How to: Wallpaper

Papering a wall can be a great way to inject some colour pattern and/or texture into a room. Wallpapering is like everything in life (almost), it’s easy when you know how to do it.

Here are our top tips for first-timers:

  1. Don’t spend a fortune on the paper for your first project
  2. Start with a feature wall or a chimneybreast for example, rather than tackling an entire room

Before you start…

Choosing your paper:

Using stripes vertically will tend to make the room feel taller while horizontal stripes tend to make the room feel wider. One darker wall will tend to make a wall feel closer and the opposite is true if one wall is lighter, it’ll appear further away.

Once you have chosen your paper you need to make sure you buy enough. There is nothing more annoying than almost getting to the end and realising you are a roll short.

Batch numbers are important and are written on every roll of paper on their information sleeve. Be strict, ones that look ‘similar’ won’t be similar when all over the wall, you’ll notice.

Another key thing to remember when estimating the number of rolls you need to buy is the amount of paper you will have to discard due to matching the pattern or ‘pattern repeat’ as it will say on the packaging. Most rolls of wallpaper average four or five ‘drops’ per roll. A drop is the length of paper from the top of an average wall (ceiling) to the bottom of an average wall (floor). The amount to be added for pattern repeat is different for each particular design and will be stated on the information sleeve. Assuming you have an average ceiling height/drop, stick with the four drops per roll, as a general rule of thumb.

Method of application:

When you buy the paper it’ll tell you the method of application.

Some papers all ready have glue applied and need to be wetted before applying. The advantage is that the glue is already on the paper and therefore you won’t have to mess around with mixing the glue. The disadvantage is that you won’t have that extra dab for stubborn or tricky bits that don’t want to stick.

Otherwise, you will need to apply the glue yourself.

What you’ll need to get started:

  • Pasting table or similar – a pasting table is not expensive and well worth having if your thinking of papering more than just one wall
  • Sharp knife with disposable blades – you will need several of these
  • Tape measure
  • Pasting brush
  • Wallpaper glue
  • Bucket for glue
  • Bucket, sponge and clean water
  • Straight edge – This can be a large ruler or just something sturdy to iron out any creases
  • Leveler, ideally a razor, plumb line
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Seam roller
  • Wide clean flat brush
  • Old shirt or overalls

Prepping the wall:

If your walls are brand new or have old plaster on they will need or will benefit from sizing. Sizing is when you seal the wall so that the paper will stick to it well. This can easily be done with a diluted version of the glue you will use to paste. Make sure this has dried before you start papering.

Papering, the steps:

It’s best you measure three lengths at a time and write on the back A,B,C or 1,2,3 so you don’t forget which one goes where. It sounds obvious but by the time you have pasted them and let them stretch and moved them to where you are going to hang them you could easily get them mixed up.

1. Level up

Grab your leveller/plumb line and put a line down the wall where you want to start. This will be a guide for your first drop

HINT: As a first timer it’s a good idea to start in the place least viewed in the room, such as behind a door, this way your first practise isn’t too obvious, and that as you grow in confidence and skill your best work will be viewed the most.

If you’re doing a feature wall or chimneybreast it’s a good idea to start in the centre so you end up with pleasingly symmetrical drops.

2. Measure out

Measure with a tape measure the drop… and write it down. Roll out the first drop on the pasting table (DROP A) keeping the glue away at this point. Add a little extra to allow room for error.

3. Roll

Roll out the next (DROP B) making sure that the pattern measures up to DROP A, but also so that it’s a full drop. You will likely have wastage here and have to discard chunks of paper to ensure the pattern matches. It’s a good idea to roll out three at a time so you have a bit of momentum, so roll out DROP C at this point too.

HINT: Ceilings are not always straight, neither are skirting boards, especially in older properties, so be careful to measure as both can be sloped and you don’t want to be left with gaps.

4. Gluing

For gluing, lay the paper on the pasting table, hanging the paper just over the edge of the table.

HNT: Try and work as neatly as you can, it’ll make your life easier in the long run.

5. Glue sandwich

As you paste, fold the glued sides onto each other like a glue sandwich. Make sure you keep the edges sandwiched. You need to do this so that the glue can’t dry out while you get DROP B and DROP C pasted up. Repeat the glue sandwich on every drop.

Don’t worry about creases on the paper at this point, the main thing is to make sure all the back of the paper has glue and that all the glued paper is then folded onto itself so none of the glue can dry out.

6. Stretching

Each drop needs this time for the paper to stretch. This means that when it finally goes on the wall when it dries it shouldn’t shrink back and leave an unsightly gap or seam. By the time you have glued the three drops (DROP A,B and C) the first one should be ready to hang.

7. Hanging

Now find DROP A, unfold it and place it on the wall. Use your leveller to check that the drop is straight. Get your wide clean brush and brush from the centre outwards. Check the level again.

8. Take two

Take the second drop (DROP B), unfold and repeat being careful to match the pattern… push it tight to the first drop and use the brush to push out air pockets to to the edges. Once happy, get your seam roller to rejoin the seam and press together.

9. Third time

Repeat with the third drop.

10. Cutting

When happy with all three drops, take a hard straight edge and a sharp blade and cut the top edge and the bottom where there is leftover roll on the wall, to neaten it up.

HINT: If you can, use a new blade for every single cut otherwise sometimes the paper tears

11. Finishing touches

Finally take a clean sponge with clean water and wash the paper with water to remove any glue.

Happy papering!