Beginner’s Guide to Hanging Wallpaper
You know you have a good mama when she’s willing to hang wallpaper with you.
That’s the lesson I’m taking away from this post. Well, that and the fact that home improvement projects aren’t nearly as terrifying as I build them up to be in my head.
For years, I’ve heard, “If you want to test your marriage, try hanging wallpaper together.”
So until the other day, I avoided that “w” word at all costs. Robert and I can install built-ins while dancing to “Don’t Stop Believin'”, can trim out windows without a single fuss, but that one saying made me visualize the worst of the worst. Like, the cops would find one of us wrapped in wallpaper, mummy-style, and stuffed into a closet after that kind of DIY argument.
(Want to see our powder room’s final reveal? Click here for the full “after” tour.)
I guess we’ll never know because with Robert having a busy couple of days at the office the other week, my mom stepped up for this one. (I begged her to teach me her wallpapering ways because she had plenty of experience when I was growing up.)
And you know what?! It was surprisingly fun! Maybe not lets-vacation-on-a-beach-somewhere fun but more like lets-put-this-10,000-piece-jigsaw-puzzle-together fun. Work but worth it. And I’ll take any excuse I can get to hang with my mom (no pun intended).
So if you’re a total newb at this too, here are some of the best tips I picked up. (Sorry about the not-so-fabulous photography ahead. The lighting in our powder room is not the best. But you get the picture.)
A Beginner’s Guide to Hanging Wallpaper
Supplies Used: (Some affiliate links are provided below for convenience.)
- Wallpaper size (or wallpaper primer)
- Wallpaper of your choice (We used this black and white floral pre-pasted vinyl one.)
- Trough or extra large paint tray filled with water (if your wallpaper is pre-pasted)
- Plumb bob or laser level
- Wallpaper paste and paste brush (if your wallpaper doesn’t come pre-pasted)
- Tape measure
- L square tool (optional)
- Clean, damp rags
- Paper hanging brush or plastic smoother
- Metal edge
- Utility knife and plenty of sharp blades
- Seam roller
- A friend willing to help out
- Long work table (a must!)
1. Before you do anything, make sure you’re starting out with a smooth, clean surface. If your walls are painted dark, paint them in advance with white paint or wallpaper primer, especially if you’re working with a white or light colored wallpaper. Not all papers are opaque.
2. Nail holes and patch work should be done with spackle and sanded smooth, and old wallpaper should be removed.
3. The night before hanging the wallpaper, I brushed our walls first with a coat of wallpaper size. It is KEY to giving you “wiggle room” when you need to reposition and slide your wallpaper into place to match up your pattern.
4. To find your starting point, begin on a flat wall, not in a corner (since not all corners are perfectly square). A flat wall with no obstacles (void of light switches and doorways) will allow you to get used to the process if you’re a beginner.
Mark a straight line for your first sheet by hanging your plumb bob from the top of the wall or use a laser level and mark the line with a pencil.
5. Use a tape measure to determine the height of the wall, then add 4 inches to allow overhang.
6. Using the measurement you found in Step 5, decide where you want to the top of your wallpaper pattern to start. Then, unroll your paper on your work table and mark a straight line on it with a pencil using an L square tool.
7. Cut your paper on the line you just marked.
8. If you’re working with pre-pasted wallpaper, roll your paper so the backing is facing out, submerge it in your water-filled trough, and carefully unroll the paper making sure all of the backing is wet. If you have a large, flat tray, you can keep the paper flat and submerge it face down in the water to wet the backing.
If your wallpaper doesn’t come pre-pasted, lay it backing-side-up on your work table and roll or brush it with paste.
9. To activate the backing, loosely fold the paper from both ends onto itself, also known as “booking the paper”, making sure not to crease it. Let the paper sit for 2-3 minutes while the paste activates. (Be sure to wipe your work table with a damp sponge and dry with rags when you’re finished with this step before repeating the cutting/pasting process on the next panel.)
10. This step is really a two-person job. Unfold your booked wallpaper and hold it up from the top of the wall where you marked your starting line.
11. Line up the edge of the paper on your starting line and smooth into place.
12. Then, using a paper hanging brush and/or plastic smoother, press out any air bubbles and excess paste, wiping with a sponge or damp rag as needed. This may take a few minutes of working to make sure the panel is completely smooth.
13. Using a metal edge, press the paper into the edge at the top and bottom of the wallpaper panel and cut away any excess paper with a sharp utility knife blade.
14. After that first panel, repeat the same process as before but make sure you are cutting your paper so that your pattern will match up. You might have to deal with some excess paper waste to make that happen.
15. Hang the next panel right next to the first one, meeting the edges without overlapping. This is where the wallpaper size can come in handy because you might have to slide the paper around on the wall to make your patterns match up.
16. After smoothing and trimming your second panel, use your seam roller to smooth the edges of the paper.
17. For obstacles and corners, keep your scissors handy and cut at a diagonal to create a straight crease or accommodate for angles. Then smooth and trim with your utility knife as usual.
18. As you work, you’ll want to keep an eye on all of the panels you hung previously to check for air bubbles as they tend to pop up as the paste dries. If that happens, continue to smooth with your brush or plastic smoother, or you can use a sharp pin to prick the bubbles and press out any air.
The process took us nearly an entire day, but it turned out beautifully! And, hey, I learned something so maybe if Robert and I ever attempt it again without my mom’s help, we’ll be able to handle the pressure.
It’s not nearly as bad as some people make it seem.
It’s finally started to come together for what I envision in this space. If you’ve been following along, you already know that floor is totally different right now. I can’t wait to see it once the new tile is installed. (I shared some of my favorite tile choices the other day.)
Pretty soon, the tough jobs will be behind us and tweaking the details with the fun decorating can begin.
So have you ever wallpapered before? Do you have any of your own tricks of the trade? Are you liking the vintage/modern direction we’re going in so far? I’m dying to see how different it will be with some warm antique brass thrown in. Swoon!
Here’s where we are in the powder room makeover to-do list:
Paint bead board(Benjamin Moore Hollingsworth Green) Paint over orange wall Paint mirror frame(tutorial on that coming soon) Hang wallpaper
- Swap out light fixture
- Swap out towel bar / TP holder
Paint inside of door Paint door trim and crown molding
- Install new sink faucet
- Gray wash vanity
Rip out tile floor
- Install hexagon tile floor
P.S. If you are thinking of hanging wallpaper somewhere in your own house, here are 30 of my favorite budget-friendly modern farmhouse wallpapers in this post: