Confessions of a Novice Wallpaper Hanger

I’m just going to put it out there. I am no expert at hanging wallpaper nor do I profess to be one (my family and friends can attest to this). Have you seen that advert where there are two neighbours, one being the DIY legend and the other well, would just rather pay to have things done around the house?… [**loud cough] I’m the latter.

Recently, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to fill a certain information gap in terms of DIY… wallpapering! Have I gone from being a novice to expert as a result? No way! Am I more confident in using wallpaper moving forward? I believe I am.

So here’s hoping that I appeal to the complete novice, the newbie, who like me thought wallpaper looked amazing but consigned using it to the ‘too hard to apply’ basket.

Here are some of the things that I’ve learnt along the way and some helpful tips that I wish someone had told me prior to use.

  1.  Patience.

I think the first thing that I wish someone had told me was that I needed to have a good supply of patience. Patience with myself mostly, but also when picking wallpaper through to preparing walls and all this even before you start hanging!

  1. Choose wallpaper that works with your décor and not against! Get samples from your stockist.

Have you ever had that experience where you’re shopping for clothes, you see an item on display and you think “wow, that’d look absolutely amazing on!” only to end up in the dressing room disappointed with a “what the heck was I thinking?” rolling off your tongue?

The same idea can be said for wallpaper. I found that while designs in a collection book look amazing, it’s hard to really gauge how that would translate in your home.

Best solution I’ve found is to get some samples from your local. This is kind of like the paint test-pot equivalent. Super affordable and allows you to pin a metre or two up on the wall to see if it works in your space.

Also, don’t undervalue the advice that the sales person gives at your local design store (they’re not all about taking your money) as they could help you consider designs that you had never thought of.


Image: Room-set design, Real Living Australia.

  1. Wallpaper vs. paint

Recently, I’ve read online about all these articles written about wallpaper vs. paint – some design articles even alluding to the idea that it’s either one or the other – I mean, seriously? Go with what you desire and not what’s necessarily perceived to be easier to apply.

Most wallpaper stockists sell paint that can be colour-matched to your wallpaper. Both have benefits and work towards making your space beautiful but I have to say, that wallpaper has received a pretty unfair perception of being too difficult to work with whereas paint is super easy to apply and so forth. Well, I’ve seen some shocking paint jobs in my time and from personal experience, it’s not as easy as everyone says it is. While wallpaper may appear costly upfront, it will stay in pristine condition for years to come and is a one coat process. Anyway, bottom line, if the walls aren’t properly prepped – nothing is going to look good, wallpaper or paint alike.

If your room is too big to wallpaper, try a split option with paint. I’ve used the wallpaper/paint split recently and found that this works beautifully well.

4.  Always talk to a specialist.

We live in a time where people are learning from uncle Google and aunty Youtube every minute of the day – but nothing beats seeking advice and having a real conversation with a human.

Thank goodness for salespeople in the stores! I almost forget the power that they have over me as I intently hang off every word when it comes to DIY. Just don’t fall into the trap of buying absolutely everything presented to you. Ask, “is this what you’ve used?” – that way, you’ll be able to filter through the up-sell of some unnecessary products.

To calculate how many rolls you need for your space, take the measurements for your walls into your stockists and outright ask the salesperson to help you work it out. Most are obliging so no need to worry about reading any of those scary charts and numbers!

5.  Prepping the wall is the hardest part of the process.

This one time in my youth, I decided to help a friend out by helping them strip wallpaper in their bedroom.

I absolutely HATED that day of labour with every fibre of my being. Jaw clenched with frustration and a lot of hard work with minimal signs of progress. Mind you, we were misguided teenagers and weren’t the greatest boy scouts.

Now, there’s a myriad of ways to strip old wallpaper. I’ve found that the easiest way was using solvent and hot water and then starting with a small section using a scraper. If you’re lucky, there won’t be too many layers but by starting with a tiny section in an inconspicuous area, you’ll be able to cleverly work out just how long this part of the process is going to take you and if necessary, change your plans. It’s important to sweat the small stuff because in the long run, it’ll help with the application process that much easier.

6.  ‘Size’ up your walls… wait, what?

Like many other DIY-related things, I’d never heard of the stuff. Once the wall surface is clean, dry and sound, apply a good coat of size (which is like a wallpaper undercoat) so that the wallpaper is easy to position and sticks properly.

7.  Use ‘Paste the wall’, where you can.

There are different types of wallpapers, but if you find a pattern that you love and the label reads ‘paste the wall’, then you’re in luck.

In fear of reliving a traumatic youth experience stripping wallpaper, for work, I was asked to strip and prepare some display stands that we had for an up and coming expo. Lo and behold, when starting to strip the existing wallpaper on the stands, I was absolutely shocked when it all came off in three pieces. How is this even possible? More so, where was this back in the mid nineties?

PTW – what is it exactly? Just as the name suggests, it’s paste for the wall (and not the wallpaper). Once there’s an even spread of adhesive applied to your wall (not too thick), you then apply your wallpaper. I almost feel like it shouldn’t be this easy, that it’s kind of cheating… but who cares. It works, and that’s all that matters.

Also, another tip I’ve picked up is that you can hide alignment mistakes by painting a stripe at the top of the wall before wallpapering (especially if wallpapering over something dark). This way, it won’t be as noticeable if your wallpaper fails to align exactly at the top of the wall.

8.  Last but not least, cover those wall imperfections

It’s vary rare that you’re going to have the wallpaper prepping police around, but in case your walls aren’t 100% perfect, use a heavy-textured vinyl or flock wallpaper, as it hides a multitude of sins and just looks fab.