Selection, Wall Preparation & Hanging
How can you make a small room feel more spacious, a large unmanageable room feel cozy, or even the most drab and lifeless room feel alive with depth and color? Aside from knocking down walls and raising the roof, try hanging some wallpaper. Wallpaper can do wonders to spice up the appearance of virtually any space in your home. Furthermore, wallpaper comes in as many different patterns, materials, and finishes as there are tastes. Whereas any paper can be applied over any wall in the home, there are area-specific papers. For example, vinyl paper should be used in rooms where there is a tremendous amount of moisture like the kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room. Vinyl papers are the most moisture resist¬ant and make for easy clean up.
Other types of paper to chose from are fabrics, foils, flocks, grasscloth, and thin veneers of cork or natural wood. Paper can be coordinated with fabric for furnishings or window coverings. It can also be coordinated with paint and flooring to really “pull together” all of the decorating elements of a room.
As with painting, preparation accounts for the better part of the job. For this reason, great care should be taken to ensure that the walls in question are smooth and clean prior to installing the wallpaper. If the wall is cur¬rently papered, the paper should be removed for better adhesion and a superior finished product.
If the wall has a smooth glossy finish, it should be washed with a solution of TSP, lightly sanded with 120 grit sandpaper, and painted with a coat of an oil-base primer/sealer. Unpainted plaster or wallboard, or latex-coated sur¬faces should be painted with an oil-base primer/sealer as well. The oil-base primer will seal the walls and minimize the amount of moisture absorbed by the wallboard from the paste.
Less-than-perfect wall finishes should first be covered with a lining paper. Lining paper simply serves as a foundation for the new paper. It will level out the wall and conceal any blemishes. As a matter of fact, lining paper is recommended for certain wallpapers like foil and silk, for example.
Having the proper paper hanging tools is essential to making the endeavor a success. Many home improvement centers or paint and wallpaper specialty stores carry inexpensive paper hanging kits which contain a majority of the tools required. Most kits sell for under $15.00 and contain a pasting brush, a smoothing brush, a razor knife, razor blades, a seam roller, and a plumb bob.
Other tools and equipment required to make the job go smoothly are as follows: a large pair of scissors, a tape measuring tape, a pencil, a water trough, a five gallon bucket, a sponge, a spring clamp, a twelve to sixteen inch straightedge, a step ladder and last, but certainly not least, a pasting table. We will refer to each of these throughout this column to further clarify how each is involved in the process.
Start by setting up your work area. If you will be working in a room where the flooring is in place you’ll want to be sure cover it with a canvas drop cloth. Next set up your pasting table. An old door placed on a couple of saw horses is all that’s required here. Professional paper hangers prefer light¬weight portable tables. These can be costly and will only pay for themselves if used often.
It goes without saying that the wallpaper should be hug straight. Therefore, a plumb line establishing true vertical should be made on the wall as a guide for the first coarse of paper. This can be done with a plumb bob or with a level and a pencil. The line should be as light as possible since dark lines may show through some papers.
Paper can be purchased prepasted or with paste. We suggest that paste be used even if the paper is prepasted to ensure the best bond. In as much as paste is concerned our preference is for a mildew resistant vinyl paste. It is stronger than most other pastes and especially useful in damp areas like kitchens, baths, and laundry rooms.
Each length of paper should be cut about four inches longer than the distance from the ceiling to the top of baseboard. Once cut, prepasted paper should be rolled pattern sine 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 a more neat and easy operation. Additional paste should then be applied with the pasting brush or a paint roller with a heavy nap roller cover. It is not necessary to run unpasted 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 the ends of the paper meet in the middle. This process call “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 ten minutes.
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 excess at the top. You’ll find that the paper can be easily manipulated along the wall as you align it with the plumb line previously made. Once the top section has been aligned with the plumb line it should be smoothed with a damp sponge or the smoothing brush working form the cent to the edges. Repeat this process for the bottom half of the paper.
The second and each successive strip of paper should be prepared and hung like the first and should be butt 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 where patterned paper is concerned. 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 will find that changing blades frequently will make the job of trimming much easier.
Finally, after all of the paper has been hung, it should be wiped down with a damp sponge and warm water, ringing the sponge out frequently.