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How to Hang Wallpaper Properly

By Edited Mar 8, 2016 1 0

The hardest part about hanging wallpaper is being patient with the process because something will go wrong at some point. There are no shortcuts, nor any method to rush it to completion. It just takes time, skill and patience. Typically wall papering a room costs a little more than painting it, but it depends on the type of covering you select.

When choosing a wall paper, it is generally accepted that various types of patterns have the following results.

  • Lighter colored papers tend to open up a room by adding the feeling of more space
  • Striped papers tend to pull the eye up and down the room which gives the illusion of the ceilings being higher
  • Smaller prints tend to keep the eyes focused in the room making it a more intimate setting
  • Darker colors tend to make a room feel smaller for a more intimate feel also

The Lingo of Wallpaper

  • Vinyl – generally used in commercial settings, contains a vinyl pattern over paper
  • Vinyl coated, washable – washable with soap and water
  • Vinyl coated, scrubbable – can be washed more frequently, however it can not be scrubbed with a brush as the name suggests
  • Strippable – pulling up the corner of the paper will remove the entire strip
  • Peelable – easily removed as the name suggests
  • Double Roll – twice the amount per roll as a single roll, not twice as wide
  • Random-match – the pattern automatically aligns when you place one strip next to the other, typical striped papers
  • Straight-match – pattern stops before it reaches the edges of the paper requiring more time spent on aligning it with the previous strip
  • Drop-match – the edge of the strip cuts through the pattern diagonally and the “pattern repeat” is usually printed on the back of the package
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Before You Begin

  • Wallpaper and paste activator
  • Vinyl to vinyl adhesive (for vinyl coated papers only)
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors and pencil
  • 24 “ level
  • Water tray and paint roller or brush (for paste)
  • Wallpaper brush and seam roller
  • Utility knife and a trimming tool called a broad knife
  • Sponge

Also, you will need a large table or work area to spread the paper out. If you do not have a table large enough, you can place a piece of 4’ x 8’ plywood over two saw horses to form a table.

General Tips on Hanging Wallpaper Before you Begin

  • When buying wallpaper, use a paste activator instead of the type that requires soaking prepasted paper.
  • Apply each strip of paper from the top down
  • Choose patterns that have easier seams to match by looking at the drop listed on the package
  • Use a sharp blade to cut the paper and replace it often
  • Try to buy paper from the same batch as the color can vary otherwise

Hanging Wallpaper Tips Intro

Preparing the Wall

Whatever type of wallpaper you choose is going to look as good as the wall behind it so you must  prepare the wall before hanging any new paper. Yes, it is possible to paper over old wall paper if the seams are secure, but I would recommend you strip any old covering off to inspect the wall for any imperfections, mildew or water damage.

  • Clean the wall with a mild solution of soap and water to remover dirt, grease and other remnants left over from old paper or paint
  • Fill small holes or cracks with surface compound, then sand it lightly before wiping the dust off the wall with a damp cloth
  • If there are large holes or gaps, or other damage to the wall, fill it with spackling paste with a putty knife, then sand after it dries
  • Seal the wall with a primer/sealer combo product to keep water, smoke and other stains from showing through the paper

Hanging Wallpaper

Hanging the Wallpaper

Once you have the walls prepped and primed, examine the paper that you purchased and look at the type of pattern on it because it will determines how the strips are cut and glued to the wall.

  • On straight-match and random-match paper, installation is straight forward because the patterns along the edges of the paper are the same
  • On drop-match papers, the process takes more time because the pattern is staggered along both edges so you have to align each strip, then trim the top edge

When starting out, begin in an out of the way corner by positioning the first strip so that most of the paper is on the first wall to be papered with about an inch of the strip wrapping around the corner.

However, do not hang the strip, just measure the width of the paper from the corner, minus 4 inches for the wrap around. Draw a straight line down the wall for your starter line. This is where the first strip will go once start hanging paper.

  1. Cut the first strip of paper about 4” longer than needed on your work table
  2. Apply the activator or paste to the back of the strip (assuming you are not using prepasted paper). Brush the activator following the manufacturer’s instructions.
  3. Gently fold each end of the paper toward the middle with the glued, back sides together/pattern side outward. Do your best to keep the ends separated so they do not stick together and try not to crease the paper.
  4. Hang the first strip along the plumb line you drew above with a firm hand. Start in the middle of the paper and work your way up to the top. Slide the paper to align it to the top and bottom of the wall. Smooth the paper on the wall with a brush or flexible tool. Work any bubbles outward to the edges.
  5. Hang the second strip while the first strip dries. Once you get it aligned and the bubbles smoothed, let it dry while you go back to the first strip and trim the ends around the baseboard. As you trim with a utility knife, hold the wallpaper against the wall with a plastic smoothing tool so it does not peel up.
  6. After you hang several strips, go back over the seams with a seam roller to smooth the edges. Do not press too hard or you will force out too much of the adhesive through the seam. If any paste is on the wallpaper, sponge it off with water.
  7. Paper over wall outlets, then turn off the electrical breaker to the room before cutting around the electrical opening. Be as precise as possible, but know that the outlet cover will conceal the edges.


Hanging Wallpaper Around Corners and Obstacles

Final Thoughts

Hopefully you made it through the process without tearing it all off the wall and opting for paint instead. Wallpaper is more time consuming than adding paint, but it can add a different setting to any room, particularly if you are going for a Victorian motif.

Be sure to prepare the wall first, then take your time with each strip and things should go as planned if you follow the manufacturer’s instructions and the tips this article has provided.



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