Few decorative elements can change the look of a room the way wallpaper does. Wallpaper is a quick way to add pattern, texture and color. I grew up in a 19th century house, and my father had papered every room with period wallpaper. The results were beautiful, but it always looked like an intimidating project. Now that I have my own home, I’ve found that advances in tools and materials make the job of hanging wallpaper much easier. With some planning and attention to detail, any homeowner can learn how to hang wallpaper.
Materials and tools
8 foot table OR
8 foot sheet of plywood and two sawhorses
Wallpaper tools: tray, smoother, seam roller
The tools for hanging wallpaper are inexpensive. Many of the tools come in kits, like the Golden Harvest Wallpaper Tool Kit, which includes a tray, smoother, seam roller and utility knife. If this is your first wallpaper project, you can’t go wrong by investing in one of these kits.
Step 1 – Measuring and choosing wallpaper
To determine the amount of paper required, measure the length and height of each wall to be papered. Multiply length by height for the square footage of the wall. Multiply the wall square footage times the number of walls to get the total square footage of the room. You can then measure doors and windows and subtract their area from the total square footage.
Wallpaper calculators are available on several websites to help with these calculations. The calculator at the American Blinds website is a good one to use. When purchasing paper, buy at least one extra roll. This will cover any mistakes in measuring or cutting. If you try to buy more paper later, you may find that it’s no longer available.
Prepasted wallpaper is the best choice for a beginning wallpaper project. It eliminates the task of mixing and applying a wallpaper paste. Vinyl wallpaper is good for areas with a lot of moisture like kitchens and bathrooms. For other rooms, paper or fabric wallpapers work well.
Step 2 – Preparation
Empty the room of as much furniture as possible before wallpapering. Cover the floor and remaining furniture with drop cloths. Set up the table or board and sawhorses in the room you will be papering or in an adjoining room
Make sure the walls which you will be papering are clean, smooth and free of blemishes before papering. Clean the walls with a sponge and TSP (trisodium phosphate) mixed with water. Fill holes in the wall using a drywall compound like Dap rather than spackle, which has a tendency to shrink as it dries. Sand the filled area smooth and wipe down with a sponge.
A sizing product such as Zinsser Shieldz should be applied to the walls to make sure the wallpaper adheres correctly and will be easy to remove in the future. Let the sizing dry before you begin to paper.
Step 3 – Hanging the Wallpaper
Before cutting the first piece of wallpaper, look at the pattern and decide where it should begin in relation to the top of the wall. Mark the point on the paper where it will meet the ceiling, then cut the first piece as long as the height of the wall from ceiling to baseboard, with a few inches added at each end. This piece will be your template to be used when cutting the remaining pieces. Using the template and scissors, cut one or two more pieces, matching the pattern between sheets.
Fill the water tray about two thirds full of water. Roll one of the sheets up with the prepasted side out, and soak it in the water tray for the period of time recommended by the paper manufacturer. Remove the paper, making sure all pasted areas are wet. Lay the paper, paste side up, on the table.
Now you will “book” the paper. This is an important step in activating the paste. Simply fold each end to the middle of the length of paper, paste side in. It’s a good idea to book two or three pieces at a time, and place them in a plastic bag until you’re ready to hang them.
Decide where you will begin papering the wall. It’s best to pick an inconspicuous part of the room. Using pencil and the level, draw a plumb line from ceiling to floor. Unbook the first sheet of wallpaper. Starting at the ceiling, press the marked edge to the wall at the ceiling. Following your marked plumb line, press the entire length of the paper to the wall. Avoid moving the paper around too much, since this could stretch it and pull it permanently out of alignment.
Smooth the paper down with the smoother, using long vertical strokes. Work from the center of the paper to the edges, smoothing out bubbles and wrinkles. Use a damp sponge to clean up paste that gets squeezed out from under the edges. Trim the paper at the ceiling and baseboard using the straightedge and utility knife. Use the straightedge to tightly press the top of the paper into the corner between wall and ceiling.
Hang the next piece in the same way, starting at the top and matching the side edge and pattern to the previous piece. The seam between the two pieces should fit together as tightly as possible without overlapping. Trim the second piece as you did the first. After about 15 minutes, use a seam roller to smooth out the seam between pieces. Wipe all excess paste off the wallpaper with a sponge.
Cut, book and hang additional pieces using the same procedure. Each time you start a new wall, draw a new plumb line using a pencil and level. When you come to window and door openings, trim the paper at the top and bottom of the opening, leaving some excess. After the paper is smoothed down, use the straightedge and knife to trim along the edge of the opening.
When you come to a corner, plan to wrap a quarter inch of paper around the corner rather than ending it at the corner. For the next piece, place it against the corner, covering the overlap.
By the time you complete your wallpaper project, you should be proficient in all the steps involved. Before long, you’ll be thinking of another room which could benefit from a wallpaper makeover.