How to Install Wallpaper

How to Install Wallpaper

Installing wallpaper is a delicate task that can be tough for beginners to master. Fortunately, there are a number of tips and tricks that make the whole process significantly easier. If wallpapering an entire room expect to spend between six to eight hours at work if working alone.

Equipment You’ll Need

  • Roll of your preferred wallpaper
  • Pencil to mark seam lines
  • Measuring tape (optional, but helpful)
  • Level
  • Wall-sized primer
  • High-quality paint roller
  • Sandpaper holder
  • Plastic smoother or wallpaper brush
  • Exacto knife for trimming
  • Fresh paint nap
  • Clean paint tray
  • Sponge
  • Painter’s tape
  • Paste

As always, we strongly recommend having all of your tools assembled at the start of a job. The expression measure twice and cut once applies to pre-work as well. Once you have everything ready we can get started.

Installation Guide

Installing Wallpaper can be a finickity experience, especially for beginners. The biggest aesthetic risks for a botched wallpaper job are lumpy spots or highly visible seams between sheets. A professional job should pretty much guarantee discrete seams and an even grade across the wall – keep this in mind if hiring a contractor rather than doing the work DIY.

As always, we suggest having everything ready-to-go before starting work. Lay out your paint nap, set up your work table, and get all of your tools on hand.

  1. Use your roll to mark seam estimates (i.e. plumb lines) on the wall, starting at the highest traffic doorway in the room then working either clockwise or counter clockwise depending on if you’re right or left-handed. To do so simply place the roll abutting your starting point and mark where the first panel ends with your pencil.
  2. Using your level check that the seam estimates from (1) are perfectly vertical at a right angle. This will guarantee that the wallpaper looks square from corner to corner. Move each plumb line a ¼ inch past where the matching panel will end. This allows for the wallpaper to stretch during the smoothing process, (11) and (12).
  3. Prepare each roll for each panel. To do so, count the number of plumb lines throughout the room. We recommend overlapping the ceiling and baseboard by about 1 inch, and overlapping corners by 1/8th of an inch. Note that windows will need panels custom fit based on size, location, and type of trim.
  4. Start by prepping the wall. Remove any fixtures that would interfere with creating a level rolling surface.
  5. Using your sandpaper holder, sand any obvious imperfections with 50 grit sandpaper then re-sand the surface with 200 grit sandpaper and wipe away any debris with a dry cloth. Make sure to brush away any particulate onto the paint nap when finished.
  6. Cover the whole wall with your wall sized primer. This will stop the wallpaper from bonding directly to the wall, which makes any future alterations or renovations challenging. Never apply wallpaper directly to drywall.
  7. Apply the paste to the wallpaper using a high-quality paint roller.
  8. “Book” the wallpaper by folding each end of the wallpaper towards the middle with the edges square.
  9. Let rest for 3-5 minutes for the paste to partially set.
  10. Unfold and apply the top half of the booked wallpaper to where panel one will be installed.
  11. Working quickly, smooth the wallpaper’s edges out with a damp sponge then repeat working from the centre to each edge. Unfold the next part of the booked wallpaper and repeat for the third fold.
  12. Finally, gently pull your smoother across every inch of the wallpaper to eliminate any stubborn wrinkles.  Repeat this process for each panel, and trim away any excess paper using an exacto knife.

Tips, Tricks, and Conclusion

There are a lot of things you can do to improve the wall paper hanging experience. This guide showcases how to work with unpasted wallpaper. If working with pre-pasted wallpaper we suggest adding a bit of the same type of paste to the water to aid in adhesion.

Possibly the most difficult part of the process is “booking” the wallpaper. This step is intended to destress the paper before application. If you skip the booking step there’s a good chance that you’ll end up with the wallpaper shrinking on the wall, leading to obvious seam misalignment. This is also part of the reason we add a ¼ inch to the length of each panel. It’s better to have a touch of overlap rather than a gap.

One other important note here: the pattern of the wallpaper matters. Geometric designs tend to have the easiest seams to hide. However, wallpaper with a central image rather than a repeating vertical design should be treated slightly differently. The central image should ideally be positioned directly across from the highest traffic point of entry. In addition, the final panel seam after completing an entire room will almost always be a touch janky. As such we highly recommend trying to hide the final wallpaper seam in a low visibility area, such as above the door jamb.

Finally, always make sure to be aware of what type of paste you’re working with. Common types of paste include wheat, clay, and starch. Check with the wallpaper’s installation instructions and make sure to use the recommended type of paste.

Photo credit: Ground Picture/Shutterstock

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