Wallpapering: How to Hang Wallpaper and Borders
Welcome to the "How To" page for hanging wallpaper and borders.
Here, you'll find steps on how to paper bare walls and previously
covered walls as well. Tips on how to buy wallpaper are included along
with instructions on papering around obstacles.
This "How-To" information is intended to simplify jobs around the house. Tools, products,
materials, techniques, building codes and local regulations change. Therefore, Wallcovering Plus assumes no liability
for omissions, errors or the outcome of any project.
Readers may encounter problems different from those described, due to conditions existing in their homes,
or the types of tools, materials and products used, or the way they are handled. In no case will Wallcovering Plus be
liable for personal injury, property damage or any other loss resulting from use of this information. The
reader must always exercise reasonable caution, follow applicable codes and regulations, and is urged to
consult with a professional if in doubt about any procedures.
A single roll of wallpaper contains 36 square feet of paper. American wallpaper
is sold in bolts of single, double or triple rolls with varying widths. Follow
these steps to compute the number of single rolls you'd need for a room:
(Place the graphic to the right of the steps)
Measure the length and width of the room. Round off to the nearest foot.
Add these numbers together. Assume you're papering a bathroom and
it is 6 feet wide and 10 feet long. (6 + 10 = 16)
Multiply that number by the room height (baseboard to ceiling), which we'll
say is 8 feet. (16 x 8 = 128)
To compute the area of square feet in that room, double the above number.
(128 x 2 = 256)
From this number, subtract window and door space. As a rule, windows are 15 square
feet and doors are 21 square feet. Take the square footage you computed for the room, 256 and subtract the window and door square footages. (256 - (15+21) = 220
Since American rolls of wallpaper contain 36 square feet total, we know some
of that will be wasted with extra cuts and
pattern matching. So let's allow for 28 square feet out of the
total 36. Divide your final room square footage by 28 to determine how many single rolls you'll
need. (220 / 28 = approximately 8 single rolls)
Before you begin papering, your goal should be to make the wall surface as
smooth as possible. After this is done, shine a light (work lamp, flashlight)
sideways across the wall's surface. Irregularities will cast shadows, allowing
you to see if you missed anything.
Also allow any spackling, plaster, primer to dry completely prior to hanging
Bucket and rubber gloves
1x3 lumber scrap
Hot air gun
Chemical wallpaper remover
Joint compound or plaster
Neutral household cleaner
Lining paper (optional)
Iron-on patching tape
Oil-based primer or sealer
Heavy-duty extension cord
- Place your 1x3 lumber scrap beneath the hammer head to
protect the wall so you can remove nails, hooks, etc.
- Any existing wall anchors need to be knocked back to just
below the surface of the wall with a nail set.
- Wipe over any loose sections of the existing wallpaper with a wet sponge.
This reactivates the adhesive so the paper again sticks to the wall. Let it
dry. Tip: To determine if the old adhesive is still good, run your hand over
the old wallpaper. If you hear a crackling sound, this indicates loosened
- Exceptionally loose paper should be torn off. Try to feather the torn edges
to reduce sanding later.
- Using the utility knife, cut through the wallpaper at corners and remove loose
edges. Cut through the paper around window and door frames also.
- Sand any bumps, irregularities, including seams and edges. Remove any
dust and dirt by washing the walls with a damp sponge.
- If the wallpaper is bubbled, you can reglue it by cutting a criss-cross into
the bubble. Apply glue to the back and press them into place again. Or,
simply remove the bubble by tearing the loose section off. Tip: If bubbles
are widespread, remove the old paper completely. The new covering will
- Coat the back of the lining paper with adhesive. A paint
roller works well to do this.
- Hang the strips of lining paper about 1/8 inch apart. Also leave that
much space between the lining paper and molding or trim. Lightly
press the seams with a damp sponge. Allow to dry.
- Any loosened bits of plaster or peeling paint need to be removed
with a sharp-edged scraper such as a triangular scraper.
- Fill any dents, cracks, holes, etc. with spackling compound. Blend the
edges into the surface, smoothing it out.
- Wide cracks or holes can be fixed with iron-on patching tape. Be sure to
cover the hole completely, then apply a layer of joint compound over the
tape, smoothing out the edges.
- Sand the dried patched areas. Wash with a damp sponge to remove dirt
- When the patched areas are completely dry, seal with an oil-based primer.
If you don't, the alkalis in the plaster will keep the wallpaper from adhering.
Before papering new walls, prime them first. Paint an oil-based primer
on the walls with a roller. Using an oil-based primer creates a hard
surface whereas a latex paint will simply soak in. Sizing comes next.
This important step is the bond between the wall and the paste. It is
usually a blue color, which makes it easy to see where you've covered
over the white primer.
Wallpaper manufacturers will usually include specifications and
instructions with double-roll packages. Included will also be the
distance from one repeat pattern to the next, called the "drop."
Most wallpaper today comes with a washable plastic coating. If you
see the word "strippable," this means the paper will be easy to remove,
a handy convenience for future repapering projects. Vinyl wallpaper is
heavy and has a tendency to stretch, requiring special hanging instructions.
If your home or building is not a fairly new one, chances are the rooms are not "plumb"
or perfectly vertical. To make this less obvious, avoid vertical striped
patterns. If the trim needs repainting, do this first prior to hanging the paper.
Broad or spackling knife
Sandpaper and sanding block
No. 1 hard pencil
Stepladder or stool
Premixed wallpaper paste
- To protect walls from moisture and make stripping easier later,
apply an oil-based primer. Let dry to a hard finish; sand lightly.
- Cover the walls entirely and evenly with sizing so the paste will
- To begin hanging your wallpaper, use a level to determine a true
vertical guideline from the floor all the way to the ceiling. The guideline should be the width of a roll of wallpaper and 8 inches away from an
- Now measure the distance from the baseboard to the ceiling. Add
about 4 to 5 inches to it and mark this on your first wallpaper
strip. Tip: Do this on the back of the wallpaper so pencil lines
don't show up.
- Cut the first strip using a sharp utility knife and straightedge.
Subsequent strips may need to increase in length to match
- Using a brush, apply the paste starting at the top. If no arrows
are present on the back of the wallpaper, turn it over to determine
direction. Tip: You may find a roller works better and faster than a
brush to apply the paste.
- Fold over about one-sixth of the paste-coated strip from one end
allowing the pasted sides to rest against each other. DO NOT
crease the fold. It will remain when you hang it.
- Do the same from the other end, allowing the two edges to
almost touch each other. This is called "booking."
- Drape the pasted strip (pasted side up) over your arm like a towel. Place the top of
the paper just a couple of inches over the ceiling line.
- Holding the right edge of the paper against the vertical guideline you drew earlier,
unfold the top section and press into place.
- Brush the positioned strip to remove air bubbles, starting from the top
down, and from the center to the sides.
- Unfold the bottom half and position against the vertical line. Brush as
quickly as possible since paste dries and gets more difficult to remove
the air bubbles.
- To trim excess paper from the ceiling joint, press the broad knife blade
into it to form a crease. Cut the excess with the utility knife using the
broad knife as a guide. Wipe off any excess paste.
- Brush the strip one more time and remove the excess from the
baseboard or bottom the same as above. Tip: If you brush as you go,
there's less chance of air bubbles forming. In case you do get a bubble
that's impossible to brush out, poke it with a pin and work the air out
before it dries.
- The next and subsequent strips you hang should be 1/4 inch apart
initially. With gentle pressure, slide the paper into place. If it does
not move easily, lift gently, reposition and then brush.
- About 10 to 15 minutes after the paper has been up, firmly press
seams with a roller. Wipe off any excess paste.
- Wallpapering around doors, windows and shelves is tricky. To simplify these areas, it's best
to put up a whole strip and brush it into place. Position it as close to the obstacle
as possible, pressing it as far as it will go.
- Cut the wallpaper diagonally with scissors at the top/bottom corners
of doors or window frames. One section can now extend along the
horizontal edge and the other vertically.
- Brush the horizontal section into place first. Press the broad knife into
the creases and cut with your utility knife, using the broad knife as a
- Now do the same for the vertical edge.
- If the obstacle is particularly difficult to fit around, such as a window
sill, use your hand to crease the paper into the smaller places. Use
a towel or washcloth in those exceptionally tight spots to press the
paper into place.
- Horizontally cut the paper above and below the obstacle. For the
bigger cuts, use scissors. Smaller cuts should be made with your
- Brush the positioned sections into place. You may need to make
more small cuts for a proper fit.
- The final paper cuts should be made only after the strip is brushed
- Safety tip! Turn power off when working around switches and outlets.
Remove the plates and paper over. Cut an X to expose fixtures.
- Trim the paper around the inside edges of the outlet using the broad
knife and utility knife, then replace the faceplate.
Because bathrooms are so humid, they present unique problems
when it comes to wallpapering. In addition to that, there are so
may obstacles to work around -- sink, toilet, shower/tub, mirror, etc.
Choosing the correct type of wallpaper for your bathroom is important.
The preferred choice is prepasted vinyl (paper- or cloth-backed.)
Vinyl wallpaper will withstand the moisture and is durable. The
prepasted feature makes it easier to use. Instead of a large worktable to
spread paste, the bathtub makes an excellent trough to fill with water and
dip the wallpaper which activates the adhesive.
Another key to successful bathroom wallpapering is proper wall
preparation. In a very humid bathroom, wallpaper will tend to bubble and
peel off more quickly. Proper preparation will help avoid this potential problem.
After you pick out your wallpaper, take a sample piece home and rub it
with a wet sponge. This tests for colorfastness. Next, tear the wet sample.
If it tears easily, this particular wallpaper choice will be hard to work with.
Bucket and rubber gloves
Sandpaper and sanding block
Alkyd or oil-based primer-sealer
Vinyl-to-vinyl wallpaper paste
You might be considering papering over the old wallpaper in your
bathroom because it's in good condition. Don't! The water used
to apply the new paper will loosen the old. The weight of both
layers will eventually cause the paper to pull itself from the wall.
Soaking. If you have sheetrock (wallboard), wood
or plaster in your bathroom, cut a slit every 8 inches in the wallpaper
horizontally with your utility knife, OR sand the wallpaper lightly. This
allows water to penetrate. Sponge down the walls an area at a time with a
household detergent solution. If the wallpaper is stubborn in coming
off, soak thoroughly with the detergent solution or use a chemical
wallpaper remover. You can now remove the old wallpaper with your
fingers. You may want to use a putty knife.
Steaming. You can also steam stubborn wallpaper
from plaster and wood walls. Steamers can be purchased or rented. Just fill the
tank with water and when steam appears, press it against the wallpaper
for about 30 seconds. Scrape the steamed paper off with a putty knife.
Do not use a steamer on wallboard because along with the paper will come
the wallboard's top layer.
- Remove the old wallpaper. See How to Remove Old Wallpaper in Your
- If there any noticeable cracks or dents in the wall, fill them with spackling
compound and a broad knife. Let it dry and sand it smooth using
sandpaper on a sanding block.
- Remove any dust created by the sanding with a wet sponge or cloth.
- Apply an alkyd or oil-based primer-sealer with a short-napped paint roller.
Lining Paper. Lining paper helps disguise the most
severe wall texture
problems. See How to Use Lining Paper.
Joint compound. This method takes longer to do but
costs less. Just skim coat the walls with joint compound evenly. Sand
it smooth and wipe down with a damp sponge or cloth. Then apply the
- Cut your strip to size, then roll it up with the pattern inside, starting at the top.
- Fill the bathtub or trough with water.
- Place the rolled strip in the water for as long as the manufacturer suggests.
While the strip is still in the water, reroll it to wet any dry adhesive.
- Lift the wallpaper slowly (grabbing it at the top) from the water. Position it in
place on the wall while it's still wet.
- Wherever you start hanging your paper, keep in mind when the last strip
meets the first, there will be a mismatch. So choose as inconspicuous
spot as possible (behind a door is usually good).
- Snap a chalk line where you want to begin. To do this, use a plumb line to
get it perfectly vertical. Press the plumb firmly against the wall prior to
- Repeat the previous step each time you wallpaper around a corner.
- Cut the first strip with scissors about 4 inches longer than the actual wall
height. Activate the paste or apply it if it is not the prepasted kind.
- When you position the strip, allow 2 inches overhang at the top and bottom.
- Remove the air bubbles and smooth it out with a wallpaper brush. Brush
toward the ceiling and the baseboard. Wipe with a damp sponge.
- Remove the excess at the top and bottom with the utility knife. Use your
broad knife as a guide.
- Do the same steps for the second and subsequent strips, butting them
closely together. Avoid overlapping.
- Use a seam roller on the seams. Remove paste or adhesive with a
- Measure the distance (in three places to be accurate) between the last strip
you hung and the corner. Add 1/2 inch.
- Cut a strip lengthwise using this measurement. Position and hang this strip.
You should have a partial strip left over.
- Measure the remaining partial strip and subtract 1/2 inch. Make a new plumb
line at that distance from the last piece.
- Hang this strip overlapping the corner seam by 1/2 inch. Use the plumb line
as a vertical guide. Tip: Prepasted vinyl wallpaper will not stick to itself. To
overlap corners, apply vinyl-to-vinyl adhesive on the overlap.
Around towel-bar or sink brackets. If towel-bar brackets are small,
paper right over
them. While the paper is still wet, cut an X with your utility knife through the paper
covering the bracket. Press the paper securely around the bracket and trim the
excess. Paper as closely to sink brackets as possible, then trim with utility knife. If the towel brackets are large, you may find it easier to remove them before papering (note the location of the bracket and any holes for wall fasteners.)
Behind toilet or pedestal sink. Work the paper behind the toilet
or sink, using one
hand above and the other below. Smooth it out with a small paint roller attached
to a long handle. If the space is too tight for the roller, wrap a small towel around
a yardstick and smooth the paper horizontally.
Around plumbing fixtures. If there's a fixture collar, slide it back.
Paper and trim
as close as possible. Use your fingers to smooth out and press the paper into
place. Slide the collar back against the wall.
- Mark where you want to apply the border, using a pencil and ruler.
Measure accurately. If you feel the room is uneven, use a level.
- Measure the length of one wall and cut a strip of border to fit. Allow a few
inches for trimming.
- If you're using a prepasted border, soak it in water the length of time specified
by the manufacturer. If you're using paste, apply it now to the back of the strip.
Do not use additional paste on a prepasted border. This could discolor the
border and cause it not to adhere as well.
- When the strip is ready to hang, fold it in pleats with the pasted side touching.
- Start in a corner. Allow about 1/2 inch overhang. Smooth with a wallpaper brush.
- The next and subsequent strips may be tricky. Cut them to match the pattern
on the previous strip.
- Hang it by overlapping the last strip slightly. Be careful to align the pattern.
- Use a roller on the overlaps and corners to assure proper adhesion.
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Also See: Wallpapering Tips By The Expert
Also See: Wallpapering Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)