1 - Move Furniture
2 - Remove Fixtures
3 - Prepare Walls
4 - Repair Walls
5 - Mark Plumb Lines
6 - Protect Floors
First of all, you’re going to need to clear away anything that is physically in the way of the wall(s). When wallpapering an entire room, it would be ideal, if possible, to remove all furniture from the space. If only one wall is being wallpapered, it might suffice to move all of the furniture to the other end of the room – just make sure you have space for your pasting table and to lay out and match your wallpaper before hanging it.
You can even use this as an excuse to declutter and get rid of some stuff, and even rearrange your room when you put everything back! Start fresh!
Now you must remove any basic fixtures that are attached to the walls that you’re wallpapering. This might include things like curtain rod holders, light switch or outlet plates, and in the case of a bathroom, the toilet paper holder and towel rack. Remove wall lights as well when possible, and simply work with a lamp for light. While this all might seem like a hassle, believe us when we say that cutting the wallpaper around these things would be an even bigger pain in the butt.
Of course, use your discretion when choosing what to remove. Removing your entire radiator would definitely not be worth the extreme amount of work it would be. Likewise, in a kitchen, you can decide whether you will remove built in cabinets – maybe this isn’t necessary for your situation or maybe you think you might get a new kitchen eventually don’t want bald spots from wallpapering around the old cabinets. Just use common sense!
What you will need to do next totally depends on what the state of your particular walls is. Do they have old wallpaper, old paint or is it fresh drywall or plaster?
Old Wallpaper: Ideally you want to remove old wallpaper before hanging your new wallpaper, especially if it’s glossy, bumpy, peeling or mouldy. However, you can wallpaper over glossy as long as you prime it first and you can wallpaper over bumpy as long as you don’t mind your new wallpaper looking bumpy too – though using a wallpaper liner can help to reduce the visibility of bumps. When old wallpaper is peeling, you can try to rip off as much excess as you can and wallpaper over after hanging a wallpaper liner, and if the old wallpaper is mouldy, it’s best to just remove it and clean the walls so it doesn’t happen again.
In the worst-case scenario, you’ve been cursed with woodchip wallpaper; a wallpaper which is extremely difficult and messy to remove yet will be visibly bumpy if you just wallpapered over. This is the most difficult choice to make and will depend on how much of a perfectionist you are. Read our article discussing “How to deal with woodchip wallpaper?” for some more insight.
Old Paint: Wallpapering over old paint is fine as long as it’s not oil-based or glossy, and isn’t bubbling or peeling. To test the integrity of old paint, you can conduct a tape-test. To do this, cut a small x into the paint and stick a piece of clear cellophane tape over top of it. Make sure it’s stuck down well, then rip it off. If paint comes off with the tape, this is an indication that it is not fit to be wallpapered over and should be removed first.
Should the integrity of the paint be okay for wallpapering, the next thing to check is that the paint is not oil-based, as wallpaper will not stick to this (likewise with shiny or glossy paint). You can test if a paint is oil-based by rubbing a small patch with nail polish remover – if it’s unaffected, it’s probably oil-based. In this case, you can simply apply a primer before wallpapering, otherwise, remove the paint.
Fresh Drywall or Plaster: Untouched drywall or plaster is lovely to wallpaper, but in both cases, a primer is absolutely necessary to apply before the wallpaper. In the case of plaster, it’s because the plaster is so porous that it will actually absorb too much of the adhesive and the wallpaper will not stick properly, making it likely to just peel from the wall. Oppositely, with fresh drywall, the wallpaper will stick too well to the wall and it will be impossible to remove without damaging the wall later – not ideal. So don’t forget to use a primer!
Oftentimes, lurking below old wallpaper are damages, discolorations and other imperfections, and as well, during the process of removing old wallpaper, the walls can sometimes get damaged. Take this chance now to repair any holes or cracks with spackling, sand down any bumps with some sandpaper, and paint or prime the walls in a uniform color if there are any discolored spots that you suspect might shine through the wallpaper.
After doing any sanding, wipe down the walls with a damp cloth to ensure no dust is left behind to prevent the wallpaper from sticking properly. As well, make sure any the walls with any plaster or paint is completely dry before wallpapering as moisture trapped below wallpaper can turn into mold!
Marking plumb lines is one of the most important steps in preparing to hang wallpaper – never just trust the walls or ceiling to be straight!
Mark Plumb Lines
Once your walls are completely dry, dust-free and generally in a state to be wallpapered, you can start planning where the wallpaper strips will go. It is extremely important to mark plumb lines on the wall and never just trust the walls or ceiling to be straight or level!
Some classic advice is to start from the point closest to the window or other light source so that any unintentional overlapping won't cast a shadow, making itself seen. Start by finding the width of your wallpaper, then measure this distance from your starting wall and make a small mark. If you have a paste-the-wall type wallpaper, this can be pretty exact, but if you have a paste-the-product type wallpaper, the paper actually expands as it soaks up the adhesive and therefore, you’ll want to add about a centimetre extra to your wall markings. Once you’ve marked where your first seam will be, now you need to mark a vertical plumb line. This can be done using a vertical spirit level or with a plumb bob. This is the very important line you will be lining your wallpaper up with to make sure it is straight – not the walls or ceiling. Continue across your wall towards the light source, marking where the seams will be and drawing very careful plumb lines. Just pre-mark one wall at a time if you are doing multiple walls.
The last preparatory step before you actually start wallpapering is to protect your floors. Using newspaper is not recommended as the ink can smear onto your new wallpaper and tarnish it. Likewise, a bedsheet is too absorbent and might end up getting glued to your floor when dripped adhesive soaks through it. Ideally, you should use a plastic tarp to protect your floors. Taping the tarp to a baseboard that isn’t being wallpapered is a good idea if possible, just so that dripping adhesive won’t make it to the floor (though you really shouldn’t have so much adhesive that it’s dripping down the wall).
Ok! Your space is now prepared to be wallpapered! Find out whether you have a paste-the-wall wallpaper or a paste-the-product wallpaper and continue to our guide on how to hang your wallpaper: