I am not an expert. In fact, wallpapering experts will probably shudder at my rudimentary wallpapering procedures. But hey … this is what works for me. I hope it works for you, too!
First, gather your tools. I do not draw lines on the wall or use a plumb bob. They are too logical and mathematical for me. Something about plumb bobs and straight lines reminds me of high school geometry. And I loathed high school geometry. Geometry does not compute well in my right-brained, literature-loving mind.
So I use an18-inch level. I look at the little bubble and know that my wallpaper is straight. That’s good enough for me.
Prepare your walls. This should be done even before you gather your tools. As you can see, my walls needed some work. They’re smooth now and ready to hold my paper. Note: ALWAYS pre-paint new drywall before papering.
Measure your walls. My first section of wall is 69 inches from ceiling to wainscotting. Add one inch extra so you have some room for error, crooked walls or in my case, to tuck it behind the molding. (More on that in a minute.)
Trim the wallpaper strip to required length. My mother-in-law taught me to wallpaper about 13 years ago. To get a nice clean edge, she suggested cutting the strip with a knife, not scissors. Simply fold the paper, insides facing as shown. Then run a sharp knife along the crease.
Moving in the right direction. The “top” of my wallpaper strip is always the part I grasp and unroll. It’s helpful to mark a little “x” on the back of the top of each strip — you don’t want to hang a piece upside down!
From the bottom of the strip, roll the paper with the pattern on the inside. See how I’m holding the paper in the above photo? The edge shown is the top of the wallpaper strip.
Follow instructions. Every roll of wallpaper comes with instructions. This wallpaper should be submerged in warm water for 15 seconds to active the paste. (I always buy pre-pasted wallpaper.)
Submerge the roll in warm water for the recommended time. Then, grasping the top of the strip, begin to unroll from the sink and fold the paper back onto itself. The insides should be facing each other. This allows the wet paste to get nice and sticky.
It’s called booking.
Grasp the top of the wallpaper, climb the ladder and position on the wall, starting in the corner and going left to right.
Before smoothing out the air bubbles, check to see if the edge of the strip is level.
Use a smoothing tool. Gently but firmly smooth the paper on the wall. Be careful not to push too hard. You don’t want to rip it or cause more wrinkles. If there are air bubbles trapped underneath, push to the edge so the paper can tightly adhere to the wall.
Trim the edges. If you’re lucky, there will be a small space between trim boards and the wall. Use a tool like this and gently push the paper behind.
You will have to trim some edges. After the strip is smooth and perfectly positioned, use a straight edge and a razor blade or cutting tool to trim the excess. Be careful not to trim too much … you don’t want to come up short!
Though I originally planned to paint this room, I’m quite happy with the wallpaper. It reminds me of burlap. A cozy, warm, slightly textured fabric that appeals to my inner decorating diva.
Repeat the process. Ready for another strip? Hang just like the first, careful to position the strips against the edge of the previous one. They should not overlap, but edges should meet. Now a disclaimer: all walls are not straight walls, especially in old houses.
Some of my seams overlap. There’s nothing I can do about it. Don’t worry. Just use a seam roller to smooth them out and make them as flat as possible.
Remember to remain level-headed. Wallpapering can be frustrating or it can be therapeutic. It can start as great therapy and turn into something ugly and arduous. It can be interrupted by three screaming children …
… or an elephant in the room.
I couldn’t move the piano. I won’t even tell you how I managed to wallpaper behind it. But it’s done and the piano is unharmed. That’s all that really matters.
Here’s a trick. We have some unconventional trim around our doorways. Before I started papering, I had Farmguy go around with a crowbar and screw driver and loosen all of the moldings. Instead of having to trim around all of the windows and doors, I simply tucked the paper behind. Much easier.
Then I came to the thermostat. It’s tricky. First, take a couple of big swigs of Diet Coke, a few deep breaths and grab your scissors. Then I said a prayer. Then I repeated my mantra: I think I can, I think I can!
I removed the thermostat cover and loosened the back electrical plate from the wall. I didn’t fully remove it, because I was afraid I’d detach some wires or get electrocuted.
I smooth the strip of wallpaper onto the wall, covering the thermostat, too. Using scissors, I punched a hole through the paper covering the thermostat. I cut a square slightly smaller than the plate. It took a few additional snips at the corners, but I was able to work the square plate through the hole I’d cut in the wallpaper. Wet wallpaper is slightly stretchy, making the process a bit easier.
Then I smoothed the paper around the thermostat, worked all bubbles out the bottom and side, and reattached the face plate. Whew!
It will take a few days of admiring the new, smooth walls before I can bring myself to pound new nail holes and decorate the room. In the meantime, I must do something with that light fixture. I think it needs a coat of hammered pewter spray paint and some new shades.
But that’s another project for another day.
I hope I haven’t totally confused you. Wallpapering can be fun. It’s best to get someone to help you the first time, though. Perhaps for moral support more than anything else!
NOTE: I do not buy patterned wallpaper. With patterned wallpaper, each strip must align perfectly for the pattern to match and look evenly distributed on the wall. It’s much harder to do and would probably make my head explode. If you fall in love with a patterned wallpaper, disregard everything I said and seek professional help!