Paper Hanging techniques for home decorating

After all painting has been carried out in the room, the paper can now be hung. If there is a plain wall, unbroken by doors, windows or a fireplace, this is the best place to start papering if you have not done any before. Find the centre of the wall by measuring from either end and make a small pencil mark on the spot.

Stand on a stepladder and suspend a plumb line from a drawing pin pushed into the wall at its highest point, so that the line runs through your mark on the wall. Make two or three other pencil marks along the line of the plumb and, using a long rule, join them up with a pencil line. This gives you a straight and vertical datum line to start your papering from.

The papering begins

Cut your first length of paper, allowing about 150 mm on top of the wall height measurement for trimming and pattern matching. Spread out the paper face down, on the pasting table and paste half of it thoroughly with your paste brush, working outwards from the centre in a herring-bone pattern. Make sure the edges are well pasted, and then fold over the half you have done, paste side to paste side. Repeat the process for the other half. For heavy paper more paste is needed than for thin, and allow a minute or two for the paste to sink in.

Carrying the folded paper, mount the stepladder, release the top fold, and offer your right hand to the wall so that the paper edge lines up with the vertical pencil line, and half your trimming allowance is above the wall on the ceiling. Press the paper lightly to the wall with your right hand – still holding the left hand well away from the wall, then use your right hand to ensure the paper lines up with the pencil line. You will be able to slide the paper slightly, into position, if necessary. Allow your left hand to take the rest of the paper to the wall, then smooth out with either a paperhanging brush, clean paint roller or dry sponge, again working from the centre outwards. If while doing this a wrinkle appears, pull that section of paper back from the wall and smooth it back again.

With the back of your scissors, score along the line where the paper meets the ceiling, making a definite crease. Pull the top of the paper clear of the wall, cut along the crease mark and smooth the paper back on the wall. Do the same where the paper joins the skirting board, but allow an extra 3 mm beyond the crease mark when cutting so that the paper will just turn on to the top of the skirting board. This will hide any cracks present between the wall and skirting board.

The subsequent lengths of paper are hung in a similar manner, butted up to the edge of the previous one, but you will have to slide them a little upwards or downwards until the pattern matches. Where the pattern is a very big one, you may have to leave more than the 150 mm trimming allowance to match the pattern. When each length is well butted up to the next, work gently up and down the seam with the seam roller to make sure the edges are well stuck. Lift and repaste any edges which will not stick down properly.

Getting round corners

When you come to a corner, it is most unlikely that the line of this will be absolutely straight or that it will be quite vertical all the way down. If it is not, and you try to fold more than a very narrow width of paper round it, you are almost certain to get creases which cannot be smoothed out, and the edge of the section which has gone round the corner may well be out of true. The length, if butted up to it, will then be out of true as well.

Test the corner with a plumb line if you like, and you may be lucky, but nine times out of ten it is better to cut your strip when approaching a corner so that no more than about 12 mm actually makes the turn. Any creases in the 12 mm can be smoothed out quite easily after it is pasted into place.

Mark a vertical datum line on the new wall, at the appropriate width, and hang the cut-oflf piece to abut the turn strip. If the edge of the 12 mm strip is not perfectly straight you cannot bull up to it, and you may have to overlap the new length slightly. Any slight pattern-matching discrepancy will not be really noticeable on a corner. If you overlap away from the light from a window, the join will not throw shadow and can be seen even less.

The same general principles should be followed when turning paper into a window recess. Turn only about 12 mm into the recess, and paper the recess itself with narrow strips, overlapping the turn in if need be. cuts outwards towards each corner. If the switch is round, make six or more radial cuts from the centre to its circumference. In either case, the paper can be creased in with the back of the scissors round the switch and the surplus neatly trimmed off.

With a recessed switch or plug, one can loosen the screws holding the cover and tuck the edges of the paper under it. This is the easiest way to achieve a really neat effect, but always switch off the electric current at the main. Remember you are working with wet materials.

Ready-pasted wallpapers

A waterproofed cardboard trough is usually supplied with the paper.

Cover the floor under your working area before you start as you are almost bound to get some water spilled on it. Cut your length of paper and then roll it up loosely again, pattern side inwards. Submerge it in the water trough which should be placed under the spot where you are hanging the length. The instructions with the paper tell you how long to leave it in the water to soften the paste, which is usually between one and two minutes. The paste has a fungicide ready mixed into it.

Taking the paper by its top edge, lift it from the trough. It will unroll itself as you do this; leave the bottom end just over the trough for a few seconds for the surplus water to run off. Hang the paper in the normal way. If vinyl papers are being used and the odd corner has not stuck properly after the paper is dry, stick it down with a latex adhesive such as Copydex.

Papering a ceiling

Papering a ceiling is a little more difficult than papering walls, and parts of the job are easier if there is a second person there to help.

Start the papering at the window side of the room and hang it actually makes the turn. Any creases in the 12 mm can be smoothed out quite easily after it is pasted into place.

Mark a vertical datum line on the new wall, at the appropriate width, and hang the cut-off piece to abut the turn strip. If the edge of the 12 mm strip is not perfectly straight you cannot butt up to it, and you may have to overlap the new length slightly. Any slight pattern-matching discrepancy will not be really noticeable on a corner. If you overlap away from the light from a window, the join will not throw shadow and can be seen even less.

The same general principles should be followed when turning paper into a window recess. Turn only about 12 mm into the recess, and paper the recess itself with narrow strips, overlapping the turn in if need be.

Papering round fireplaces

If your room has a fireplace with recesses on each side of it and you have a fairly bold pattern, it is important that this pattern should be placed on the chimney breast. Lack of symmetry will be more easily seen on a short section of wall. Your whole papering job in this case should really start here, but it is a little more tricky for a beginner as you will be into corners almost at once, and the paper has to be fitted round the fireplace itself. This probably sounds more difficult than it is.

Make your datum line in the centre of the chimney breast, and hang your first length of paper, down to the fireplace with a bit over at the bottom. Then, with your scissors, cut into the paper at an angle towards each corner or projection of the fireplace until you can crease the paper in to the point where it joins the wall, all along the fireplace’s outline. Pull the paper back a section at a time, trim along the creases with scissors, and smooth the paper back well into the angle. Hang the remaining lengths.

Papering round light switches and plugs

For papering round these, let the paper fall loosely over the switch or plug, find the point approximately in its centre, and make scissor cuts outwards towards each corner. If the switch is round, make six or more radial cuts from the centre to its circumference. In either case, the paper can be creased in with the back of the scissors round the switch and the surplus neatly trimmed off.

With a recessed switch or plug, one can loosen the screws holding the cover and tuck the edges of the paper under it. This is the easiest way to achieve a really neat effect, but always switch off the electric current at the main. Remember you are working with wet materials.

Ready-pasted wallpapers

A waterproofed cardboard trough is usually supplied with the paper.

Cover the floor under your working area before you start as you are almost bound to get some water spilled on it. Cut your length of paper and then roll it up loosely again, pattern side inwards. Submerge it in the water trough which should be placed under the spot where you are hanging the length. The instructions with the paper tell you how long to leave it in the water to soften the paste, which is usually between one and two minutes. The paste has a fungicide ready mixed into it.

Taking the paper by its top edge, lift it from the trough. It will unroll itself as you do this; leave the bottom end just over the trough for a few seconds for the surplus water to run off. Hang the paper in the normal way. If vinyl papers are being used and the odd corner has not stuck properly after the paper is dry, stick it down with a latex adhesive such as Copydex.

Papering a ceiling

Papering a ceiling is a little more difficult than papering walls, and parts of the job are easier if there is a second person there to help.

Start the papering at the window side of the room and hang it parallel to the window wall. Find a point at each end of the ceiling the width of the paper, minus 12 mm for trim, away from the wall. Insert a drawing pin or small nail at each of the two points and tie a chalked string from one pin to the other, close up against the ceiling. Use a coloured chalk for a white surface. Pull the string gently in the centre and then release it, so that a chalk line will be transferred to the ceiling. This is your guide line.

You will probably be dealing with longer strips of paper than you were for the walls and will have to fold over the ends more than once on the pasting table to enable you to carry them. The carrying can be made easier if you loop the centre of the folded paper over a roll of ceiling paper, allowing the folds to hang down on each side.

Standing comfortably with your face to the wall, tuck the end of the paper and the side edge well into the joint between the ceiling and the wall, lining the other edge up with your guide line. Then gradually work backwards, unfolding the paper as you go and smoothing it on with the paperhanging brush. If you do have a helper, the job will be much easier as he or she can support the other end of the length for you, standing on the floor – if there is no room on the platform – and using the head of a broom to hold it up. Care is needed with such long lengths that they are kept straight, both to avoid buckles caused by inadvertent stretching of the paper, and so that the next length will butt up properly. Finally trim the two ends and the side along the wall.

Should you have to contend with a ceiling rose, it pays to do some accurate measuring and mark the position on the dry piece of paper. Make a number of star cuts in the paper, then paste the whole piece in the normal way.

When you reach the ceiling rose, merely feed the flex through the hole, and ease the paper around the rose. Press the cut pieces to the rose base, then trim off with small scissors. You can allow a slight turn on to the rose so no gap is visible. Wipe paste off the rose before it hardens.

Carry on across the ceiling with the remaining lengths.

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