I’m participating in the One Room Challenge in which my baby boy’s nursery is getting a swift makeover. You can see the before shots here and my mood board and floor plan here.
Today, since our adorable nursery wallpaper is really the star of this show, I thought I’d share with you my tips for installing wallpaper.
Now, if you’re like me, you’ve done your fair share of Googling “HOW DO I HANG WALLPAPER”, right before you attempt to hang wallpaper.
And all you can find is the 58th tutorial that says the exact same basic thing as everything else you’ve read and doesn’t answer any of your actual REAL questions. It also makes it all sound deceptively easy because it’s been written by a professional wallpaperer who did an apprenticeship at age 12 and has papered 17,000 rooms since then, including Parliament House and Buckingham Palace.
Yeah. Easy for HIM.
So, here’s my REAL guide. These tips are for beginners who have not-a-clue. If you’re experienced at hanging wallpaper, feel free to ignore everything you’re about to read, and carry on being brilliant with your bad self.
HOW TO HANG WALLPAPER: tips for beginners
1. Choose a paste-the-wall option.
Wallpaper comes in two varieties – the type where you apply the wallpaper adhesive to the wall, and the type where you paste the paper.
Paste-the-paper is actually a euphemism for “RUN FROM THIS OPTION LIKE THE DEVIL IS CHASING YOU WITH A FLAMING PITCHFORK STRAIGHT FROM THE FIRES OF HELL.” (They don’t tell you this because it’s no good for PR. Also, “Paste the paper” is shorter and kind of snappier.)
Here’s what it entails, not that you’ll need to know, unless you’re some kind of masochist.
Depending on the manufacturer’s instructions, you will probably have to pre-soak the paper. This expands the fibres, so that when you apply the glue, it won’t expand unevenly from the moisture and therefore bubble and warp. This is exactly as painful as it sounds. I mean, before you can even get started, you’ll need a large shallow container big enough to soak your wallpaper in. (Who has one of those just lying around in their kitchen? Maybe if you’re a giant. With a giant’s kitchen. Then you’d have one for sure.)
Then you need to apply the adhesive to the paper and “book” it which means folding the paper back on itself (adhesive sides together) and leaving it to sit for a while so it can absorb the glue evenly. I think I fell asleep just typing that sentence. #aintnobodygottimeforthat
With a paste-the-wall option, the paper is essentially pre-primed so you can get straight into business.
2. Select wallpaper with no slevedge edge
WHAT THE HECK IS A SLEVEDGE EDGE?!!
Nobody knows, but you’ll sound really cool if you start bandying this term around at parties where there are lots of suave designery-type people present.
Here’s the lowdown. Typically, commercial wallpaper is printed all the way to the edge, so that when you install it, you just butt the two seams up next to each other.
However, that’s not always the case – particularly if your wallpaper is custom printed. A slevedge edge is where the wallpaper is not printed all the way to the edge of the roll. Instead, it has white seams on each side. This equals a whole lotta extra work for you. With no pay rise or benefits package.
You could pre-cut all the white seams off the paper (#tedious), but often this is no help anyway, because this type of wallpaper is generally also printed with an overlap. In other words, you have to overlap the two pieces in order to match the pattern correctly.
If you don’t want an obvious raised bump underneath the place where the two pieces overlap (and trust me, you don’t want that), you’ll be required to make a long straight cut down the centre of the overlapping seams – ON THE WALL, and then pull out the overlapped pieces you’ve cut away.
This is even more horrifying than it sounds. It’s difficult to make perfectly straight, long cuts on a vertical surface, even when you’re using a straight edge. Especially when your wallpaper is as thick as cardboard and you have two layers of it to cut through. Ask me how I know this.
(Two words: Master bedroom…)
It’s a good idea to check with the wallpaper supplier about this detail, as it’s usually not mentioned on site. Learn from the error of my ways, little grasshopper.
In good news, the nursery wallpaper was conveniently printed all the way to the edge, which saved me hours of effort and quite possibly prevented me from going into labour on a ladder.
3. Size the wall first.
Wallpaper size is this kind of slippery, gelatinous stuff that you paint straight onto the wall with a paint roller. It basically creates a forgiving surface so that when you’re positioning your wallpaper, you can slide it around a little to get it in exactly the right spot.
You may be wondering, as I did, but that sounds suspiciously like extra work. Do I REALLY need to size the wall???
Have you ever covered a school book in contact?
Soul-destroying, isn’t it?
Well, I hate to tell you this, but wallpapering is exactly like that. On a gigantic scale.
Oh, yes. Picture an exercise book the size of an entire room. Now you’re getting it.
Being able to easily reposition your paper will save you from ending up in foetal position in the corner at the end of this experience, rocking and muttering as you stare at the bubbling, crooked wallpaper that is now affixed to your walls for all of eternity.
(Until you burn the house down because your OCD can’t stand it for one minute more.)
Now, because I know you’re every bit as lazy as me, here’s one juicy tip. You can probably get away without sizing your wall if you’re using heavy enough wallpaper. In my Master bedroom makeover, the paper was extremely high quality, virtually as thick as cardboard. Because I could handle the paper a little more forcefully without worrying about tearing it, the wallpaper adhesive alone was plenty slippery enough to get the job done.
(On the other hand, the time I saved by not having to size was eaten up by trying to cut through that thick-as-steel paper with a hacksaw held in my trembling white-knuckled hands. So…. yeah. There’s that.)
Moral of the story? Size your walls. Oh, and it also makes it way easier to remove the paper down the track. You will need to cover your entire wall with size before the next step.
4. It’s just like painting a wall
Next step, wallpaper adhesive. You can apply this straight away, right over the top of the size. No need to wait for it to dry. (You want it slippery, remember?)
Applying wallpaper adhesive to your wall is just like painting, without the perfectionism. You can slap that stuff on like a kindergartener on a sugar high.
Use a drop sheet to protect your carpet, but seriously, if it splatters a bit, who cares. Keep a box of baby wipes handy and wipe it off before it dries. If you miss a spot, no biggie, it dries clear anyway.
You’ll need a ladder, because like painting a wall, you need to “cut in” around the edges with the adhesive, simply because there’ll be bits your roller can’t reach. Then use a paint roller on an extender pole to make for quick work of the rest.
Or, if you like me and you can’t find your extender pole because the kids have been using it to vault over the back fence or something, then you will have to climb up and down the ladder on repeat until your legs feel like jelly and you curse the day you stopped going to the gym because you couldn’t be bothered any more. Then you will be so sore you can’t walk for the next two days. And you will curse the day you decided to wallpaper a room.
In short, there will be cursing. (Unless you’re super fit, in which case I don’t want to hear about it. #wecan’tbefriends #sorry #atleastnotuntilIgobacktothegym)
Unlike the size, you’ll only be applying adhesive to one “strip” of wall at a time, so it doesn’t dry out before you get to it. Paint it on from floor to ceiling in an area that’s a bit wider than your strip of wallpaper.
3. Remember that walls aren’t straight
Gosh, it’s tempting to just line up that first strip of wallpaper with the corner of the wall and call it a day. Girl, I hear you.
But, well, you know how something always looks perfectly straight when you’re up close to it, then you stand back and it’s like the leaning tower of Pisa? Yeah, that.
The standard advice is to use a plumb bob, and I’m here to tell you that I tried this and it sucked more than a root canal on Christmas Day.
I mean seriously. Where are you supposed to dangle that thing from anyway? And once it’s hanging in mid air, how are you supposed to get an accurate mark on the wall from it?
Psssht. Plumb bob, shmum-bob. We don’t want your smarty-pants advice, Mister I-have-wallpapered-17,00-rooms-including-Buckingham-Palace.
Use a spirit level instead, kids. Hold it vertically against the edge of the paper until you get your paper straight. Done.
5. Cut your strip of wallpaper about 6 inches longer than the height of the wall
You need some excess to work with at the top and bottom. Even if you measure the height of the wall exactly, ceilings aren’t exactly straight. Basically, your entire house is crooked, ‘kay?
What you’ll be doing is smoothing your paper on first, then trimming it at the top and bottom to get an exact fit. You’ll need a good solid metal straight edge and a sharp craft knife for this.
I mean really though, who actually has a metal straight edge just lying around the place? Not me. I have plastic rulers in this house. So that’s what I used. Because I’m so professional in every way.
Basically you just ram whatever
plastic ruler straight edge you have as hard into the corner of the cornice (crown molding) as you can and try to keep your blade hard up against the straight edge, while your hands start shaking like you have Parkinson’s from the exertion of holding them above your head while exerting constant even pressure on the blade.
Told you this would be easy.
Okay, I pretty much sucked at this bit. (Much like all the other bits.)
In good news, you can’t even see the wonky bits when you stand back and squint.
No, really, you can’t – don’t sweat it. I’m pretty OCD (I know you would never believe this, perhaps due to my tendency to take lazy DIY shortcuts and then blog about them) but even though my efforts were far from perfect, the wallpaper creates such a dramatic overall effect that no one even notices the small mistakes.
(Or if they do, they’re not telling me about it. They’ve all seen the crazed post-wallpapering gleam in my eye and they are treading very carefully.)
6. A wallpaper brush does nothing, but baby wipes are everything
A wallpaper brush. What even IS that? I bought one because “they” said to. (You know, the experts on Google who we’ve already established are not to be trusted because they don’t suck like the rest of us.)
Using this thing is like trying to roll out stiff pastry with a sponge. It achieves precisely nothing.
You may as well attempt to smooth down your walls with a fluffy baby rabbit.
I tried various implements in my quest for wallpaper smoothness, and the wallpaper brush did not even rate. A clean, dry foam roller was really good. You can use a fair bit of pressure without damaging the paper. Hands were just as good (as long as you keep them clean.)
The brush? Pfffft.
Oh, but baby wipes. You’ll want a box of those sitting nearby, and I’m just letting you know, you’ll use nearly the whole box to wipe off excess glue, spattered glue, and sticky fingers.
But nobody tells you these things. That’s why you need to get your wallpapering tips from a mummy-blog.
7. Keep scissors handy for the tricky bits
Power points, windows and doors. Mister I-have-wallpapered-17,00-rooms-including-Buckingham-Palace makes this part sound oh-so-easy.
Thank you, Google, for making us all so acutely aware of just how much we suck.
Look, the truth is, these bits are not easy whatsoever. Not the first time you try it, nor even the second time.
However, after a couple of bungled attempts, you’ll have it down pat, and next thing you know, you’ll be writing articles for the internet about how easy and effortless it is to wallpaper around a power point.
Until then, just stick a piece of furniture in front of the bit you stuffed up, and remember, nobody goes around looking at power points anyway.
To tackle a power point, make sure your power is turned off at the mains first. You don’t want your knife blade going into an electrical socket by accident. Let’s just say there’ll be no more room makeovers for you.
(Did I actually do this? Of course not. But please do as I say and not as I do. If you ignore my advice and electrocute yourself, please don’t sue me. Because I told you so. And also, you’ll be dead, so you can’t.)
Pop off the covers (a butter knife does the trick.) Covers hide a multitude of sins, by which I mean raggedy crooked edges. Score.
Then, hang the wallpaper straight over the top of the power point.
This will feel awkward and completely wrong. It will look like your wall is pregnant with an alien life form. But it’s actually all right. I know this because Google told me so.
Smooth the paper down as close as you can to the edges. (Hint: you won’t be able to get in all that close.)
Find the outermost corner of the powerpoint with your finger, then make a diagonal cut straight across the wall socket from one corner to the other. Do the same on the other side to make a cross. Then you can peel back the four points and use your
plastic ruler straight edge and blade to trim the paper around the wall socket.
For window frames, make one diagonal cut on each corner, but – (HANDY HINT!) – use a pair of scissors so you don’t damage the paintwork on the frame.
6. And remember… it gets easier!
I don’t mean to scare you off.
I know in theory that the purpose of an online tutorial is to make everything sound easy-peasy, but I will just tell you, when I was wallpapering my first room, I would’ve preferred the warts-and-all-version.
I wanted to know if someone else out there was sweating over what the heck they were doing and asking all the questions no-one else seemed to be asking.
THAT to me makes a new task seem a whole lot more approachable.
So there you have it – my real guide to applying wallpaper. In good news, it really wasn’t all that hard. The nursery took me about four hours, and remember, I did it while I was 39 weeks pregnant and the size of a gestating hippo. And, if I do say so myself, it looks amazing. (Stay tuned for the big reveal coming up soon!)
If I can do it, you totally can too.
Megan Duesterhaus (The Homes I says
Awesome tips, Karen! I’ve only hung wallpaper using temporary methods, but a lot of the same concepts apply! And baby wipes is a brilliant idea – I must have gone through a million wet paper towels!
Karen Schravemade says
Hey there girl! So funny, we must’ve commented on each others’ wallpaper posts at the exact same minute! I’m behind the eight-ball, but my goodness, I LOVE your star wallpaper!! Your nursery is looking sooooo good! xo
Elise Laney says
I do not have the patience for wall paper… want to come over and do it for me??? 🙂
Tracy Adler says
I’m really, really bummed. My husband and I had a client that wanTed 2 walls papered with 2 different prints that they got overseas. One wall was 13×9 the other 24×9. The 13×9 wall we did and it was beautiful. A thick, heavy digital printed paper with a busy stacked stoNE print. The second one… we laid down liner first (both walls were textured but we only lined one due to the print)then we came back and papered it. What a task. Nothing like the other… rips, uneven areas… wrinkles … it was a disaster. To make matters worse we couldn’t just go buy more if we messed up. Apparently our wall was not straight and using the corner to guide was a bad idea… we ended up with a couple spots where the pattern did not match at all.. and the very last piece the pattern was terribly askew. Unfortunately we just couldn’t get it to lay right… the paper was way too delicate and we only had like one shot at getting it right because moving it ripped it.. needless to say it came out with some blemishes we weren’t proud of… especially after our immaculate prior attempt. The client was very understanding and as a whole the wall looks great, just don’t look at the right corner, the botrim where the door opens up against, or one more piece to the right of that… the rest was perfect somehow…and matched up without flaw.. so really we aren’t sure how it leaNed so much unless it was the actual paper itself… no ripples, bubbles, wrinkles or anything… just a strange migration of the paper and still not sure how it happened.
I’m just happy the client was happy and could overlook our blemishes. We tried our best and we’re there for more than 8 hours trying to get it just right. I’ll send pictures of the 24ft wall later.
For now here is the 13 ft wall. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/fd8a5a3f9f48d48ca84f1a7aad6ce3e95b97a8e27708e8d9063afb01fde3e0b4.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5c83688b6683fb90709f4bb26de4d8ed50a6da7a5fc51d34e72a30a9fa9aafd2.jpg
Oh my gosh, this article is HILARIOUS!!! Thanks so much – you had me laughing to the point i’m actually excited about my wallpapering project! 🙂
Karen Schravemade says
Aw, thank you Irini!! I’m so sorry, your comment got caught in my spam filter for no apparent reason and I only just found it! I hope you rocked that wallpaper project! xo
Jamie Stauffer says
Oh my goodness, you and I have the same sense of humor. I love your writing style. I’m getting ready to hang my very first roll of paper and I think my Billy Badass who is about to get taken down a notch. I’m glad I stumbled upon this tutorial, I’ll keep it handy!
Karen Schravemade says
Lol, why thank you so much Jamie!! I hope your first wallpaper experience wasn’t too traumatic! ? xo
Love all your tips Karen and your honest, hilarious sense of humour that makes such a stressful and boring task actually achievable. Here I go…. Maybe just one more snack….
Karen Schravemade says
Thanks Carol, that is such a sweet thing to say!! I hope your wallpapering adventure went well! xo