Wallpapering: Tools, Prep and Planning
Learn the best tools to use, the different types of wallpaper, how to cut wallpaper and where in the room to start papering.
Before applying wallpaper, all wall and wood surfaces should be prepared in the usual way. If any features need to be painted, apply the paint first; this frees you to overlap any paint onto the walls and gives you a neater result when the wallpaper is trimmed to fit.
Papering Materials and Tools
Aside from the general tools required for wallpapering, such as a tape measure, pencil and utility knife, several special items are needed. The paperhanging brush, for example, is vital for creasing paper into corners.
Metal Rule (Image 1)
Used for drawing accurate guide lines, or for cutting with a utility knife.
Pasting Table (Image 2)
A long, narrow, foldaway table on which wallpaper is cut, pasted, and folded before hanging. Make sure you wipe down the surface with clean water after pasting each length.
Papering Sponge (Image 3)
For cleaning paste off equipment and removing excess paste from wallpaper. Ideally, you need more than one, and plenty of clean water.
Pasting Brush (Image 4)
A large brush to apply paste to wallpaper. The bristles help apply paste evenly.
Seam Roller (Image 5)
Used to gently press wallpaper seams to ensure good adhesion. Do not use on embossed papers. Make sure to keep the roller clean
Wallpaper Trough (Image 1)
A long, narrow reservoir that can be filled with water and used for dipping ready-pasted paper.
Paperhanging Brush (Image 2)
Broad-handled brush with soft bristles for smoothing wallpaper.
Measuring Cup (Image 3)
Essential for accurately mixing wallpaper paste.
Paperhanging Scissors (Image 4)
Long-bladed scissors for cutting wallpaper.
Types of Wallpaper
There are many types of wallpaper available. Your choice will probably be based on design. Textured paper hides uneven surfaces. Vinyl-coated papers can be washed. Always buy rolls with the same batch number to avoid slight variations. Be aware that some papers are prone to fading in direct sunlight. Check the packaging for details on colorfastness.
Standard Types of Wallpaper
Standard paper and vinyl-coated wallpapers are most commonly chosen. Both can be used in most situations, but vinyl is more hardwearing. Paste-the-paper, paste-the-wall, and prepasted types are available.
Unusual wallpapers such as flock or those with hand-printed designs may be subject to very specific handling and hanging procedures. Be sure to follow any guidelines from the manufacturer.
Embossed Wall Panels
Wall panels are hung in much the same way as standard wallpaper. They are thick and linoleum-based and are commonly used below chair rails in historic properties. Embossed borders can be bought in a roll.
There are a number of eco-friendly wallpaper options. Check labels for the FSC symbol and ensure that products are made from recycled paper. Look for non-toxic, water-based inks.
The absence of vinyl as a component of "green" wallpaper raises some durability issues, but it is possible to find papers that use a water-based glaze to produce a wipeable finish.
Types of Adhesives
There are various different types of adhesive associated with wallpapering and some types of wallpaper may require a particular adhesive. Wallpaper paste comes either ready-mixed or powdered, with the latter being mixed with water before use. Size is very diluted wallpaper paste used to prepare walls before lining paper or wallpaper is applied. Diluted with water, PVA is an alternative to size, and can be used to seal walls before wallpapering. Border adhesive is an extra-strong adhesive that ensures a good adhesion between borders and wallpaper. It is also used on overlapping wallpaper seams.
Lining Paper (Image 1)
This provides a base for wallpaper or paint. For rough walls use a thicker gauge of lining paper.
Standard Paper and Vinyl Paper (Image 2)
These two kinds of paper vary hugely in quality. Numerous patterns are available.
Woodchip Paper (Image 3)
Several grades of texture can hide most rough or pitted walls. Can be painted.
Embossed Paper (Image 4)
Disguises uneven surfaces. Hang gently to avoid flattening the relief. Vinyl-coated versions available.
Border Paper (Image 5)
Strips used to divide or frame walls and features if required.
Three Methods of Adhesion
There are three ways in which wallpaper is adhered to a wall surface. Paste-the-paper and paste-the-wall types require wallpaper paste. Prepasted paper is coated in a dry adhesive powder that is "activated" when submerged in water. Both paste-the-paper and ready-pasted types need to be left to soak after pasting or activation. Make sure you keep this soaking time consistent for each length of paper.
The aim is to create a loose "book" of paper, only allowing pasted faces to touch, with no paste on the patterned side. Leave the "book" for the recommended soaking period before hanging.
Apply paste down the length, working from the center of the paper out to the edges (Image 1).
Loosely fold up the pasted end of the paper. Paste the remaining length, then fold it up with the rest (Image 2).
To apply this type of paper, brush wallpaper paste onto the wall (Image 3), then smooth the wallpaper into place. Make sure you apply an even coat. Unpasted patches will result in bubbles under the paper.
Once you have wetted the paper you will need to loosely fold the length, as for paste-the-paper paper, although with the pasted side inward to improve adhesive activation.
Roll up a length of the paper, pattern side facing inward, and submerge it in the trough (Image 4). Keep the roll loose
Take the top of the roll length and draw it up onto the table, patterned-side down, then fold up loosely (Image 5).
Before applying wallpaper, it is important to consider the right order of work regarding the overall decoration of the room. First finish the wall preparation; then do any painting; finally, apply the wallpaper. When using wallpaper paste, always check the guidelines regarding soaking time. This refers to the length of time the wallpaper has to be soaked after pasting; for heavy-duty papers, this can be 10 or 15 minutes.
To estimate how many rolls of wallpaper you need, add the height of the room to that of the paper's repeat pattern, if it has one (this measurement should be shown on the packaging). Multiply the total by the length of the room's perimeter. This is the total area of wallpaper needed. Divide this number by the area of a single roll of wallpaper (this may be on the packaging, or you should multiply the width by the length). Add an extra 10 to 15 percent to this figure, depending on how many obstacles there are in the room. Round this up to the next whole figure to give you the number of rolls you need to buy.
Cutting Paper to Size
Lengths need to be cut to an approximate size before they are applied to the wall surface. There are various ways of doing this to keep waste to a minimum; the method you use will depend on the paper's pattern.
Simply measure from the ceiling to the floor (or the top of the baseboard). Add a maximum of 4 inches to allow for easy trimming.
In addition to the trimming length, add the size of the paper's repeat pattern. If the pattern is very large, this may cause a lot of waste; an alternative is to hold a dry section of paper to the wall surface, cut it to an approximate length, and use this as a template for all the other "standard" lengths in the room.
Because of the offset, only every other length will be in the same "position" on the wall surface. You can use the same technique as employed for straight-match papers, but take alternate lengths from two rolls, each with a different starting point.
Cutting Paper Correctly
Unroll the paper on the pasting table. You will probably need to weigh down the end to stop it from rolling up. Measure the length of paper needed. If the table isn’t long enough, fold the paper back on itself without creasing. At the required point, mark a pencil guide line, then cut the paper carefully.
If you like the look of wallpaper, but are not ready to commit to the seemingly permanent wall treatment or to spending time measuring, cutting, and cleaning up the mess, there are other wallpaper options available for you to try.
Temporary wallpaper, often called removable or peelable wallpaper, is a new wallpaper option that simplifies the process of decorating with traditional wallpaper. If you have never applied wallpaper, aren’t sure if wallpaper is right for your home, or if you live in an apartment or college dorm where you cannot alter the walls, temporary wallpaper allows you the ability to experiment with wallpaper borders.
For children's rooms, temporary wallpaper is a perfect decorating accessory. The wallpaper gives you the option of being able to easily update their rooms to match changing ages and interests without having to undergo a complete bedroom remodel each time. With temporary wallpaper, the hours invested to strip old wallpaper with special solutions and tools are no longer always needed.
Available in rolls, borders, murals, and accents, the wallpaper can be applied to most materials. Perfect for any type of wall, temporary paper can be applied to other smooth, flat surfaces, including cabinets, tiles, and lamp shades. Offered in designs that range from contemporary to traditional, you should be able to find a scene or design that suits the look of your home.
Temporary wallpaper is pressed to the wall and adhered using a damp sponge (as shown here). Unlike other wallpapers, you have the opportunity to reposition it without harm until the paper is dry. After the wallpaper is dry, wet the paper again to peel it off the wall. Some manufacturers offer temporary wallpaper that does not even require water to remove it. Since the temporary wallpaper paste is water soluble, you will need to use traditional wallpaper paste to reapply it if you would like to reuse the wallpaper after it has been removed.
Where to Start Papering
Papers with large patterns should generally be centralized relative to any major features in the room. For small patterns, centralizing is less important. In either case, it is essential to get the first length (drop) perfectly vertical. Ideally, choose a full ceiling-to-floor drop and use a pencil line drawn with a level as your guide. In most cases you can choose an inconspicuous corner for the first drop because the dimensions of the room are unlikely to allow the final papers to match exactly. Draw your line about half a paper width away from the corner, rather than using the wall as your guide.
Ceiling With Central Light Fixture (Image 1)
Start papering across the center of the light fixture. Either trim the paper roughly around the fixture and tuck it under, or loosen the fixture so you can paper under it easily. Be sure to turn off the electricity in this case.
Starting From a Corner (Image 2)
Draw a vertical line away from the corner. Try to position your starting point so that there will be no tiny slivers required when cutting and trimming around doors and other obstacles. Hang the first length of paper against your guide line, then work clockwise around the room. Deal with obstacles as you progress. Paper in a clockwise direction. Keep floor clear of obstacles, and finish back at corner.
Starting From the Center (Image 3)
If the room has a prominent feature such as a chimney, centralize a large motif in the pattern in the center. Paper out from each side of the first length, then continue to paper clockwise around the room in the usual way.
Papering Around a Window
1. Use the order shown here.
2. Work in a clockwise direction
3. Hang the first length so that it overlaps the window.
4. Hang a short length at the top of the first. Then trim neatly to create flaps and fold these into the recess.
5. Hang a short length above the window and fold it into the recess.
6. Hang a whole length so that it overlaps the other end of the window.
7. Create flaps and fold them into the recess as before.
8. Fill in between the window sill and the floor. Trim the first and fourth lengths neatly around the sill.