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Paperhanging basics

If you want to wallpaper your walls, you need to choose the right type of wall covering, check that you have all the tools and equipment necessary, prepare the wall surface and then hang the paper length by length.

Note: you may also wish to read our hints and tips page for further advice.

If your walls are painted at present, the only preparation you need is to wash the walls.

If your walls are already papered, you must strip off the old paper first before hanging the new. Even the paper backing left after peeling off old vinyl wallpapers must come off. Then wash the surfaces down with a solution of wall surface with clean water, sugar soap or household detergent, rinse them with clean water and leave them to dry.

If your walls are undecorated you need to seal the surface with a coat of size - diluted wallpaper paste - first. This ensures that you will be able to slide pasted lengths into place as you hang them.

Cutting and Pasting

Before you start measuring and cutting lengths, check what type of pattern match the paper has. Some have a straight match, some a random match, while a few have a drop pattern so opposite edges of the length don't match.

Measure and cut each length about 100mm overlong. Place it face down on the pasting table and brush paste on, working from the middle towards the edges, which you must align with the edge of the table.

Fold the pasted section with pasted sides facing inwards, move the paper along and paste the next section. Make another fold and finish the pasting.

Hanging the Length

Leave the folded paper to soak for the time recommended in the hanging instructions. Then mark a plumbed line on the first wall, about 25mm less than the paper's width from the corner. Position the top of the length on the wall with a 50mm overlap onto the ceiling and align its edge with the marked line.

Protected Locations - the back wall of an alcove, for example.
Washable or spongeable wallpapers are a little more expensive, but have a plastic coating applied over the design so they'll withstand staining and can be sponged down without wetting the paper. the waterproof coating makes them difficult to strip, however - you may need a steam stripper.

Brush the top section into place. Then brush the rest of the length to the wall, brushing down the centre and then out towards the edges.

After trimming the first length at top and bottom, hang the following lengths in the same way, matching the pattern edge to edge. Use a seam roller to bed down the seams unless the paper is an embossed type.

Trimming to Length and Width

Press the paper into the wall/ceiling angle with the edge of your paperhanging scissors. Then peel the paper away and cut carefully along the marked line. Brush the trimmed edge back into the angle.

At skirting-board level, again use your scissors to mark the cutting line, trim off the waste and brush the paper back into place.

Trim the last length to be hung on the wall down in width so about 25mm will turn onto the next wall. Since the corner will probably not be square, turning the full width means that the open edge of the length will not be truly vertical, and this will throw subsequent lengths out of true.

In rooms subject to moderate daily wear, using a paste containing a fungicide to stop mould growing as the paste dries out. Some washable papers are sold ready-pasted - with a layer of dried paste on the back which you activate by soaking each length in a trough of water before hanging it.

Most roll wallcoverings are all made to a standard size - 10.05m long and about 530mm wide. A few, such as lining paper and woodchip paper (see below) also come in longer rolls.
The cheapest patterned wallpaper you can buy is simply printed, so it's very vulnerable to stains and physical damage. Avoid this type except for ceilings and for walls in protected positions.

Papering Round Corners

Turn about 25mm round the corner, then hang the trimmed off width to a plumbed line on the next wall.

Papering Round Windows

Trim the first length over the window reveal as shown, then paste and hang pieces in the numbered order.
Papering round switches and sockets Electricity should be switch off at the fuse box. Mark the out line through the paper, then cut and trim as shown. Tuck the paper in behind the face plate and ensure the paper and socket are fully dry before re-fixing.

Vinyl Wallpaper

Vinyl wallpaper has the design printed on the plastic surface layer, and this is bonded during manufacture to a paper backing for ease of hanging. This makes vinyls much tougher than washables - you can scrub them if necessary - and makes them easy to strip too. You just peel off the plastic surface layer, then soak and strip the plain paper backing from the wall. Hang them in steamy rooms such as kitchens and bathrooms, and in areas where heavy wear or marking are expected - stairwells, for example. Hang them with paste containing a fungicide. Ready-pasted vinyls are also available.

Blown Vinyl Wallpaper

The vinyl surface layer of this wallpaper contains tiny air bubbles that expand its thickness and allow it to be embossed in register with the surface design - for example, to resemble ceramic tiling. Plain textured vinyls are also available, intended for overpainting once hung. They're tougher than relief wallpapers.


Relief Wallpaper

Relief wallpapers are plain papers embossed with regular or random designs and are intended to be overpainted once hung. They are ideal for covering up defects such as cracks and lumps on wall and ceiling surfaces, but need hanging with care to avoid flattening the emboss. Use any type of paste.

Woodchip paper

Woodchip paper has small chips of wood sandwiched between two layers of paper, giving a surface texture resembling coarse porridge. It's a very inexpensive paper that covers wall defects well, and is intended to be overpainted once hung. Use any type of paste.

Lining paper

This plain smooth paper is used to line walls that contain a lot of cracks or are of uneven porosity. It comes in two grades - 800 (standard) and 1000 (heavy-duty trade) - and is hung horizontally with butted joints. It can also be used as an economy cover-up wallpaper, hung vertically and then painted with emulsion paint.


Borders are narrow rolls of printed washable or vinyl wallpaper used as a contrast to the rest of the wall finish - at ceiling level, for example, or next to picture or dado rails. They're hung on painted walls with paste containing a fungicide. If they are being hung over a washable or vinyl wallpaper, you need to use a special ready-mixed border adhesive.

Paperhanging Equipment

The equipment you need for paperhanging includes the following:
tape measure, pencil, straightedge and paperhanging scissors;
plumb bob and line for marking verticals; pasting table, paste bucket, paste (tub paste for some borders) and pasting brush; water trough for ready-pasted wallpapers; paperhanging brush (or sponge for washables and vinyls), seam roller, trimming tools, overlap adhesive for washables and vinyls.


Wall Height Distance Round Room (including doors and windows)
10m 12m 14m 16m 18m 20m 22m 24m
(33ft) (39ft) (46ft) (52ft) (59ft) (66ft) (72ft) (79ft)
2.2m (7ft - 7ft 6in) 5 5 6 7 8 9 10 11
2.3m (7ft bin - 8ft) 5 6 7 8 9 10 10 11
2.5m (8ft - 8ft 6in) 5 6 7 9 10 11 12 13
2.6m (8ft 6in - 9ft) 5 6 7 9 10 11 12 13
2.8m (9ft - 9ft 6in) 6 7 8 9 10 12 12 14


[P] The paper has developed a rash of blisters through the wallpaper.
[S] Leave the paper to soak for the correct time. Check that the paper is evenly and completely pasted. Check that the walls are dry and unaffected by damp, condensation or efflorescence.

[P] Patchy stains are showing.
[S] Wash down wall surfaces first to kill mould spores. Seal in water and nicotine stains by treating wall with special stain Mocker before paperhanging. Spot-prime any exposed plasterboard nails.

[P] The paper has developed creases when hung.
[S] Handle the lengths with more care, brushing each one down the wall first and then towards the edges. If creases recur, peel off the length and brush it back into place carefully to pull the creases out.

[P] The seams keep lifting.
[S] Make sure the edges of each length are thoroughly pasted. Use a seam roller to bed the seams down firmly. Size porous wall surfaces before starting work.

[P] Overlaps at room corners won't stay stuck.
[S] Apply more paste to relief and woodchip papers. Use an overlap adhesive to stick overlaps if using washable or vinyl papers, and use a seam roller to ensure a good bond.

email: John and Chrissie - theartsandcraftshome@gmail.com