster. Ordinarily, filler dries hard enough to withstand the softening effects of a coat of size / thinned wallpaper paste / diluted PVA. But failures occur when “ordinarily” lets you down.

In this case, if a section of filler is very thin, and then gets wetted by paste or size, it can let go from the plaster surface. If failed filler coincides with a joint in your lining paper, you have that eyesore that jumps out like a donkey’s doodah – and if you require a blemish-free surface, it is well-nigh impossible to put this imperfection right without complete removal of the lining paper or careful filling and reline the affected wall.

More lining paper imperfections »

Nobody gets a perfect result from every single piece of lining paper ever hung, and occasionally the paper swells too much in places and dries out with an overlap. Overlaps in lining are real no-no’s, but are easily remedied with a quick rub down with sandpaper.

I don’t get bubbles, and I definitely don’t prescribe to the notion of injecting bubbles with paste to stick them down. Needles are for doctors, not decorators.

If you see those horrible pimples, which is from specks of dust under the paper, just hit them flat with a hammer.

Lifting edges
The paperhanging process gives great results every time – as long as the surface beneath the lining paper stays solid. And I think it is the unpredictable nature of some substrates where Tom has an issue with relying on lining – rightly so.

Ordinarily, gypsum or lime plaster won’t be affected by the efforts of a paperhanger, so the paper dries stuck down firmly on a solid substrate, as expected 99 times out of 100. But there are those odd occasions when things don’t pan out – some old damp, chalkiness, paint that looks solid but isn’t... If the surface underneath the lining paper is affected by the moisture in the paste, and lifts, you end up with beautifully hung lining paper stuck firmly to a lifting substrate. If the substrate plays up underneath a joint, you see the above failure, and Murphy’s Law says the defect will appear right at eye level as you walk in the room!

The Solution to lifting joints in lining paper

beeline primer sealerWithout wishing to sound like a smart alec, the best approach is to prevent the problem from ever getting started.

1 – Remove all obvious coatings, paper etc from the wall, sand smooth.

2 – Use Polyfilla, or other specialist fillers to fill the cracks, dings and holes in the walls and ceilings.

3 – If you have time, smooth over filler with a damp sponge just before it hardens off, to reduce sanding.

4 – When dry, sand the filler smooth and clean off any dust with a vacuum.

5 – Apply a single coat of water-based Beeline Primer Sealer, or Zinsser Gardz. Wait an hour. Hang lining paper.

End of any lifting joint issues! And this is why.

Beeline water-based primer sealer »

I use Beeline because I cant get Zinsser Gardz. Both Beeline and Zinsser wonder products are formulated for us poor paperhangers faced with decorating every and any surface from traditional to the modern age. Unlike traditional size, diluted wallpaper paste, or builder’s Unibond PVA, Gardz and Beeline primer Sealer work every time .

The specialist products do all the work of glue size, sealer, primer and adhesion enhancer. Not only do they adhere to porous plaster and drywall, they stick to glass and laminate too. They also penetrate and bind polyfillers / traces of old paste / chalkiness, firmly to the surface below. As sealers, they also prevent paste from penetrating through to the filler below and softening it up. And last but not least, they provide a key specifically geared to accept wallpaper paste. What’s not to like?!!

I was using Beeline in the early 1990’s and have only experienced lifting joint issues when I have been unable to source it and had to resort to bog standard products. Cost is no reason for not using it – an 8-roll room costs £3 in material and an hour max of your time (the same time you need to allow for whether you use size or diluted paste or PVA) . Not a king’s ransom for you and your client’s peace of mind.

Sorry, I don’t know much more about lining paper, except:

odds and sods »

– if the surfaces are falling apart, MAV Wallrock lining paper is supposed to be an exact substitute for old hessian-backed lining, not. I liked the old hessian product, but it used to be difficult to hang without crinkling the paper, and even when all went well, close up you could see a slight hessian texture. The Wallrock products are a great advance. Light, no swelling or shrinkage, paste the wall, easy to trim. Wallrock premium even looks like plaster.

– Lining paper is great for protecting floors and worktops rather than cotton dust sheets.

– I planted a black walnut tree in 1997 as my contribution towards replacing what I have consumed as a paperhanger. And when I retire, my dream is to manage a small wood. No carbon footprint or offset issues by the time I pop my clogs.

If you are in the Brighton area, there is eco painter and decorator Tom White.

There must be something in the water, or a good decorating college in Brighton. Colour Republic also in Brighton have written probably the definitive Reasons to use lining paper

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9 comments to “How to prepare and line walls”

  1. Eco Painters

    Thanks for the informative content.

  2. Traditional Painter

    Thanks, glad the information was of use. Do you use much lining in US? I found it hard to source

  3. Colour republic Colour Republic

    Have to say i’m with my fellow Brightonian on this one as I dislike the problems that can occur with lining walls to then paint and namely that I find the walls can often be filled and prepped in about the same time as lining even on really bad walls. That said your article is very helpful in minimising the pitfalls some face when lining incorrectly and your choice of materials is also spot on

  4. Traditional Painter

    Thanks for reading it all the way through and being on a similar page:)

    One angle I failed to mention was that lining and painting in commercial settings can reduce the disruption/lost revenue on future redecs – assuming it is done correctly in the first place:)

    ie if the walls were lined and painted – with a quick coat of Gardz/Beeline sealer, wallpaper can be hung straight on top with zero prep.

    Going the filler only route, if wallpapering is required in the future, the walls would need sealing and lining first, which adds an extra day of disruption on the redec.

    I know it is marginal and a moot point on a small lounge, but in a commercial setting, I think the quick redec option is quite useful to think about, especially with the life cycle costs of maintaining hotels.

    I have been told that Sarah at TDS now stocks Zinsser Gardz, which is good to know. http://yfrog.com/h04jnzgj


  5. Colour republic Colour Republic

    There is as you state a place for lining paper in a decorators arsenal, sometimes it can be a clients preference, other times it can all boil down to cost (or loss of revenue to a client in a commercial setting as you point out) and also a requirement where a finishing paper is to be installed as 95% of the time we would always recommend a liner before hanging most wallpapers, unless it was a paper designed to be dry strippable such as some wallpaper murals.

    Two great articles on the reasons to use lining paper (or ‘blankstock’ as our friends over the pond refer to it) when hanging finishing paper can be found here – http://billarchibald.com/liner.htmlhttp://wallliner.com/why.html

    Look forward to more great content on your site 🙂

  6. Tim P

    Good info yet again.
    But I myself would wait the 3hrs for Zinsser Gardz to completely dry off before applying wallpaper. Just to be safe and me being anal.
    Hope you don’t mind me saying? :^)

  7. Traditional Painter

    I dont mind at all, Tim, I should have been more specific, 1 hour is fine for Beeline sealer to dry off, 3 hrs is ideal for Zinsser Gardz!

  8. Tomasz

    can I use alkali resisting primer. What I better?

  9. Avatar photo Andy Crichton

    Alkali resisting primer has its uses, it can be quite glossy though. If I were using ARP to deal with a problem surface, prior to lining, I would definitely be looking to Beeline or Gardz to provide some teeth for the subsequent lining. I guess the million dollar question, is Beeline and similar, as effective as ARP in your scenario. If so, no need for ARP.

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