Hanging Wallpaper

Wallpaper is having its day.  It’s everywhere, and if you’re thinking about jumping on the bandwagon, it’s a reasonable do-it-yourself project.  If you have the patience to plan carefully, welcome the challenges of matching seams, measuring and cutting, you can’t fail.  Grab a few rolls, and get ready to dramatically change the look of your home.

Before you get crazy with the wallpaper sample book, consider the room you wish to cover.  Vinyl papers are great for areas with a lot of moisture such as kitchens and bathrooms. For places that stay dry such as bedrooms and hallways, think about non-woven papers and fabrics.  Plan to order four to five rolls more than what your measurements call for…you’ll thank us later.  Even if you’re a semi-pro, mistakes happen.  A typical wallpaper roll is 36 feet long, but when calculating how many rolls are needed, only count on getting 30 feet out of each roll.

chalk-lineBefore you hang the first strip, take a few minutes to plan your attack.  Ask yourself, “Are the ceilings and walls reasonably level and plumb?”  Expect that they are not, and create a few guidelines to help with these issues.  Wherever you start, use a plumb and chalk line (or a carpenter’s level and pencil) to create a straight, vertical (plumb) guideline. Position the plumb or level at the desired location. Install the first drop about 1/8-inch from the guideline.

seam-between-windowsAnd, just where exactly should you start? Wallpaper seams, and where the pattern begins, relative to ceilings and corners, determines your starting point. Plot your seams!  How are windows, doors – or a fireplace, perhaps – spaced on the wall?  If the wall has two windows, for example, you should center a seam or strip on the wall between the two windows and work your way out to the corners.  Plan to lay seams where they’ll be the least noticeable.  Does the wallpaper pattern create a special need? With a large pattern, cutting the paper vertically at a corner of a room may cause a noticeable break in the pattern. To overcome that problem, start working from the center of the wall or from another spot.

prepping-the-wallThe final step of the pre-hang is to prep your walls.  Try to start with a smooth wall surface. Lightly sand your walls and then scrub them down with a wet sponge and light detergent. Take the time to repair holes and cracks with spackle.

Some wallpapers require that you apply paste while others come pre-pasted and just need to be soaked in a pan of water. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.  Typically, pre-pasted wallpaper should be soaked for at least 15 seconds.

Cut your first strip per your measurements, and fold the paper onto itself so that the ends meet in the middle with the glue side in.  This process is called ‘Booking.”  Don’t you dare skip this step. Booking allows the paper to expand naturally.  If you don’t book your paper for about five minutes, it will expand after it’s on the wall and cause creases and bubbles.

After you have planned your seams, activated the wallpaper paste, and booked, it’s time to get hanging!  Follow these steps:

Grasp the top edge and peel open the fold that you made when booking the paper.  Leave the other half booked for the time being.

With one hand on each edge a few inches down from the top, hold the drop in place on the wall.  Smooth the upper half of the strip.

Grasp the bottom end and peel it apart until it hangs straight.



Once the paper is in position, smooth it out with a wallpaper sweep (just a few dollars at a hardware store). Roll the seams of the paper until smooth, but don’t roll so hard that the adhesive seeps out.  You can trim your paper to fit with a straightedge and razor blades.  The blades dull quickly, and can rip your paper, so buy a box of a hundred so you’ll always have a sharp blade, and a clean cut.


When installing your paper, air will most likely get trapped in between, but should go away as the wallpaper settles and the adhesive dries. If it doesn’t, just puncture the bubble with a small pin and gently flatten out the paper with the wallpaper sweep.

Continue: paste-book-hang, paste-book-hang…one drop next to the other, until finished. Stand back and enjoy a job well done! But remember, if the whole process seems too cumbersome, there is always the option to paint the walls instead.



Comments are closed.