How to Hang Wallpaper
Wallpaper is easy to install if you estimate well and follow manufactures instructions for
the type and brand of paper you want to use. The general instructions, below, will make your
job even easier.
The tools and equipment needed depend on the type of wallpaper
selected. While there are inexpensive tool kits available, if you expect to
have more than one wallpaper project over the next few years, it is better
to upgrade to quality wallpaper tools that will achieve superior performance.
The average project require the following tools:
Flat work surface
Paint roller or paint brushes
Break-away knife and extra blades or a supply of single edged razor
blade with blade holder
Metal measuring tape or ruler
Sponges or lint free towels
Premixed adhesive recommended for wallpaper
Good quality wallpaper primer
Extra lighting, if necessary
3" masking tape
Soft bristle brush
Seam sealer or vinyl-over-vinyl adhesive for corners
Double cutting tool or seaming pad (optional)
Moisture Reader (optional)
Straight edge (optional)
The most important part of the wallpaper job is to make
sure the wall surface is properly prepared. Time spent before hanging
the wallpaper will make the job easier and help insure satisfactory results
that will last for years. Always read the manufacturer's instructions
on the product's label before using.
Basic tips for all wall surfaces include:
Remove all switch plates, outlet plates and wall fixtures that are not permanent. If
removing any type of electrical obstacle, remember to disconnect the source of electricity.
The wall surface should be cleaned, dry, structurally sound and free of grease, mildew
or other stains.
Ball-point ink, grease, lipstick, crayon or any foreign contamination
should be cleaned with a stain killer primer/sealer to prevent any bleeding
of the mark through the wallpaper.
Marking pen inks must be removed from the wall.
Mildew should be cleaned from the wall surface with a solution of two
cups household bleach per gallon of water. Rinse and allow to dry. Any mildew
stains should be sealed with a good quality stain killer/primer, and any exterior
and/or in-wall source of the moisture that may promote mildew growth must
Any loose paint must be removed from the wall. Glossy and semi-gloss
paint should be sanded to dull the surface and a coat of adhesion promoting
primer applied prior to the installation of wallpaper.
Any wall irregularities should be corrected with either spackling,
drywall compound or other wall repair materials.
The most important step before applying a primer and hanging wallpaper is
to make sure that the wall surface is clean, dry and sound. Always remember
that you will be using a water-based adhesive to hang the wallpaper which
puts stress on the wall surface as the adhesive cures and the wallpaper shrinks
or contracts. If the wall surface is not sound, adhesion failure will occur.
Each type of wall surface needs to be treated accordingly:
Make sure the drywall is free of contaminants such as dust, dirt and mildew.
Joints and spackled areas should be thoroughly cured and sanded smooth. Best
results are obtained when the moisture content of the drywall is at or less
than 5 percent. Apply a good quality opaque/white primer.
Test painted surfaces for moisture sensitivity. Hold a wet sponge or cloth
to the paint surface for 15 seconds, then rub the surface vigorously with
a cloth. If little or a slight amount of paint is removed, paint should be
sound. If all or a large quantity is removed, the wall should be washed with
ammonia and water or sanded and washed to remove the paint. Painted walls
should also be tested for adhesion. Cut three small x's into the painted wall
surface, then apply a piece of clear cellophane tape over the x's. Yank the
tape off vigorously. Inspect the tape for any paint: no paint flakes indicates
good adhesion. Paint flakes on the tape indicate that the paint adhesion is
not adequate for hanging wallpaper. The wall should be sanded with a coarse
sandpaper to remove or break through the old paint. All painted walls should
be primed with a good quality opaque/white primer.
Walls where old wallpaper has been removed: Old adhesives should be removed
by sanding or by using adhesive remover. Rinse the wall and allow to dry.
Old adhesives can act as a food source for mold and mildew and makes the wall
surface uneven and difficult to bond to. If the wall shows any signs of existing
mold or mildew, it should be washed with a diluted household bleach solution
and thoroughly rinsed and allowed to dry. Repair the wall as necessary. Prime
with a good quality wallpaper primer. If the old wallpaper is peelable, remove
both the top and bottom layer of wallpaper.
Make sure the wallpaper is firmly bonded to the wall and has no lifting seams
or loose spots. You can check for poor adhesion by rubbing your hand over
the surface of the wallpaper and listening for a "crackling" sound.
Make sure the surface is clean and free of any dirt or grease. If the surface
is textured or patterned, consider the wallpaper you are about to hang and
decide what primers are suitable.
Prime with adhesion promoting primer. Groves should be filled, then reprimed
and/or an appropriate wall liner should be used. For best results, use a clay-based
adhesive. Some wallpaper will require additional priming of the wall liner.
See wall liner instructions for priming, installation and adhesive recommendations.
All of these procedures should be followed by an application of a good quality
If there are any questions concerning the surface to be covered, test installations
of at least three strips applied three days in advance of main installation
is recommended, or follow manufacturer's instructions.
Engineer the Hanging Process
You don't have to be a technical whiz to "engineer" a room. All
this means is to determine your seam placements before beginning your installation
to avoid waste mistakes. Other things to consider when planning a paper hanging
the placement of the pattern so it is pleasing to the eye
arrangements of doors and windows or other unique architectural features
All these factors affect seam and pattern placement, and also determine starting
points, ending points and area of mismatch.
The most likely point to start the engineering process should be the area
of the room that will cause the most difficult situations. Once this area
is planned, seam placement can be established in two different directions
working from the problem area back to the ending point.
Before engineering the room, it is important to measure the expanded width
of wallpaper (using a scrap of the wallpaper). Most wallpapers will expand
to a certain degree after they have been pasted and then booked. After booking,
re-measure the wallpaper for its true hanging width. If seam placement is
figured before this expansion (or, in some rare cases, shrinkage) has occurred,
seams will fall in areas different than originally figured.
A rule of thumb is to try to avoid having a seam fall less than 2 inches
next to an obstacle like a window, door or corner. In some rooms, this may
not be possible.
While engineering a room, pattern placement also needs to be noted. Be sure
to plan pattern placement so that the design falls at specific points on the
wall that are aesthetically pleasing. Areas that need to be watched are:
ceiling linedo not cut a design element in half
chair railsagain, do not cut design elements in half
door/window headers and dados (areas above cabinets), etc.
Occasionally, pattern placement is more important than seam placement. When
this is the case, the design element should be placed where it will be most
visually pleasing. But, if at all possible, seam placement should still be
Where to Start
While engineering the room, not only will seam placement be planned, but
also the location of the mismatch - where the final strip to be hung will
be butted up to another strip and the pattern may not match. Two factors affect
this decision: 1. pattern of the wallpaper
2. architectural layout of the room.
If hanging an entire room, choose the place where the partial strip will
butt against a full strip, or where the mismatch will be most inconspicuous.
Choose a short area of wall to place the mismatch, instead of having the mismatch
be the length of an entire wall (Fig. 2). The ideal place in most occasions
is over a door or window that is not on the focal wall. There are times when
the mismatch will be best placed in the corner behind a door, even though
that will yield a mismatch the length of the wall.
A natural breaking place such as floor-to-ceiling fireplace can eliminate
a mismatch, but only if the pattern being hung does not contain large design
elements. If there are large design elements, the pattern needs to be hung
with the main part of the design element symmetrical on each side of the breaking
point, and then hang the walls going both right and left, planing where the
mismatch will land.
After the mismatch point has been designated, decide where to start hanging
based on seam placement from the engineering. It is possible to start in the
middle of a wall and work in two different directions to the mismatch point.
Making a Plumb Line
For a successful hanging job, it is essential that your wallpaper be hung
straight. Most homes, however, have walls and ceilings that are often slightly
out of alignment. To compensate for this, you must begin your job with a truly
vertical plumb line. In fact, you should make several vertical plumb lines
around the room as you go along.
To make vertical plumb lines:
Decide where you want to begin your hanging (see the Where to Start
section in this Web site).
Line up a carpenter's level or straightedge/level and lightly draw
a straight vertical line with a pencil. (Always use a pencil as inks may bleed
through your wallpaper after it is hung.)
Line up your first strip of wallpaper with this line.
For best results, make several plumb lines around the room to make
certain all wallpaper strips are straight.
Special Tip: If you are starting your hanging at a corner, make your plumb
line half an inch less than the width of your wallpaper from the corner. This
way, your wallpaper will overlap on the adjoining wall by about a half-inch
and can be covered by your final strip.
Booking the Strip
Once you have made your plumb lines and are ready to begin hanging your wallpaper,
apply or activate your paste.
If using the more common prepasted residential wallpaper, follow manufacturer's
instruction for activating the paste. (If using unpasted wallpaper, see manufacture's
instructions for the proper paste to use.)
Booking each strip after the paste has been activated is a very important
step in your hanging process. By booking your strip, you will allow the adhesive
to penetrate, or soak into, the wallpaper. It also allows the strip to relax
and keeps it from drying out until you are ready to hang it. It is important
to remember to activate the paste and book each strip one at a time.
Activate or apply paste to two thirds of your wallpaper strip, then fold
the top of the strip about two thirds the way down, allowing paste to rest
against paste. Activate the paste on the remaining portion of the wallpaper
and fold paste to paste
Do not crease folds
Roll the folded, booked strip loosely to keep edges together so they will
not dry out (Figs. 3-5).
Allow three to five minutes for the booked strip to relax before hanging
(or follow length of time according to manufacturer's instructions). If you
will not be using the strip for a while put the strip in a plastic bag to
The First Strip
Once your strip is activated and booked, it's time to start hanging you wallpaper.
Carry your booked strip to the wall, step up to the ceiling and unfold the
top portion of your strip. Press the upper portion against the wall, leaving
two inches for trimming along the ceiling line. Line up the edge of your wallpaper
to your plumb line (Fig. 6).
Give the upper portion of the strip a couple of horizontal strokes at the
ceiling line to force it flat against the top of the wall. Use downward strokes
to smooth down the upper portion of the strip.
Slide the middle portion of the strip into position using the palm of your
hands. Always avoid pulling on the edges of any wallpaper. Check for alignment
against the plumb line, and smooth with downward strokes.
Unfold the remainder of the strip and smooth down the bottom portion making
sure the strip is aligned with the plumb line. When you are sure the strip
is positioned evenly with the plumb line, smooth over the entire surface of
the strip. Remove any air bubbles, pulling the strip away from the wall if
Now using your wall scraper or broad knife as a guide, trim at the ceiling
line and the baseboard with your razor knife (Fig. 7). Hold your scraper
or broad knife tightly in place between the wall and the razor knife. Move
the scraper along the wall, keeping the blade of the razor knife in contact
with the wall. Replace blades with every strip for a clean cut.
Rinse wallpaper, ceiling and baseboards thoroughly to remove excess adhesives.
Change your rinse water frequently and use a good quality natural sponge (Fig.
The Second Strip
Take your second booked strip to the wall and unfold the upper portion, sliding
it into place. Adjust the strip carefully to align the pattern to the strip
already on the wall. Butt the two edges of the strips together tightly, but
do not overlap. Use the palms of your hands to smooth the second strip into
position (Fig. 9).
Once the second strip is positioned and properly matched, use your smoothing
brush to line the rest of the strip along the edge of the first strip. Trim
excess at ceiling line and baseboard. Smooth out once again. Rinse. Continue
with third strip.
Once you have hung three strips, go over the seams lightly with a seam roller.
(Do not press hard as you may squeeze the adhesive form under the wallpaper.)
Take a look at these strips and see if the pattern repeat is correct and
that any tonal variations in the wallpaper are acceptable. It is best to leave
these strips on for a few days as test strips before you continue your job.
Once you are happy with the look of the first three strips, finish hanging
How to Hang: Hanging in Special Areas
In every virtually every room you will hang wallpaper, you will run into
special areas that need extrabut simpleattention. These include
electrical outlets, corners, windows and doors. See how easy it is to wallpaper
When wallpapering on a wall with an outlet, play it safe! Make sure the electrical
current is off. Your switch or outlet plate should have already been removed
in your initial wall preparation, but, if not, remove it now.
To paper, simply run the wallpaper over the outlet box and with your razor
or knife, cut away the wallpaper around the hole and replace your plate or
switch (Fig. 10).
Hanging Inside and Outside Corners
When you come to an inside corner, like in the corner of a room, measure
the distance between the edge of the last strip hung to the corner. Add 1/2"
to this measurement and cut your wallpaper (Fig. 11). Align this strip
with the wallpaper strip already on the wall (or your plumb line); the extra
1/2" will wrap inside the edge of the corner to the other wall. To make
the wallpaper wrap easily, cut small diagonal slits and the ceiling and baseboard.
Next, measure the next strip from the corner, and hang this strip OVER the
1/2" piece wrapped in the corner.
Special Tip: If you are using a vinyl wallpaper, be sure to secure this overlap
with a vinyl-to-vinyl adhesive.
Unless adjoining walls to an outside corner (corners that point outward)
are badly out of line, the easiest way to hang an outside corner is to wrap
the strip you are hanging around the corner to the other wall (Fig. 12).
Slit the 2" overhang at the ceiling and baseboard to make wrapping easier.
If you know you will hanging around an outside corner, start will the longer
wall first to avoid any pattern drop at the ceiling line in the event your
corner is not perfect.
If your walls are badly out of alignment, measure the distance between the
last strip and the corner and add 1". Hang this piece, wrapping the extra
1" around the corner. For the next piece, measure your wallpaper an add
1/2", letting this extra 1/2" overlap the corner piece.
Special Tip: when hanging outside corners, make sure all trapped air is eliminated
by smoothing the wallpaper tight.
Ending at an Outside Corner
If your paper job ends at an outside corner (you are not going to papering
the wall on the other side of the corner) be sure to trim the last strip of
wallpaper 1/8" from the edge. This will prevent fraying. Another way
to avoid fraying at the corners is to use clear plastic guards available at
from your retailer.
Hanging Around Windows and Doors
Do not try to pre-cut a strip of wallpaper to fit around a window or door.
Instead, when you reach the window or door opening, hang the wallpaper right
over the edge. Cut away most of the excess wallpaper, and then make diagonal
cuts to the edges of the frame. Use your scraper or knife to trim (Fig.
Continue to match the pattern around doors and above and below windows using
sections of full-width strips. Make sure these shorter strips are vertical
when hanging (Fig. 14).
You can use this easy technique for other obstacles, including bookcases
fireplaces, built-ins, etc.
Borders are one of the most popular and economical way to brighten up a home.
They are most often placed at the ceiling, but can be placed around doors,
windows, mirrors anywhere you would like a splash of color.
Wherever you hang borders, they should be folded in one of three ways: like
an accordion; paste-to-paste; pattern-to-pattern.
However you choose to fold, make sure you do not crease the paper, and gradually
unfold and smooth as you hang.
Special Tip: If your border comes by the yard, make sure you purchase enough
to be able to hang a wall at a time. If your border comes in fixed lengths,
you can overlap and double cut to match your pattern.
Reprinted with permission, the Wallcoverings Association (WA), copyright