How do I Hang Wallpaper?

J. Beam

Wallpaper can provide a room or a single wall with a decorative finish unattainable with paint. With such a large selection of varying colors, patterns, and textures, wallpaper can be found to match any decor. Hanging wallpaper takes a bit of time, patience, and the right tools, but most rooms can be tackled easily by a homeowner with a do-it-yourself attitude.

Use a utility knife to trim excess wallpaper.
Use a utility knife to trim excess wallpaper.

To hang wallpaper, you must begin with a properly prepared surface. First, wash down wall surfaces with a clean damp cloth to remove any dust, dirt, and debris. A wall that has been freshly painted or newly drywalled should also be sized. Sizing is available at most paint and wallpaper retailers and is essentially primer for wallpaper. Its purpose is to help wallpaper adhesive bond with the wall surface. Not all wall surfaces require sizing, but it is a quick process that can be accomplished with a regular paint roller.

Proper wall measurements must be taken before hanging wallpaper.
Proper wall measurements must be taken before hanging wallpaper.

To hang wallpaper on a previously papered wall, it is best to remove any old paper and adhesive if possible. There are various commercial products available for stripping wallpaper c including steamers, chemical adhesive removers — and tools like scrapers and scoring tools, but some wallpapers are stubborn and removal can make quite a mess. If you decide to hang wallpaper over another layer, make sure you use a vinyl-to-vinyl adhesive, a special type of glue that is applied directly to the wallpaper backing before hanging.

With your walls properly prepared, select your starting wall. If papering an entire room, begin in the least dominant corner of the room. From the edge of the wall, measure and mark the exact width of your wallpaper, repeating across the width of the wall until you’ve reached the other edge. Then, using a plumb line, mark vertical lines down the wall, which will serve as a guide for each strip.

Next measure and your cut your wallpaper to fit the length of your wall. If using a solid paper or wallpaper with a non-repeating pattern, such as faux finish papers, measure and cut several strips allowing approximately 2 inches (5.1 cm) extra at both the top and bottom. If you hang wallpaper with a repeating pattern, you will need to hang your first strip and then align the next strip with it before cutting. Have one person hold the roll in place at its matching point while another person marks the cutting point on the roll of paper.

When you are ready to hang the first strip, either activate the pre-pasted backing by soaking it for a few minutes in warm water or apply a thin layer of paste activator with a small paint roller. Working from the top down, align the top of the paper with the edge and top of your wall, leaving 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5.1 cm) of excess. Working your way down the wall, smooth the paper gently against the wall keeping it straight by using your plumb line markings.

With the paper loosely, but firmly, in place and as straight as possible on the wall, smooth out any air bubbles and wrinkles by pressing firmly from center to edges and top to bottom with a damp cloth or wallpaper trowel. Continue working out the air bubbles and wrinkles until you have a smooth, straight, surface. Trim excess paper at the top and bottom with a sharp utility knife and a straight edge guide.

Continue on to the adjacent length of wall, butting edges up to one another tightly, but not overlapping. Remember to take extra care in corners and wrap the corner with only a tiny bit of paper that can be overlapped with the next piece – never butt corners together as shrinking will likely reveal a small sliver of your corner if you do. Smooth and apply extra pressure to seams with a seam roller.

For extra help with how to hang wallpaper, check out the DIY book section of your local library or pick up any available pamphlets at your local home improvement store. With a bit of practice, hanging wallpaper isn’t as difficult as it may seem at first. In fact, removing it is usually the hard part.

Air bubbles and wrinkles should be smoothed out when hanging wallpaper.
Air bubbles and wrinkles should be smoothed out when hanging wallpaper.

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