Can the average do-it-yourselfer hang wallpaper?

Is Hanging Wallpaper a DIY Job?

by Dollar Stretcher Contributors

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Is It a DIY Job?

Cheap and Easy Wall Decorating

Can We Do This?

We'd like to wallpaper our kitchen, but we can't really afford a professional. Is that something that we can do ourselves? We are not very handy, but we can measure and cut. What other skills would we need? Are there any special (or expensive) tools involved? Do you have any tips to make the job easier?

Start Small when Hanging Wallpaper

It is not difficult to wallpaper nor is it expensive, if you shop carefully. To keep expenses down, one idea is to wallpaper only one or two walls of a room as an accent.

You will need enough wallpaper to match seams. Small prints or stripes are most frugal because matching is simple. You will need an inexpensive wallpaper kit, which consists of a water tray, a brush, and a seam roller.

I always use my own paste, even if the paper is pre-pasted. Measure and carefully cut and then paste your first strip around a corner, following the instructions that come with your paper. For the most professional look, butt the edges together rather than overlapping them, using the brush and roller to smooth out any bubbles.

Vinyl is more durable and easier to hang than actual paper.

Try a small bathroom or a ceiling border first. Many libraries and online resources show how to wallpaper properly.
Barbara in CT

Need Patience

Yes! Jump right in. Most of the supplies you need you already have. You'll need a tray to soak the wallpaper in (I use the bathtub), a chalk line (or a level for small spaces), a small cloth, warm water, tape measure, single-edge razor blades, and room to spread out. There's no need for fancy equipment. I'd start with vinyl wallpaper, since it tears less easy. There are lots of tutorials on the internet, but the basics are common sense. I actually prefer to wallpaper by myself if possible, as this is one project that can wear some people's nerves (my husband's for one). Patience is really all you need. And don't sweat the small stuff. I promise that the small imperfections are not noticeable once you finish.

Stay Away from Patterns

Go to the home improvement store and buy something called Wall Covering Adhesive . It comes in either a powder that you mix with water or pre-mixed. "Paint" this on the walls where you are going to paper. It will help the adhesive stick better. Also, try to buy pre-pasted wallpaper. Cut the paper leaving a few inches that can be trimmed once on the wall. Fill the bathtub with a few inches of water. Lay the paper in and get it wet, so the paste activates. Take the paper out and put the glued sides together. This helps the paste activate as well. When you put the paper on the wall, use a sponge to get the air bubbles out. Press firmly but gently on the paper, so it will stick. Pay special attention to the edges, making sure they are flat.

Also, it helps if you choose a paper that does not have a pattern that needs to match up. You will save money this way, as you don't have to cut away at the paper in order to match the pattern.
Lisa in Long Island, NY

Hanging Wallpaper Is Not for the Faint of Heart

There is some skill in hanging wallpaper, but the tools are inexpensive. You will need a wallpaper brush, paste, seam roller, spirit level, measuring tape, bucket and sponge, box of safety razor blades, straight edge, plastic smoothing tool, and a soaking container. Most of these tools can be found at your local dollar store.

An experienced friend or relative should be recruited for your first attempt, but after that, you will be good to go for many rooms and more difficult projects.

A good first project is a single plain wall with no cutouts. A first paper choice that does not have a pattern match will make life easier. Many people pre-paint the wall in a matching color, so that if the seams separate, it does not show. Look for a good quality heavy paper for your first attempt, as the cheaper stuff tears easily. Most stores have sale bins at about $3 per roll and even dollar stores and thrift shops often carry it.

This is not a job for the faint of heart, but practice does make perfect.

Novice Can Hang Wallpaper

Yes, even a novice can do a good job hanging wallpaper. It just takes a lot of patience. You will not be as fast as a professional is. It can be messy, but you can clean up as you go.

I taught myself to hang wallpaper by just doing it as a young single woman. One of the things I found that helped was to use paste even if it was pre-pasted paper. Wall preparation is important. A painted wall often has texture to it that needs to be sanded smooth. Again, it's messy. Use a professional sizing product, so at some point, it will be easier to remove. I had a home once where the wallpaper had been directly applied to bare sheetrock. Removing the old would totally have destroyed the sheetrock, so I ended up papering over the old paper (not the preferred thing to do).

The right tools are essential and are usually not expensive. A brush for the paste doesn't have to be as good a quality as a brush for painting. Garage sales can be a good source of used materials.

Wallpaper is not as popular today as it was 25 years ago, but there still may be seminars offered in your local hardware or paint store. Any place that sells wallpaper should also be able to offer tips on doing it yourself. I'd also look on the internet and YouTube for potential sources of help.

Just give yourself lots of time. Don't make the mistake of thinking you will spend a quick afternoon and have it all done. Start with your easiest wall. Be very careful about planning to match patterns. Corners need a little advanced planning too. The hardest part for me (but not insurmountable at all) was doing bathrooms. Small areas with lots of cutouts for fixtures made it more difficult.

Here's another tip for when you are finished. Leftover wallpaper can make great wrapping paper for gifts.

Check sale prices for Wallpaper Tools on Amazon.

Start at the Library

Hanging wallpaper is a skill that can be learned. Things that can affect the level of difficulty are the pattern of the paper, the finish of the paper, and the wall you are hanging the paper on. For beginners, it's especially important to choose pre-pasted wallpaper.

Start by visiting your public library for videos and books on hanging wallpaper. Another great learning resource is the big box home improvement stores. Many of them offer classes and advice for various home improvement projects. You can also find lots of video tips online on sites such as YouTube.

You will need a level, measuring tape, a wallpaper trough, a straight edge the width of the paper, a utility knife with extra blades, a seam roller, a smoothing brush, and a large flat work table.

Like painting, one of the keys to a successful job is preparation. You need to make sure the walls you are going to apply the wallpaper to are clean and ready to receive the paper. The wallpaper itself will usually also have instructions on requirements, which sometimes includes priming, sizings, sanding, and more.

Since you've mentioned that this is a kitchen project, be sure to pick wallpaper that will stand up to the environment. This is particularly important if you don't have an exhaust fan over your stove (most folks have no idea how much grease is really floating around in the air in their kitchen until they wash the walls and cabinets).

As a final thought, consider various paint finishes as an alternative to wallpaper as it's generally much cheaper and easier to update in a few years when you're in need of a change.

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