There is a growing tendency to coat walls with colour-wash, rather than having patterned papers.
Careful selections of colours and the right quality of materials can be combined to give very pleasing effects to most rooms. For instance, rooms with a sunless, north aspect can be made to look bright when the walls are done in warm-looking tones of yellow, while a sunny room with a south aspect can be treated in cooler shades, such as greens, greys or mauves.
In addition, water paints and distempers are usually much more suitable than papers on walls of newly-built bouses.
If the ceiling is to be distempered as well as the walls, it should be done first.
Materials for Walls.
If you intend to colour the walls of a room, your first consideration must be the choice of materials. There are, broadly speaking, two classes of material.
The best material for the purpose is an oil-bound water paint. It has several merits not possessed by those materials known as size-distemper, or simply as distempers. It will not rub off. It is sanitary and can be washed after it has become hard. Also, it need not be removed before redecorating. Water paints can be obtained in a large range of tints, and they are intermixable, which renders it possible for you to get almost any shade desired.
The other kind of wash is the size-distemper class, which can be bought in different forms. The better brands are in paste form, which you make ready for use by simply adding water and stirring. Other types are supplied in powder form, and require to be soaked and mixed with water. Cheap size-bound distemper may be made in a similar way to that described for ceilings, using the necessary colouring pigment as desired, and adding extra size to bind same.
Walls being much more subject to hard wear than ceilings, we advise you, where possible, to use the prepared brands of water paint or distemper.
Preparing the Walls.
Where walls have been previously distempered with size-distemper, they should be washed down, using water with a wall brush to remove the old material. They should then be allowed to dry thoroughly. Any repairs to the plaster may be done with patent plaster. These instructions should be carefully carried out before applying any of the undermentioned types of material.
Applying Water Paints.
These should be thinned for use, according to the directions on the tin. The first coat should be applied (with a flat distemper brush) liberally, brushed well and laid off evenly with vertical strokes. You will find it best to work from the light in most cases. The first coat should be allowed to dry for about 24 hours, after which time a second coat may be applied in a similar manner. Do not over-thin the water paint. On some surfaces one coat may be found sufficient to give a good result.
When it is desired to put a water paint of one colour over another, the existing surface should be washed down with warm water and allowed to dry. Afterwards, the new water paint should be applied. Where walls are being finished with water paint, they should not be sized.
In the case of prepared distempers, after mixing as directed by the manufacturers, they should be applied in a similar manner, as described under water paints. They may, however, be second-coated when dry, which time depends upon the warmth of the room.
Where you desire to apply your own mixed distemper, after washing the walls, it is best to size them first with clearcole, prepared as directed for ceilings. When this is dry, the distemper may be applied in a similar manner to that for ceilings. A second coat may be put on if desired, but this should be used thinner than the first coat.
Water paints or distempers may be applied without showing brushmarks by stippling the wet surface with a brush specially made for the purpose. This brush is known a.-a stippler, and is used by dabbing the tips of the bristles against the wet surface. This, if carefully carried out, leaves a very pleasing finish.
Never distemper over greasy marks. Clean the grease off with soap and water, afterwards rinsing the parts with clean water.
You can distemper over wallpaper if it is firm and not torn, but if the paper has a pattern with reds or golds in, it should be stripped off, as the colours will be liable to show through the distemper.
When a wall is stained, through dampness penetrating at some time, it is advisable to coat the patch and a generous portion of the surroundings with a sharp oil paint which will dry well. Allow this to dry before applying distemper.
The use of two different distempers in the same room often provides a highly artistic effect. It should only be attempted by the amateur who has an eye to colour, however. As a rule, two different colours will not blend so well as two different shades of the same colour.
Distempers and water paints lend themselves suitably to decoration by stencilling. Ornamental patterns may be applied to friezes, borders, etc. Never begin to stencil a pattern until the ground work is perfectly dry.
Distempering a Ceiling.
Take down all pictures and anything else hanging on the walls. Clear the room of as much furniture as possible ; cover the rest with old sheets or newspapers. Wear old clothes and cover up your head. For your first attempt at the work, select a room where the walls are to be redecorated, otherwise they will probably be spoilt by splashes. The first thing is to remove the old distemper. With an old or very cheap distemper brush, start on one side by applying water with the side of the brush. When about a square yard has been gone over, go back to the starting point and cover the same ground by rubbing with the side of the brush. The old coating will have softened and will work up into a lather which can be removed by rising the brush in water. It is a good plan to then go over the cleaned patch with a slightly damp sponge. Continue in this way, working on about one square yard at a time, until the whole ceiling has been cleaned. Do not leave any of the old coating on, even though it may not look dirty. Change the water as often as it becomes soiled.
Moisten any cracks or broken cornices with water, and fill up with plaster of Paris applied with a bricklayer’s small trowel. This must be done quickly, as the plaster dries rapidly.
To expedite the drying of the ceiling, open the door and windows, and, if convenient, light the fire. When the ceiling is quite dry, mix a solution of clearcole, which consists of lb. powdered size, £ lb. soft soap, and two quarts of boiling water. Stir well and heat in a pail for 15 minutes, taking care that the solution does not burn or boil over. As the liquid is clear, it is helpful to add just a little white distemper. This will enable you to see the parts of the ceiling covered, whilst applying with the cheap brush already used for the cleaning. It is important to see that the clearcole covers every part of the ceiling, and that it is thoroughly dry before distemper is applied.
For the new distemper wash, it is best to use one of the good proprietary brands on the market, and follow the manufacturers’ instructions as to its preparation. If you wish to make up your own distemper, place two or three lumps of whitening, broken into small pieces, in a clean pail, cover with water, and with a short length of wood beat up until a smooth paste. Melt three ounces of powdered size in hot water, boil it, add to the paste and mix thoroughly, then add water whilst still stirring, to give a thick creamy solution. Finally, add sufficient powdered ultramarine, to make the wash a very blue shade —this ensures a good white shade when dry. Leave the wash to stand for at least 12 hours until a stiff jelly, then remove any skin formed on top ; give it a stir, and if lumpy, strain through muslin.
When about to distemper a ceiling, close all windows and doors, and do not have a fire burning in the room, otherwise the wash will not retain its fluid state. Use a good brush ; dip the tips of the hairs in the wash, and slap on the ceiling in short, sharp strokes, applied in all directions. The work must be done quickly, as the edge of the wash must be extended before it dries, in order to obtain an even finish. Work in strips parallel to the narrow side of the room, commencing each strip from the same end as the first one. Leave cornices and other ornamental parts until last. A small, clean paint brush will be useful for these.
It is impossible to touch up the ceiling here and there, after the distempering has been finished. If you are dissatisfied with your work, the whole of the ceiling must be gone over again with distemper at half strength.
Wipe the splashes from paint work with a damp cloth or sponge.