Getting The Hang Of Wallpapering



Metro Services photo

Proper surface preparation and tools make hanging wallpaper easier.

Wallpaper hanging is not nearly as difficult as some home improvers tend to make it. As a matter of fact, with proper surface preparation, the proper tools and a little patience, even the least enthusiastic paperhanger should end up pleasantly surprised with the result.

Preparing the wall is of utmost importance. The wall can be smooth or rough, but it must be primed with oil base paint first. Nothing else works as well.

Having the proper paper hanging tools also is essential to success. Many home improvement centers or paint and wallpaper specialty stores carry inexpensive paper hanging kits, which contain most of the required tools. Most kits sell for under $25 and contain:

• A pasting brush

• A smoothing brush

• A razor knife and extra blades

• A seam roller

• A plumb bob (we use a laser level)

Other tools and equipment that make the job go smoothly are:

• A large pair of scissors

• A measuring tape

• A pencil

• A water trough

• A large plastic bucket

• A sponge

• A spring clamp

• A long straightedge

• A step ladder

• A large flat work surface

Start by setting up your work area. If you’ll be working in a room where the flooring is in place, you’ll want to be sure to protect it by covering it with a heavy drop cloth. Next, set up your work surface “pasting table”. An old door placed on a couple of saw horses are all that’s required. Professional paperhangers prefer lightweight portable tables. These are costly and pay for themselves only if frequently used.

It goes without saying that wallpaper should be hung straight. Therefore, a plumb or laser line establishing true vertical should be made on the wall as a guide for the installation of the first strip of wallpaper. A level and a pencil also can be used. The line should be as light as possible since dark lines may show through.

Paper can be purchased pre-pasted or without paste. We suggest that paste be used even with pre-pasted paper to ensure the best bond. Our paste preference is a mildew-resistant vinyl variety. It is stronger than most other pastes and especially useful in damp areas like kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry rooms.

Each length of paper should be cut about four to eight inches longer than the distance from the ceiling to the top of baseboard. Once cut, pre-pasted paper should be rolled pattern side in and run through the water trough (filled with warm water). The paper should then be laid on the pasting table with the pattern facing down. A spring clamp at one end will help to keep the paper from rolling up and make the pasting process neater and easier. Additional paste should then be applied with the pasting brush or a heavy-nap paint roller. It is not necessary to run un-pasted paper through the water trough, although all other steps apply.

After the paper has been pasted, it should be folded over (pasted face to pasted face) so that both ends of the paper meet in the middle. This process, called booking, and allows the paste to be evenly spread and the paper to expand to its fullest prior to hanging. The booked paper should be allowed to sit for about ten minutes prior to installation.

Now comes the fun part — the chance to hang your first piece of paper. Here’s where the stepladder comes in, since paper is hung from the top down. Simply unfold the top section of the booked paper and place it against the wall with the palms of both hands while allowing about two inches of the paper to lap beyond the top of the wall (at the ceiling connection).

You’ll find that the paper can be easily manipulated along the wall as you align it with the plumb line. Once the top section has been aligned, it should be smoothed with a damp sponge or the smoothing brush, working from the center to the edges. Repeat this process for the bottom half of the paper.

Each successive strip of paper should be prepared and hung like the first and should be right up against the previously installed strip to form a neat and uniform seam. Special care should be taken to ensure that patterns match up at seams when patterned paper is used. Use a seam roller to set the seams after each strip of paper has been smoothed and all air bubbles have been removed.

Using a razor knife and metal straightedge, trim the paper at the ceiling and at the baseboard. Hold the razor knife firmly in one hand and the straightedge in the other and carefully pull it along the straightedge. Once you have reached the end of the straightedge, move it to the next section to be cut and carefully continue the process. You’ll find that changing blades frequently makes the job of trimming easier.

Finally, after all of the paper has been hung, it should be wiped down with a damp sponge and warm water, wringing the sponge out frequently.

For more home improvement tips and information, visit our web site at or call our listener hot line 24/7 at 1-800-737-2474 (ext 59).

Q & A - Removing Contact Paper

Question - I have an older house that needs certain repairs. One of the areas needing re-doing is the kitchen, where I am facing the job of removing contact paper that was used in place of wallpaper on some of the walls. This contact paper appears to be several years old, and the adhesive is dried and cracking in some places and firmly adhering in others. What is the best way to remove this mess?


Answer - Removing conventional wallpaper, which was applied over a properly prepared surface and with the appropriate paste is a project that, in most cases, can be accomplished in an afternoon and with little or no damage to the wallboard below.

On the other hand, removing contact paper will take more afternoons than a cat has lives and could be cause to condemn your kitchen due to the damage sustained by the wallboard when removing the contact paper.

While we are familiar with commercial solvent-containing adhesive removers we are reluctant to recommend them in this case. Our fear is that they could be absorbed into the wallboard resulting in a permanent odor that could be potentially dangerous to you and your family.

We believe that any method that you attempt to remove the contact paper will result in significant damage that will require very costly repairs. Consequently, our advice is to cover the walls in question with a new layer of 3/8-inch wallboard. The new layer of wallboard can be installed with drywall screws to minimize the disruption to surrounding finishes and can be finished to meet your expectations. If this task sounds like something that is more than you can handle a drywall contractor is the professional to call.

TIP - Better Paint Means Lasting Quality

It’s said that at least 70 percent of a good paint job is in the preparation. What remains, of course, is the quality of the paint and its application. Buying the least-expensive brand might end up costing more in the long run. Better paints go on easier, cover better and last longer. One of the best ways to determine paint quality is price. Better quality paints are a bit more pricey because they contain higher levels of more costly ingredients like titanium dioxide. Conversely, bargain brands generally contain high levels of less expensive fillers like clay, which results in poor coverage, and less abrasion-resistance. The $20 to $30 invested in a gallon of high-quality paint will pay dividends in the long run because you won’t have to paint as often.

And that’s the On The House tip.


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