Modern Wallpapering Techniques

You may want to use one of the modern ready-pasted wallpapers, for which a different technique is required. Another technique which requires special skills is papering a ceiling.

Ready-pasted paper

Using a ready-pasted wallcovering means not having to bother with a paste table or paste. The paste is already on the back of the wallcovering but in a dried form. To activate it the paper is immersed in water for the time recommended on the instructions — usually about a minute.

A plastic water trough can be obtained with the wallcovering, though any container which is long enough and deep enough to accept a loosely rolled length of paper will suffice. It’s a good idea to place some newspapers below and around the trough to catch any water splashes.

Each length of paper is cut as normal and is then rolled up loosely with the pattern facing inwards. The roll is then immersed in water. It is important to roll the paper loosely otherwise the water might not reach and wet the paste. Long rolls should first be immersed with the pattern facing outwards and then be rerolled in the trough so that the free end is for the top of the wall.

Take hold of the top of the paper and gradually pull it upwards. Try to keep the tail of the paper in the trough so that water drains back into it. Smooth the length on to the wall using a clean sponge — always working from the middle of the length to the edges.

Sometimes excess paste will squelch out at the edges — this can be wiped away with a separate sponge kept solely for this job.

Sometimes when complicated lengths have to be trimmed around light switches or other obstacles, the paste might dry out before the length has been smoothed on to the wall. So keep a jar of paste handy to repaste any dried edges.

At corners, a latex adhesive is needed to stick down overlapping edges.

In kitchens and bathrooms where walls have been lined with sheet expanded polystyrene to combat condensation, cover it with lining paper before using ready-pasted paper.


This is unusual in that the wall, not the paper, is covered with paste. The paper is then hung as normal and smoothed with a sponge.


Preparing a ceiling for papering is precisely the same as preparing a wall. Hanging the paper is basically the same as for wallpaper except that there is the law of gravity to overcome! The first time you try papering a ceiling it may be a good idea to have some help handy.

In general, the starting point for papering is parallel with the main window. Successive lengths are then hung, working away from the light so that should any edge be slightly overlapped a shadow will not be cast.

However, if by working at right angles to the window much shorter lengths of paper will be needed then this can be done. The dimensions of the ceiling might also govern which way the paper is hung — bearing economy in mind. A roll of paper is about 10m long, so in a room 4m wide only two lengths would be obtained from a roll with 2m of paper wasted. In a case like this it could be far more economical to paper in the other direction.

Assuming a start is to be made by the window, mark a line across the ceiling which allows for 50mm of paper to be turned on to the window wall for final trimming. If the walls are to be papered then allow for 5mm to be turned on to the window wall. Each length should be cut to allow for 50mm excess at each end — again for final trimming.

Arrange a strong working platform across the room which enables the ceiling to be reached comfortably. Use scaffold boards supported on trestles, strong boxes or stepladders.

Paste the paper and fold it concertina fashion — paste side to paste side. Make each fold about 1/2m long. Unfold the first portion of paper and align it with the pencil mark on the ceiling. Use a spare roll to support the paper while the first fold is being brushed on to the ceiling, working from the middle outwards. Subsequent folds are then released and brushed out in turn, making sure the guide line is followed.

At the ceiling-to-wall angle trim the paper as in wallpapering. Leave a 5mm margin on the walls only if wallpaper is to be used. Hang subsequent lengths similarly, closely butting up the edges.

To paper around a ceiling rose, paper up to the fitting, make a hole in the paper and then make a series of short diagonal cuts outwards from the centre of the rose. Hang the rest of the length then return to the rose. Turn off the electricity at the mains and remove the casing of the rose. Then finally trim the paper so that a small margin is left that will be hidden beneath the casing. Smooth down the paper and replace the fitting.

Wallpapering and problems

Blisters in paper are usually caused by not brushing out correctly and leaving trapped air underneath. Check each length as it is hung by looking at it side-on. If a bubble is spotted early, the edge of the paper can be peeled back past the bubble and the paper brushed back into place. Should the bubble be spotted too late, then use a sharp knife to cut a cross through the centre of the bubble. Brush some paste on to the back of the paper then smooth it back into place. If done carefully the cuts will not be noticeable.

Failure to stick over large areas can be caused by not sizing a porous wall or by using a paste which is too thin Always mix up paste according to the instructions and don’t continue to use paste for more than a couple of days after mixing it. Before mixing another batch of paste, clean out the bucket. Lining the bucket with a pedal bin liner which can be thrown away saves having to clean out the bucket.

A common problem is failure of the pattern to match all the way down with the previous length. This is caused by the paper stretching irregularly. One cause of this is not allowing each length to soak for approximately the same amount of time.

Stretching is also caused by allowing the paper to drop down suddenly after brushing the top on to the wall. This is a particular problem when hanging long lengths on stairwell walls. Always support the lower half of the paper then lower it gently for brushing on to the wall.

If confronted with a pattern-matching problem then aim to match the pattern at eye level where it will be most noticed.

Finding somewhere to rest a messy paste brush is solved by tying a piece of string tautly across the bucket. Rest the brush bristles on the string.

The free end of a roll of paper is not always the top of the pattern. Unroll a metre or so to check which way up it should go. With some patterns it is easy to hang a length upside down so, before pasting, get into the habit of writing Top on the back edge of the paper — and check this before hanging.

After taking a fixture off the wall, put a matchstick in each screw hole, leaving about 5mm protruding. Press the wallpaper over the matchsticks so that they pop through to indicate the exact positions of the screw holes when putting back the fixture.

If wallpaper shears become clogged with paste, clean, straight lines are difficult to cut. Wipe the shears regularly and if the paste has hardened stand the shears in hot water for a couple of minutes and then clean. Taking care of your shears will keep them sharp and efficient.