Wallpaper has fallen out of favor over the last few years but it’s starting to make a bit of resurgence. We’re excited to see that it’s making a comeback because it can bring dimension to a room that just paint can’t. When you’re trying to keep the authenticity of an older home, wallpaper makes a terrific option. In homes like Victorian or Queen Anne, you can bet they had wallpaper in their heyday.
There are people you can hire to hang wallpaper for you, but it’s not that difficult to do on your own. If you’re trying to save money, like DIY projects or are just feeling adventurous, here are some instructions to help get you started with hanging wallpaper.
Plumb line and chalk or level
Water tub for pre-pasted paper
Things to Consider
Shape and dimensions of a room: For example, rooms with low ceilings can look higher with vertical patterns. Narrow rooms look wider with horizontal patterns. Lighter colors help make a room look larger while darker colors make rooms look smaller.
Preparing the Walls
If there is already wallpaper up, you’ll have to remove it. You can usually do this with steam or with a mixture of water and wallpaper remover. For the water and paper remover, dip a sponge into the mixture and then soak the spots you want to remove. Then scrape the paper off with a scraper or putty knife. After that, sanding rough spots on the walls helps too.
For most wall covering patterns, place the first strip wallpaper to the side (left or right) of a door and work toward the biggest unbroken section of the wall. There is an exception: With a large or very intricate pattern, start in the largest section of wall or the place where you want to draw focus, such as above a fireplace or couch.
Measure the wall, then cut the first strip with a little extra paper at the top and bottom, about 4 to 6 inches in total. Hold up the strip to the wall and find the correct placement. (You might want to mark lightly on the paper with pencil or chalk where the strip will hit the ceiling. You can also create a crease if you don’t want to mark the paper.) Lay the strip on the work table, pattern side up and then cut a second strip to match and/or correlate with the first one. Continue on until you have an entire wall’s worth of wall paper strips.
As you’re doing planning the paper for your wall, use the pattern to help guide what kind of seam you will use. There are two kinds of seams: “butt seams” in which two seams “butt” up against each other and the edges fit tightly next to each other. There are also overlap seams where the paper edges slightly overlap one another.
Matching and Aligning
Believe it or not, rooms are not always square or the walls perfectly straight. So you’ll need to ensure straight lines when hanging your paper. You can do with a plumb line. There are a couple of ways to do this. The first is to hold a carpenter’s level vertically against the wall with the top of it flush against the ceiling. The bubble indicates when you are level so adjust accordingly. Once you’re sure you have a straight vertical line, mark the wall lightly with a pencil.
The second way is to use a plumb line, which is a weight (“plumb”) at the end of a chalked string. Some people make their own but you can also buy them. It’s your preference. Hold the string taut against the wall and let the weight hang, which will determine the vertical line. When you’re sure you have a straight line, snap the chalked string against the wall. You don’t need to do this for every strip of paper but do if for every wall.
Next, lay your cut pieces of wallpaper strips face down on the work table. Apply paste with your pasting brush just before you hang each strip. Be sure to spread the paste evenly and completely. Unpasted sections of the paper will bubble and not lie flat against the wall. (Leave the top inch or two that won’t go onto the wall unpasted so you can handle the paper without your fingers getting even more sticky than they need to be.) Don’t forget to spread the paste all the way to the paper edges—the seams will need all the support they can get. If you are using wallpaper that is already pasted, submerge the strip into the water tub to activate the paste. Be sure to use a drop cloth to prevent drips from hitting the floor.
Hang the strip on the wall with that inch or so of overlap on the ceiling and line up the vertical edge to the plumb line. Smooth from the top down with the smoothing brush and start gently smoothing down the entire strip, removing bubbles or air pockets. Go all the way to edges too.
Cut off the excess at the top and bottom.
After the strips have been in place for 10-15 minutes, gently press the seams with a seam roller. Wipe the seams of excess water or drips.
NOTE: Corners can be tricky because they are rarely exactly straight. It may very well be impossible to get ends to butt properly. There might be a slight overlap necessary but no one will likely notice. Sometimes you’ll need to end a strip at a corner, like when you’re only doing an accent wall. But if you’re doing an entire room you and it doesn’t make the pattern look wonky, you can probably crease the paper at the corner and keep going. It’s a case by case basis so as long as you keep a look out for it, you should be OK.
Papering Around Features
Most walls aren’t big and blank. At some point you’ll encounter obstacles like a door, window or built-in bookshelf that you have maneuver around. When you reach something large, use a putty knife to create a crease, just like you did for the ceiling and floor. When you place the pasted wallpaper up, use the smoothing brush to bring the paper around, say, a corner bend. Then trim off the excess.
If you have a focal point in the room, like a fireplace, then you’ll probably want to centrally place a large patterned print over that spot. Trim the paper along the mantlepiece and cut away as much of the excess as possible. Then smooth the paper into place and cut it to fig snuggly around the molding (if any) and the sides. Take care because sometimes when the paper is cut into smaller pieces it can tear with the weight of the paste.
To work around an outlet, first turn off the power and then remove the cover plate. Paper over the opening and then trim away the paper over the hole.
These methods can also be used for light fixtures or just about anything. It might seem frustrating at first but you’ll get used to working around things soon enough.
Once you get the hang of wallpapering and open up to the idea of it, your decorating possibilities because nearly endless. The colors, the patterns and combining it with different features makes every room unique!