How to Hang Wallpaper

Wallpaper Rolls

Liquorice / Getty Images

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 3 - 5 hrs
  • Total Time: 1 - 2 days
  • Yield: 100 square feet
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $100 to $175

With an endless variety of florals and geometric patterns to choose from, wallpaper takes your room's look a step beyond interior paint. Hanging wallpaper and getting it right takes some care and patience, but the rewards are fantastic—a room with unmatched visual interest and unique character.

Before You Begin

Purchase pre-pasted wallpaper. The back of the wallpaper is coated in a dry adhesive that activates on contact with water. It's a category of wallpaper that sticks to your walls better than peel-and-stick wallpaper, but doesn't require brushes and separate adhesives like unpasted paper does.

For less paper-tearing and for easier cleaning later on, choose vinyl-faced wallpaper. While the product is still largely made of paper, there is a thin vinyl coating on the decorative side that adds strength, resists moisture, and prevents staining.

Tip

Pre-pasted wallpaper is also easier to remove later on than unpasted paper that uses separate adhesives.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Seaming roller
  • Tape measure
  • Laser level
  • Pencil
  • Spray bottle with clean water
  • Utility knife with replacement blades
  • Sponge
  • Bucket
  • Caulking gun

Materials

  • Vinyl-faced wallpaper
  • Painter's caulk
  • Sheet plastic

Instructions

  1. Measure Room

    Measure the height and width of each wall and multiply to arrive at the area. Account for every wall and add them together.

    Tip

    Be sure to subtract the total area of all windows and doors, too.

  2. Prepare Work Area

    Create a clean work environment on the floor by laying out sheet plastic and smoothing it down flat.

    Remove outlet and light switch faceplates.

  3. Lay out Wallpaper

    Unroll the wallpaper on the work surface with the pattern facing upward. Roll out all of the adjoining strips for an entire wall, matching the pattern of the strips from side to side. Leave an additional 3 inches at the top and bottom of each panel.

  4. Dampen Wallpaper

    Turn the first panel over so that its decorative side is facing downward. Spray the back of the wallpaper panel with water, making sure that you cover all areas.

  5. Book Wallpaper

    Book the wallpaper panel by folding each end inward to the panel's midpoint and leaving it like that for a few minutes. Be careful not to crease the two end sections. They should be curled instead of sharply folded.

    Tip

    Booking helps the wallpaper paste activate, but prevents it from drying out.

  6. Run Laser Level

    Run the laser level vertical line on the wall near a corner, so that the first strip of wallpaper will start with one edge on the laser line and then wrap around the corner and extend to the adjacent wall by about 1-inch.

  7. Lay First Wallpaper Panel

    Lay the first wallpaper panel, using the laser line as a guide on one side. Press the top of the panel onto the wall initially with your hand, then switch to the silicone seam roller.

  8. Lay Remaining Wallpaper Panels

    Run the next wallpaper panel alongside the first panel. Begin by dampening the panel and booking it. Then move the panel up to the wall, abutting it to the first panel.

  9. Cut Tops and Bottoms

    Cut the tops and the bottoms of each wallpaper panel as you progress down the wall. Use the utility knife and frequently change out the blades.

  10. Cut Outside Corners

    On outside corners, overlap the wallpaper panel, then cut off excess with a utility knife. Use the outside corner as a guide. Press down the edge of the wallpaper with a dampened sponge to help it stick.

  11. Add Caulk

    Run a bead of painter's caulk along the top of the baseboards where the bottom of the wallpaper touches the baseboards. Smooth down the caulk with your finger to create a bevel.

    Replace faceplates.

Tips and Troubleshooting Wallpaper Installation

Prevent Wallpaper Air Bubbles

Minimize air bubbles in wallpaper by brushing down the center of the paper, then outward on both sides. If the bubble occurs soon after you've applied the paper, simply lift the paper and re-apply.

Eliminate Wallpaper Bubbles

If the bubble is already in the wallpaper and it's not possible to re-apply the paper, prick the center of the bubble with a pin. Smooth down the bubble until it is flat.

Prevent Wallpaper Expansion Bubbles

Long, narrow bubbles about 4 to 6 inches long that run parallel to the length of the strip are difficult to remove once they have occurred. Prevent them in the first place by letting the wallpaper soak and book long enough.

Avoid Peeling Wallpaper

Peeling wallpaper is caused either by an improperly prepared wall or by insufficiently prepared adhesive. The wall must be primed and clean. Be sure to apply water to the entire back of the wallpaper panel, especially the edges.

Align Wallpaper Strips Perfectly

Wallpaper that sequentially becomes misaligned as the strips progress along the wall is usually due to a poorly placed starter strip. The starter strip must be absolutely plumb.

If you see the strips becoming misaligned, quickly remove the strips and return to the first strip. Realign that first strip.

Prevent Wallpaper Tearing

If the wallpaper tears when it's being applied, this is usually due to oversoaked wallpaper. If the paper tears when you are cutting it, you likely need a fresh blade in the utility knife.

When to Call a Professional

Call a professional for rooms with uneven walls, lots of windows or doors, or damaged walls that need significant preparation.

When looking for a wallpaper installer, pay strict attention to their list of qualifications and be sure to ask questions. Once a common skill, wallpaper installation is becoming more of a rare trade. Some house painters will install wallpaper. You may even find wallpaper hanging specialists.