After sending her last child off to college, Donna decided it was out with the old and in with the new—wallpaper, that is. Being a novice, she schooled herself on the different types of wall coverings and how to hang them. The project was textbook. Donna was taking the first step toward a large learning curve on how to enjoy her nest, albeit an empty one.
Anyone who’s ever hung wallpaper knows it’s not as tough as it seams (hee-hee). In fact, a lot of people actually prefer hanging wallpaper to painting walls because wallpaper keeps its look longer than paint, so the bragging rights keep going for years.
Wallpapering is definitely something that you can do yourself, but we recommend that you find a helpful friend because four hands work faster than two.
Buying Wallpaper and Products
Measure the room you’ll be wallpapering and input the stats (including the number of doors and windows) into a wallpaper Web site to get an estimate of the number of rolls you’ll need, so you won’t over- or underbuy, and also so that you won’t be surprised by the cost.
Wallpaper, which can be purchased in a store or online, is priced per single roll but is sold in single, double, or triple rolls. Wallpaper is also sold in American or European rolls—American is wider and longer—so be careful when you’re ordering. And you’ll need to take into account if the motif is a “drop match” or a “straight match” (it will say so on the back of the page of wallpaper). A straight match is when you hang one strip of wallpaper next to another and the motif matches side by side. A drop match can waste more wallpaper because it may take more than one strip of wallpaper to find the match.
If you hesitate about wallpapering a room because you dread having to remove it someday, consider York Wallcoverings’ new “super strippable” product called SureStrip. The beauty of this wall covering is that it can be removed in a single piece, which allows you to change the wallpaper as often as you want.
Some necessary items to purchase for this job (besides the wallpaper) are: seam and repair adhesive (a small tube will be enough), a boxful of single-edge razor blades (you’ll be using a lot of them), and a wallpapering kit (typically includes a water tray, a hanger/ smoother, and a roller).
You really shouldn’t start wallpapering until you’ve painted the walls with a primer. Just what you wanted to hear, right? So give yourself an extra day for this.
Wall covering primer is a paint that allows the wallpaper to adhere better while also making removal easier. If you’re going to invest the time and money in covering your walls, then you should invest some time in prepping the walls correctly. Oh, and it’s also a good time to paint the ceiling (with a ceiling paint).
Once the walls have been prepped, you can prep the floors by placing drop cloths on the floor where you’ll be wallpapering, as well as the room where you’ll be setting up shop.
The job will go so much easier if you remove as many things as possible from the walls, such as the towel bars, mirror, toilet paper holder, medicine cabinet, paintings, photos, drapes, etc. And if you’re wallpapering a bathroom, you may find it best to remove the tank from the toilet for easier access behind the toilet.
We recommend that you set up a 6-foot worktable, because it enables you to roll out the paper, measure it, and cut it. If you’re using a dining room table, be sure to properly protect it.
Determining the Proper Length
The best place to hang the first piece of wallpaper is in the least visible spot in the room. Using a long level or chalk line, create a straight line from ceiling to floor. Now measure the line and add about 2 inches for error. This will be the measurement you’ll use for cutting the majority of pieces.
Prepping the Wallpaper
Stretch out a roll of wallpaper on the worktable and, using the measurement from above, mark it and then use scissors to cut the first sheet, or you can do like the professionals and use a straight edge ruler and a utility knife.
Roll the cut sheet in the opposite direction (outside in) to flatten. Roll out more paper on the worktable and lay the cut sheet over it to perfectly match the pattern.
Soaking the Wallpaper
You can cut some pieces ahead of time, but you can hang only one piece at a time.
There are two techniques for properly soaking the wallpaper: (1) using a wallpaper tray, and (2) using a paint roller brush. The most common method is to roll up a piece of wallpaper (with the print facing inside), place it into a water-filled wallpaper tray, and allow it to soak for about 5 minutes.
The method preferred by professional wallpaper hangers is to lay out a piece of wallpaper on a worktable (glue-side facing up), place the paint roller brush inside a large water-filled bucket, and then roll the brush over the paper until it’s soaked.
No matter which method you choose, once you saturate the paper, it will quickly turn to glue, so you need to work quickly. Fold the paper in half (glue side to glue side), which is called “booking,” with the ends meeting. Find a place where you can allow the paper to rest “booked” for 3 to 5 minutes. Booking wallpaper is really important because it allows the paper to rest so that it can expand. Otherwise, bubbles will form.
Hanging the Wallpaper
Stand on a ladder or stepladder and, starting at the top of the wall, align the paper with the pencil or chalk line running the length of the wall and press the paper with both hands. It may take several attempts to perfectly align the paper, so don’t worry if you don’t get it right the first time—the paper won’t dry immediately.
Use the wallpaper hanger to brush the entire piece of wallpaper, from side to side, up and down, and at angles. Wipe the wallpaper seams with the dampened sponge, and then run the roller up and down the seam.
This is where your helpful friend can be really helpful!
If a seam or corner isn’t sticking, dampen the sponge and wet the area. Run the roller over it. If this still doesn’t work, then put a dab of seam adhesive on your finger, gently lift up the edge of paper and apply the glue. Run the roller over the area again.
If there are bubbles, wipe the area with the wet sponge and then use the wallpaper hanger to smooth out the section.
Cut away any excess paper at the top and bottom of the walls using a razor blade with the metal spackling knife acting as an edger. Each blade will be good for only 1 or 2 cuts, which is why we told you to buy in bulk. Be sure to have a garbage can nearby to throw the used blades into.
If you wallpapered a bathroom, let the wallpaper dry at least 24 hours before showering. And wait a day or two before hanging heavy mirrors and pictures.