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Wallpaper Seam Repair

Let NH help you tighten up those nasty old wallpaper seams... before its too late!

Repairing loose or curling wallpaper seams has to rank as one of the most frequently avoided repairs.  Why?   Because most home handyfolks who have attempted this repair have been dissatisfied with the results and... face it... failure is not something most of us look forward to... ever Yes, Harriet, there can be more to this "seamingly" easy repair than just applying some seam sealer and pressing the paper in place.  But never fear... you can do it with a little patience, a little time, and the right materials!

A simple fix for loose wallpaper... or "Sometimes, you just get lucky!"

I think that it's one of the grandest feelings... starting a job that looks to be a real nail-biter and it turns out smooth as silk.  So it goes with wallpaper repair.  Sometimes it is just as simple as this...

  1. Apply a little seam sealer onto the wall or the paper.  Don't apply too much, especially with a "paper" wallpaper. 
  2. Press the paper in place.
  3. Wipe off any excess sealer with a damp sponge and... Voila!... job well done!

You must be careful not to leave any seam sealer on the surface of the wallpaper.  Though the sealer dries clear, it also dries with a slight gloss.  Leave too much behind and it will show as a shiny area near the seam.  This is why you should try to apply it heavily enough for full coverage but not so heavily that you have a sloppy dripping mess when you try to press the paper down!  This is less of a problem with vinyl paper because you wipe the sealer off easily with a damp sponge.  Be careful... some "paper" wallpapers, grass cloth and papers with embossed designs can be damaged by vigorous rubbing in an attempt to clean off overzealous gluing!

Most wallpaper repairs are easier to accomplish at the first hint of trouble.

Loose wallpaper has a tendency to curl, especially vinyl papers, so the longer you wait to do the repair, the less chance that a little glue and deft finger work will fix it!  Case in point... you apply the adhesive, press the wallpaper in place, and merrily go on to redrywall your living room.  Meanwhile, while you are performing other mate-pleasing chores, the wallpaper decides to flex its curling muscles and pulls away from the wall.  Drat!  By the time you return, the seam sealer has dried and made the wallpaper even more stiff and intractable!

When the going gets rough... how to do a repair that is almost perfect!

To keep the wallpaper where it belongs (and every hair perfectly in place on your head), I have devised a simple method for tough seam repairs that works well in most circumstances.  I'm sure you are eager to start but read through the entire process first.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  This method works best and is safest on vinyl-faced wallpapers.  Though many "paper" wallpapers will stand up to this method of repair, I would caution you to try a small repair in a not-so-obvious area before doing the entire job!  Fortunately, "paper" wallpapers are more likely to be cooperative with the "simple fix" described earlier. My guess?  Maybe the "rough and tumble" vinyl wallpapers have some sort of macho thing going on!

Apply wallpaper seam repair glue with small brush1)  Check the area under the seam for loose paste.  This is impractical for slightly lifted seams but if possible, try to brush away or vacuum out any loose material such as old powdery paste.

2)  Open a fresh container of seam sealer, available in tubes or tubs.  A tube is probably the best choice for anything but the largest jobs.   Remember... unless you do this work all the time the sealer will probably spoil before you can finish up a large quantity!Wipe off excess seam adhesive with clean sponge

3)  Using a small artist's brush, apply the sealer into the seam.  A 1/2" wide brush is usually plenty big.  Larger brushes can lead to sloppier work and you might not get enough paste into the seam.  Apply enough so that it squeezes out when the seam is pressed down.  After the first foot or so of seam you will get the knack of it!

4) Use a damp sponge to press the seam down.  Rub the sponge gently over the seam a number of times, turning it each time to a clean area.   Rinse the sponge in clean water as often as necessary, but Remove excessive moisture from the seamsqueeze it out thoroughly.   This step spreads the sealer behind the wallpaper, squeezes out the excess sealer and cleans the face of the wallpaper.   When you are through there should be no sealer on the face of the paper!

5)  Using a paper towel, clean cloth or toilet paper (hey... why not?), wipe any excess moisture from the seam.  The seam may or may not stay down and stuck to the wall ("may not" is shown in the photo).  Wipe lightly!  You don't want to squeeze the life (or remaining glue) out of the seam... just dry it!  If the wiping cloth or paper sticks, more seam sealer has escaped from the seam, so wipe it once again with the sponge.Use painter's tape to hold glued seam down till dry

6)  Apply tape to the seam as shown, starting at either end of the loose area.  Don't start in the middle of the loose seam... you might cause a "ripple" or wrinkle.  Properly applied, the tape will hold the Allow seam to dry at least 24 hours before removing tapeseam together and take the curling pressure off the sealer, allowing it to hold the wallpaper in place.

NOTE:  Though masking tape will work, I prefer to use a product known as "painter's tape".  It has a slightly less sticky adhesive than masking tape so it's less likely to tear the wallpaper when removed.

7)  Allow your masterpiece to dry for at least 24 hours before removing the tape.   If the curled seam or corner is more than an inch deep, the drying time might be significantly longer, especially with a vinyl paper.  You can still remove the tape in 24 hours, but it must be done carefully or you may pull the seam open.  If you do pull it open, you will have to redo the repair immediately.  This is when you will really appreciate the value of the painter's tape over ordinary masking tape.

The last word...

Don't expect miracles with any wallpaper repair.  Some seams press in flawlessly while, with others, the results may be OK but not spectacular.  If large areas of the paper are lifting, chances are the original installation was somehow flawed either in prep or application.   Seam sealer paste is not designed for use over large areas, especially under "paper" wallpaper.   You will almost certainly get uneven areas and wrinkling.  The only practical repair in this case would be... gulp...  reinstallation of new wallpaper.

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Jerry Alonzy, the founder of Naturalhandyman.com

Written by Jerry Alonzy

Jerry Alonzy, a.k.a. the Natural Handyman, has been an active handyman for over 30 years with experience in most areas of home repair and renovation.

As a do-it-yourself author and web developer since 1995, he has been featured in USA Today, the Today Show and on radio shows, magazines, newspapers and websites. His material appears widely on the web, but primarily on his website... The Natural Handyman. You can also find him on Google+.