When Eric and I moved in, these walls had traces of old wallpaper remnants, and the door was off white. I knew that someday I wanted to give this area fresh wallpaper and new door paint, and someday finally arrived this year. Woohoo!
Here’s the before and after…
If you’ve been wanting to try hanging wallpaper, I encourage you to go for it. Turn up the music, take it slow, and follow these steps to update a room or entryway with new wallpaper.
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- Pre-pasted wallpaper (see note below about how much to order)
- Tape measure
- Painter’s tape
- Drop cloth and/or brown packing paper (as needed to protect surrounding area)
- Skim coat (you should be able to find pre-mixed drywall skim coat at the hardware store, or just water down some joint compound until you get a pancake consistency)
- Smoothing tool
- Tub of water for soaking wallpaper
- Wallpaper brush
- Utility knife with extra carbide blades
- Trim Guard
- Bucket of fresh water for sponge
- Seam roller
- Tube of wallpaper glue
How Much Wallpaper to Order
To determine how much wallpaper you need, figure out the square footage of the walls you want to cover by multiplying their height and width, and then adding around 15% extra to cover waste.
My walls are about 50 square feet total, and each roll of my chosen wallpaper covers 56 square feet, so I ordered two rolls to make sure I had enough.
The amount of waste depends on how often the pattern repeats and how many sheets you think you might accidentally tear and discard in the process.
Our wallpaper pattern repeated every 21 inches, so we had up to 21 inches of waste every time we lined up adjacent sheets. We ended up using part of the second roll.
How to Prepare Your Walls for Wallpaper
Before you start applying wallpaper, remove any outlet covers or other obstructions and wipe down your walls with a damp cloth. If your walls are smooth and have a layer of paint or primer (not exposed drywall), you can start wallpapering now and skip the rest of this section. Lucky!
More likely, your walls have some texturing. You can smooth them out with a few layers of skim coat and seal them with a primer. Here’s how it’s done.
- PROTECT AREA: Use a drop cloth on the floor, and tape off anything you don’t want to get skim coat on, like an adjoining wall, chimney or door frame.
- APPLY SKIM COAT: Use a smoothing tool to apply your first layer of skim coat, covering the entire area. Let it dry, and repeat with additional layers of skim coat until your walls are smooth.
- PAINT WALLS: Seal your walls with a primer.
My wallpaper brand recommended letting the primer cure for 30 long days before applying the wallpaper. I counted down the days until I could finally hang wallpaper on a happy day in mid-January.
How to Hang Pre-Pasted Wallpaper
After your primer has fully cured, you can start applying wallpaper. These are the basic steps. I recommend you read through the steps and then check out the tips and troubleshooting ideas below before you get started.
1. Mark Plumb Line
Use a pencil and level to mark out a plumb line. This is a straight vertical line that will guide how your sheets of wallpaper get placed. Since houses shift, walls usually aren’t perfectly square, but your wallpaper can be if you follow your plumb line.
(Note: This is less important for the Sputnik style wallpaper I used and more important for wallpaper with a geometric or striped pattern that needs to stay level across your room. Another reason to love that fun mid-century starburst style!)
2. Cut New Sheet
Cut a sheet of wallpaper to the height of the wall plus an extra two inches on the top and bottom for wiggle room. For the first sheet, start with the wall next to your plumb line. For the remaining sheets, line up the pattern before you decide where to cut.
Soak the sheet in your water tub for 10 seconds, or whatever time your specific wallpaper brand requires. If your sheet is longer than your tub you can “book” it—gently fold the glue sides together without creasing, and then set it in the water, making sure all sections get soaked.
Remove your sheet from the water, let the excess water drip off and then place your sheet on the wall. For the first sheet, you’ll line up with your plumb line. For the rest of the sheets, you’ll line up with the pattern of the adjacent sheet.
Use your wallpaper brush to brush the wallpaper into place, helping the glue adhere.
Use your smoothing tool to smooth out any bubbles.
7. Cut Excess
When the wallpaper is in place and can hold itself to the wall, use a razor blade to cut the excess paper off of the top and bottom of the sheet. It helps to use a painter’s trim guard as a guide.
8. Sponge Off Glue
Use a damp sponge to gently wipe down the sheet of wallpaper and remove any glue before it dries onto the wallpaper.
Repeat steps 2-8 until your walls are covered.
10. Touch Up
Let your wallpaper dry overnight, then check the seams and add wallpaper glue as needed to seal up any loose edges.
Wallpaper Tips and Troubleshooting
These tips and troubleshooting ideas might come in handy along the way.
- WORK SLOWLY: You can do this if you take it step by step and work slowly. If you try to move quickly, you risk tearing the wallpaper. The glue takes a long time to dry, so there’s no need to rush.
- PROTECT NEARBY AREAS: Use brown packing paper to protect adjacent areas from glue. We taped paper over our nearby chimney and wood wall.
- CONSIDER SEAM PLACEMENT: Our entryway had several skinny strips of walls between the door, window and closet. We didn’t want long seams running down the skinny walls, so we marked out where to place each strip of wallpaper to keep most of the seams in the shorter sections, like above the door and window. You might want to do the same when you’re deciding where to place your starting plumb line.
- USE A SPRAY BOTTLE: You might want to keep a spray bottle filled with water nearby. Then if you’re in the middle of applying a sheet of wallpaper and you notice one section isn’t wet enough, you can soak it down on the spot to activate the glue.
- PLACE A WOOD BLOCK IN THE WINDOW: Lining up a seam around a window? You can place a wood block on the window ledge to create a flat surface rather than trying to line up the seams with the wallpaper dangling in the air.
- USE THE SEAM ROLLER: The seam roller tool is helpful for rolling over your seams as well as around doors and windows to help your wallpaper edges adhere well without tearing.
- KEEP FRESH SPONGE WATER: Change your sponge water frequently to keep the water glue free.
- USE LOTS OF RAZOR BLADES: Change your razor blades frequently to get the cleanest cuts. You’ll notice the blades go dull pretty quickly, and they really need to be sharp for cutting paper.
- WAIT TO CUT AROUND DOORS AND WINDOWS: We chose to let our wallpaper dry overnight before cutting the two-inch overhang around the door, closet and window. This way the wallpaper hardened and secured in place, making it easier to cut.
- REMOVE AIR BUBBLES WITH A HAIR DRYER: If you notice air bubbles in your wallpaper after it has already dried, don’t worry. We had a couple of bubbles and managed to get rid of them. Use a hair dryer on the area for several minutes to reactivate the glue, and then use your smoothing tool to gently guide each bubble to the nearest seam where it can escape. You might want to test the hair dryer on a scrap sheet of wallpaper first to make sure it won’t leave a burn mark. This wallpaper held up fine under the heat, and the bubbles are history. Whew!
Wallpaper might fall in and out of fashion, but I think it always looks good in a mid-century home. With a little work and patience, it can turn a drab room into something special. I hope you’ll try it out!
You might also like these home improvement ideas:
- Where to find mid-century modern light fixtures
- How to install a floating cork floor
- DIY tricks for installing your own kitchen tile backsplash