How to Hang Wallpaper

If it's your first attempt at papering try using a lining paper first. Not only will it give you the perfect surface to hang your 'finished' wallpaper on it will also give you some invaluable practice.

For the novice, vinyl wallcoverings will be easier to hang, as they are more forgiving if over-soaked or over handled. Wallpaper, being slightly less durable requires a little more care but practise makes perfect!

Preparation may seem the boring bit, but prepare the job properly and the rest will be much easier and give you a much better finish.

Prior to removing any protective wrapping, and before cutting any wallpaper, make sure the rolls carry the same reference, shade, batch numbers.

Have you completed all of the painting in the room? If not then get this done first.

If you want to paint or paper the ceiling then do this before you start on the walls (see ceilings)

Move the furniture out of the way to give yourself room to work.

Don't forget to put a dust cloth down to cover the floor and furniture around where you are working.

Making a start

Tools for the job - Get all your tools together before you start. Having a good paste 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 will make the job easier and quicker.

Strip away old wallcoverings by soaking with wallpaper stripper. When fully saturated, scrape off with a stripping knife. Make sure all traces of stripper are rinsed from paintwork and wash your hands thoroughly. You could also use an electric steam stripper.

Should you find the wallcovering difficult to scrape off it is probably because the surface is, at least partially, impervious. Painted woodchip, embossed and washable papers can be particularly stubborn and 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.

Vinyl wallcoverings and peelable papers can be removed by pulling away the printed top skin whilst dry, then stripping the backing paper by soaking (see above). 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.

Preparing walls and lining paper

Prepare the walls

Make sure that bare walls are sound, clean and dry. Fill all holes and cracks using filler, smoothing down the surface when it is set. Seal porous surfaces either with diluted wallcovering adhesive or with a wall size, following instructions given on the packet, and allow to dry.

Why use lining papers?

Most manufacturers will recommend the use of a lining paper for a really professional job.

How to hang lining paper

A lining paper can be hung vertically since the width is almost certain to be slightly different from your wallcoverings and it is unlikely that the joints of the two would coincide.

However, to be absolutely sure - or if you prefer - you can always hang the lining horizontally following the steps below:

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 (leaving just the slightest gap between the edges), working from ceiling to skirting.

7. Allow lining to dry thoroughly before hanging your wallcovering.

Cutting your wallpaper

Carefully measure the length required (normally the height of the wall) and cut from the roll, allowing an extra 50mm (2") or so at top and bottom for final trimming. To start with, only cut one length at a time.

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 so! Mark the back of the paper with a 'T' at the top, this avoids confusion later on.

Consider where you will start hanging. For boldly patterned wallpapers choose a focal point such as a chimney breast or the dominant wall and plan to hang from the centre. If you have a plainer 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.

Before cutting the next lengths ensure that the pattern matches up with previous ones. Remember that you will be using more wallcoverings if the design is large or has a big repeat.

Pasting

Always use the paste recommended on the roll label or leaflet. If this is not specific,  All Purpose Wallpaper Adhesive is suitable for many wallcoverings and contains a fungicide that's necessary for vinyls and washable papers. Follow the paste manufacturer's instructions carefully, especially when mixing, to ensure the correct consistency.

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.

When properly mixed and with the paper face down on the table, start from the top and brush the paste down the length and out towards the edges, herringbone fashion, so that it evenly covers the surface. Don't pull the brush back across the edge of the paper as it will leave paste on the front of the paper.

Fold the pasted length inwards, bottom to middle and top to middle. To ensure the edges do not curl back and dry out, the folded length can be loosely rolled to hold them together during the soaking period. For very long lengths, fold like a concertina.

Once pasted all wallcoverings need to 'soak' for a period of time before hanging. This allows the moisture to be absorbed and the paper to fully expand (see about blisters). Always read the manufacturers instructions on the label.

Starting off straight

Few walls are truly square or perfectly vertical. To overcome this, so avoiding your pattern going askew, always mark a vertical pencil line against a plumb line or long spirit level (you can make your own plumb line with a weight attached to a thin string). Allow the plumb to swing freely until it is at rest before putting your pencil mark down the wall behind the string.

You normally start hanging in the least visible corner, often behind a door. The plumb line should be about 25mm (1") less than the width of the wallcovering away from the starting point.

Don't hang on the line, but just leave it showing by about 5mm (1/4") and hang parallel with it. Next, smooth down and brush back the length away from the line and into the corner going round the corner by about 25mm. See also Dealing with corners.

Hanging

1. Once the paper has soaked as per instructions check which is the top of the wallcovering (having marked it on the back if need be, before pasting), and carry it to the wall. The first length is normally hung in a corner and subsequent lengths are hung working away from the last.

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 (2") at the top of the wall for trimming off and slide the wallcovering exactly into position.

4. Smooth down the middle with a paperhanger's 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, to make an impression where the wallcovering has to be cut off. 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. Wash sponge frequently.

About blisters

If blisters appear as the wallcovering lengths start to dry out, it usually means there are air pockets underneath. Ease the paper away and brush it down again, expelling the air as you do so. If they persist, it could mean that the wallcovering has not had time to absorb sufficient moisture from the paste - indicating that the lengths need to be left longer after pasting so that they become "limp" before hanging.

The reason is that the fibres, after wetting with paste, start to expand. If the wallcovering is put onto the wall before this has finished, the fibres continue to expand, causing blisters to form. Sometimes these flatten out after the wallcovering has dried out - but not always.

Using a wooden or rubber roller to "iron out" a blister is rarely satisfactory. Rollers are mostly used on speciality wallcoverings to press down particularly stubborn joints, and in these cases, a piece of paper should be sandwiched between the roller and the wallcovering so there is no direct contact and friction.

Hanging around corners

Never wrap a full width wallcovering round an inside corner. Always do it in two pieces.

First measure the distance from the edge of the last piece you hung to the corner. Do this at several points between the ceiling and skirting to find the maximum distance. 

Cut a length of wallcovering so that it is about 25mm (1") wider than this measurement, paste it and hang with the extra 25mm overlapping round the corner on to the next wall.

Where corners are not accurately plastered, you must be more generous with the overlap. Take the remainder of the length and paste it. Measure it and mark a vertical guide line on the next wall, a little more than its width out from the corner.

Now take this second length and hang it alongside the vertical line and perfectly parallel to it ..

...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.

Outside corners

Follow the same technique, although you should allow a wrap-round of at least 50mm (2").

Overlapping thicker wallcoverings

Blown vinyl can be difficult to stick down. In this case, slice through the two thicknesses after overlapping and remove the surplus pieces from underneath, so giving you a perfect butt joint. When slicing through, use a good straightedge and a very sharp knife, cutting at a low angle - and take great care.

Ordinary flat vinyls or wallcoverings with a similar shiny surface

These will need the use of a special adhesive (e.g. Border & Overlap Adhesive).

Electricity

Be very careful when applying wallcoverings over, under or around electrical switches, sockets and similar items. We recommend turning off the supply at the mains.

Smooth the wallcovering down very gently over the fitting and then, for square shapes, pierce the paper and make diagonal cuts from the centre to about 25mm (1") beyond each corner.

Press the wallcovering firmly around the edge of the fitting, lightly mark the outline and trim away the surplus.

For circular switches, make a series of cuts producing a star shape. Press down around the outline, mark and trim in the same way.

Some decorators prefer to slightly unscrew the fitting so that the wallcovering can be tucked just behind its edges. In such cases, the power must be switched off to avoid electric shock. Particular care is needed with ready pasted wallcoverings because they usually carry a lot of water. Similarly, take care with metallic foil type wallcoverings, which could act as a conductor.

Ceilings

If you are preparing a ceiling, this should be done before the walls. Ideally, start at a window wall and paper across the room, moving away from the window with subsequent lengths. However, there may be times when you will prefer to use the shortest distance across the ceiling rather than handle very long lengths.

1. Mark a guideline on the ceiling, parallel with one wall and about 13mm (1/2") less than the paper width out from it. The line should also be at a 90˚ angle to the adjacent wall.

2. Paste the first length and fold, concertina style, leaving to soak until supple.

3. Carry it over your arm to the starting point on the ceiling and then support it on a hand-held baton (a taped-up, partly used roll of lining paper or short length of broom handle will do).

4. Open the first fold, slide the paper into position against the guideline and start to smooth it down onto the ceiling.

5. Continue unfolding and brush into position, finally trimming at each end, leaving about 13mm (1/2") overlapping the wall at the ends and along the length.

6. Continue with successive lengths, butt joining to the previous one until the ceiling is covered.

Electrical fittings

Some decorators prefer to dismantle these to make papering easier. If so, the power must be switched off at the mains and any surplus pasted paper trimmed away to avoid any being left under the reassembled fitting. Alternatively, you can cut around ceiling fittings as described earlier.