How To Hang Wallpaper

Papering Walls

Hanging paper on the walls of small rooms with low ceilings is within the scope of most amateurs, especially now that so many papers come ready-trimmed and pasted.


Professionals use folding pasting tables; you can make do with the kitchen table or a large sheet of hardboard resting on a table or bed. Pasting brush, 6 in. (15 cm) wide with short bristles, is used to apply paste to paper. Smoothing brush is used for smoothing paper down after it is on the wall. It has a soft head, no handle. It is not needed with ready-pasted papers and vinyls. Stripping knife has a broad flexible blade for removing old paper. Filling knife is used for making good small cracks.

Container for the paste: a plastic bucket will serve. Tie string across its top to make a rest for the pasting brush.

Glasspaper (Grade 2 or 3) will score old paper before stripping. To trim the paper you need a large pair of scissors. You need a plumb line to establish the position of the first piece of paper. You can make your own with a weight on the end of a piece of string. You will also need a clean sponge, bucket of water, rags and a pencil. Optional extra: an angle roller for running along seams.

Types of wallpaper

Buy a good quality paper; cheap papers are difficult to hang. Machine-printed papers come in a wide range of attractive designs. Many are now washable with a transparent coating of synthetic resin. Hand-printed papers are usually more expensive with more sophisticated designs in sharper register. Their manufacturers often advise professional hanging. Flock papers, mostly in traditional designs, need careful hanging. Parts of the design have a pile effect. Embossed ceiling papers are available for uneven, cracked ceilings. Woodchip and embossed papers will also disguise uneven walls. Anaglypta is a type of white embossed covering made from cotton fibre in raised designs that can be painted over.

Lining papers help to conceal an uneven wall surface under paper or paint. Hang them with butt joints horizontally under paper, vertically under paint.

Vinyl wallcoverings have their pattern printed with special inks straight on to the vinyl top surface. Resistant to wear, they are available in good designs in clear colours, flock and metallic effects. They are speci,ally useful for kitchens, bathrooms and halls, but good too for family living rooms. They have paper backings for stability and ease of hanging. They can be scrubbed clean if necessary. To strip, peel off the vinyl top layer and leave the backing as a lining. Washable wallpapers are also available in similar “easy-strip” form.


  • Some wallpapers and vinyl wall coverings are available ready pasted. For other papers, the correct paste for the paper weight and type is essential.
  • Cellulose pastes are suitable for most lightweight and medium-weight papers. They are sold in powder form in packets for mixing with cold water before use. They are easy for amateurs to handle, providing good “slip” for repositioning paper and a long “open time” (the length of time the paste stays workable after it has been applied to the paper).
  • Starch/flour pastes are suitable for heavyweight papers, but are liable to stain the surface.


Small patterns are easier to handle than large ones. Vertical stripes will make a room look higher, but must be hung absolutely true. With straight patterns, the design repeat always appears the same at the top of the paper. With drop patterns, the paper has to be moved up or down to find the matching position of the pattern in each cut length.

Preparing surfaces

Clear the room as described for painting walls. Strip off old wallpaper as follows:

1. Apply water liberally with a wide brush. Score washable papers with coarse glass-paper beforehand. Proprietary wallpaper remover may be added to the water to hasten the process.

2. Allow about 10 minutes for the paper to soften.

3. Remove old paper with a stripping knife, giving a final run over with the knife, to get rid of any shreds of paper. Papers difficult to strip may need a second application of water.

4. Wash exposed plaster with soft sponge and warm water to remove old paste and paper dust.

5. Apply a coat of size.

6. Make good small cracks with a proprietary filler and smooth off any irregularities in the surface with abrasive paper.

Cutting paper

Cut enough lengths of the paper at one time to complete one wall.

1. allow 2 to 3 in. (5 cm to 7.6 cm) extra for trimming at top and bottom. Trimming is done after pasted paper is positioned on the wall.

2. At the top of the back of each length of paper mark with an arrow the way the pattern runs, so that you apply each length the right way up!

3. Roll up each piece carefully when cut. With strong patterns, arrange the cutting so that a bold bit of the pattern appears near the top of the first length. This will help in matching subsequent lengths.


A standard roll of wallpaper is 11 yards long (10 m) and 201 inches wide (52 cm). For a room of average height, this will divide into four matching lengths unless the pattern is very large. Always try to see as large a piece of the paper as possible before making your final choice.

Explanation: Check height of your room between skirting and cornice (left hand column) and length of the walls to the nearest figure in the top horizontal line. From the height figure run your finger until it reaches the length figure in the table. The figure where the two meet shows the number of pieces of wallpaper your room needs. Thus a room not exceeding 60 ft (18 m) round the walls and not exceeding 8 ft (2.4 m) in height will take 8 pieces. The space occupied by windows and doors must be included as part of the measurement around the walls.


In general the thicker the paper is, the thicker the paste required.

1. Mentally divide the paper into quarters.

2. Position the edge of the paper along the back edge of your pasting table. Then paste quarters 1 and 2, working from the centre outwards in the direction shown by the arrows.

3. Carefully pull the paper towards you, so that it lies along the front edge, and paste quarters 3 and 4, again from the centre outwards.

4. Fold the paper as follows. When you have pasted the first half of the length, fold it over carefully so that the two pasted surfaces come lightly together, forming a loop. Complete pasting of the other half of the length and make a similar but smaller fold.

Soaking. Some papers, especially heavier qualities, need to be left for a little time for the paste to soften them. Arrange your work so that one pasted piece can be soaking while you are hanging or pasting another piece. Beware of over-soaking; this can cause tearing.

Hanging Wallpaper

Centre bold patterns on a prominent feature of the room, (the chimney breast, for example’ and work outwards from there. For small patterns and stripes, start at a corner near a window and work from there.

1. Using a plumb line, mark a true vertical line on your wall. The first plumb line should be slightly less than one width of paper away from the window. If the window is °Lit of true allow the first width of paper to overlap the frame slightly, then cut away the surplus.

2. Carry the paper to the wall, folded as described above and looped over your arm. This prevents paste getting on the patterned side.

3. Unfold the paper to half and line it up with the plumb line, leaving about 3 in. (7.5 cm) overlap at the top.

4. Still following the plumb line, smooth the paper on to the wall with a smoothing brush, working from top to bottom and making sure that all air bubbles and paste bubbles are smoothed out. Unfold the bottom half and smooth in the same way. The paper must be straight. If it is not it can be lifted off and re-positioned. But be careful not to tear it, wet paper is fairly weak.

Trimming. Mark the ceiling line with a pair of scissors by running them along the angle between wall and ceiling. Peel part of the paper away from the wall, trim it with scissors and cut along the crease. Brush the paper back firmly and wipe away excess paste. Repeat for the skirting board. Vinyl wallcoverings are hung in the same way — but the paste must contain a fungicide. Paste and hang one length at a time without soaking. Folded, soaking lengths may pull the paper backing away from the vinyl surface.

Joins. Always make butt joints where possible (ie joins with no overlap). Overlaps will show up as ridges. For corners, allow a small overlap on to the adjacent wall. Then repeat the plumb line process the first length of paper on the next wall.

Switches. In the case of flush-mounted square switches, turn off electricity at the mains. Unscrew the cover plate and trim the wallpaper to fit. Screw back the cover plate. In the case of projecting round switches, press the switch through the paper. Then make several star-shaped cuts from centre of the torn area outwards to project about in. (1.9 cm) beyond the edge of the switch. Mark round the edge with the point of your scissors and trim away the excess. Paste neatly into place and wipe off excess paste from the switch.


Door and window frames.

Make trimming lines with the back of your scissors pressed around the frames. Peel the paper away from the wall and trim with scissors. Then smooth back into place with the pasting brush.

Ready-pasted papers and vinyls. Cut engths as already described. To activate the paste, roll paper/vinyl loosely with pattern inwards in the trough, filled with water of the specified temperature, provided by the manufacturer. Allow the paper to remain in the water for the time specified by the manufacturer. Do not over-soak (which will weaken paper and paste) or under-soak (which may result in blisters appearing a few minutes after application). Folding is not necessary.

Position the paper/vinyl on the wall, matching the pattern and making butt joints. Trim. To smooth over, use a soft sponge, which will absorb excess moisture, rather than a pasting brush.



  1. Adequate support is essential both for safety and a good finish. Use a plank across the full width of the room, supported by two step-ladders.
  2. Ceilings should be papered before walls.
  3. Start papering at the window and work parallel to it and away from it.
  4. Make a guide line for the first length. This should be slightly less than the roll width from the starting wall. Snap a piece of chalked string along the intended line.
  5. Cut enough lengths for the complete ceiling, allowing an overlap at each end for trimming.
  6. Paste as for walls, but fold paper concertina fashion, with 5 in. (12.7 cm) folds about 15 in. (38 cm) long.
  7. Place the first fold in position and slide it up to the guide line.
  8. Brush out with the smoothing brush.
  9. Support the remaining concertina folds of paper with spare roll of paper.
  10. Unfold the remaining folds one at a time, moving along the plank as necessary and brushing down each in turn.
  11. Trimming: proceed as for walls but, if walls are to be papered later, allow about in. (1.27 cm) of paper to turn down.

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