How to Hang Wallpaper

Wallpaper – is it in? Is it out? No idea. All I know is that wallpaper can really transform a room…or in my case a hallway. I knew I wanted to wallpaper my hallway. I’m terrible with mixing patterns and I can never decide on a direction with my “decorating” in other rooms – so I figured I couldn’t mess up decorating a hallway. I mean – it only contains walls. So I begged, pleaded and whined to get my mom to help me with hanging wallpaper. She eventually caved and showed me her wallpapering ways. In the end…I am in LOVE with my beautiful hallway. In the end – she said she will never do this again. BUT that shouldn’t discourage you – she says this about everything. Here’s how to hang wallpaper:

Wallcovering Primer/Sealer
Wallpaper (measure square footage of area and account for waste and pattern repeat)
Wallpaper Adhesive (if your paper is not pre-pasted)
Paint Roller (if your paper is not pre-pasted) & tray
Tape Measure
Plastic Smoothing Tool
Seam Roller
Razor Blades
6″ inch Putty knife or straight edge
Step ladder

Wall Preparation

It may seem as though you need a lot of materials. And you do – but chances are you already have most of these items (tape measure, level, scissors, clean sponge etc). The actual wallpaper materials are fairly inexpensive. Those items are the seam roller, clean razor blades, plastic smoothing tool and 6″ straight edge. The wallpaper will be your most expensive item. Having a professional hang wallpaper could cost hundreds even thousands depending on the size of your room. So “doing-it-yourself” is definitely the way to go.

Prior to getting started you’ll want to use joint compound to fill in any cracks and/or holes in your walls. You’ll want to scrape and/or sand down rough spots and bumps. You want your walls as smooth and clean as possible. 

Next, you’ll want to use a wallcovering primer on your walls. This is also called, Sizing.  Sizing creates a glossy surface on your wall. This will make it much easier for you to move the wallpaper around when you’re installing. It will also help the wallpaper grip to the wall better, and make it easier to peel the wallpaper off should you decide to remove it later. Apply the wallcovering primer to the wall like paint, using a paint roller.

Wallpaper Preparation

Now you’re ready to prepare the wallpaper for application. Read the instructions on your wallpaper to determine if you have pre-pasted or non-pasted wallpaper. Some wallpaper comes pre-pasted, meaning that you won’t need to use the wallpaper adhesive, paint roller or paint tray. You will, however, need to use a wallpaper tray (you could also use your bathtub), which holds water for wetting pre-pasted strips. In our case, we had non-pasted paper and needed the adhesive.

Determine where you’re going to start hanging your wallpaper. We recommend picking a corner or over a door way. Keep in mind that your paper has a pattern and you will have “waste” because you’ll have to match the pattern.  To start draw a level line down your wall to act as a guide.

Use scissors to cut the wallpaper (prior to wetting or pasting) to your measured wall length. In our case – we were wallpapering from the ceiling to the chair rail. For the first sheet – leave about 3 inches of extra paper on the top and the bottom when making the cut.

Next, lay the strip of wallpaper face down on your work surface. We used a kitchen island (keep in mind you will need to get this area very clean – so wipe up the glue after each application). Use a paint roller to apply adhesive to the back of your wallpaper.

You will now “book” the pasted paper. “Booking ” is the process of folding paper over and allowing the glue to activate before application. Gently fold the top section to the middle of the sheet then fold the bottom end to meet the middle. Allow the paper to rest in this “booked” position for 10 minutes.

Hanging the Wallpaper

1. Make sure your pattern is right side up. Unfold the top half of the wallpaper strip and apply to the wall, letting the extra 3 inches of the wallpaper overlap the ceiling and extra 3 inches to fall passed the chair rail (or baseboard).

2. Slide the paper into position so it lines up on the level line that you created.

3. Gently unfold the bottom half and smooth into place

4. Using the plastic smoothing tool, gently press the strip to the wall.

5. Smooth the entire strip, working diagonally from the center outward, forcing out any air pockets.

6. Hold paper at the ceiling in place with 6″ straight edge knife.  Slice paper with a razor blade or utility knife. Repeat at the bottom of the paper. Cutting wallpaper can easily dull blades so replace blades often.

7. Wipe off excess paste with a damp sponge and clean water. Remember to always use clean water and rinse sponge out thoroughly to remove glue.


To install the next strip of paper make sure to match the pattern to the previous strip prior to cutting wallpaper. Add an additional 3 inches of excess paper (above the pattern repeat). Repeat by applying adhesive and booking the paper.

Touch the edges tightly together, but don’t overlap the strips.

Smooth out air bubbles and wrinkles from the paper with a plastic smoothing tool.

Use a seam roller to press down the seams where strips of wallpaper meet.

Repeat Steps 6 (cutting the paper) and 7 (wiping up excess paste with a clean, damp sponge). Then repeat again and again and again…until it’s all done.

When going around doorways, window frames – you’ll also want to use your 6 inch straight edge and razor blades to accurately cut the paper around these areas.

Wallpapering an inside corner can be tricky – and I’m sure people have different ways of doing it. Here is a video to show the proper way.

I am so happy with how the wallpaper turned out! It’s such a showpiece in my home. It took a lot of time and there was a lot of my mom telling me, “never again” – but it was so worth it!


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