As most DIY enthusiasts know, hanging wallpaper has the reputation of being a tricky job if you’re a novice.

The truth is, as long as you avoid wallpaper with complicated designs and patterns with horizontal lines (because they have to be matched up perfectly), hanging wallpaper couldn’t be easier.

In this guide, we share some professional tips to give you that papered feature wall you’ve always wanted.

Tools & Materials

  • Wallpaper
  • Lining paper (for some types of wallpaper – check manufacturers’ directions)
  • PVA
  • Paper-hanging brush
  • Sponge
  • Bucket
  • Table (protect table surface if it’s one you use for other purposes)
  • Dust sheets
  • Step ladder
  • Plumb line (or spirit level)
  • Pencil
  • Wallpaper scissors and craft knives with new blades
  • Dry cloth
  • A small, clean paint roller

Pro Tip: if the room and/or woodwork need painting, do all of this before wallpapering.

Things to Consider Before You Wallpaper

  1. Once you’ve decided which wallpaper you want, check whether it needs lining and if it’s paste-on-wall or paste-on-paper. You also have the option of ready-paste wallpaper, in which case, you don’t need to buy any glue.
  2. Holes and bumps will show through most wallpaper and make your work look unprofessional. Therefore you need to fill holes and sand down any existing bumps on the wall you’re papering.
  3. Professionals will always advise you to apply a coat of diluted PVA onto walls (and allow it to dry) before papering. This makes them smooth to the touch, which comes in handy when manoeuvring paper around.
  4. If you’ve chosen a vibrant colour or very bold patterns, completely paper over just one wall of the room and see if you can live with it before doing the rest. You may find that just one wall is enough. Then you can return any unopened wallpaper you’ve bought.
  5. Always, always remove old wallpaper before applying new ones. Old wallpaper tends to dry out and fall off. If you paper new wallpaper over old, it will eventually remove itself from the wall.

Pro Tip: To work out how much wallpaper you need, check out our guide to calculating how many drops in a roll of wallpaper.

Cutting the Wallpaper

  1. Measure the width of your roll of wallpaper.
  2. Adhering to this measurement, use your spirit level or plumb line and pencil to mark a perfectly straight line from ceiling to floor.
  3. Measure the height of your wall, then add about 20cm to this figure. Mark the total length on your paper and cut off your first stretch.
  4. Check and check again, which way round your pattern goes – if you’re using patterned wallpaper. Then unroll the next length, place this and the first length edge to edge and line up your pattern carefully. Cut your second length and so on. Note: as you cut, number each length of paper on the inside and mark an arrow in the direction it should go.

Hanging Your First Length of Wallpaper

The first hang is the most difficult. Once you get this sorted, the rest will come pretty easily. Note: for ease of use, you can buy ready-made PVA, but it’s clearly much cheaper to mix your glue yourself. Typically, the mixture is 5 parts water to 1 part glue. Note also that some wallpaper is ‘Paste-the-wall’, or ‘Ready-pasted’. For the purpose of this article, we’re using ‘Paste-the-paper’ wallpaper.

Most modern wallpaper (especially those used for featured walls) don’t need liners. However, if you’re using a paper liner, please see the manufacturers’ specifications before applying.

Pro Tip: Choose a wall that has no windows or doors. This makes it easier for measuring and judge whether your first piece of wallpaper is exactly straight or not.

  1. Mix the wallpaper paste in a bucket as directed by the manufacturer. Apply the paste evenly to the wallpaper, making certain that the entire surface is covered. For ready-pasted paper, soak the entire paper with water.
  2. Allow the paste to soak in for about 5 minutes (or according to manufacturer’s guidelines – if different). Then hold the paper loosely, folding it like a fan (without allowing it to crease). Make sure you have about 10cm of excess paper at the top of the wall when you start your application.
  3. Position the paper against the pencil line you drew. Align the right-hand edge to the wall. Now use your brush to smooth the paper out from the middle to the edges, making sure that there are no bubbles, and that the edge stays on the pencil mark. At this stage, if any glue gets on the surface of the paper, wipe this away with a damp sponge immediately. Also, wipe the table’s surface with a wet sponge to clear away any glue spillages before carrying on.
  4. When the paper length is adhered to the wall, crease the top and bottom of the paper against the ceiling and skirting board. Lift paper slightly (off the wall) and cut carefully along the creases. Some people like to use a craft knife for this instead (with the paper pressed firmly against the top and bottom junctions). Firmly brush the paper back in place, wiping off any excess glue from the ceiling, paper and skirting board.
  5. Tightly butt the second length of wallpaper against the first, and continue on, regularly wiping off excess glue from all surfaces, with a clean, damp sponge.
  6. Repeat until finished.

Tidying-Up Door Architraves, Light Switches and Tricky Areas

  • When you get to the doorway, allow the wallpaper to flop over the architrave, and apply the paper to the wall as normal. When finished, crease and carefully cut the paper along the top and side of the door with a craft knife. Remember you can tidy off the area with a white sealant if you wish.
  • When you get to a light switch, allow the wallpaper to flop over the area. Use a dry cloth to clean off any glue from the switch area. Using your craft knife, slowly cut around the light switch with a steady hand. Some tradesmen turn the mains off and remove the light switch to do this, but it’s not necessary, as you can finish the area with white sealant.
  • At radiators, allowing the wallpaper to drop over the radiator. Leave about 15cm of excess paper, above, and at the side of the radiator, then trim off the rest. Use your small, clean paint roller to roll the paper behind the radiator until it’s smooth.

Now you’ve finished one wall, the next one will be much easier and quicker. All you have to do now is sit back and admire your handiwork, as wallpaper – even on one feature wall – can inject fun and style to an otherwise plain room.


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