Renowned interior designer Allison Anderson offers you the expert's guide to not getting covered in paste or wrapped in wallpaper
First and foremost, make sure all your rolls of wallpaper are the same colour and shade, by testing them in daylight. This might sound obvious, but with paler colours it's not always clear. Also consider whether you want to put up lining paper first (good for walls that are in a dodgy condition).
Either way, to do a decent job you must have a proper pasting table. Mine has a built-in metal ruler along one edge; I'd always recommend spending money on a table so that it's sturdy. Use a roller not a brush to apply your wallpaper paste super-smoothly on to the wallpaper - but note that some wallpaper pastes can strip the finish, especially if the paper is fine, so check to see which type is best for your paper (a wheat base is often good). You'll also need a plumb line or spirit level, a safe stepladder, some regular PVA glue, a big and a small paintbrush, a pencil,scissors, some small Stanley blades and, last but not least, a "wallcovering smoother" (which looks a bit like a giant comb).
1. First you need to "size" the wall. Fill a bucket half with water and half with PVA, then brush the walls with the mixture and let it dry properly. When it comes to applying the wallpaper paste, it will attach itself to the glue and stick a lot better.
2. Next, hang a plumb line against the wall and draw along its vertical line with your pencil (the plumb line, like a spirit level, gives you a perfectly straight line to help ensure the paper hangs straight and not at an angle). Do this at regular points along each wall (eg, the left-hand edge, middle and right-hand edge), because the floors and ceilings of most rooms are uneven.
3. Now measure the floor-to-ceiling height of the wall along these vertical lines, and cut your wallpaper to size. Note: you don't have to measure each strip of paper individually; instead, make a mark on the table and use this as a guide. But don't cut too many strips at once if the wall is uneven; you'll just end up recutting them.
4. If required, put up lining paper before the wallpaper - it covers imperfections and provides a smooth base for your wallpaper. Whichever you are using, stretch each strip of paper flat along the table, move it along until one end is level with the table's edge (to avoid getting wallpaper paste on the table) and place a weight on it at each end to keep the paper down. Now, finally, spread the wallpaper paste on.
5. Next you need to "concertina" the wallpaper - ie, about 50cm from the strip's left-hand edge, lift the paper and pull it back on itself to create a new fold level with that left-hand edge. Repeat the process until the whole strip is folded up in a concertina 50cm wide.
6. Carry the concertina up the step-ladder to the top of the wall so a pasted edge faces the wall. Attach this first section of paper to the top of the wall where it meets the ceiling - in fact, go 2cm higher than the wall on to the ceiling and then trim the excess (see below for the best way to do this).
7. Don't be afraid to play around with the paper as you gradually unfold it down the wall; the adhesive doesn't dry straight away so there is room to manoeuvre. Apply the top half of the strip, then when you get halfway, start unrolling the rest. Get the strips of paper to line up but not overlap (a cardinal sin in the decorating world). And if the corners of the wallpaper are lifting, apply more paste to the edges with a small brush. Then rub the "smoother" (it's better and less cumbersome than a paperhanger's brush) across the front of the paper to flatten it and get rid of any bubbles.
8. To remove the excess paper at top and (possibly) bottom, score a mark in the paper using the edge of your scissors, then pull the paper back and cut along the mark. This technique works for tricky corners too, the basic rule being to use too much paper and then cut it back. For a sharper cut, use a small Stanley knife blade; these are really good for cutting around doors and windows (change them regularly, though, as they become blunt quite easily).
9. If using lining paper, dry it out thoroughly before applying the wallpaper - how quickly it dries depends on how absorbent the wall is. Once the lining paper is on, if there are still imperfections jutting out, tap them with a hammer to flatten them.
Use the same papering technique for the wallpaper, remembering to allow extra (up to 5cm) at the top and bottom of each strip for trimming. And if it's a very light pattern, make sure you paste the right side. For bold patterned paper, start on a feature in the middle of the room, a chimneybreast say (it has to be the focal point), and work outwards from that. For a small pattern you can start at the edge or corner of a wall. Either way, take great care to line the pattern up. And don't throw away any offcuts - they could come in hand later on to cover over any mistakes.
10. Finally, remember there are times when it can be easier to paste the wall rather than the paper. Check the manufacturer's advice, but in general for fine paper or ones with unique finishes, such as a foil finish or lace, I'd advise pasting the wall.
When wallpapering around a door without a frame, the best thing is to paste over it (just take off any handles beforehand; don't cut round them). Apply the wallpaper above and over the door, flatten it with the smoother, then use your fingers to locate the edge of the door where it opens, and cut along that line with a Stanley blade.
For hinges and light fittings, again paste the paper so it covers the wall right to the top of hinge/fitting, but now use the corners of the fitting to make a mark and cut along these lines with the blade. Then unravel the rest of the paper.
You're best advised to take radiators off before papering, but if that is too difficult, you can paper down as far behind the radiator as possible.
- The Guardian,
- Saturday March 1 2008