Wallpaper the Right Way
Installed correctly, this wall covering should last a lifetime and come off easily once it has worn out its welcome.
Synopsis: With wallpaper experiencing a resurgence, it’s a good time for a guide to paperhanging. John Clift, a professional paperhanger, shares his techniques for every step of the process: preparing the room, estimating and planning, hanging and smoothing the paper, dealing with out-of-plumb walls, handling inside and outside corners, and cutting around trim and junction boxes.
Wallpaper is trendy again, both with designers, who are speccing it more often, and with homeowners, who are drawn to the ever-growing range of designs, colors, and types popping up on home-improvement shows and social media. But hanging wallpaper isn’t a quick and easy job, and because today’s wallpapers are more expensive than the DIY products of decades past, making mistakes is costly. Too often, homeowners call me only after their project has gone south.
This isn’t to say that hanging wallpaper is out of the average person’s reach; it’s just more involved than many people realize. Along with an eye for detail, it takes preparation and planning to ensure that the job looks good and that it lasts. And if the paper is ever going to be removed or replaced, this prep work will make that future removal easier as well.
With so many different products available, it’s impossible to cover all of their various installation quirks in one fell swoop. But in 20 years of hanging wallpaper, I’ve found that some basics—things you need to do in order to do the job right—apply almost universally.
Ready the room
A key to good-looking wallpaper—and to ensure its future removability—is wall preparation. Wallpaper can’t hide irregularities in walls, so repair any imperfections to provide a smooth plane for the paper to cling to. Walls must be clean, dry, structurally sound, and generally free of stains. Remove all switch and outlet covers, as well as wall-mounted fixtures. Lightly sand painted or primed walls with 120-grit sandpaper to rough up the surface and remove any small bumps.
To help the paper stick and aid its removal down the road, the next step is critical. Sizing—or priming—the walls creates a better bond between the paper and the wall and makes wallpaper removable. For walls that are damaged—say, from the removal of old wallpaper—I like to use Gardz Problem Surface Sealer. When the walls are in good shape, as they were in this house, I prefer Roman Rx-35.
Roll and brush the sizing on just as you would do with paint to get an even, thin coat over the entire surface, and let it dry completely before hanging the wallpaper. Sizing feels slightly tacky when dry.
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