How to Wallpaper Like a Pro

Measure, cut, paste, repeat. Wallpapering is easy with our step-by-step guide. Pick a paper and get started.

wallpaper pattern and shelves

When a blank expanse of wall leaves you wanting something more, look no further than pretty paper! While the idea of wallpapering might make you nervous, paper selections have never been better, and the process is so easy. Just follow these steps to apply beautiful wallpaper in your favorite rooms.

Prepping the Walls

Wipe down the walls with a sponge and bucket of warm water. Let the walls dry thoroughly then sand away imperfections. Fill in uneven areas with drywall compound using a large putty knife. Let dry for 24 hours, then sand it smooth. Wipe the dust off walls with a damp sponge. Apply primer with a brush or roller to the walls to help the wallpaper stick. Use the large putty knife as a paint shield when working along trim. Let the primer dry for at least two hours before hanging wallpaper.

What You Need

  • Wallpaper, we used the Dotted Trellis design (DR6326) from York Wallcoverings
  • Stepladder
  • Measuring tape
  • Worktable
  • Pencil
  • Scissors
  • Newspaper or drop cloth
  • Wallpaper paste or adhesive (if wallpaper is not pre-pasted)
  • Water pan
  • Long level
  • Wallpaper brush
  • Straightedge (putty knife will do)
  • Utility knife
  • Sponge
  • Seam roller

Step 1: Measure and Mark

measuring wallpaper

Measure the wall from the ceiling to the top of the baseboard. Add 4 to 6 inches to that measurement so you can trim paper at the top and bottom for a snug fit. The extra length will also allow you to match the pattern as you work around the room. (If you have a large pattern repeat, experiment with matching the pattern before you start cutting. You may need to cut the paper even longer.) Roll out wallpaper on a worktable, and use a measuring tape and pencil to mark the length of paper you need; cut out using scissors. You can cut more than one piece before starting to hang paper.

Step 2: Wet and Adhere

wall paper backing

Use newspaper or a drop cloth to protect the floor from splashes and excess paste. Begin by rolling up the cut piece of wallpaper with the backing facing out.

For unpasted wallpaper: Spread the paper out on a flat surface and apply adhesive. Use a figure-eight motion to spread adhesive evenly over surface of paper.

For pre-pasted wallpaper: Fill a water pan made for wallpapering two-thirds full of cool water. Soak the wallpaper piece in the water for as long as the manufacturer recommends, usually less than a minute. Use your hands to press the wallpaper into the water to make sure it gets evenly wet. Unroll the paper onto the table, folding it back over itself with the pattern side out. This activates the adhesive. Now you're ready to put the wallpaper on the wall.

Step 3: Line and Press

drawing level line on wall

If your room has an architectural focal point, such as a fireplace, center your first piece of wallpaper above that. For most rooms, however, you should start in a corner. Measure out from the corner about an inch less than the width of the wallpaper (that extra inch will wrap into the corner). Using a level and a pencil, draw a straight line from ceiling to baseboard. Use that guideline to place the first piece of paper, making sure it hugs the line from top to bottom. Smooth the paper lightly with your hands.

Step 4: Smooth and Secure

placing wallpaper at line

To secure the paper firmly in place, reach for your wallpaper brush. Making sure the paper doesn't move out of vertical alignment, press the paper along the pencil line, then smooth up, out, and down. Brush out any air bubbles or wrinkles, working from the center to the edges. Press the paper firmly against the ceiling line and baseboard. Trim the paper at the top and bottom using a straightedge and a utility knife. Use a damp sponge to clean up any adhesive that squeezes out.

Step 5: Match and Repeat

lining up wallpaper

When hanging the second piece of paper, take care to match the pattern. Slide the paper as snugly as you can against the first piece, from top to bottom, making it almost impossible to see the seam. Use the wallpaper brush to press the paper to the wall and smooth out bubbles and wrinkles. Trim at top and bottom.

Step 6: Roll and Sponge

rolling out seam of wallpaper

Press the seam between pieces firmly with a seam roller. If you see an indentation from the roller, you're pressing too hard. Use a damp sponge to clean any adhesive that squeezes out. The seam roller is a great tool for most wallpapers, but don't use it on an embossed design because you'll flatten the pattern.

Step 7: Continue and Cut

smoothing out wallpaper bumps with brush

Continue working your way around the room, using the level and pencil to draw a straight guideline from top to bottom as you get to each wall. When you come to a window, simply let the paper overlap it. Press the paper firmly against the side of the window, but leave the portions above and below the window loose until you trim the excess. Use a straightedge and a utility knife to trim around the window frame. If you have a lot of paper over the window, use scissors to cut some of it back so the work is easier.

Step 8: Trim and Snip

trimming wallpaper at baseboard

Use a smaller straightedge, such as a putty knife, when cutting around the smaller trim on the window. Work slowly, making little snips with scissors at corners so as not to tear the wet paper. Smooth the paper on the wall above and below the window as you work your way around the window trim.

Step 9: Switchplates and Safety

marking outlet placement on wallpaper

Other obstacles you're sure to meet include electrical outlets and switchplates. Shut off power to the room when you reach one of these openings. Wet paper, a metal knife, and hot wires are a dangerous combination. Remove the cover from the outlet; the electrical box will serve as a guide when you trim the paper. Let the wallpaper cover the opening. Once the paper is in place, find the electrical box with your fingers. Cut an X in the paper over the opening, or start at one edge of the opening and work your way around. Don't worry about rough edges; the outlet cover will hide them.

Step 10: Cut Corners

cutting wallpaper along yard stick

There are two types of corners you'll encounter when hanging wallpaper: Outside corners point into the room; inside corners recede. When you reach an inside corner, trim the paper so about 1/2 inch of it wraps to the adjacent wall. Take the strip of paper you just trimmed and line it up straight on the adjacent wall, letting the paper overlap the 1/2 inch in the corner. The seam won't show. The seam will show on an outside corner. Let the wallpaper wrap around the corner about 1 1/2 inches. Then start a new piece by overlapping that strip. Use a straightedge and a utility knife to cut through both layers of wallpaper about 3/4 inch from the corner. Remove trimmed pieces and press the seam flat.

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