Photography: Donna Griffith
Expert advice for hanging wallpaper with ease
Wallpaper can make a huge impact on a space. The seemingly endless array of patterns and textures mean giving a room a facelift can be as simple as choosing the perfect wallpaper to complement it. The hard part for most people is when the time comes to hang that wallpaper. Despite the task seeming daunting, one with the potential for DIY disaster, the process isn’t as complicated as it may look. In fact, hanging wallpaper in any room is simple if you know the right steps.
Charlotte Cosby, head of creative at Farrow & Ball, shares her expertise on hanging wallpaper the right way.
1. Prep the surface
First things first. Some prep work is needed if you want to ensure wallpaper goes on smooth and straight. “Before papering, ensure all surfaces are sound, clean and dry,” Charlotte says. She advises removing any traces of dirt, old wallpaper or flaking paint. If there any cracks, holes and open joints, you’ll need to fill those in with an appropriate filler.
Once the walls are clean, it’s time to tackle any bigger issues such as unsound paint surfaces, which Charlotte notes should be sealed with an appropriate primer. She adds that gloss painted surfaces should be sanded and damp walls should be treated. Any absorbent surfaces such as new plaster need to be sized with wallpaper paste or a suitable sizing solution and allowed to dry for a minimum of one hour.
Charlotte also recommends that walls be horizontally cross lined with a good quality, medium to heavyweight lining paper (1200 - 1400 grade) and allowed to dry for a minimum of 12 hours before you apply the wallpaper. Lining paper can make wallpaper removal easier when the time comes.
2. Wallpaper paste
If the wallpaper you’re using isn’t pre-pasted or self-adhesive, you’re going to need to use wallpaper paste. Charlotte recommends using wallpaper paste that is suitable for hanging a paper of more than 140gsm weight so you can be sure it will hold properly. She also suggests finding a paste that has a pH of 7 to 12 since acidic pastes can damage the wallpaper. Other factors to consider when choosing a wallpaper paste include the type of wallpaper (fabric, textured, etc.) and the type of wall surface. If you’re unsure, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for the type of paper you’ve chosen.
Once you’re ready to apply the wallpaper paste, start by applying a generous, even coat of paste over the paper, which Charlotte says you’ll want to do from the centre outwards. Make sure the edges are well pasted but be careful not to let any paste come into contact with the pattern side of the paper.
Before you can hang your paper you’ll need to “book” the wallpaper, which involves folding the paper onto itself, paste side in and allowing it to rest for 10 minutes (timing could be more or less depending on the paste you’re using), until it’s pliable enough to work with. Just be careful not to leave it for too long; if the paper becomes too wet it will shrink back as it dries.
3. Paper hanging and stretching
Now it’s time to hang the paper. Check the pattern repeat before cutting paper lengths according to the height of your wall and allowing 2-3 inches at the top and bottom for trimming. If you’re hanging the paper vertically, use a plumb line for the first length to ensure the paper will be completely straight. Once you begin, aim to have paper edges butt up to subsequent lengths of paper, but avoid overlapping the edges. As you hang your paper, trapped air bubbles are a common problem that can occur so Charlotte recommends using a good quality paper hanging brush to smooth the paper out evenly over the surface, working from the center to the edges, which will expel any trapped air bubbles.
It’s also important not to stretch the paper because it will shrink back when it’s dry, which can exaggerate the seams. Overstretching can happen when your paste is too watery or when too little paste is used. If you’re dealing with papers that have a traditional matte finish, Charlotte says it’s especially important that any excess paste be completely removed before it dries because paste left on this type of paper can show up as shiny patches later. And finally, she says, “For best results we recommend that any central heating is turned off overnight to allow the paper to dry naturally.”