How to wallpaper (like a pro)

Want to know how to wallpaper a room or feature wall? Follow our step-by-step guide and video to get professional-looking results

How to wallpaper
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Once you know how to wallpaper, it's a great way to add colour, texture or pattern to your walls. It can be applied to an entire room or limited to a feature wall or area, such as the alcoves either side of a fireplace, depending on how much of an impact you want to make.

Modern wallpaper is available in both paste-the-back and paste-the-wall formats. The heavier and more flexible the paper your chose, the easier it is to apply without creases or risking tears. Here’s how to wallpaper...

Find out more about wallpaper on our dedicated hub page.

You will need

1. Prepare the space 

Move furniture and soft furnishings out of the room and cover your flooring or anything that can’t be moved with dust sheets. Wallpapering can get messy!

Remove any wallpaper that’s already there and sand down any lumps or bumps you find underneath. If you’re papering onto painted walls, then give them a quick sand and wash with sugar soap to help the paste to stick.

2. Make allowances for irregular corners

Walls and corners are rarely straight, so don’t rely on them as a guide when hanging paper. If you’re papering the whole room and are using a standard 53cm-wide roll of paper, use a spirit level to mark a straight link 58cm in from the corner you’re planning to start in. This will allow you a 5cm overlap from the adjoining wall.

3. Measure the height of the wall

Measure the height of the wall in several places and add 10cm to the longest measurement to allow for trimming at the top and bottom.

4. Cut the wallpaper to size

Check which way up the pattern goes and then unroll the wallpaper pattern-side down onto the paste table. Use a ruler or spirit level to draw a straight line at the length you measured. Then cut across.

Turn the cut length over. Unroll the next length and place it edge to edge with the first so that you can line the patterns up. Use the cut length as a guide to cut the next piece.

Continue cutting lengths, numbering them in the top right corner on the reverse side so that you know which order to hang them in.

5. Hang the wallpaper

Now you’re ready to start hanging. Lay the first length pattern side down on the paste table so that the bottom of paper hangs down onto the floor. Load up your pasting brush and wipe the excess on the side of the tub.

Apply paste down the centre of the paper and then work out to the edges in a herringbone pattern.

When the paper covering the table has been pasted, fold it over on itself, taking care not to crease. Continue pasting until the whole length is covered. Between lengths, wipe any paste spills off the table with a clean, damp sponge.

Position the first pasted length at the top of the wall with its right-hand edge running down the line you drew. Make sure about 5cm of excess paper is left above the top to allow for trimming.

6. Smooth over the surface

Once the right-hand edge is positioned, smooth the paper down with the paper-hanging brush. Work from the centre of the paper to the edges, making sure there are no bubbles. And from the top to the bottom, unfolding  gently. Make sure the right edge stays on the pencil line.

7. Trim the edges

With the length in place, crease the top and bottom of the paper against the ceiling and skirting-board junctions. Gently pull the paper away from the wall and cut along the creases with scissors. Brush the trimmed edges back into place.

8. Continue hanging the lengths 

Fit the next length against the first one, ensuring the pattern lines up. Once you have two or three lengths in place, use a seam roller to flatten the join.

Continue adding lengths until you reach the end of the wall. Chances are you’ll need to cut the final piece vertically. Do this as you have been trimming the top and bottom of each length of paper. Creating a sharp crease in the corner, pull the paper away from the wall slightly and use your wallpaper scissors to cut down. You could also use a very sharp Stanley knife.

How to hang paste-the-wall wallpaper

This kind of paper does what it says on the tin – you paste the wall, rather than the paper. The paper has a special backing that means it doesn’t expand when wet, so you can hang it straight from the roll onto the pre-pasted wall. This makes it quicker to apply and easier to remove that standard paper. 

Follow steps 1-4 above to cut the paper, then apply. Don’t paste the entire wall before you start, just paste enough for one length at a time.

How to wallpaper around light switches or sockets

1. Make sure the electricity is off and hang the wallpaper as above, using the paper-hanging brush to make a slight impression on the paper.

2. Holding the paper over the fitting, make a small pencil mark from each corner into the centre of the switch or socket. Pierce a hole at the centre point with the scissors and cut along the lines you drew.

3. Trim each triangle just inside the outer edge of the switch of socket. Partially unscrew the faceplate and pull it away from the wall. Carefully ease the faceplate through the hotel and use the brush to tuck the trimmed edges behind. Screw the faceplate back and let the paste dry before turning the power back on.

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Emily Shaw
Emily Shaw

Emily first (temporarily) joined the Real Homes team while interning on her summer break from university. After graduating, she worked on several publications before joining Real Homes as Staff Writer full time in mid-2018. She loves a second-hand bargain and sourcing unique finds to make her rented flat reflect her personality.