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On The House: Getting the hang of wallpapering

On The House: Getting the hang of wallpapering

Posted: Monday, January 18, 2010 8:01 pm

Special to The Messenger
Wallpaper hanging is not nearly as difficult as some home improvers tend to make it. As a matter of fact, with proper surface preparation, the proper tools and a little patience, even the least enthusiastic paper hanger should end up pleasantly surprised with the result.
Preparing the wall is of utmost importance. The wall can be smooth or rough, but it must be primed with oil base paint first. Nothing else works as well.
Having the proper paper hanging tools also is essential to success. Many home improvement centers or paint and wallpaper specialty stores carry inexpensive paper hanging kits, which contain most of the required tools. Most kits sell for under $25 and contain:
• A pasting brush
• A smoothing brush
• A razor knife and extra blades
• A seam roller
• A plumb bob (we use a laser level)
Other tools and equipment that make the job go smoothly are:
• A large pair of scissors
• A measuring tape
• A pencil
• A water trough
• A large plastic bucket
• A sponge
• A spring clamp
• A long straightedge
• A step ladder
• A large flat work surface
Start by setting up your work area. If you’ll be working in a room where the flooring is in place, you’ll want to be sure to protect it by covering it with a heavy drop cloth. Next, set up your work surface “pasting table.” An old door placed on a couple of saw horses is all that’s required. Professional paper hangers prefer lightweight portable tables. These are costly and pay for themselves only if frequently used.
It goes without saying that wallpaper should be hung straight. Therefore, a plumb or laser line establishing true vertical should be made on the wall as a guide for the installation of the first strip of wallpaper. A level and a pencil also can be used. The line should be as light as possible since dark lines may show through.
Paper can be purchased pre-pasted or without paste. We suggest that paste be used even with pre-pasted paper to ensure the best bond. Our paste preference is a mildew-resistant vinyl variety. It is stronger than most other pastes and especially useful in damp areas like kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms.
Each length of paper should be cut about four to eight inches longer than the distance from the ceiling to the top of baseboard. Once cut, pre-pasted paper should be rolled pattern side in and run through the water trough (filled with warm water). The paper should then be laid on the pasting table with the pattern facing down. A spring clamp at one end will help to keep the paper from rolling up and make the pasting process neater and easier. Additional paste should then be applied with the pasting brush or a heavy-nap paint roller. It is not necessary to run un-pasted paper through the water trough, although all other steps apply.
After the paper has been pasted, it should be folded over (pasted face to pasted face) so that both ends of the paper meet in the middle. This process, called booking, allows the paste to be evenly spread and the paper to expand to its fullest prior to hanging. The booked paper should be allowed to sit for about 10 minutes prior to installation.
Now comes the fun part; the chance to hang your first piece of paper. Here’s where the step ladder comes in, since paper is hung from the top down. Simply unfold the top section of the booked paper and place it against the wall with the palms of both hands while allowing about two inches of the paper to lap beyond the top of the wall (at the ceiling connection).
You’ll find that the paper can be easily manipulated along the wall as you align it with the plumb line. Once the top section has been aligned, it should be smoothed with a damp sponge or the smoothing brush, working from the center to the edges. Repeat this process for the bottom half of the paper.
Each successive strip of paper should be prepared and hung like the first and should be right up against the previously installed strip to form a neat and uniform seam. Special care should be taken to ensure that patterns match up at seams when patterned paper is used. Use a seam roller to set the seams after each strip of paper has been smoothed and all air bubbles have been removed.
Using a razor knife and metal straightedge, trim the paper at the ceiling and at the baseboard. Hold the razor knife firmly in one hand and the straightedge in the other and carefully pull it along the straightedge. Once you have reached the end of the straightedge, move it to the next section to be cut and carefully continue the process. You’ll find that changing blades frequently makes the job of trimming easier.
Finally, after all of the paper has been hung, it should be wiped down with a damp sponge and warm water, wringing the sponge out frequently.
For more home improvement tips and information, visit our Web site at or call our listener hot line 24/7 at 1-800-737-2474 (ext 59).
James Carey and Morris Carey, known as the Carey Bros., are nationally-recognized experts on home building and renovation. They share their 55-plus years of experience as award-winning, licensed contractors with millions of people nationwide through a weekly radio program and syndicated newspaper column both titled “On The House.”
Published in The Messenger 1.18.10


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