Black walls under paper?

geoduckFebruary 5, 2010


My husband and I are restoring our 1931 bungalow. Our interior walls are plaster and have visible seams, which I always assumed were due to painted over wallpaper. However, on closer inspection, the paper isn't traditional wallpaper-- it's a rough, brown, almost paper-bag texture, and the walls behind it are black. Does anyone know what this is? I skimmed through Jane Powell's _Bungalow Details- Interiors_ and couldn't find any references to it. I did find an old post about a similar situation (link below), but nobody answered the wall question. If you do know what it is, what should I do with it? Can I just paint over it, or should I strip the paper off? I have to admit, I don't love the look of the seams, but I could live with it.

Sorry, I don't have any pictures, but there is a picture in the linked-to thread.

Thanks in advance for any assistance!

Here is a link that might be useful: Previous black wall thread

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Is it tar paper, the kind that roofs are covered with before shingles are applied?

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 10:42AM
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What do you mean by "the walls behind it are black". What part of it is black and what is the nature of the wall material? This might be wood fiber board often called beaver or buffalo board. It would be dark brown but it sometimes had an asphalt saturated face when used on the exterior of a building.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 12:25PM
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Thanks for the replies! I did a google image search on Beaverboard, and it's definitely not that or tar paper.

The walls are plaster over wood lath. The black stuff is some kind of coating on the plaster. The black layer is then covered with this weird rough paper and painted. My husband thinks the black stuff is some kind of adhesive for the paper, but it's not like any adhesive I've ever seen. If you touch it, your finger comes away dirty (although, in this house, it might just BE dirt :) ).

It seems like it's original-- I can't detect any paint layers under the black stuff, all the paint appears to be on top of the paper. It's in every room except the kitchen, utility porch and bath, which have normal painted plaster and beadboard.

I'll try to post a picture at some point-- I'm apparently the last person on earth who doesn't own a digital camera...

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 12:56PM
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They used to use black mastic to mount things like mirrors or Vitrolite, and it was also used for linoleum glue, but never thought they'd use it for wallpaper paste. It will have to be scraped off. Maybe the brown paper was put on the keep it from bleeding through. It's really hard to stain block asphalt mastic. If it does bleed on you, try a PVA primer.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2010 at 6:31PM
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Thanks, Casey. I appreciate the info. Sure was hoping to avoid more scraping, though...

    Bookmark   February 8, 2010 at 4:35PM
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