What’s that on your wall? Stripes? Paisley? Floral? Wallpaper has the power to transform a room from floor to ceiling, and it’s easier to install than you may think. Modern materials and techniques have moved wallpapering out of the “fear zone” for homeowners and have made it practical and fun to dream up and execute bold new designs. Read our easy guide, and go ahead and imagine the possibilities.
Fit It: Measuring for and Buying Wallpaper
The first obvious question is, “How much paper will these walls need?” It’s tempting to eyeball it, but we’re certain that’s never actually worked for anyone, ever. First, you must measure.
You’ll need enough wallpaper to cover your square footage and then some (for cutting). Always round all of your uneven numbers UP! You’ll want extra, and too little paper is the easiest way to make a mistake.
- Determine the square footage of each wall you’re covering (multiply width by height) and add them up. Don’t include skirting, molding, or cornices.
- Determine the square footage of areas that won’t be covered and subtract it from the square footage of the walls. That means windows, doors, mantels, etc.
Always buy at least one extra roll. You’ll be cutting quite a bit to match up patterns and correct mistakes. Also, wallpaper is manufactured in dye lots. Changes in temperature, time, and other factors can result in slight variations in color, even from the same manufacturer. Purchasing all your paper at the same time – even the extra – ensures that all pieces will be from the same dye lot.
Match it Up: Wallpaper Patterns
Oh my goodness, it’s so much easier than it used to be! With over 400 options of wallpaper to choose from (200+ self-adhesive styles!), taking your walls from bare to stare-worthy is a cinch! From popular patterns and colors to maps, murals, and more, it’s never been so easy to add an accent wall or all-over look you’ll love.
We choose wallpaper over paint for the patterns, obviously. But the patterns are what cause our vision to go paisley when we try to cover our walls. There are three pattern styles and easy ways to make them work.
Horizontal or Vertical
Stripes are simple to line up, because – well – they’re stripes. But just like a striped top, the orientation has great aesthetic effect – horizontal will make the room look wider and vertical will stretch it a little taller. Once you’ve measured and cut your pieces, number them on the back to keep track of your mounting order.
Wallpaper with a repeating pattern that repeats in both directions is called drop match. Each sheet needs to be cut and mounted just right in order to line up perfectly. Drop match patterns create the most paper waste via trimmings.
Half-drop designs are usually diagonally repeating patterns, and they repeat where the wall meets the ceiling. It’ll take three strips of paper to repeat the vertical pattern.
Multiple-drop match can take four or more strips to repeat the design and are the most difficult to match up.
Stick It: Applying Wallpaper
These easy papers come with adhesive on the back – they’re just waiting for you to activate it. Also known as ‘paste the wall’ wallpaper, you’ll just need to apply a little water or a manufacturer’s activator to make it sticky.
Traditional wallpaper is simply paper – it doesn’t come with any sort of adhesive. Also known as ‘paste the paper’ wallpaper, you’ll need to get pre-paste and adhesive from the hardware store and follow the instructions.
These papers are designed for easy application – just peel off the backing and stick the paper directly to the wall. If you’re looking for something that you can remove easily with little to no damage to your walls, this option is ideal.
The Touch, the Feel: Wallpaper Materials
Most standard wallpapers are flat, with no raised texture or pattern. It might be completely matte or slightly glossy, but flat wallpaper is smooth to the touch.
Textured … and paintable! Embossed wallpaper is great for covering walls with perfectly presentable imperfections and is easy to hang.
Textile-based wallpaper isn’t as easy to put up, but it adds texture to a wall and provides a sense of ease and warmth in a room. Special clear paste is required for fabric wallpapers.
Velvet-like raised designs on a smooth paper or vinyl base are called ‘flocked.’ This rich paper adds intrigue to a room, but can be a bit tough to hang and clean.
Metallic wallpaper adds light and a unique look to any room. Foil paper works best on clean, flawless walls.
Vinyl wallpaper is durable and just about resistant to anything, making it perfect for bathrooms. It’s tough and easy to clean.
Preparation and Installation
A lot of homeowners stress about it or avoid it completely, but a little preparation can make changing the look of your walls even easier than painting. The simplest route, of course, is to choose self-adhesive wallpaper. But if you’re going more traditional, here are a few pointers.
- Start with clean walls. Whatever the surface you’re starting with, wash it with clean water and gentle soap and let it dry completely before applying anything.
- Measure, measure, and measure again. See our tips in this guide for determining the square footage of your walls, and always have an extra roll or two of paper just in case.
- Be confident! The easiest way to get wrinkles is to second-guess your actions as you make them.
Wallpaper Care and Maintenance
Read the information included with your wallpaper. It’ll tell you what’ll damage it and likely the best way to keep it clean. Scrubbable wallpapers can be safely cleaned with warm water and soap, just be sure to be gentle. Never rub or wipe dry, though – pat with a lint-free cloth and start from the bottom to avoid drips. Uncoated wallpaper cannot be washed – so be careful!