Three Golden Rules for
1) Remove all old wallcoverings.
*Remove old adhesive while you're at it.
2) Prime your walls with a wallcovering
*Some wallcoverings like Foils, Mylars or British Pulp papers
require a liner paper to be installed horizontally underneath
the finish paper. Be aware of this possible additional step.
3) Hang your new wallcovering.
These are the basic steps. Additional steps are required in some
scenarios. And there are exceptions to the rules. There are only
about a million possible variables. Don't try to take any shortcuts
& you'll be miles ahead of others & give yourself the
best installation possible.
Ensure your exhaust fan is working and forcing
the warm moist air outside your home. If showers create a steam
cloud in your bathroom, keep the door wide open. For humid bathrooms,
use a mildew proof wallpaper primer and adhesive. Zinsser®
has developed a mildew proof wallpaper primer & adhesive.
Most "modern wallpapers"
(paper or "non-woven" backed & vinyl coated) are
a good choice for most bathrooms. Stoney
Brook Hand Painted Torn Paper is another durable wallcovering
that's an excellent choice. Grasscloth is not. These are general
guidelines. Remember, the wallcovering industry is constantly
evolving (because of the EPA and their own desire to create newer/better
products). Someday the manufacturer may develop a grasscloth,
textile or fabric wallcovering they can guarantee for installation
in a bathroom.
After wallpapering, apply a small bead of clear, water proof caulk
above the shower stall or shower tile where it meets the wallpaper
and down to about eye level. This preventative maintenance will
stop your wallpaper from curling up in these areas.
Borders with parallel tops and bottoms are usually
not too difficult to install. Scalloped borders with intricate
bottom edges can take up to three or four times longer to install
(borders with both scalloped tops, bottoms & insides can be
about one degree below impossible - I know, I've hung them). After
they get wet, the bottom edge curls up almost immediately. For
extremely difficult or otherwise uncooperative scalloped borders,
it may be necessary to cut 3' sections off the spool and work
with them individually.
*If you're hanging over a "paper" with
no vinyl coating or over a painted wall, use a regular wallpaper
** If you're hanging over a vinyl coated paper, use a border adhesive.
As a general rule, this is the only instance where you
should use a border adhesive.
Beware of water-sensitive
paint! If you're installing a border only, you will
get a little adhesive and rinse water on the sidewall paint. After
installing the border and wiping with a damp sponge, gravity will
pull some rinse water down the painted wall. Normally, this is
not a problem as the water will dry and have no effect on the
appearance of your painted walls. However, if your paint is water-sensitive,
this will ruin the appearance of your painted walls. You have
two options: 1) Use a damp sponge to wipe off the affected painted
sidewall as you install each border. This may change the sheen/appearance
of your painted walls. Or 2) Repaint your walls. If you're going
to this much trouble, use a water stable paint.
This really should be left to the professional
wallcovering installer. But if you want to try it yourself, be
patient & purchase some extra material to "practice"
on. And only attempt to inlay borders with a parallel top &
Install your border first whether at the ceiling height or chair
rail height. (Obviously after removing any old wallpaper/glue,
making necessary wall repairs & priming with a quality wallpaper
Even if you carefully measure & engineer the room, mistakes
& accumulated errors happen. Installing your sidewall paper
first won't allow you to alter the pattern placement later when
you install the border. Leave your options open and get the best
look possible by tweaking your pattern placement between the bottom
of your border & top of your baseboard.
If you want to use
a border as a "chair rail", mark your wall with a pencil
where the top & bottom of your border will be located. Physically
check your wallpaper's pattern placement with a dry bolt to make
sure you'll be able to balance your pattern above & below
the border. Traditionally you'll want the top of your chair back
to be in the middle of the chair rail (border) width. In bathrooms
there are usually no chairs. So borders as "chair rails"
are normally placed above tile back splashes or level with the
top of back splashes. Try both heights to see what will work best
with your wallpaper pattern. Don't forget to take into account
the location of electrical outlets & light switches. Borders
will look better if they're not chopped up by wall plates, but
sometimes this is unavoidable.
Inlaying the Border: Install your border first.
Then install your sidewall wallpaper so it overlaps the border
approximately 1". Use the edge of a 5" taping knife
to gently crease the wallpaper where it meets the edge of the
border. This is the line you will be cutting to. Use your taping
knife as a guide & trim slowly & carefully with your Olfa
knife. You will be able to feel if your taping knife is positioned
correctly. This may take a few tries to develop your technique
& a feel for what you're doing. There is no substitute for
experience and no amount of reading instructions will make you
an expert at this. You must practice until you can do it. Remove
the wallpaper trimming & excess adhesive. What you end up
with is a butted seam where the wallpaper meets the border. Roll
& clean this seam as normal. Repeat these steps throughout
the room for each sheet of wallpaper.
Techniques are detailed
during an install.
Hot mud is plaster based. Allow any repairs made
with hot mud to dry completely before sanding and priming. 45
minute mud is not so "hot" as 20 minute mud. A hot spot
can "burn" through the acrylic in a wallpaper primer
and ruin your new wallpaper. Allow 45 minute mud to dry at least
3 hrs over drywall or dry over night when repairing plaster (wait
longer if necessary due to cold/damp weather). Prime with a wallpaper
primer/sealer and allow to dry before hanging paper. Don't attempt
to hang the same day when repairing plaster walls with hot mud.
If you prime with Shieldz (current formulation), you will be able
to see a hot spot which will turn pink.
"Saponification" is the decomposition
of the medium of a paint or varnish film by alkali and moisture
in a substrate e.g., new concrete or fresh plaster. Rare, but
it does happen.
Read your wallcovering instruction sheets. They
usually come with every bolt or roll of wallcovering. These are
the rules for hanging wallpaper. Everyone hates rules and likewise
we all know there are usually exceptions to every rule. Most people
don't take the time to stop at a stop sign. Do you think they
will spend 1.5 - 2 hrs to lay drops, tape & mask, sand &
prime/seal their walls? Do you think they will spend a day (or
two) removing the old wallpaper(s) & adhesive from their walls?
Probably not. And then they wonder why their wallcovering installation
was so difficult or it didn't turn out as well as they hoped?
Often instruction sheets are incomplete at best. But 90% of the
time they will tell you this...
1) Remove all old wallcoverings.
*Remove the old adhesive while you're at it.
2) Prime your walls with a wallcovering primer/sealer.
*Some wallcoverings like Foils, Mylars or British Pulp papers
require a liner paper to be installed horizontally underneath
the finish paper. Be aware of this possible additional step.
3) Install your new wallcoverings.
If you remember these Three Golden Rules for Wallpapering
Success and follow them, you'll be miles ahead of everyone
else out there who doesn't read the instruction sheets or is deliberately
trying to take short cuts.
Pin stripes work well in normal areas with regular
inside corners. There will be some pattern loss in the corners
but this is usually not an issue. Bay windows with their out of
plumb inside corners do create an unpleasant effect when installing
pin stripes. For this reason it is recommended that you do not
select a pin striped pattern for bay windows or other areas with
out of plumb, rounded inside/outside corners.
Take extra care when installing pin stripes. Check each bolt to
see if all selvedges are trimmed equally. During installation,
frequently step off your ladder and back away from the wall. Butted
seams may look perfect from your vantage point 15" from the
wall, but one or all seams may look terrible from across the room.
This can usually be corrected by overlapping, carefully matching
the pattern and double-cutting.
* Use of a laser level will be a great help. Line up the laser
on the last pin stripe of the previously installed sheet of paper.
After climbing on your ladder, make sure the laser hasn't "drifted"
before proceeding. Overlap & install the new sheet of paper
from the bolt that was incorrectly trimmed. Turn off the laser
& double check that your pattern hasn't drifted by "flashing"
(this means to lift the edge that overlaps and visually inspect
the pattern match) before proceeding with the double cut. With
pin stripes you have no room for error. Your pattern match must
be perfect or the unpleasant visual effect will not be corrected.
Don't forget the Three Golden Rules for Wallpapering
Sucess. If you want to use water for pre-pasted papers, do not
use a water tray. They're messy and you can under soak (not fully
activate the factory paste or have dry spots) or over soak the
paper (gobs of paste oozing out the seams). Use a 5 gal bucket
containing about 1/2 gal of tepid water. Apply the water to the
back of your paper with a 9" roller. This allows you to control
how wet you get the pre-pasted paper with less mess.
An activator works better for most pre-pasted papers. Some papers
curl up violently as soon as you get them wet and never seem to
"relax". These papers seldom lay down obediently at
the seams. If you encounter this phenomenon, Do NOT reach for
the seam adhesive! Using water, thin down heavy duty clear strippable
adhesive (like Roman 880) about the consistency of waffle batter.
Use a roller to apply a thin layer of paste to your primed walls
& allow to dry. This should make even the most stubborn pre-pasted
paper lay down flat at the seams.
Most pre-pasted papers require about 5 minutes of soak time or
"booking" (gently folding pasted side to pasted side,
carefully aligning edges & not creasing at the folds) before
hanging. This allows the paper to fully wet out, become supple
and the factory paste to activate. Place your sheet of wet pre-pasted
paper inside a large plastic bag to help the booking process &
keep the edges from drying out while you're working. Wet only
one sheet at a time. Once the booking time is up for your first
sheet, wet a second sheet. Place the second sheet in the plastic
bag to book while your hanging the first sheet. This allows you
to control the booking time for each sheet as you work around
the room & keep working.
This is an area of great confusion for most people.
Let's put this to rest once and for all...
Primer comes in a paint can (and a primer isn't
a sizing no matter what the can says).
Sizing (a weak glue) comes in a powder that you
mix with water.
People are trying to use a centuries old paradigm to install modern
wallcoverings. So despite what your mother did or how the old
school installers say to do it, here's the real deal modern formula
for success when prepping for wallpaper...
If your walls are brand new, prime with a wallpaper primer/sealer.
Some modern wallcoverings will not stick to an oil-based primer.
So be careful and read your instruction sheets. Don't use the
room you're going to paper for testing paint swatches. These different
colored swatches may telegraph through your new wallpaper*. Some
wallpapers are quite sheer (you can see through them). If you've
already swatched your walls and there's any doubt your wallcovering
is even somewhat sheer, then prime those areas with a stain blocking
primer/sealer before priming with a pigmented wallpaper primer/sealer
to give your walls a uniform background and no surprises after
you've installed your paper.
*If you're trying to decide what color to paint your walls, paint
some poster boards & tape the dried samples to your walls.
This can save you time & money if you change your mind &
want to wallpaper the room instead.
If you really want to, you won't hurt anything
by applying a sizing after the wallcovering primer/sealer has
dried. However, if you encounter a paper that curls up like crazy
after pasting/activating and it just won't "relax" after
booking inside a plastic bag, then you'll do better to "double
paste" with heavy duty clear strippable wallcovering adhesive
thinned with water to about the thickness of thick waffle batter**.
Double pasting means you're pasting the wall and the wallpaper.
Use a roller to apply a very thin layer of thinned adhesive to
the wall & allow it to dry.
**Do not thin heavy duty strippable clear wallcovering adhesives
that are "thicksotropic". These new generation
(they've existed for decades) of adhesives loose much of their
tack if thinned with water. Mixing with a power drill & paddle
will thin the viscosity of these adhesives.
If your walls have bleed through stains, then use an oil-based
(alkyd) primer/sealer first. Some examples of bleed through stains
are water stains, lipstick, crayon, metallic inks, some paint
swatches, etc. Please wear a respirator when using oil-based primer.
Most water-based primers do not stain block at all. The best stain
blocker is still an oil-based primer.
Click here to see examples
of common wallpaper repairs.
Place your left over wallpaper roll ends back
in the box/shipping bag then store in a closet or other climate
controlled area where they won't get bumped or damaged. Avoid
storing roll ends outside, in an attic, basement, garage, etc.
If your installed wallpaper ever gets damaged, you won't have
to worry about your pattern being out of stock or not being able
to get the same dye lot for repairs.
This is a very misunderstood & often improperly
performed wallpapering technique. Most people roll seams too hard
forcing virtually all the adhesive away from the seam. This leaves
only a residue of paste underneath the seams that will not be
sufficient to hold the seams in place. Some papers, such as grasscloth,
should not have the seams rolled. The risk of paste getting on
the face of the material is too great & paste on the face
of grasscloth or stringcloth will cause staining. Other papers
will burnish if you use a seam roller. Still other papers are
so delicate, they may tear if you roll the seams too aggressively.
Read your instruction sheets.
Before installing each sheet & rolling your seams allow your
pasted wallpaper to book sufficiently. This allows your wallpaper
to relax & become supple. Place your pasted paper inside a
plastic bag while it's booking. Additionally, you must use an
appropriate wallcovering adhesive applied evenly in just the right
thickness. The exact amount of adhesive varies for each wallcovering.
If you're getting paste oozing out the seams when you roll them,
then you have applied too much adhesive.
Remember not to overwork the seams. Some papers will delaminate
if the seams are over worked.
-Remove old wallpaper (including
backing and glue) before painting your ceilings and woodwork.
-Paint before wallpapering.
-Wallpaper after painting. (Apply a wallpaper
primer/sealer before papering.)
Do not use traditional seam adhesives such as
Roman® or Shur-Stik 66®! They create a chemical bond that
makes removal a headache & you'll more than likely have wall
damage during removal.
*Zinsser® manufactures a repair and seam adhesive that bonds
in 10 seconds (on dry wallpaper & when not over applied).
The technology is new and even though it's called seam adhesive,
it doesn't create a chemical bond. It is a mechanical bond. All
you have to do is get it wet and your wallpaper will come off.
Old wallcoverings should be removed before installing
new wallpaper. However, use discretion and old fashioned common
sense. Old wallpaper that has been painted/sealed over and isn't
loose, old wallcoverings installed using border or VOV adhesive,
or if your walls are being destroyed as a result of stripping
are a few exceptions to this rule.
The wallcovering industry is promising us that nightmare removals
will someday be a thing of the past. The new "non-woven"
wallpapers are guaranteed to dry strip completely! (only leaving
a small layer of adhesive on the wall) The rumor mill is predicting
all manufacturers will be printing on non-woven grounds (backing)
There are MANY different kinds of wallcoverings. We will be concentrating
on the two most popular: "paper backed, vinyl coated peelable/non-peelable
Scenario - 1
Try to Dry Strip first. You may get lucky, but be sure
you're not tearing the drywall facing paper. If dry stripping
doesn't work, maybe your wallpaper is...
Scenario - 2
Dry Peelable? Peelable means you can remove the vinyl
coating or pattern side of your old wallpaper, leaving the smooth
backing on the wall. If adhesive was used to install the old wallpaper
and the backing isn't loose or bubbled, then you can leave it
to act as a liner paper (improper seams must be addressed as described
below). If the old wallpaper was prepasted and installed using
a water tray, don't even think about trying to hang over the backing!
Remove it and the old glue. This is usually very easy. Lay drop
cloths on your floor/floor coverings and turn off the power to
the room. You may need work lights. Leave the switch plates on
for now. Dust off the base boards & mask with blue tape. Lay
painter's plastic or plastic drops over your drop cloths. Carefully
apply one edge of the plastic under the blue tape. Wet the backing
of only one sheet of wallpaper (this is an experiment to see if
the backing will come off the wall) with DIF® liquid
mixed according to manufacturer's directions (just enough to make
it wet - don't over do it) and let it soak for 1-5 minutes. If
necessary, use a 5" taping knife to scrape off the backing,
being careful to not damage the wall surface. Do not use the Paper
Scraper® or Paper Tiger® as they will damage your drywall.
They work much better on smooth plaster walls, but will still
cause some damage. Some backings require additional soak time.
Reapply DIF® liquid as needed if the backing is drying out.
**From Scenario-2 forward, we are using some type/variation of
wet method (DIF® liquid + our warm rinse water). No one can
stop the laws of gravity (well, some can, but that's another subject
not applicable to 99.9% of us here on earth) and gravity will
be pulling that liquid stripper down toward the baseboards (made
of wood) & flooring (often hardwood or carpeting). You have
made every effort to protect your floors/floor covering, but the
fact is you will only be able to stop about 90-95% of all liquids
from reaching the floor/floor coverings You must be very careful
not to pull the plastic/blue tape from the top of the baseboards
with your feet, rinse bucket, ladder, etc. (also keep pets out
- I've had large dogs come in & destroy all my prep work by
trouncing about & pulling the plastic/tape from the baseboards).
If the plastic/tape is pulled away after applying DIF® liquid
to the wallpaper/backing, the tape will not stick to the baseboard
until it's completely dry. So work very carefully. This is also
why you should work in sections (don't spray down the entire room
with DIF® liquid). Should a little liquid get onto the floor/floor
covering, you must be able to pull up the plastic quickly as possible
(AFTER you've completed removal of each section) &
towel dry any wet spots.
Scenario - 3
Wet Peelable? If your old wallpaper isn't dry peelable,
maybe it's wet peelable. (You should have already laid drop cloths
& tape/plastic as described above in scenario - 2) Test a
small area first. Sometimes a vinyl coated paper that refuses
to dry peel will become very peelable or at least semi-peelable
after wetting. Try it! Success? I hope so. If not, then you'll
have to perforate the vinyl coating so your wallpaper stripper
can do it's job. Don't use a scoring tool as this will cause unnecessary
damage to dry wall. Use 80 grit sand paper to perforate vinyl
coated wallcoverings & proceed to the next scenario...
Scenario - 4
Wet Stripping: (You should have already laid drop cloths
& tape/plastic as described above in scenario - 2) Apply DIF®
liquid to only one sheet of paper at first (just enough to make
it wet - don't over do it). Soak time is usually 20-30 minutes,
but make sure the paper isn't drying out. If it is, then re-wet
it. Check to see if the old glue is starting to soften? If your
walls were primed with water-sensitive paint, this is usually
the time frame in which it will become evident ie, you'll notice
the paint film bubbling, chunks of paint, or the drywall facing
paper coming off with your old wallpaper. It may not be advisable
to continue the removal. Some wallpapers require extended soak
times like 45-90 minutes and re-wetting if the paper dries out.
Just be sure you're keeping an eye on how much soaking the paint
film can handle. This is the reason for only attempting to remove
one sheet of wallpaper initially. If removal of the first sheet
is successful, then continue the removal process for the entire
room. If removal of the first sheet was unsuccessful due to excessive
wall damage or the old wallpaper being installed with a non-strippable
adhesive, then proceed to scenario #6.
Scenario - 5
"This 'peelable' wallpaper defies all logic! The vinyl coating
is so thick it's impregnable! (that's why wet method isn't working)
Yet the vinyl doesn't have enough structural integrity to pull
off from the backing! (unable to peel, coming off in tiny pieces
about the size of a thumbtack) What's going on?!?"
Welcome to the dangerous world of the wallpaper shaver...
This is going to take some time. You can't rush shaving the vinyl
off to get at the backing paper. It's very easy to gouge into
the drywall. This doesn't mean the wallpaper shouldn't be stripped.
Just be careful and deliberate in your shaving to minimize the
gouging and danger of injuring yourself. Be very careful not to
damage the woodwork. Remember you're working with a 4" wide
razor blade. Only shave one sheet or section initially because
you want to make sure the backing can be stripped successfully.
If successful, continue shaving the entire room. After shaving
off the vinyl, use wet method as above to remove the backing.
Scenario - 6
Admitting Defeat and Hanging Over the Old Wallpaper: Everyone
wants to hang over old wallpaper arbitrarily. This "short
cut" mentality is often due to not planning enough time in
the schedule for removal & priming, using obsolete hanging
instructions that encourage hanging multiple layers, or budget
concerns. You should have worked your way through all previous
scenarios before attempting this.
If your old wallpaper is not a "paper"
wallpaper, then you will not be simply hanging directly over the
old layer. You must prime over it first. Primer takes longer to
dry over old wallpaper. Under optimum conditions drying time is
usually 3 hours over a vinyl coated paper. Once the primer is
dry remember the manufacturer's instructions: Walls must be
smooth, dry and structurally sound. Check your primed-over
paper for any rough spots, protrusions, seam overlaps/gaps, etc.
Generally it is a myth that wallpaper will hide a multitude of
sins. Keep this mind. Sand or spackle any areas needing attention
to prevent them from telegraphing through your new wallpaper.
Should you use a water based wallpaper primer/sealer or an oil-based
(alkyd) primer/sealer? Remember that most modern wallcoverings
will not adhere to an oil-based primer/sealer. Read your instruction
sheets and follow the alkyd primer/sealer with a water based wallcovering
primer/sealer if necessary. Refer to the Priming/Sizing
section above. Wear a respirator with serviceable filters when
using alkyd primers!
Textured walls can be sanded if they haven't been
sealed. This practice is O.K. in a new construction environment,
but you may want to reconsider extensive sanding very carefully
before creating a dust cloud in a home.
Textured walls will make your new wallpaper look
equally bumpy. Some people actually like this effect. If
you're one of these people, Great! You can save a lot of money
that others will spend on additional prep work. If you don't want
your new wallpaper to look bumpy, you still have an option that
will save money... It is possible to camouflage the bumpiness
of a textured wall if you select a wallpaper that has all
three of the following characteristics:
1) No white (or black)
backgrounds. White backgrounds show every defect in the
2) Peelable (or non-woven). These two
wallpapers are thicker than non-peelables. Peelables usually have
a beige backing and non-woven backing looks more synthetic.
3) Texture in the vinyl coating. Smooth vinyl
coatings won't help and a true "paper" has no vinyl coating at
Remember, you must have all
three characteristics in your new wallpaper or it will
look equally bumpy as the textured wall. If you can't find a wallpaper
with all three characteristics, then you will need to invest in
additional prep work to eliminate a bumpy finished look. First,
let's define how bumpy your textured walls really are? 0 = smooth
glass. 10 = stucco!
If your walls are a true "Orange Peel", that's
about a 1-2. Unless you're installing a Foil or other shiny wallcovering,
it really doesn't warrant the investment. If your walls are about
a 3-4, then a liner paper will soften the textured effect, but
not eliminate it or make your walls perfectly
smooth. Install your liner paper horizontally. Apply sizing to
your liner paper & allow it to dry overnight. Your finish
paper may be installed the following day.
(Stoney Brook Torn Paper
is recommended for installation over "orange peel" walls
but not heavily textured walls.)
If your walls are a 5 or higher, you need to "putty
coat" (skim coat) your textured walls. This requires a minimum
of two coats of joint compound aka: "mud", plus light
sanding, plus two coats of primer/sealer. Gardz* drywall repair
primer/sealer is highly recommended over a skim coat. (Gardz is
now called All Prime Water Based Clear) The first coat of primer/sealer
will soften the joint compound. Make sure Gardz is dry/hard before
wallpapering. For an average bedroom skim coating your textured
walls will add about 1.5 days (or more) to your project. In other
words instead of a one day prime/install, the entire project will
take about 2.5 - 3 days. A good ballpark estimate is to add 150%
to the regular installation price.
Please support your local wallpaper retailer.
These stores have experienced and friendly staff who will help
you find the pattern you're looking for. They've invested thousands
of dollars in sample books which you can check out and browse
at your leisure. But please don't shop for your new wallpaper
with a retailer's sample book in one hand and an 800 number in
the other. Remember this... If you don't support your local wallpaper
retailer, would you be upset if they went out of business leaving
you no place to go where you could see and touch an actual sample
of a wallpaper you're interested in? Also the sample books are
coded. If you write down the pattern # of a beautiful floral wallpaper
and order it from an 800 number, you may get wallpaper with pink
elephants instead. Another benefit of doing business with your
neighborhood store is they can recommend a local installer with
a good reputation for doing quality work!
Water trays are messy and should
be avoided. Brush or roll an activator on the back of prepasted
wallpapers. This will make it much easier to work with each sheet
of wallpaper and provide better adhesion.
If you've already purchased a water tray, don't despair. They
make great flower pots.
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