Paper and Paperhanging

THE goods normally offered for domestic repairs include ceiling papers, white and tinted; lining paper, a plain white or coloured paper used for improving wall surfaces prior to distempering, or prior to the hanging of high class paper; ordinary wallpaper, plain and embossed; sanitary wallpaper, a smooth, washable paper suitable for bathrooms or kitchens; varnished paper, a sanitary paper with a high gloss finish; imitations of woods and marbles, usually finished with a glossy and washable surface.

Selecting a Wallpaper

While the choice of colour and pattern depends very largely on the fancy of the individual, there are other factors to be considered which may help to avoid final disappointment.


With regard to colour, many people choose a wallpaper in the lightest part of the room, e.g. near a window, and afterwards wonder why the papered walls appear so much darker than expected. Even in a well-lighted room, dark colours will appear darker, and light colours paler than the sample chosen. More thought might be given to the sensible use of both warm and cool colours. Warm yellows, pinks, and yellow-greens, for example, give an impression of warmth and brightness to sunless northern rooms, while the cooler tints of mauve, blue, and blue-green may be used with advantage to tone down the glare in sunny situations.


The effect of a large pattern (except in very large rooms), is to make a room appear smaller and more amply furnished; small patterns have the opposite effect. Vertical lines, whether in the form of striped pattern or by the use of upright panel borders, impart an impression of increased height; horizontal lines seem’ to reduce height and accentuate space. Thus, defects in the proportion of a room may be rendered less obvious.

It is a great advantage, wherever possible, to see a roll instead of a small pattern-book sample. This will often bring to light any unsuspected spottiness or other undesirable features of colour or pattern. Lastly, do not be unduly influenced by the amount of gold in a pattern. Choose a wallpaper with sufficient colour interest to retain its decorative quality when, after two or three years the material has become discoloured.

Plain and Semi-plain Papers

Both form an ideal back- ground for the display of furniture, choice pictures, etc. and when moderately light in colour give a pleasing effect of cleanliness and spaciousness to bedrooms and sitting rooms. A touch of bright colour can always be introduced by a suitable border or panel arrangement.

The value of semi-plain or mottled papers, especially when several nicely blended colours are used, should not be overlooked. It is often possible to find in them several of the colours present in the furnishings, thus helping to bring about a harmonious relationship.

Removing Old Wallpaper

Apply water, using a clean distemper brush; allow the water to penetrate and scrape off the paper.

Surface Preparation

The old paintwork is first washed and rubbed down with pumice stone, or (still better) with a pumice block, until a dull surface is obtained. This is then rinsed off with clean water, and while it is drying any defects in the plaster are made good with a mixture of plaster of Paris and very dilute size. The whole surface is next coated with weak jellied size containing 1 lb. Of whiting to half a bucket of size.

The surface may be lined immediately the size is dry.

Portland and Keene’s Cement

There is also the danger of atmospheric moisture penetrating through wallpaper to condense upon the hard, smooth surface beneath. The procedure recommended to prevent this is to roughen the cement face slightly with coarse glasspaper, and then coat it with size. Finally, cross-line it as for painted surfaces.

Asbestos Sheets

There is some risk of the wet paste producing a chemical action likely to cause serious discoloration of the wallpaper. One coat of oil-bound distemper, applied after nail holes and joints have been made good with plaster, will not only serve as an effective insulator, but will act in place of a coat of size and render the work ready for papering.

Compressed Wallboards

While the majority of wallboards can be sized and papered in the same manner as plaster walls, there are others which, owing to their tendency to warp, are best finished with distemper. Guidance on this matter will have to be obtained from the supplier or the manufacturer of the material in question. The procedure adopted in the preparation of wallboard is: (a) coat all nail heads and joints with oil paint; (b) make good with plaster; (c) size the whole surface, and (d) paste a strip of muslin about 2 in. in width over each joint. This treatment discourages rust and prevents the splitting of wallpaper over the joint.


This is the most troublesome of all surfaces mainly because expansion and contraction of the timber speedily cracks or ridges any paper which is not reinforced in some way. The method usually followed is to stretch scrim, or muslin, over the whole surface, securing one length at a time with tacks, and finally coating the whole with glue size.

Measuring for Wallpaper

A roll of English wallpaper is 21 in. wide, and n£ yd. Long; there are, however, many instances where the odd J yd. Is slightly soiled and has to be scrapped; it is therefore safer to assume that each roll contains 33 ft. of usable material.

It is bad practice to use two short pieces where a full length of paper is called for. With these points in mind it will be clear that a roll of paper can only produce 3 lengths of 11 ft.; 4 of 8 ft. 3 in.; 5 of 6 ft. 7 in.; and so on. This docs not take into account anv waste incurred in matching the pattern, nor. The extra 2 in. allowed at the top and bottom of each length.

In measuring up the paper, first ascertain the height of the walls, adding 6 or 8in. For waste and matching. Then calculate how many lengths can be obtained from a roll, and the amount left over.

The next step is to measure the number of 21 in. widths required to go round the room, noting at the same time the possibility of using up any short ends in positions over doors, fireplaces, etc. Divide the number of full lengths required by the number obtainable from one full roll. This gives the total number of rolls necessary for the main walls, and to this will be added any short lengths inside cupboards, over the fireplace, etc. Reference should also be made to the article on PLASTER WALLS AND CEILINGS for papering of ceilings.


This term refers to the cutting or trimming of the selvedges of wallpaper, and may be executed either with scissors or with one of the patent gadgets sold by decorators’ merchants. Paper is usually trimmed before being cut into lengths. When some profi- ! ciency has been gained, the operation can be carried out while sitting en a chair, but in the early stages it will be easier to use a table or pasting bench as a support for the paper.

Those papers which are thin enough to permit a lap joint when hanging, should have one edge trimmed clean, the other edge being left with about ½ in. of the selvedge untouched. Very thick papers have to be hung with a butt joint which necessitates the clean and accurate removal of both edges. Where the first method is adopted, the left-hand edge can be trimmed clean and the paper hung from left to right until the room is completed. A better method is to commence at, and work away from the window, thus working from left to right on some walls and in the reverse direction upon others. Trim the paper accordingly, having determined the method.

Making the Paste

Good surface preparation and good paste will do more than anything else to ease the work of paperhanging. A good paste will not only hold the paper instantly, but will allow the small amount of sliding which is of great assistance when matching a pattern. The best and cheapest adhesive is made from common (not ‘self-raising’) flour, and is prepared as follows:

Mix 2lb. Of flour with enough cold water to form a stiff batter; stir briskly until the mixture is quite smooth; add one large pinch of borax and then pour in about a gallon of boiling water, again stirring briskly until the paste thickens. When cool, dilute to a brushing consistency with cold water.

Hanging the Paper

Professional paper-hangers employ more than the essential tools, but the amateur will find that these, plus an apron with a pocket 12 in. in width, will meet all ordinary requirements. An improvised paste-bench such as a large kitchen table should be wider than the paper and preferably about 6ft. In length. It is important that the bench be kept clean and dry, otherwise the paste will certainly soil the face side of the paper.

Make certain that the measurement is correct and cut about a dozen lengths, allowing the extra few inches for waste. These are turned pattern-side downwards, ready for pasting and folding.

As paperhanging is commenced at one side of the window, it is wise, before pasting the first length, to ascertain whether the window is plumb upright. If found correct, it makes the best guide in establishing a vertical edge for the paper; if incorrect, the paper can be plumbed while lightly attached to the wall, and any surplus along the window edge can be trimmed off afterwards. An alternative is to rule a vertical line 21 in. from the window and make this the starting point.

To handle the first length, place the right edge of the paper against the ruled line, meanwhile holding the left edge a few inches away from the wall. By raising or lowering the left-hand the whole length is brought under control until some 3ft. Of the right edge is properly placed and attached. The papering brush, which should, incidentally, be close at hand, can then be used to fix the remainder and brush out any wrinkles.

It is advisable, before trimming off the surplus paper at top and bottom, to check up once again with the plumb line. It may be found that the paper has been slightly twisted (probably by not using the brush in a vertical direction) out of straight sfnd in that case the paper must be taken off and re-applied. It will soon be realized that while vertical and horizontal brush strokes do not affect the accuracy of a length of paper, any diagonal strokes will speedily twist the paper in the direction followed.

Other points to note are: (a) always plumb the first length on each wall; (b) sponge off any paste from painted skirtings, etc.; (c) remove paste or fingermarks from the surface of a paper; this is not difficult if tackled immediately with a clean, damp rag; (d) where special fixtures are strongly secured to the wall, such as lamp brackets, switches, etc., which it may be inadvisable to remove, accurately measure the location of the fixture and mark off the position on the appropriate strip of wallpaper, then cut out the form of the fixture or, alternatively, cut the paper.

Paperhanging for Friezes

When laying on wallpaper, following a horizontal course, the strip of wallpaper should be closely gathered in a suitable number of folds as illustrated and the first stretch should be carefully lined up before progressively extending each fold.

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