DO-IT-YOURSELF : How to Get the Hang of Wallpaper

From Associated Press

No house has perfectly vertical walls. If wall coverings are to look natural, they must be hung against a plumb line.

To make a plumb line, rub a string with colored chalk and tack it to the top of the wall. Then attach a plumb bob (or other small weight) to the loose end. Holding the bob where it falls naturally, pull the cord taut. Then pull it and let it go, snapping it against the wall. The string will chalk a perfectly vertical line as it hits the wall.

After walls have been prepared properly for papering, the usual place to put the first strip of wallpaper is next to a doorway. At a doorway, the pattern mismatch between the first and last strips will be most inconspicuous. From the doorway, work to the right if you are right-handed and to the left if you are left-handed, going around the room.


With a large or very definite wallpaper design, it is usually desirable to create a center of interest over a fireplace, between two windows or directly above a sofa. In such a case, make the center of this area the starting point, and work out on both sides toward a mismatch next to a doorway.

Plumb at Corners

Your first wall plumb line will be a guide for aligning the first strip of wall coverings you put up. Strike the plumb line a wall covering strip’s width minus one-half inch from the doorway starting point. Each time you turn a corner, create a new plumb line to get a fresh alignment. Corners are never perfectly square and usually require a little fudging.

Cut the first strip of wall covering four to six inches longer than the height of the wall to provide two- to three-inch allowances at the top and bottom. Hold the cut piece up to ensure that it is the proper length and that it is a pleasing pattern placement.

Then lay the cut piece, pattern side down, on the pasting table. Coat the upper two-thirds of the strip with paste and fold it over itself, paste side in. Be careful not to crease it. Coat the lower third; fold it up. This is called “booking” the strip. Wait five minutes. Open the top fold, align its edge on the chalk line and smooth it on with a wall covering smoothing brush. Then unfold and smooth the lower part.

Smooth from the center out to remove all wrinkles and air pockets. Wrap the one-half-inch excess onto the door frame and trim it off. Trim the strip at top and bottom. Make all visible cuts with a craft knife or a single-edge razor blade guided by a wide wall board taping knife; change blades often.

If you are working with pre-pasted wall covering, roll up the cut strip with the pattern side in. Place it in a tray filled with water and soak as directed. You may be able to hang the strip directly from the water tray or you may have to book it as described above. Follow the manufacturer’s directions.


Making Seams

Cut and hang the remaining strips on the wall. Align each strip along the previous strip’s edge, matching the patterns. Push new strip against the previous strip’s edge slightly so that the two form a slight ridge; it will flatten as the paper dries. After 10 minutes, press the seam with your seam roller. On vinyl paper, double cut a seam. To do this, overlap the edges and slice through both layers. Then pull off the waste pieces and smooth the seam.

Turning Corners

As you near a corner, measure the distance from the edge of the last whole strip to the corner in several places. Add one-half inch to the largest measurement and cut a strip of wall covering to that width, saving the second section. Hand first section around the corner, pressing it into the angle.

On the other wall, snap a plumb line at a distance from the corner equal to the width of the second section of the cut wall covering strip. Align this section with the plumb line and let it overlap the first section. (For overlapped vinyl, use special vinyl-to-vinyl adhesive or it won’t stick properly.)

On outward-projecting corners, cut the first piece to go around the corner one inch. Then plumb and hang the other piece one-half inch from the corner, overlapping the first piece.

At a door or a window, paste the strip over the frame. Make a diagonal relief cut in the wall covering at each frame corner. Then trim.