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Working With Wallpaper: A Step-by-Step Guide

If you hate messy paint jobs, then applying wallpaper is a good alternative. There are certain challenges you may have to deal with but preparing your wall, and the actual wallpaper, days before the actual application can make things easier.
Working With Wallpaper

Wallpaper is the best way to spruce up your home if you’re not ready for a full paint job. It’s easier, less messy, and offers a lot more creative options. But it’s also got its challenges—anyone who’s worked with wallpaper can attest to that. For one thing, you’ll have to cut around corners, switches, and other minor details, which takes a good deal of planning and estimation. There’s also the trouble of measuring, working around corners, and preparing your walls for the project.

So hanging wallpaper isn’t a piece of cake. But it’s not that hard either. Many homeowners have successfully installed wallpaper on their own in less than a day. Still unsure? Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started.

Part 1: Prepare your walls

1. Inspect your walls for any holes, cracks, peeling paint, or uneven surfaces. Fix all the problem areas before anything else. Most minor imperfections can be fixed by filler, plaster, spackle, or other wall products. For large holes and cracks, try patching with fiberglass tape.

2. Wash your walls thoroughly and touch up the paint or primer where necessary. Make sure there are no unpainted spots; these will absorb the wallpaper paste and cause a loose spot, which is where most wallpaper problems begin. Remove the cover plates of all the sockets and switches.

3. Choose a starting point for your project. Look for a spot that’s largely unnoticed, such as a lower corner. Starting from your chosen point, mark a margin about one inch smaller than your wallpaper. Draw a straight line from floor to ceiling along this mark. Use a carpenter’s level to keep the line straight. Make it very light—you don’t want the mark showing through your wall. This will be your reference for aligning the wallpaper.

Part 2: Preparing the wallpaper

4. Cut a strip of wallpaper about four inches longer than your wall. This will go from your ceiling to your baseboard. If your wallpaper has a repeating pattern, cut it a bit longer so you can match the patterns during application.

5. Use a paint roller or brush to apply wallpaper paste. Do this on a flat, even surface, such as the floor or table. When you’re sure you’ve covered every inch of wallpaper, fold the paper in half with the pasted sides touching. This step is called ‘booking.’ It evens out the paste and keeps it moist. If you’re using pre-pasted wallpaper, follow manufacturer’s instructions. Some people still apply paste to pre-pasted paper, but note that this can void the warranty.

6. Let the paper set for about five minutes before hanging. This gives it time to shrink or expand in reaction to the paste.

Part 3: Wallpapering

7. Align the wallpaper with the margin you drew on the wall, starting at the ceiling. There should be about two extra inches of wallpaper against the ceiling and over the baseboard.

8. Smooth out the paper using a brush or plastic smoother, starting from the middle outward. Feel for any wrinkles and fix them by pulling at one end until they’re flat. Apply enough pressure to push out air bubbles. If a bubble won’t lay flat, prick it with a pin and push down.

9. Trim off the excess paper using a wide putty knife. Start from the wall, then press upward until you reach the baseboard or ceiling. Cut with a razor blade, taking care not to scratch the surface.

10. Apply the other pieces the same way, making sure to match the edges. If they won’t match exactly, just match them at eye level, where people are most likely to notice.

11. Seal the seams by pressing down with a seam roller. Do this twice for each seam, about 15 minutes apart. Take care not to squeeze out the adhesive, as this can stain the wallpaper. Create a final seam when you get back to your starting point. Overlap the two edges, then trim them at the same time.

12. Wipe off excess adhesive from the wallpaper. Be sure to work fast, as the paste can be hard to remove when it dries. Loosen the paste with a wet sponge, then wipe dry with a clean rag.