Do you have no idea how to hang wallpaper? Are you afraid that if you attempt, you’ll end up with more paper than the walls? Follow these 10 expert methods for installing wallpaper and you’ll be done in no time. And it’ll look fantastic!

Wallpaper can be installed by anyone, but it takes some skill to hang it properly and with tight, practically imperceptible seams. We asked experienced paperhanger Bob Rowland to offer us some tips on how to do the job perfectly. He explained that every quality job begins with meticulous planning and preparation.

Layout the room before installing wallpaper.

A. Lay out the wall with a roll.
Lay out the room using a whole roll of paper as a guide. Butt a roll into the corner where you intend to begin, and put a pencil mark on the wall at the roll’s edge. Slide the roll down to that point and make another pencil mark on the opposite edge of the roll. Continue doing this until you know where each seam will fall. To avoid hanging short strips (3 in. or less) near doorways and corners, you may need to cut down the first panel.

B. Work away from the front door.
Straight wall wallpaper seams are butted, not overlapped, but seams are less evident if they are placed farthest from where the first panel was mounted. Start at the section opposite the most-used entry to the room to reduce the visibility of seams.

C. Begin with a plumb line.
Don’t take the corner you’re starting in for granted. Draw a straight plumb line approximately 1/4 in. past where you want the first panel of paper to terminate with a level. Keep in mind that inside corner seams must be overlapped by at least 1/8 in. See “Seam Inside Corners” for further information.

D. Hide the final seam
If you’re hanging repeated pattern paper, the pattern on the last seam will not line up, so attempt to hide it in a low-visibility place. The greatest place is usually the corner directly above the entrance.

Prep the walls

Use a “wall size” primer/sizing product

Using wall size will help the paper adhere to the wall and reduce the possibility of shrinkage. It also helps removing the paper easy when the time comes.

Remove plate covers, heat registers, and light fittings first. Fill any holes using a nonshrinking joint compound to avoid having to wait for it to dry before applying another layer. To address minor defects, scrape the walls with a drywall knife or sand them with 50-grit sandpaper.

Finally, apply “wall size,” a primer/sizing compound, to the entire wall. In the photo, Bob is wearing Zinsser Shieldz. Please do not skip this step! Using wall size will assist the paper adhere to the wall and limit the possibility of shrinkage. It also helps removing the paper easy when the time comes. Home improvement stores sell one-gallon containers. And never, ever hang wallpaper over unfinished drywall—it will never come off. Make certain that all of the walls have at least one coat of primer.

Purchase enough paper.

When measuring a room, you must consider the design of the paper. The pattern on one panel may need to line up horizontally with the pattern on the next panel. If you’re measuring an 8-foot-long room with pink poodles that repeat every 54 inches, only two poodles will fit on each length of panel.

If you cut the first panel so that the two poodles are centered on the wall, you’ll need to take around 1 foot off the roll to make the poodle on the second panel line up with the first. This means that you’ll need 9 feet of paper for every 8 feet of wall. In this scenario, you would multiply the room’s linear feet by 9 ft. rather than 8 ft.

Roll on the paste rather than dunk!

Apply paste with a paint roller

Use a high-quality 1/2-in.-nap paint roller cover to apply paste—the cheap ones will leave fuzz balls behind.

To apply paste, use a high-quality 1/2-in.-nap paint roller cover—cheap ones will leave fuzz balls all over the paper. Bob loves to roll the water on the paper using a paint roller while dealing with prepasted goods. Submerging paper in a tray is untidy and does not ensure even coverage. To stimulate firmer adherence, he even adds a little paste to the water (2 cups per gallon).

Choose the right paste for your paper

There are three basic types of paste: clay, wheat and starch. Each group has several subcategories. Most wallpaper instructions will indicate which paste to use. Avoid the “universal” paste unless the paper you’re hanging specifically calls for it.A pail of clay wallpaper paste, a pail of starch wallpaper paste and a box of wheat wallpaper paste.

Seam inside corners

Overlap to ensure the first run is plumb

Allow at least 1/8 in. overlap on wallpaper from the neighboring wall when starting from an inside corner. This allows you to hang the paper plumb no matter how plumb the corner is.

Corners are almost never completely straight. To make the next panel plumb, you’ll need to sew a seam at each inner corner. The initial panel installed in a corner should overlap at least 1/8 in on the neighboring wall. Measure from the last panel to the corner at the top, center, and bottom when working your way into a corner. The corner panel should then be 1/8 in. longer than the longest of the three measures. You can start the new wall with the leftover piece, but you may need to trim it at an angle to fit a crooked corner. Because some wallpaper will not adhere to another, use a small bead of seam adhesive in the corner before overlapping the second piece.

In high-traffic areas, use vinyl paper.
Paper wallpaper absorbs moisture and is difficult to clean. Vinyl wallpapers are better suited for bathrooms, kitchens, and hallways, but not all vinyl wallpapers are created equal. Some are made of solid vinyl, while others have a vinyl face with a paper backing, and yet others are made largely of paper with a thin vinyl coating. The most moisture-resistant and washable wallpaper is solid vinyl. To minimize confusion, many manufacturers include a “Best Uses” label on each roll. Also, use vinyl wallpaper adhesive.

Before hanging the paper, book it.

Fold the paper in thirds

Fold the paper so that when you unfold it, you will have two-thirds of the panel to work with.

The process of folding the paper in on itself is known as booking. It gives the paste time to activate and the paper time to soften. Fold the paper so that when you unfold it, you will have two-thirds of the panel to work with. The longer the piece of paper, the simpler it is to keep straight. Cut a large amount of paper at once and book numerous at the same time. Place each roll in front of the wall where it will be hung. If you’re just starting out, put them in a plastic bag to give yourself more time to work with them.

Gently smooth out the paper

Use a smoother

Smooth a smoother across the entire surface of the paper. Don’t squeeze out the paste or stretch the paper too much.

Once the paper is up on the wall, run your smoother over every square inch of it. But don’t use your smoother too hard or you’ll squeeze out the paste and strain the paper. This is especially true when working with pre-printed material. Stretched-out paper with insufficient paste behind it will shrink as it dries. Shrinkage generates seam gaps, which are undesirable.

Wipe down as you go

Keep it clean

After hanging each sheet, use natural sponges to clear off any paste residue. Cleaning up the paste while it’s still moist is much easier than waiting for it to cure.

Because cleaning up the paste is much easier before it has fully set, Bob wipes off each panel with warm water as he goes. He holds one natural sponge in each hand. He swipes with the first and finishes with the other. When he’s dealing with a particularly sticky paste, he adds a few drops of dish soap. Bob squeezes the sponges out while they’re still submerged in water, then gives them another small squeeze over the water bucket to avoid forming suds.

Tools of the trade

A variety of tools used to hang wallpaper.

Wallpaper installation does not require a large cost. Many of the instruments are likely already in your possession. The most expensive instruments in Bob’s arsenal are his beech wood cutting table and his magnesium straightedge. You can use an old door slab and a level instead.

Roll every seam

Set your edges with a roller

Don’t press too hard and squeeze out too much adhesive.

To keep the edges from curling, use a roller to set them. However, the same rule applies to the roller as it does to the smoother: don’t push too hard or you’ll squeeze out too much glue.

Overlap and cut both sections at the same time

Cut down the middle of the overlap

Place one panel on top of the other and cut down the center of the overlap. Angle the knife blade down low so that more than the tip of the blade is cutting.

Instead of butting one panel to another, you may need to sew your own seam. The best way to achieve this is to overlap two panels and cut down the middle of the overlap. Then, separate the two pieces and pull off the little strip that was cut from the underlying piece.

If you don’t have a steady hand, a drywall knife can be used as a cutting guide. Avoid penetrating the drywall paper. Angle the knife blade down low so that more than the tip of the blade is cutting. Bob employs a knife with snap-off blades. Because blades are less expensive than wallpaper, he cuts a section after each cut.

As a cutting edge, use a taping knife.

Use a drywall knife as a straightedge

If you don’t have a steady hand, you can use a drywall knife as a cutting guide.

Leave an extra 2 in. at the top and bottom and trim it with a drywall knife as a guide. Bob prefers a 10-inch knife because it allows him to move it less frequently than a smaller one. To avoid cutting into the ceiling, keep the knife near to the wall.

Before trimming, make relief cuts.

Use a scissors for relief cuts

To avoid mistakenly cutting into wood trim and other obstructions, use scissors instead of a knife.

When you run against trim or other obstructions, make a relief cut before trimming the paper. The cut could be made with a knife, although scissors are preferable to avoid harming the trim.

Tools required for this how to put wallpaper project

Have all of the tools you’ll need for this DIY how to install wallpaper project ready before you begin to save time and stress.

Paint roller with a chalk line
a measuring tape
a tape measure
Knife (utility)
Sponge (natural)
Roller for wallpaper
smoother wallpaper

Materials Required for this Project

By having all of your materials ready ahead of time, you may avoid last-minute buying trips. Here’s a list of them.

“Wall size” primer/sizing material
Wallpaper Wallpaper adhesive



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