Wallpapering Simplified

Wallpapering is one of the simplest of home jobs, especially using modern papers and pastes. Years ago you had to trim the edges of your rolls with scissors and make up paste with flour and size. Nowadays most papers are supplied already trimmed, and cellulose adhesives, which are almost universal these days, will not mark the surface of the paper. Some papers are self-adhesive.

There are several types of wallpaper but, broadly speaking, the differences are not important. The technique of hanging them is almost the same. The only slight difference is that whereas light papers may be hung as soon as they are pasted, heavier ones should be left to soak for a few minutes.

First of all decide how many rolls of paper you need. The number and size of walls, doors and windows will obviously affect the amount you will need. Another point is the size of the pattern. If you choose a plain or very fine-patterned paper this will cut easily with very little waste. If on the other hand, you have a large pattern a good deal will be wasted at top and bottom of each strip in matching. In any case it pays to buy a surplus of paper because modern patterns go out of print very quickly. You will probably find it impossible to buy a matching pattern later if you want to make repairs.

Before starting you must of course strip off any paper that is already on the wall. Occasionally you can make a fair job of wallpapering on top of an existing paper but this is not generally to be recommended. Bubbles usually appear due to the new paste weakening the old. In extreme cases this can cause both old and new paper to come away together in large sheets.

It is far better to get down to bare plaster. Again, a wall covered with washable distemper or emulsion paint may be wallpapered on top provided that the surface is sound. The older, non-washable distemper must always be removed. If a wall is oil painted but sound you can paper it provided you first roughen the surface with coarse glass paper or a wire brush. The scratches you make give a ‘key’ to which the adhesive can grip.

Bare plaster is very absorbent of all liquids. If you apply paper direct to it you may find that the paste is sucked away and the paper fails to stick. Also, it may be difficult to slide the paper strips from side to side to get a good butt joint. To avoid these problems first paint the entire wall with a coat of the paste you are using but thinned 50-50 with water. This thin coating will fill up the pores of the plaster and at the same time give a smoother surface on which paper strips will slide easily. Incidentally, never apply wallpaper over very new plaster which has not completely dried out. Even though the surface of a house plaster feels dry it will be losing water by evaporation for several months after completion. If you seal this surface with wallpaper the chances are that the paste of the paper will be weakened and the paper itself may become discoloured. New plaster frequently gives off chemical salts which the printing dyes. So give a new house an emulsion paint decoration and leave wallpapering until the second season of occupation.

  • When you first get your paper unwrap all the rolls for three or four feet and lay them together so that the colours can be compared. There are small variations in the exact shade of most wallpapers, even in those of the same pattern. If you do find such differences arrange that the strips from two different tones are not hung beside each other. Any change of tone should preferably take place at the corner of a room.
  • Before you start hanging check that the corners and various openings of the room are in fact vertical. Even in new houses this is frequently not the case. A simple check is to hang a chalked string from the ceiling near each corner with a weight on its end. Allow it to settle, then, holding the weight firmly, flick the string. This will mark the wall with a vertical line to which your paper can be hung.
  • If you intend to do much wallpapering, a pasting machine, which costs only a few pounds, will save you many hours of work. They can deal adequately with light and heavy papers. With a pasting machine there is no need for a pasting table and the mess involved in wallpapering is greatly reduced.
  • As we said earlier, light papers should be hung immediately but heavier papers should be left to absorb the paste; the time required differing with the weight and absorbency of the paper. Your wallpaper supplier will advise you on this.
  • For your first attempt at wallpapering start on the longest plain wall in your room. This gives you easy practice at fitting and sliding the strips together. You do not overlap because the straight cut at the edges of the strips will butt closely together. However, not all walls are flat and in these cases small overlaps will be inevitable.
  • It is customary to work across the room from the side that is lightest. That is, work away from the window. In this way any overlaps that have to be left do not cast shadows and are much less visible.
  • For best effect a large wallpaper pattern should always be centralised above a fireplace. The correct method then for wallpapering a chimney breast is to apply the centre strips first and work outwards to either side till you meet the main wall. Any differences in pattern matching at this corner are unlikely to be noticeable.
  • At doors and windows allow the last strip of paper to overlap the corner of the opening by an amount equal to its depth. You can. Then cut in at the top and bottom of the overlap and fold it inwards to cover the side of the opening.
  • Projections such as light switches are dealt with by cutting suitable holes as shown but before approaching a switch with pasted paper make sure that the electric power is turned off at the main switch. Liquid paste seeping into a switch could give you a severe shock.
  • When you have bought a heavy, expensive paper it is best not to apply this directly to the wall. Instead, buy a few rolls of thin, white lining paper and apply this first.
  • It can be put on vertically in the normal way but many decorators fit lining paper in horizontal strips. This is not the easiest of operations because of the difficulty of working the strips into place. A lining of this kind will act as a perfect base for the paste which you must heavily apply to stout paper and will counteract any tendency for it to shrink.

Many amateurs find it difficult to get a neat, clean line at the top and bottom of the wallpaper strips or on door cases and window surrounds. This is because wet paper cannot easily be cut with a knife, and scissors tend to leave a ragged edge. If the overlap is onto paintwork you can allow the paper to dry overnight and then use a razor tool to cut through the stuck part in a perfectly straight line. The surplus will usually snap away from the paintwork quite cleanly.

This must then be washed to remove all remaining traces of paste. Do not use this method over porous surfaces or highly polished wood.

1 There are proprietary stripping solutions to get old wallpaper off the walls, but lots of water, preferably hot, used to soak the old paper, will usually do the trick.

2 Use a flat, broad scraper to lift the paper off. It is usually most convenient to work from top to bottom of the wall.

3 Sizing is important, whether with decorators glue size or simply an extra coat of cellulose paste thinned down 50/50 with water. Cover the whole surface evenly.

4 Hardboard, laid over a table or bed makes a pasting board. Place three paper lengths on the board, each overlapping the next by a couple of inches.

5 Now spread the paste, drawing a loaded brush down the centre of the top paper and then brushing outwards towards the edges.

6 Lift the pasted end and drape it back over itself, paste to paste. Repeat along the length of the strip.

7 The other end is similarly folded back and the whole length picked up in the centre. If the paper is heavy, set it aside for up to 15 minutes to soak. Hang light papers immediately.

8 Unfold the upper end of the length and lift it up into place. Use a plumb bob to make sure the first strip is dead vertical.

9 A broad, clean brush is best to press the paper down to the wall, though many workers use their bare hands. Work from the centre of the strip outwards. All air must be brushed out from beneath the paper.

10 The bottom of each strip is unfolded and pulled down, then pressed into place.

11 Make a perfect butt joint by sliding the paper along carefully. If necessary, you can draw the free edge away from the wall whilst this is being done.

12 Frequently check the lengths before cutting them, to make sure that the pattern will match.

13 Top and bottom trimming is simply done by drawing the back of the scissors along in the angle of the ceiling or skirting board.

14 Pull the paper away and the score-fold will be quite visible. Cut along it carefully.

15 A useful tool in many places is this Skarsten trimmer guide, a chrome-plated angle strip that is placed under the paper right into the angle.

16 Push the paper well down into the angle of the guide. A brush tip gets deeper than fingers.

17 Now draw the special cutting roller along the angle, pressing rather hard but taking it in one clean movement.

18 The cut will be clean and straight. Remove the guide and press the paper finally into place.

19 Certain edges may fail to stick down. Run an almost dry brush underneath each edge and press back down again. Modern cellulose glues do not mark the paper even if a little gets on the surface.

20 A final roll down with a narrow wooden roller will butt the edges and give an almost invisible joint. Not for heavy, embossed papers though, or you may crush the pattern.

21 Few corners are straight and vertical, nor are walls perfectly flat. If you simply carry your papering round a corner, the chances are that one side will have deep creases, impossible to remove. Instead, cut the length in two, vertically, about an inch from the corner.

22 Apply the first side and carry it around the corner. Then apply the other part, sliding it along to meet the first.

23 Any irregularities in cutting will, of course, exactly match each other so if the corner happens to be dead true the two halves will match invisibly. On the other hand, a bad wall will require very small overlaps, but these will hardly show, due to the precise matching of the pattern.

24 Light switches may project from the wall. The flush types can have their face plate removed (after switching off the electric power at the main switch!), a hole cut for the switch itself and then the face plate replaced over the paper. Others like this need a different approach. Bring the pasted paper down to them.

25 Snip through the paper at the bulge of the switch in criss-cross manner till the switch pokes through.

26 Press the paper down to the wall gent!) letting the ‘petals’ of paper fold back.

27 Let the paper dry and then trim cleanly round the switch with a.very sharp tool suc as this Stanley knife. Wipe away any surplu paper and paste with a damp cloth.

28 Besides side butt joints you may need to join paper lengths end to end. These can be done almost invisibly too. Brush the upper piece into position.

29 Lay the second piece in place with a generous overlap, matching the pattern exactly.

30 Use a razor knife to cut through both thicknesses of paper. A straight cut is shown here, for clarity, but often an irregular cut is much less visible.

31 Next, peel off the surplus paper above the cut.

32 Peel back the lower paper and pull off the adhering strip from below the cut.

33 Lastly, press the edges back in place and use the roller to give an almost invisible joint.

A note about vinyl-faced papers

Vinyl-faced wallpaper is a modern and very attractive development for kitchens and bathrooms or even for nurseries, any place in fact where dirt is likely to be more than usually troublesome. It is not difficult to

apply but you must use a paste that contains a strong fungicide. The impervious vinyl covering creates conditions in which mould can easily develop beneath.

You will find a difference when you try to remove old vinyl paper. The water that you apply will not soak into the vinyl surface and loosen the paste behind. This difficulty is best overcome by slashing the surface of the paper with a notched-edge scraping tool. These slashes are then soaked with water, which will work its way underneath and free the paper from the wall.

One sort of vinyl paper is specially made so that the vinyl surface can be peeled away when necessary, leaving only an ordinary paper backing which can be removed in the usual way. This type certainly has advantages where alterations to the decorations are done fairly frequently. On the whole it is best not to apply vinyl papers to walls which are damp.

To help with the job: a simple wallpapering table

1 Decorators use special papering tables that are light, so that they can be easily carried about the house. They are quite expensive to buy.

By using the household ironing board as a base, a good collapsible table can be made at hardly any cost, and without using many tools.

Buy a sheet of thin plywood four feet long and a little more than the width of the standard paper roll (21 ins.). Turn over the ironing board and lay it squarely on this sheet. Draw round its outline clearly.

2 Buy about twelve feet of timber about 2 ins x1 in section. Cut this into two lengths of four feet and two lengths of the ironing board width. Lay these in place around the outline you have drawn.

3 As above continued.

4 Working from the other side, nail the timber strips and plywood sheet together.

5 The shallow tray you have made will be a firm fit over the ironing-board top. Lower it into place.

6 The table can be easily carried upstairs and is usually adjustable for height. Because it is exactly the width of the paper, surplus paste will not spread over its surface.

7 But for real ease and speed buy a papering machine! Simply fill the tray with paste, place the paper roll on a special bracket and draw the paper through. It comes perfectly pasted and ready to hang.

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