Help! I Need New Wallpaper, Now What?


Help! Wallpaper Installation – Now What?

The installation of wallpaper is becoming popular again. For years, during the 50’s and 60’s the installation of wallpaper was extremely popular. Individuals enjoyed the flowered prints for the dining room, the various shells, fishes and anchors for the bath, and the eye popping patterns for stairways and smaller foyer areas. Wallpaper was extremely popular, and the presence of rough plaster walls and uneven surfaces in many cases called for the installation of a wall covering to mask the unevenness, as well as the non uniform textures of the walls. In addition, the installation of wallpaper under chair rails and as a perimeter border around the room, was a popular method of decorating.

As wallboard became more popular, and homes became more contemporary, the use of wall coverings became less popular. I can remember constructing condominiums in the 70’s and 80’s where all the walls were painted, an off – white beige, and the trim a stark white. The use of wall coverings declined as the contemporary and more modern looks entertained a painted, clean surface. In addition, I think the nature of the older wall coverings, with their dated look, as well as difficult removal tendencies, had most homeowners not selecting a wall covering as the finish surface for their walls.

Currently the use of wall covering is increasing in popularity, as well as contemporary design. Interior decorators are using a wall covering selection in homes and commercial buildings to convey a personnel awareness of style and creativity. With all of the self help books and DIY networks and programs providing stimulation, the popularity of a wall covering is growing, and the ease of installation, as well as future removal, is all being made easier by advanced research and technology.

What are the basic concepts that need to be understood for your first wallpaper project?

1.) There are several professional wall paper installation firms that are available, for a relatively inexpensive fee, to install the wallpaper for you. Cost will range, from an hourly rate, to a rate per roll of wallpaper. Once the quantity of wallpaper is identified, the cost per roll can vary from $25 / per roll to over $75 / per roll. The type of wall covering, the height of the installation as well as the preparation of the substrate ( existing walls ) will all enter into the final value of the project. As we have indicated several times in this webpage, the soliciting of several prices is always recommended. Not only the ability to obtain several prices, but the different perspectives, on the same project, will increase your knowledge base for the project. Remember, most skilled individuals that are creative, will have a different method of approaching the work, each of which will have their own merit and points of view.

2.) The preparation of the walls is an important aspect regarding the success of the wallpaper installation. Properly prepared walls, will not project any roughness or inconsistencies out on the surface of the finished wall covering. The resultant walls will appear consistent and smooth, only if the substrate has been properly prepared.

3.) The type of wall covering will influence the ability of the installer to properly line up the joints and make the seams basically disappear. If the wall covering is a fragile and a light paper type of material, the paper will have a tendency to shrink when drying, this will make the joints, if not properly allowed for by some overlap, open up. This type of wall covering is extremely difficult to install properly, and will require a trained and experienced wall paper hanger, to produce a desirable result. In other cases, the use of a heavy vinyl type of wall covering, which will not shrink when it dries, and can be installed cleanly by simply butting the edges of the paper together, resulting in disappearing joints, even when the wall covering has dried is much easier to install by the first time amateur.

4.) Some types of wall covering is patterned in such a way, that the wall covering can be overlapped at the seams, and a continuous cut made with a straight edge made to ensure a completely coordinated seam. This type of wall covering is either one color textured paper, or a simple pattern that does not require matching. Many commercial installations of wall covering, use a material that allows the overlapping of the joints and the straight plumb cutting in the field.

5.) Dark wall covering will install much more professionally, if the substrate material is painted with the color of the dark wall covering. It is extremely difficult to make the joints, of a dark wall covering, match perfectly, without the whiteness of the substrate appearing somewhere along the seam. If the paper is a dark blue, then the painting of the walls to match the overall blue of the paper will make the seams disappear, without the white of the walls peeking out.

6.) The patterns of wallpaper are continuous and repeated. Each type of wall covering will have a different length of repeating patterns. Some repeats, could be as small as one inch, while others could be over twelve inches. This repeating pattern is important when ordering the proper quantity of wall covering. It is important, due to the fact that if you are at the top of the pattern with a cut length, you could need to cut the next piece of paper up to twelve inches longer than the length of the wall height ,due to the need to match the repeating pattern. When ordering the wall covering, the repeat will be noted on the paper, to ensure that the proper calculations are made when ordering. Knowledge of the repeating sequence of the wall covering is essential to the proper installation of the covering.

7.) Wall covering is available in either pre-glued wall covering or wall covering that has no inherent glue on the back from the factory. The first type of wall covering is installed in the field, by submerging the role of paper in a water tray, for a specific period of time. This submerging will allow the pre-glued backside of the wall covering to become activated and sticky. This paper is then allowed to ” sit ” for a period of time, after submerging, to allow the glue to obtain a consistency that is proper for application on the wall. This technique is called booking of the wall covering, and is a basic folding of the wall covering to ensure that the glue has proper time to activate, and obtain the proper consistency for maximum stickiness, when applied to the wall. The other type of wall covering, is what is considered, a more professional type of paper, which requires the application of the glue with a brush on site. In this application, the paper is laid out on a table, with the backside facing up for the application of glue. The glue is brushed onto the back of the wall covering as required. In most cases, there is a need for experience and knowledge, when it comes to spreading the correct amount of glue on the wall covering. Too much glue, and the glue will ooze out of the seams and cause a mess, too little, and there will not be proper sticking power for the amount of glue applied to satisfactory hold the wall covering in place.

8.) The application of the wall covering is normally performed from the top of the wall proceeding down to the bottom. The roll of wall covering is positioned properly and level at the top of the wall and allowed to roll down the wall. As gravity takes the roll of wall covering down the wall, the installer should position the edges of the wall covering as accurately as possible against, or overlapping the adjacent section of wall covering. It is not recommended to allow the entire roll to drop, and then position, try to hold the roll of wall covering up and little by little unroll the covering and position the seam. It is much easier to move slowly, than to allow the entire length of material to roll out, and then attempt to position the entire hanging roll of wall covering as it dangles from its minimal surface that is adhered to the substrate at the top of the wall.

9.) The use of a straight edge, such as a large taping knife and a utility blade, to cut the wall covering is recommended. Force the straight edge into the corner of the ceiling and the wall, for the ceiling cut. Cut with the utility knife along the straight edge, to ensure a proper cut. Do not attempt a free hand cut without the straight edge, this will normally lead to a cut down the face of the wall covering. It is best to have a sharp pair of scissors available for difficult cuts, such as the top of a corner. The use of a sharp scissors at this point in the process will provide the best and cleanest cut of the paper. I recommend that you practice on some small scraps of the wall covering to ensure that you understand the methods of cutting corners, every installer has a different technique and I think it best for you to develop your own technique for properly cutting corners. I will try to fold the wall covering into the corner and position by taping knife in such a manner as to allow the marking, with a pencil, the proper location of the two separate wall cuts. I will then, pull down the wall covering and cut the pencil lines with my sharp scissors. Once properly cut, the installation of the wall covering directly into the corner is easy.

10.) Do not try to force every inch of wall covering. If you have doubts to the proper alignment of the paper with the pattern, it is much better to cut the wall covering long, and not short. You can always cut the additional wall covering off of the roll, you cannot add the wall covering without incurring a joint in the paper. Horizontal joints should be minimized, as much as possible. Wall covering is intended to have vertical seams, not horizontal seams, so please, cut the roll long enough. There is a tendency to be able to distinguish a horizontal seam, much more easily than the vertical seams.

11.) The use of a firm, large sponge to smooth the wall covering out, once it is applied to the walls, is a good method of making sure the air is out of the back of the wall covering. You will find that once the wall covering is on the wall, air pockets will have formed, that need to be squeezed out to the edges of the piece, to allow the wall covering to firmly and uniformly adhere to the substrate. Some installers use a taping knife for this process, or a large straight edge. I prefer to use the sponge, due to the fact that it is less destructive on the surface of the wall covering. There is a possibility that the wall covering could be broken or ripped by the harder surfaces of the taping knife or the straight edge. This is not a concern, if a rigid sponge is used. If for some reason, all the air bubbles are not removed from the wall covering, a simple slice from your utility knife, down the center, will relieve the air trapped within the bubble and will allow you to even out the surface of the paper. If too much time has occurred by the time you cut the bubble and the glue has dried out, then the re-application of additional glue into the area of the bubble could be required. There are special syringes that are available to squirt the glue into the back of the bubbled area to allow the wall covering to adhere to the substrate.

12.) Certain types of wall covering patterns are easier to install then others. I always suggest to individuals who will be installing the wall covering themselves, especially for the first time, not to pick a stripped, or a linear patterned wall covering. The presence of straight lines, boxes, triangles, and linear patterns, makes every cut, at every window or door edge, an indicator reflecting the accuracy of your installation. A vertical strip on a piece of wall covering, is a perfect indicator of the straightness of the door jamb and the window trim, or more importantly the accuracy of the wall covering installation. If you are using the bathroom toilet, and have nothing better to do than study the wall in front of you, any deviation of lines, stripes and patterns will be immediately picked up. Randomness for first time patterns, is a much easier and forgiving pattern selection.

13.) Select the areas that are the most important, visually to you. The back of a door, that is constantly open, or the interior of a shower stall, that constantly has a shower curtain hanging, are excellent places to lose the pattern and adjust, if the need arises. There are times, in the most professional and experienced wall covering installers history, that the pattern must be either repeated, overlapped or simply started again. Select these areas carefully, to eliminate the constant reminder by guests and family, of your mistakes.

14.) The front of the toilet is the most important wall of the bathroom. The entry wall of the foyer or the television wall of the family room, are the walls that should be concentrated on. It is important to understand that there are few individuals that will critique your wall covering skills, however, there are always some, don’t make the errors and the corrections obvious, there is no shame in hiding your adjustments! Never mistakes, always, necessary adjustments!

15.) The glue, that is distributed on all surfaces, as you wall paper, should be instantly removed with a wet towel or sponge. Do not allow the glue to dry on the perimeter surfaces, the removal will be much more difficult once the glue dries. It is best to wipe down the entire surface of the completed wall paper panel, numerous times, with water and a sponge to remove any of the latent wall paper paste and glue that remains on the surface of the panel. This wash down should not be timid and should include the ceiling above the panel as well as the baseboard and floor beneath the wall covering panel.

16.) Patching wall paper that has either been ripped or damaged is not a difficult task. There is some artistic requirements to the technique, however the proper patch will basically go unnoticed by the average observer of the wall paper installation. I have found that it is much easier to glue the patch over the top of the damaged wall covering. I will cut away and neaten the edges of the removed portion of the damaged wall covering first. Make sure that the perimeter of the removed section is firmly glued down and adhered to the substrate. You do not want the edges of the cut out wall covering to come lose, and raise the new patch. The cutting of the patch is where the artistic talent is required. Carefully cut the patch to overlap the cut out portion of the damaged wall covering in a careful manner to allow matching of the patterns. This is important! The patch must match the pattern, if it does not, then the patch will be extremely visible.

The installation of wall paper is a very self satisfying activity. Your efforts will show for years to come, and in most cases the compromises you were forced to make, overlapping, uneven borders, patches in the wallpaper, will only be known by you, the installer. Or, if you have a highly critical spouse of member of the family that enjoys identifying your screw ups, then the wall covering installation will never be good enough.

If none of this interests you in the least, there are several professional wall covering contractors that can be hired, at reasonable rates, to perform the work for you!

My choice? / Install it yourself! It is fun and will offer you satisfaction for years to come!