Hanging Prepasted Wallpaper: Tips + Resources

By Kate Riley October 29, 2014

I adore a fabulous wallpaper, the modern prints are a fantastic way to add texture, glamour, or drama with a colorful or metallic pattern. Compared to stenciling, wallpaper is limited by its colorways and more expensive, but the look is really beautiful especially with the new contemporary metallic or intricate patterns.

This bathroom makeover was my second time hanging prepasted wallpaper by myself  and the task is not as difficult as you might think! With the right supplies you can hang prepasted wallpaper without professional help. The process is drippy and wet (wear your sloppy clothes) and it takes some time, but once you get the hang of it (ha!) you’ll find it’s not as intimidating as you may think.

Wallpapers come in different versions: some are prepasted, some are unpasted, and some are peel off/removable. The prepasted versions work like this: once the paper is moistened with water, the adhesive is activated and you have time to hang the paper straight, reposition if necessary, and smooth out any bubbles.

tips for hanging prepasted wallpaper

 

1) Pick Your Paper.  Styles and costs vary, and choosing a paper is a personal choice, but when you find one that calls your name, go for it !

Here are a dozen favorite sources for modern papers:

graham and brown wallpaper

hygge and west

thibaut

Graham & Brown

Hygge + West

Thibaut

anthro wallpaper

ferm

design your wall

Anthropologie

Ferm Living

Design Your Wall

spoonflower prints

cole son wallpaper

dec best

Spoonflower

Cole & Son

Decorator’s Best

wallpaper collective

inside wallpaper

walnut papers

Wallpaper Collective

Inside Wallpaper

Walnut Wallpaper

2) Prep The Walls.  Flat wallpapers with just pattern (and not texture) lay best on smooth walls since texture will show underneath the paper. In our bathroom, we had the walls retextured so they were perfectly smooth, but in homes where orange peel, knockdown texture, or other rough wall surfaces exist, there are two ways to get them smooth enough to install wallpaper.

You can retexture the walls so that they are smooth with joint compound with a few light coats (sand in between) and then prime them in preparation. Or you can purchase and hang prepasted lining paper underneath to prep the walls, this product is affordable and has good reviews, but there are other similar options available. Also, the walls should be primed so that the wallpaper adheres well. Remove all light fixtures, electrical plates, art, shelving, or anything else that will interrupt the application of your paper.

Supplies You’ll Need: canvas tarp for floor; prepasted wallpaper; bathtub or long wallpaper tray for moistening paper; level; pencil; plastic smoothing tool like this; stepladder; large sponge; sharp scissors.

3) Understand the Instructions. All prepasted wallpapers come with instructions and they will guide you through the steps of hanging the paper yourself. Most of them I followed, some I tweaked, here are some techniques I found worked best.

No walls are ever perfectly straight but rather than hang your paper in alignment with the (likely slightly crooked) walls, it’s important to hang your paper so that it’s straight according to a level. Many wallpaper manufacturers recommended using a plumb line and chalk which is fine; I thought it was far simpler to use the level and draw a long line with a pencil down the wall. For the first strip, anticipate you’ll need to align the paper to the pencil line and also allow some overlap onto an adjacent wall.

level and smoothing tool

4) Measure and Cut. A paper with a complex or offset pattern with a large repeat will require very careful measurement before cutting to match up the edges, a straight match print with a smaller repeat is more forgiving. Always allow a few extra inches at the top and bottom for trimming and perfect alignment between strips.

5) Activate the Adhesive. There are two ways to activate the paste on the back of the paper, by soaking a paint roller with water and rolling it over the entire strip of paper, but this requires a long work surface. The alternative is to roll the paper in reverse so that the pattern is on the inside and dip it in room temperature water in a bathtub or wallpaper tray which is what I did, unrolling and rerolling with the pattern on the inside. Wait the required time recommended (often just 3-5 minutes) before applying the paper to the wall.

reverse roll

 

6) Hang Slowly. You can cut ahead but only hang one piece at a time and after a few strips I found I needed to take a break. Better to do it right than rush it!

Once the paper is up, double check that it is straight with the level and use the plastic tool to carefully smooth out any bubbles. Some instructions or tutorials recommend a seam roller for smoothing the seam edges when the strips are next to each other, I didn’t use one, I used my index finger to align the wallpaper’s edges and followed up with the smoothing tool which worked fine to connect the edges and smooth them together. This less than $2 plastic smoothing tool I found at Lowe’s was excellent, it was soft and flexible enough to not damage the paper, but stiff enough to flatten it against the walls.

smoothing tool and level

 

7) Trim Carefully. Some instructions recommend using a sharp razor blade to cut the excess paper, for me it worked just fine using the plastic tool to smooth the paper into place then score the edges where they met the ceiling. While the paper was still moist I peeled it back, trimmed it with sharp scissors where I had scored it, and then smoothed it back into place. If the wallpaper dries out, use a soaked sponge to rewet the paper so you can maneuver the edges back into place.

cut edge with sharp scissors

 

Wallpapering with prepasted wallpaper is a project you don’t need to complete all at once, I did this over the course of three days, a few strips at a time and the result is so pretty! Take a tour of the full bathroom here to see all the details and sources.

wallpapered bathroom

 

There are a lot of textured wallpaper patterns now available, how cool is this plank wood look pattern, it would look fab inside a bookcase or behind a bed!

plank wood look wallpaper

 

Get the look of classic painted white brick with white brick wallpaper (I just bought some for a future project!).

white brick wall

I have always loved grasscloth wallpaper, it is such a chic way to add texture to a space, but grasscloth is expensive. My favorite look of all is a contemporary wallpaper installed above traditional wainscoting like this, divine!

bari ikat thibaut

thibaut

Have you had your own DIY wallpaper hanging experience, either prepasted or unpasted? Got any tips to share?

35 comments

  1. I found it’s easier to use a razor blade when cutting if you let the paper completely dry first. No rips or tears.

  2. I love wallpaper & have been using it to decorate for years. Recently I had to remove some vinyl, prepasted wallpaper that had been put up in the hallway, kitchen & bathrooms 18 years ago. It was very easy to remove. The top part came off in large pieces & although it left most of the backing all I had to do to remove it was dampen with a wet sponge then just slide a flat trowel over it. Lastly I wiped the walls down. This is the only type of wallpaper I will ever use.

    • Isn’t it nice how easily the modern papers come off with a soaked sponge Tricia? I was surprised too! I look for the word “strippable” – another clue the paper will be easy to remove if you ever get tired of it.

  3. The white brick wallpaper looks great! I just love this minimalistic industrial design. I’m definitely going to try it for my living room. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Great job! I also think a box cutter/razor would work faster than scissors but whatever works best for you is what’s best. I want your gold bamboo mirror – where’d you find that?
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. I’ve hung lots of prepasted wallpaper! One tip I learned the hard way: don’t press/roll the edges too hard, or you’ll press out all the adhesive! Use a long carpenter’s level (I use a 48″) to find your plumb line. A short one is more likely to be a little bit off.

    • Thanks for sharing Peggy! I can’t ever get a blade to work perfectly for me Kathy, maybe mine have not been sharp enough? It always seems to tear the paper instead of slice clean through it when wet but as Joan pointed out, when dry a blade makes a perfect cut. I guess I’m too impatient to wait for the strip to dry!

  6. I did have a question for you. I have a small dining room that accommodates a rectangular table that seats 6 just fine and it also has a small sideboard. I had the idea of hanging wallpaper on the main wall so the room could feel layered, but wanted to just do half the wall and do a board and batten or maybe just a chair rail below. My question is, does one wall having that kind of molding make it look un-finished or would it make sense in the room? I feel like it’s too small to do the entire room since it would look too busy and it’s right off my living area and i want it to flow with the space.

    Thanks,
    Rita

  7. Wow! Your bathroom turned out awesome! btw, I really love how the brick and wood patterns look so real. I’m loving these all! thanks for sharing. I might just give wallpapering a try after reading this! lol

  8. Hi Kate! I LOVE LOVE LOVE this bathroom wallpaper!
    Yes, I have hung wall paper all of my life really. Being from back east where it is very popular, there must be 7-8 papers under the last one in our bedroom where I grew up haha. Here in Arizona, with the dry heat I had zero success with pre pasted. I switched to pasting them to the walls. (Even if they were pre pasted). The past is very easy to roll on. I just put it in a paint tray and roll it on….You didn’t mention “booking” your strip before hanging. Did you skip this step? It is where you fold the top and the bottom in onto the glued side of itself and wait a few minutes to really activate the glue, (pre pasted or not).
    Also on the razor thing ~ I buy the disposable ones that have several inside and are scored to be easily “snapped off” with pliers after each cut. Stays nice and sharp.
    Gearing up to wallpaper the dining room, but I’m on a spending freeze right now. LOL

  9. I used to sell wallpaper until 2009, so I have a lot of hanging experience from displays. You mentioned priming the wall (bravo!) but be sure it’s “wallpaper primer”. It has special additives for ease of both hanging and removing. We used 4′ levels and snap razor blades. Sometimes each cut required a new blade! If it tears the paper, it isn’t sharp enough. But thick papers, and some grasscloth can only be cut with utility knife or last resort, scissors.
    I’m loving the paper you chose, and glad that people still use wallpaper! I have always felt that you don’t need as much wall art if there’s wallpaper in a room, it dresses a space beautifully!

  10. wallpapers are back? my hubby will not be happy. rooms just look finished when papered and has its own character.

  11. You mentioned grasscloth, Kate, and it reminded me of your beautiful study. I don’t think we have seen that space in a while. What does it look like now?

  12. This post could not have come at a better time! I just picked up our wall paper and was planning to start googling tips and suggestions this weekend. Thanks for saving me some time and sharing these great steps (and with photos!) Much appreciated :)

  13. Just came over because I know you’re excited too! MADBUM for the WIN! The quest for three has been won! Us Giants fans are going nuts in my hood. Hope you’re celebrating too!

  14. Thank you thank you thankyou for this wonderful paste . Herein arizona we have textured walls and the labor to wallpaper a small section was really expensive . I didn’t know that lining paper existed. Did you know you are fabulous ?

  15. That fresh green is so inviting. I have a question. I want to change the kitchen wall behind my cooktop / under my hood fan. There is no backsplash as I like the counter meeting wall clean look. That said, is there a wall paper that can stand up to stove splatters and repeated washing?. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

  16. I love wallpaper! I’ve been wallpapering since I was about 10 years old (and I’m in my 50’s) with my grandmother who was a wallpaper freak!! You give so many good tips!! The keys are a sharp razor and a straight edge. I will crease with my fingernail first as I line everything up and then cut it wet. You must make sure the edges of the paper butt up together tight because as it dries it will shrink and you will have the wall showing. I’m so glad that wallpaper is having a come back, nothing adds more interest to a room! Love your blog!!

  17. I have to agree with the poster who mentioned booking the wallpaper and letting it activate. I have also found that some prepasted need paste too. That may depend on the quality of the paper itself. Priming the walls first is essential for easy removal later. A bathroom is a difficult first space to try due to all the angles and cutting in around objects not to mention the toilet. Easier if the toilet is removed but can be done around it. Not for the first time…go for more expansive areas with fewer cuts. I’ve been toying with changing the paper in my foyer but boy has it gotten expensive! And of course the one I like isn’t prepasted. Thanks for encouraging others to go for it!

  18. This is such a great FYI! I love wallpaper and find it so simple to dramatically change the appearance of any room. Thanks for sharing all of those helpful little hints that make it so much easier, even for a novice paper hanger!

  19. First – I love the green wallpaper you chose for the bathroom – so pretty!

    I too find it easier to smooth out the edges of the paper with my finger rather than a tool. I didn’t see this mentioned in your post but I have found that, depending on the pattern of the wallpaper and the layout of the room/wall, that you need to keep in mind where the centre of the room is – i.e. where you want to draw your eye to. I have found that a lot of wallpaper patterns look better by starting in the centre of the wall and moving outwards on either side.

    I also love the white brick wallpaper – so glad that it is back in style – I might try that soon. At my former home, the previous owner’s had red brick wallpaper (circa 1970s) around an old fireplace in the basement. Itlooked a bit odd when we decorated the room with light blue carpeting and pale blue walls and I didn’t know what state the wall was behind that paper so I painted the wallpaper white and individually painted each brick 2 shades of grey to mimic stone. It looked fabulous!

  20. I have worked with wallpaper for about 40 years. In the process if you do get an air bubble that you can’t get out, use a small straight pin and on the color portion (not white), you can make a tiny prick and work out the bubble.

  21. Love this post! And that bathroom you designed is stunning with that mirror! I especially love the idea of wallpaper that looks like white, painted brick! So cool! Thanks Kate, x Maria

  22. I highly recommend that sizing be applied to the walls before any paper is applied. Eventually someone will want to remove the paper and either paint or apply new paper and the sizing makes the removal process easier and more successful. Removing wallpaper without the sizing pretreatment can be a nightmare.

  23. My best trick is that I get a marker that matches the background to do touch up to any little places so the whitr wall doesn’t show through…not necessary when the background is white but having put up some chocolate colored paper I had a couple of tiny lines that had shrunk in when the paper dried and the seam just disappeared with a little touch up…

  24. Oh my goodness…I have papered a million miles and I am so glad it is “in” again. I love pretty paper. Pleased be warned to anyone papering…as will all projects, the bulk of your time seems to go into good prep work. Prepping your walls is so necessary for a beautiful finish. And sizing your walls is a must. I have also spent hours and hours removing paper that someone that put up without good prep work. It will not only will make you crazy, it will damage the wall board. Happy papering! ~Julie

  25. You know you’re getting old when things that went out are back in! When we bought our primary home thirty years ago, there was gold-foil-backed, olive-green velvet flocked wall paper in the foyer, dancing blue and orange skillets in the kitchen, pink rose borders everywhere and large, bumpy globs of spackle clumped around every picture hook. We steamed, we sprayed, we scraped, we sanded. That white wall liner you mentioned, Kate, saved us in multiple rooms. That stuff is amazing. (Yes, it does bubble up a little when you paint it, as a commenter mentioned on the sale site, but those bubbles dissipate as they dry, and leave a smooth, clean surface). Definitely invest the time to “size” the walls, even after using a prime coat. This adds slippability and makes removal a breeze. You know, when you get to be 50-something and wallpaper goes out again!

  26. Hi Kate,
    Have you tried putting the prepasted wallpaper on the textured wall. The wallpaper I am thinking of using is the prepasted faux grasscloth. My walls are textured and the quote I got to install from professional is much beyond my budget. So the DIYer in me kicking me to do it ourselves! Google threw me off of the grid with all the wall prep details. So looking for suggestions from one of the best I know :)

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