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How to Wallpaper

Last Updated Nov 1, 2011 · Written by Rob Schneider

Wallpaper is back in style again, thanks to the fabulous array of wallpaper designs that have come onto the market. While not as easy as painting, it is possible for a keen do-it-yourselfer to hang wallpaper and achieve excellent results. This 'how to' guide will help get you started. Though if you're not keen to DIY, find a wallpaper professional in your local area to transform your walls.

Choosing the Wallpaper

The first thing you need to do is choose your wallpaper. Depending on the choice you make, it will either be already backed with an adhesive or it will not. If it is, you will need to purchase a water trough for soaking the paper before applying it. If the wallpaper does not have an adhesive backing, you will need to buy adhesive paste, a paste bucket and paste brush. Most modern wallpapers come with adhesive backing, so you probably won't need to undertake the messy job of pasting.

Other tools you will need will include a long straight edge and a sharp utility knife or cutting wheel. You will also need to keep a pair of scissors handy, for those areas where minor trimming is required. You will also need a bucket of clean water and a sponge, for wiping up excess paste or moistening dry areas, a stiff bristled smoothing brush and a roller for pressing down the seams. Your wallpaper supplier can provide you with all the tools you need.

Preparing the Wall

Before you start wallpapering, you have to prepare the wall. If you are replacing old wallpaper, you will need to thoroughly strip the old wallpaper. If your walls are painted and the paint has bubbles, you will need to strip the old paint off before you begin. If it has gloss paint, you should 'rough it up' with sandpaper before you begin. You will also need to fill any holes that may be left in the wall after you remove your pictures and picture hangers. Finally, remove any light switch plates and turn off the power. You will be using wet wallpaper: moisture and electricity are a dangerous combination.

How to Wallpaper

Now that the wall is ready, you can start wallpapering. Where do you start? It's best to start in the centre of the wall and work your way outwards. Before you begin, though, pick up a roll of wallpaper and mark its outside edge from the centre of the wall. Repeat this process until you arrive at the corner. If a narrow strip of 15 or 20 centimeters is left, then shift your starting line that distance and a little more from the centre. This will ensure that you don't end up with two narrow strips of wallpaper on each end of the wall.

Use a plumb bob or spirit level to mark your starting vertical line. Now cut your first length of wallpaper about 10cm longer than you need it to be. When it's cut, apply the adhesive or immerse the wallpaper in the water trough (be sure there's plenty of newspaper under the trough) and adhere the paper to the wall from top to bottom, leaving a little overlap at both ends. When hanging wallpaper, there are two things that are vitally important:

  1. Focus your attention on hanging your first sheet vertically because this will set the stage for all subsequent sheets.

  2. Before cutting your second and subsequent lengths of wallpaper, hold them up against the wall and find where the pattern best matches the neighbouring wallpaper. Then trim the top of the sheet appropriately, leaving enough overlap to make adjustments.

As you progress, smooth out each length of wallpaper in turn before they have a chance to dry. Make sure there are no bubbles and smooth the edges down firmly. Trim the top and bottom edges with your utility knife and firm the edges down. Come back to the seams and edges about 20 minutes after hanging and press them firmly down again using your roller. This will help ensure they stay adhered to the wall.

There are many little "tricks of the trade" that can't be provided in a quick "how to" guide, but if you make a good start as outlined above, you should be alright. If you want guaranteed professional results, find a wallpaper installation service in your area and let them do your wallpapering for you.
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