Tools & Materials
Line a room with wallpaper and you have instant decoration. From blah to bold in a matter of hours, paper can push boundaries beyond what paint can do. It enlivens walls with textures or patterns or both—your choice. And as a bonus, it masks minor imperfections in plaster and drywall, too.
But as often as homeowners attempt to hang paper themselves, they rarely get it right, cursing their peeling seams and mismatched patterns—it’s enough to drive you up a wall. Enter John Gregoras, a pro paper hanger from Somers, New York, with nearly two decades’ experience. We asked Gregoras to demonstrate a few of his best wallpapering tips and tricks for pasting, hanging, aligning, and trimming. And, boy, did we learn a lot – everything from how he plans the layout to how he lines up the last seam. With this kind of insider know-how, papering just got a whole lot easier.
Best Wallpaper Techniques Overview
Layout is the key when you’re learning how to hang wallpaper. Paying attention to the order in which the paper goes up ensures that your pattern will stay well-matched and look straight. John Gregoras recommends working in one direction around the room to keep the pattern consistent.
But no matter how good your technique, the pattern between the first and last strip will rarely match up. For that reason, Gregoras always starts his job behind a door, papering out from the corner until he reaches the space above the door— the least conspicuous spot in the room.
Very often, the last strip of paper on a wall isn’t a full sheet. So another wallpapering tip Gregoras uses is to always paper the corners with split sheets.
Click button on top right to enlarge illustration.
Apply Wallpaper Paste
Paint the whole room with a wall primer/sizer.
Unroll the wallpaper. As you do, check for defects and drag the paper against the edge of your worktable to take away the curl.
Cut the paper into sheets 4 inches longer than the height of your walls. Cut in the same place on the repeat so patterns on adjacent sheets will line up.
Lay a cut sheet on the table, face down. Using a paint roller, apply a thin film of clear premixed wallpaper paste on the back of the paper.
Tip: Don’t allow paste to get on the table or it will mar the next sheet (wipe it off with a barely damp sponge if it does). Slide the paper all the way to the edge of the table to apply paste to the ends and edges.
Book the Paper
Fold the pasted back of the paper onto itself, top and bottom ends meeting in the middle. Make sure the side edges line up perfectly. Smooth the paper onto itself as much as you can without creasing the folds.
Set the paper aside to allow the paste to soak in and the paper to relax. Be sure to follow the exact booking time recommended on the wallpaper’s label, which differs depending on its content (more for vinyl-coated wallcoverings, less for uncoated papers).
Align First Strip
Start in a corner near a door. If the door is far from the corner, draw a reference line parallel to the door near the corner.
Unfold the top of the booked paper and hang it on the wall. Overlap about 2 inches at the ceiling and 1/8 inch in the corner. Lightly press it in place.
Unfold the bottom of the book and let it hang. Check the measurement between the paper and the door casing or reference line. Adjust the paper to keep it parallel to the door but still overlapping at least ⅛ inch in the corner.
Tuck and Trim the Paper
Once the sheet is aligned, use the edge of a paper smoother to tuck the paper into the corner at the ceiling. Then, working from the top down, sweep the smoother over the entire sheet. (Don’t press so hard that you push out glue.)
Trim the excess paper at the ceiling: Push a 6-inch taping knife into the joint between the wall and ceiling. Using a razor, cut above the knife to trim off the excess. Work slowly. Alternate between cutting and moving the knife. Do not slide the razor and knife together. Continue papering to a point above the door.
On the adjacent wall, draw a plumb line (if there’s no door or window).
Hang a strip in the corner. Overlap the existing piece on the adjacent wall by 1/8 inch. Measure to the plumb line and adjust the paper to keep the distance equal. Smooth the paper. Trim at the ceiling and trim the corner.
Hang the next strip of paper. Unfold the top of the book and place it on the wall. Match the pattern as closely as possible, leaving just a hair’s breadth between the sheets.
Tip: Push air bubbles out by sweeping the paper smoother from the center out to the edges. Wipe off paste on the surface with a sponge.
Close the Seams
Lightly press the top of the paper to the wall. Then lightly roll the seam with a seam roller to flatten down the edges. Now use the tips of your fingers to push the seam closed.
Unfold the bottom of the sheet and finish matching and closing the seam. Then tightly roll down the entire seam, working a full 3 inches in from the edge. This locks the seam, keeping it from opening as you smooth the paper.
Smooth the whole sheet. Continue papering the room, overlapping and trimming corners as shown in Step 5.
Tip: If the booked end of the strip starts to dry out before you hang it, wipe the wall with a damp sponge. This will remoisten the paste when you hang the paper.
Cut in Around Moldings
At doors and windows, let the paper overlap the molding by at least an inch.
Using the razor, make a relief cut in the paper. Carefully run the razor from the molding corner out to the edge of the paper. Use the molding as a guide.
Press the cut edge tight in the joint between the molding and the wall.
Trim the excess paper flap with a taping knife and razor. Smooth down the whole sheet.
Tip: Mistakes are inevitable when you’re learning how to hang wallpaper. Hide small cutting errors on darker papers by coloring the wall or the white edge of the paper with a marker that matches the paper. Some pros even color all the paper’s edges so seams are not as evident should the paper shrink as it dries.
Paper the cover plates of electrical fixtures to make them disappear. Cut a piece of wallpaper larger than the plate. Cut from the part of the pattern that matches the paper on the wall around the switch.
Apply paste to the plate, then lay it face down on the paper. Hold them both on the wall and adjust the paper to match the pattern on the wall.
Hold the paper and turn the plate face down. Cut off the corners 1/8 inch away from the plate. Wrap the paper over the plate and tape it on.
Cut out the switch or receptacle holes with a razor. Make Xs at the screw holes. Screw the plates back on the wall.