Friday, July 27, 2012

Changing the Paper in Your Sliding Doors (襖 - Fusuma)

If you've damaged a 襖, or fusuma in your house or apartment then you're probably rightly worried about losing some of your damage deposit. Luckily, as with the paper doors (shouji) self-repair/replacement isn't particularly difficult.

Let's find out how to do it.
The steps are very straight-forward, but perhaps comparing to shouji maintanence was a bit generous.

First of all, you'll need some tools.

  • You may need to lever off some of the border of the door - you can just use a kitchen utensil, but specific okinomiyaki-spatula-looking things are available in home stores next to the paper itself.
  • If you need to cover a hole, some shouji paper and glue will do the trick (or any blank white paper).
  • A sharp knife
  • If you're using self-adhesive paper, you'll need some water and a sponge, or a spray bottle.
  • For perfect finishes, a wallpaper smoothing brush will come in handy.
  • Paper.
This indicates the paper has water-activated glue on it. Just look for the 水 kanji

1. Remove the lacquer border.

NB: Try to make a note of which bit went where, which direction it was facing, etc. to avoid stress later.
Depending on the type of fusuma you have, either the top or the sides will want to come off first. Whichever has an exposed joint at the corner will slide off. Use a mallet (or hammer, like true men such as myself) to gently tap the wood down about an inch. The frame is held in place by sliding over screws. You want to move the wood just enough so that the screw head can fit through the opening which exists for it. Wiggle it about and experiment.
The other border will be nailed in place. You should be able to either knock it upwards from the corner, or use a thin tool to lever it up.

2. Remove the handle.
Don't forget this. I did once and almost burned my house down in frustration.
Locate the nails holding the handle in place, and work them out of the wood. This can be tricky as they're so small. Then just lift the handle out of it's socket.

3. Repair any damage, or remove the old paper.
You don't really need to remove the old paper unless it's going to show through the new one, or is lumpy for some reason. You can see mine was in pretty bad condition, thanks to several months with a rabbit, but I left it on with no repercussions.
However, do your best to make a firm surface across the door. Stick some shouji paper or thin card over any holes.

4. Lay out your replacement paper and glue it up.
Make it totally flat, as the door will lie on top of this, face down. Any debris underneath will spoil the finished product.
If the glue is water-activated, get it wet with a sponge or spray until tacky-slimy to the touch. Sitting water is too wet, but you can just sponge it off.

5. Lie the fusuma down on the upturned paper.

Try to secure the paper as well as possible, then tilt or drop the door directly onto it. Minimum movement here.

6. Fold the edges up nicely.

Do not fold onto the back, only the edge.
Push the screw heads through and otherwise make sure the paper is firmly fixed to the edge of the door. Don't wrap it onto the back, and don't try to cut it now with anything other than a pair of sharp scissors (or it'll tear).

7. Let it dry.
While it's still wet, it may look like the door is covered in creases or air bubbles. You can chase these around with a wallpaper brush, but I've found that they largely disappear upon drying, anyway.

8. Trim the excess.
Cut just before the back edge (away from the paper front).

9. Put the border back on.
Just reverse the process from earlier. Beware, however, that the pieces often only fit perfectly exactly how they were the first time. Hope you made a note of what went where.

10. Replace the handle.
Unless your paper is super quality, you should be able to see where the handle hole is. Otherwise feel around gently. Use a knife to make a hole the right size, then replace the handle and tap in the nails.

These wrinkles disappeared when the door was fully dry

11. Put it back and act like nothing happened.

Hope that helped you.

This is Dom's fourth year living in Japan, where he is currently an elementary school ALT in Nagano prefecture. He is a co-founder of this website, its webmaster, and a wicked cool dude.

1 comment:

  1. Do you know why there are so many layers? A base layer, a tissue layer and to top (to both the front and the back). Some seem to have even more