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How to Hang Wallpaper

This is a guide to help you through the key stages to successfully hang your new wallpaper and achieve a professional finish with great results. If you have any doubts that you can achieve the results you hope for perhaps it is worth obtaining a quote from a professional decorator. It may be worth it in the end.

First Things First - Preparation

If you fail to prepare then prepare to fail. Boring but true. Putting a bit of effort into the preparation will not only mean that you give yourself the best opportunity for a professional finish it will also more than likely save you time in the end.

It is much easier to work in an empty room, so if possible, remove all furniture, furnishings and objects. Cover flooring with dust sheets to protect them. Strip away old paper by soaking with wallpaper stripper or warm water and detergent. When fully saturated, scrape off with a stripping knife. Difficult to remove paper should such as painted woodchip, embossed or washable papers are best tackled by scoring with a knife or wire brush before soaking. If you have a large area to work on, consider using a steam stripper. Ensure walls are smooth and dry. If you've used a steam-stripper you may need to leave your walls for a few hours to thoroughly dry out.

Vinyl wallcoverings and peelable papers can be removed by pulling away the printed top skin whilst dry, then stripping the backing paper by soaking. If the backing paper is firm, you can leave it as a base for the new wallcovering - but you must make sure it really is well stuck down, otherwise blistering could result.

Fill in any cracks and holes and sand the filler when dry to leave a smooth, bump-free surface. Newly plastered walls will need to be 'primed' or 'sized' to ensure the new wallpaper will bond properly to the walls. The best way to do this is to brush watered-down wallpaper paste all over the walls to be papered. Then leave them to dry thoroughly.

You don’t want your beautiful new wallpaper splattered with paint, so if there's any painting to be done, such as skirting boards, dado rails and door frames, now's the time to do it before you start wall-papering.

Before unwrapping the wallpaper and certainly before you start cutting, make sure you inspect the rolls. Check they are as ordered and that they carry the same reference, shade and batch numbers.

Tools of the Trade

Having the right tools for the job will go a long way to making hanging wallpaper all the more hassle free. Ideally you will have a good pasting table, a pasting brush, a sponge, a plumb bob, a tape measure, a sharp knife, a pair of decorating scissors and a bucket of clean water.

Getting Started

For a top quality finish, it's recommended to line your walls first before applying your wallpaper. A heavy grade lining paper (1000gsm) can help to cover any imperfections in your walls and give a smoother final finish. If your walls have previously been gloss-painted or covered with any oil-based paint or sealer it is a good idea to apply a lining paper to give a more absorbent surface for you wallcoverings to adhere to.

A good quality lining paper should also be used with heavy wallcoverings or special finishes such as grasscloth, cork, hessian, handprints or flocks.

While lining paper can be hung vertically to avoid the chance of the joints coinciding with your wallpaper or of vertical seams showing through you should hang it horizontally around the room.

Hanging Lining Paper

  1. Cut the lining paper into strips which measure the length of the wall plus about 25mm (1") round the corner to the next wall.
  2. Use a long spirit level and mark a horizontal line along the wall about 1" below the first length.
  3. Paste the first length and concertina fold it
  4. Working from one corner, gradually open up the folds and smooth the paper down, eliminating air and creases as you go until the other corner is reached, making sure the paper is hung parallel to the pencil line.
  5. Make sure all edges are fixed down firmly, applying a little more paste to them if necessary.
  6. Successive lengths should be butt jointed. Don't overlap the paper but leave a small gap of no more than 2mm between joints when hanging lining paper horizontally, working from ceiling to skirting.
  7. Leave to dry thoroughly before hanging wallpaper on top of lining paper. Any initial air bubbles in the lining paper should dry out and disappear. If any persist, either prick with a pin or make a very small cut in the lining paper and brush in some wallpaper paste and smooth back down. Then allow to dry.

Cutting the paper

Measure twice; cut once is the old adage! Don't assume all your walls are exactly the same height either; older houses in particular are liable to have 'settled' over the years. Measure regularly as you go. Carefully measure the first length of wallpaper required and mark it on the back with a pencil and straight edge. Allow 50mm top and bottom (100mm in total) to each piece for trimming at ceiling and skirting board.

Ensure the pattern is the right way up and never assume that the outside end of the roll is the top - it is not always the case. Once you've cut your paper, number each piece and mark the back of the paper with a 'T' for top to avoid hanging any pieces upside down!

Think about where you will hang the first strip. For bold patterned wallpapers select a focal point such as a chimney breast or the dominant wall and hang from the centre. For a wallpaper with a plain design start in a corner, usually behind the door

With a bold design, always cut the first length so that when it is hung and finally trimmed top and bottom there will be a complete motif at the top of the wall.

Cut with wallpaper scissors or a sharp craft knife and metal ruler for a perfect straight line. You can now use this piece of paper to measure against the remaining roll for your next piece of wallpaper (don't forget any differences in your wall heights). Before cutting the next lengths ensure that the pattern matches up with previous ones. Also, if you have a pattern repeat, you'll need to check whether it's a straight match or if you need to allow enough extra length to match the pattern. Remember that you will be using more wallcoverings if the design is large or has a big repeat.

Pasting the paper

Always use the paste recommended on the roll label or leaflet. If this is not indicated most general all-purpose wallpaper paste should be suitable for many wallcoverings. If you are not using a pre-mixed paste follow the paste manufacturer's instructions carefully, especially when mixing, to ensure the correct consistency.

Depending on the paper you've bought, you'll be either need to paste the back of the wallpaper (traditional method), soaking the wallpaper in water (ready-pasted), or paste directly onto the wall (new paste-the-wall papers). Assuming you're pasting the paper, work down the length of the paper and from the centre to the edge. Don't paste from the edge to the centre as this can get paste onto the front side of the wallpaper. When applying paste it is important to avoid getting it on the surface of the paper. Any paste on the front should be carefully removed with a damp sponge. Once you've thoroughly pasted the paper, gently fold the pasted length inwards (avoiding creasing it), bottom to middle and top to middle. For very long lengths, fold like a concertina. Then leave it for the recommended time as stated on the label. Always read the manufacturers instructions on the label.

Once pasted the wallpaper will need to 'soak' for a short period. This allows the moisture to be absorbed and the paper to fully expand and stretch before it’s applied to the wall.

Hanging the first piece

As few walls are truly square or perfectly vertical. You will need to account for this when hanging wallpaper to avoid the pattern not being applied straight. To do so draw a vertical line on the wall using a plumb line or long spirit level before hanging your first piece.

If you have a plain patterned wallpaper or no specific focal point you normally start hanging in the least visible corner, often behind a door or alternatively start from one side of the window (usually the right hand side) and then work around the room into the furthest corner. Then work from the other side of the window into this corner. If your wallpaper has a bold pattern, you should see if there is a central focal point in your room such as a chimney breast. If so, hang your first piece exactly in the centre of this feature and then work out from either side.

Hang your first piece against the plumb line and you'll have a nice straight edge to butt your next piece of paper against. Next, smooth down and brush back the length away from the line and into the corner going round the corner by about 25mm. Trim the top and bottom with wallpaper scissors and smooth down with a paper-hanging brush making sure there are no bubbles. Hang your next piece butting up to the edge of the first, don't overlap or leave any gaps, run a seam roller over the join.

Hang It

  1. After the paper has soaked for the required length of time take it to the wall making sure you have checked which end is the top (having marked it on the back before pasting).
  2. Holding the top of the length, carefully open the top fold and lightly stick the top half of the length to the wall.
  3. Allow about 50mm at the top of the wall for trimming off and slide the wallcovering exactly into position.
  4. Smooth down the middle with a brush, ensuring a good butt joint and pattern match, then work out towards the edges, removing air bubbles
  5. Open the bottom fold and continue to smooth the paper down to the skirting
  6. Carefully run the back of the scissors along the angle of the ceiling and the wall at the top, and the skirting at the bottom, making a crease where the excess wallpaper has to be trimmed. Gently pull the length away, trim off the excess with scissors and brush back into place.
  7. Carefully wipe surplus paste from the surface of the paper and from the skirting and ceiling with a damp sponge to avoid marking when it dries.

Wallpapering Internal Corners

Don't try and hang a full width piece into a corner, it's better to hang it in two pieces. First measure the distance from the edge of the last piece you hung to the internal corner. Do this at several points between the ceiling and skirting to find the maximum distance and add approximately 25mm to this width. Cut the paper down the length to this width and paste into the corner. You should now have a 25mm overlap on the next wall to be papered. Mark a new plumb line on this wall and use the remainder of the last piece used to paper the new wall. Carry on with a new full width piece butting up against the join as before brushing back into the corner and overlapping the 25mm which has already been carried round. Match the pattern as well as you can, although a slight mismatch in the corner is normally not too obvious.

Wallpapering External Corners

Similar to internal corners, but make the overlap onto the next wall a bit wider, 50mm should be sufficient. Match the pattern as best you can and then, to ensure a butt joint, slice through both pieces of paper (with a sharp knife). When slicing through, use a good straightedge and a very sharp knife, cutting at a low angle, taking great care. Then peel back the top paper and remove the piece from underneath. Smooth back the top paper into position and you now have a butt joint.

Electrical Sockets and Switches

Better to be safe than sorry, so switch off the electricity at the fuse box first. Smooth down the wallpaper over the fitting, find the centre and make a series of diagonal cuts towards the outer edges of the plate - don't cut further than the edge of the switch plate. Fold back the triangles of wallpaper you've just cut and trim off most of the wallpaper. Loosen the screws in the switch plate so you can pull the plate away from the wall and tuck in the edges of the trimmed wallpaper. Tighten up the screws for a nice neat job. Particular care is needed with ready pasted wallcoverings as they can carry a lot of water. Similarly, care should be taken with metallic foil type wallcoverings, which could act as a conductor. For circular switches, make a series of cuts producing a star shape. Press down around the outline, mark and trim in the same way.

Ceilings

If wallpapering the ceiling and the walls in a room, it's advisable to do the ceiling first (so you don't get any mess on your newly papered walls!). Ideally, start at the window wall working across the room, parallel to the window wall and paper from the window into the room. However, there may be times when you will prefer to use the shortest distance across the ceiling rather than handle very long lengths.

You'll need to mark a guideline across the ceiling that's parallel to the wall to give you an 'edge' to work to for the first piece. Work with the 'folded' pasted wallpaper carrying it over your arm to the starting point on the ceiling and then support it on a hand-held baton and gradually 'unwrap' the folds as you slide the paper into position against the guideline and smooth the paper onto the ceiling. Continue unfolding and brush into position, finally trimming at each end, leaving about 13mm overlapping the wall at the ends and along the length. Butt join your next piece and work across the ceiling. Light fittings can be treated in the same way as sockets and switches. If you prefer to dismantle the light fitting, ask a qualified electrician if you are unsure how to do so and ensure you switch off the electricity at the mains first!


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