How to wallpaper your home

Hanging wallpaper yourself is a fairly straightforward task, but you will need patience and a little technical knowledge to make sure you create a seamless, professional look for your wall. Wallcoverings come in a whole range of designs from bright and bold florals to intricate arts and crafts-style motifs, and you will also discover different types, like inexpensive pulps or decorative embossed papers, for varied finishes.

However, if you don’t follow simple steps such as cleaning the wall surface first, or start with a plumb line (vertical marker), the results can be less than perfect. Follow our step-by-step guide for all you need to know about wallpapering your own home, and if you’ve never done it before, start with an easy-to-match, simple pattern.

What you will need

Prepare the room by clearing out any furniture and covering the floor in dust sheets. You’ll need a good paste table that’s solid and big enough to lay out your wallpaper flat – about 2 m x 60cm is standard. When it comes to materials, buy in wallpaper (more than you think you will use in case of mistakes), wallpaper paste, large brushes, scissors, a pencil, a craft knife and a wallcovering smoother. You may also need extras such as lining paper and plaster filler, depending on how much preparation you’re doing.

Prepping the walls

Remove any traces of old wallpaper before you begin. Make sure the walls are clear of dust and dirt and check for any raised blemishes or imperfections – these will need to be sanded and smoothed before you start. Also look for cracks or holes in the wall and use a plaster filler to create an even surface, leaving ample time for drying before beginning the papering process.

If you’ve recently had the walls plastered, they may need priming or ‘sizing’ with a layer of wallpaper paste first, which should then be left until they are no longer wet. It’s advisable to hang lining paper underneath the decorative wallpaper for a neater look – this is usually hung in horizontal sheets across the wall. Although you don’t need to be as exact with the lining paper as you do with wallpaper, and it matters less where you begin, it’s worth using a plumb line or spirit level to draw the first line across so that you get it straight.

Positioning your wallpaper

Plan the position of your wallpaper according to the layout of your room, before getting the paste out. You should aim to hang wallpaper so that the seams are hidden from view, so avoid too many seams on feature walls if possible. Try to start and finish behind the door or in a corner, for example, as you will probably need to trim the paper to complete the walls, and therefore the wallpaper pattern lines may not match up exactly.

It’s best to work outwards from a corner of the room. Measure the width of the wallpaper, and then measure that same distance out from the corner, marking the edge with a pencil line. With your ruler, measure about 15mm back towards the starting point and use a spirit level or plumb bob to draw a vertical guide line down the wall – this will mean that when you line up your first sheet of paper, it will wrap slightly onto the next wall and you won’t get any awkward corner seams.

Hold the paper flush with the ceiling or crown moulding and let the roll drop to the floor, keeping it in line with the pencil marking on the wall. Make a small tear in the paper, slightly past where the wall meets the skirting board, so that you’ll have excess for trimming once the wallpaper is applied to the wall.

Older walls and ceilings are not always straight, so you may need to allow for this and keep measuring as you go, or draw several plumb lines around the walls before you start.

Cutting and hanging the wallpaper

Lay the wallpaper on the table and fold it onto itself where you made the tear. Cut along this line with scissors or a craft knife and a ruler. You can either use this first strip as a guide to measuring the rest or make a mark on the table, but if you have out-of-plumb walls, it’s best not to cut lots of strips in one go.

It’s also worth cutting as you go if you have a horizontal or floral pattern of any kind, as once the first strip is on the wall, you can use it as a guide to matching up the pattern with the second strip, and then the third and so on.

When it comes to applying the paste, lay out the paper on the table, reverse side-up, with a weight on each end. Mix the wallpaper paste according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Some types of paste – and paper – require you to simply soak the paper or paste directly onto the wall, but the most common method involves applying paste to the wallpaper with a brush.

Sweep the paste in a herringbone pattern – an arrangement of rectangles – to ensure a thin, even layer. Once the sheet is covered, fold one end of the pasted side into the middle, and then do the same for the other end, creating a ‘book’ fold. Fold the two halves on top of one another, without creasing, and leave to soak for as long as instructed.

Once the paper is ready to apply, unfold the top half of the strip – making sure it’s the right way up – and carefully fit to the top of the wall, lining up with the original plumb line at the side. Then release the bottom half and smooth all the way down, using your fingertips to avoid transferring dirt or tearing the paper. You can adjust the position slightly at this stage, as the glue takes time to set permanently. Finally, use a tool like a wallcovering smoother or a dry brush to get rid of any bubbles. When the position is correct, trim the excess at the bottom with your utility knife.

Continue with the next strip as before. You should aim for an abutted seam, with the two strip edges just touching each other, rather than a lap seam, or overlapped join in the paper, as this can look unprofessional.

Papering awkward areas

When papering around plug sockets, light switches or light fittings, the best option is to leave plenty of excess, and completely paper over in the first instance, if possible. Once the paper is applied, carefully score a hole that’s smaller than the surface area of the fitting with a craft knife, and shore up the edges using a straight edge, so that you can feel the shape of the fitting underneath. It’s best to trim a little at a time, to avoid making a hole that’s too large. Then trim along the lines of the fitting and wipe it down to get rid of any paste.

Once you’ve finished, survey the whole room and make sure there are no ragged edges or areas that don’t match.

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