Installing Wallpaper

When you want to have wallpaper installed in your home, consider these things. Wallpaper has a longevity over paint. It will outlast paint 8 to 1. It gives your walls that “WOW” you cannot get with paint. Properly installed it will last a long time and can be removed easily when applied over a good primer/sealer. The horror stories I have seen when a contractor or home owner has installed wallpaper over a sub standard primer over my 27 years in the business have given this industry a undeserving bad name.

If you are removing old wallpaper before installing new, use a good stripping solution that can be sprayed through a good 1 1/2 gal. pump up garden sprayer. First you will need to strip the face (the printed surface) off before the solution will penetrate the backing. Make sure to cover all electrical plates with duct tape to prevent any water coming in contact with them. Don’t be shy with the amount you put into the sprayer and don’t be shy on how much you spray on the wall. Fill the sprayer with warm water to help the solution penetrate better. Cover the floor with painters drop cloths or use several towels to absorb the run off. I like to spray several light coats on the wall, waiting about 3 to 5 minutes in between. Let the solution do the work. The backing paper should start to bubble and you can start trying to peel, scrape the backing off. Make sure not to gouge the walls no more that you have to. If the walls were prepared with a good primer/sealer, the backing should come off clean. If they were not, say a prayer because you will most likely damage the wall surface trying to remove the backing.

If the walls are painted, then you are ready to apply a good primer/sealer that will prepare the surface for the new wallpaper. I like two bands “Zinzer 1-2-3 and” Kilz Premium”. there are others on the market that work well and are recommended for wallpaper, but I have used these two for 27 years and have had good success with both.

Please note though: These will NOT work on a High shine or oil surface. For those walls you will need to use a product called “Gripper” Most knowledgeable Paint stores can help you with this. Prime the walls and let dry over night.

Installing wallpaper is not for everyone. It takes a special skill and lots of patience. That being said, I will try and share my knowledge over the last 27 years to give you the best advice that I can.

When picking out the wallpaper, there are several things to remember. Shinny finishes on wallpaper will tend to highlight any texture or imperfections on the walls that are to be covered. If you are dealing with a textured wall, try and pick a wallpaper that will disguise (hide) the texture. The other option would be to have a sheet rock contractor come in a smooth out the texture. Some textures are less noticeable than others. Be aware that dark colored wallpapers will tend to show their seems slightly more that light colors. Large repeats in the pattern match will cause more waste and more wallpaper. Some wallpapers are pre-pasted and some are not. Wallpapers are sold in double rolls with widths ranging from 20 1/2″…27″ and 36.”

Your basic tools that you will need are: A plastic smoothing tool or a smoothing brush (I use the plastic), a sharp pair of scissors, a level, a measuring tape (at least 12′), single edge or snap off blades (Lots of these), a 6″ metal putty knife (for trimming along edges with your razor blade), some kind of table to paste and trim your wallpaper, a ladder (high enough to reach the ceiling without any danger of falling over, I use a 4′ ladder for 8′ and 9′ ceilings).

So, if I have not scared you off yet, let me try and explain how to install your new wallpaper. Always read the directions (I still do and learn something all the time, not to mention it saves my Butt if something goes wrong!)

I usually check the width of the wallpaper first and make small marks with a pencil (NO PENS) on the walls to see where the seams might land if I started in a certain area. After that, I will make adjustments back and forth to get the best seam placement that I can. Once this is done, I will make a cut list of the pieces I need. I would not recommend this to everyone. You might want to cut 3 sheets at a time, paste and install them before cutting anymore. I like to allow 3″-4″ over the exact measurement of the wall for my selvage edge trimming top and bottom.

I paste ALL my wallpaper. Pre-pasted is pasted with a thinned down version of the regular wallpaper paste that I use. This makes it much more movable on the wall and gives it an extra grip. Paste 2 -3 sheets, fold the sheets paste to paste so they will not dry out and let them sit 3-5 minutes. This gives them time to relax and expand

(yes wallpaper is made from wood and when wood gets wet, it expands). Take the first sheet and apply it to the line on the wall that you made (while waiting for the wallpaper to relax). Carefully align it next to the pencil mark, starting at the top, leaving about 2 inches wrapped onto the crown or ceiling. Continue to align the edge to the pencil mark down the wall. Use your smoothing tool to smooth out the wallpaper and the bubbles. That care not to treat the wallpaper to aggressive or it will tear. Use your 6′ putty knife to hold wallpaper down as you use a razor blade to trim top and bottom. use 1 blade per cut! Take care to wash the wallpaper with a soft sponge and towel dry.

Congratulation, You just hung your first piece of wallpaper. Continue with the next piece and align it up to the one on the wall, making sure that the pattern matches. Smooth, trim, wash and towel dry. Please note that small bubbles under the wallpaper are common and will disappear when wallpaper is completely dry ( about 2 days).

When working around windows and doors, take care not to tear the wallpaper at the corners. I use my scissors to make a relief cut, coming towards the corner of the door or window with my scissors and stopping right on or a little short of the corner. This will allow you to work the sheet around the corner without tearing it.

Remember to keep your work table clean of glue. Have several sponges handy to wash the table, your tools, hands and the finished wallpaper. Any glue left on the wallpaper could damage the finished surface over time (several months might go by and then the print starts to flake off the front) Also make sure to clean the ceiling, crown, baseboards, cabinets with clean water and towel dry.

Good luck and remember, when all else fails…..Call a professional!