PAPERING WALLS the basics

No other wall covering can quite so dramatically alter the look and feeling of a room as wallpaper. Correctly hung paper makes the walls sharp and fresh, and to achieve this finish there are important things to know.

What do you do if the walls are out of true? Where’s the best place to start? How do you prevent bubbles and creases? The answers are here.

More a matter of attention to detail. And perhaps the first mistake that’s made by many people is expecting too much of their walls. Rarely are walls perfectly flat, perfectly vertical and at right angles to each other. So the first and most crucial part of hanging wallpaper is to prepare the walls properly Obviously you can’t change their basic character – if they’re not entirely flat or vertical, you’re stuck with them – but you can make sure that the surface is suitably prepared so that the new paper will stick.

This means that any old wallpaper really should come off before you do anything else. Papering on top of old wall coverings won’t lead to disaster, but it will guite often simply because the new adhesive will tend to loosen the old. The result will be bubbles at best and peeling at worst.

Adhesives

Always use the correct adhesive for the wallcovering and follow the manufacturers instructions for mixing. Using the wrong paste can result in the paper not sticking. Mould growth or discoloration of the paper

A cellulose-based adhesive is used for all standard wallcoverings. There are two types, ordinary and heavy-duty which relates to the weight of the paper being hung. Heavy-duty pastes are for heavyweight wallcoverings. Certain brands of paste are suitable for all types of wallcoverings – less water being used for mixing when hanging heavy papers

Since vinyls and washable wallcoverings are impervious, mould could attack the paste unless it contains a fungicide. Fungicidal paste is also needed if the wall has previously been treated against mould or if there is any sign of damp.

Some wallcoverings (like polyethylene foam, some hessians and foils) require a specially thick adhesive which is pasted onto the wall. Follow manufacturers’ instructions.

Ready-pasted papers are exactly that and require no extra adhesive – although it’s useful to have a tube of latex glue handy for finishing off corners and joints which mightn’t have stuck. (The same applies to a wallpapers).

Glue (a watered down adhesive) is brushed over the walls before papering to seal them and prevent the paste from soaking in to the wall. It also ensures all-over adhesion and makes sliding the paper into place easier.

Although size can be bought, most wallpaper pastes will make size when mixed with the amount of water stated in the instructions.

If you buy a proprietary size and the wallcovering you are using needs an adhesive containing fungicide, make sure that the size you buy also contains a fungicide. Use an old brush to apply and a damp cloth to clean off any that runs on to paintwork. It can be difficult to remove after it has dried. Sizing can be done several days or an hour before.

Where to begin

The traditional rule is to start next to the window and work away from it, but that is really a hangover from the days when paper was overlapped and shadows showed up joins. Today, papers butt up, so light isn’t the problem. But as inaccuracies can occur with slight loss of pattern, you have to be able to make this as inconspicuous as possible. In (with medium weight paper) by the time the third is pasted and folded and is ready to be hung. With heavy papers paste, fold and soak 6 drops at a time as extra soaking time is needed.

HANGING TO A VERTICAL

For perfect results wallcoverings must be hung absolutely vertical. You can’t trust the corners of rooms to be perfectly true so you must.

– mark a vertical line on the wall against which the first length can be aligned

– mark a similar line on the next wall every time you turn a corner Mark line on first wall 25mm (1 in) less than a roll’s width from the corner, using a plumb bob and line

– hold the line at the top of the wall and allow the bob to come to rest just above skirting board level

– mark the string’s position at three points on the wall with a pencil

– join up the marks using a long straight timber batten as a ruler

PAPERHANGING TOOLS

Plumb bob and line: for establishing a true vertical. Any sma’l weight attached to a string will do.

Pasting brush: it’s thicker than a paint brush and about 150mm (6in) wide. A paint brush will do as a substitute. Paperhanger’s scissors: for trimming on or off the wall. Long-bladed household scissors can be used instead. Paperhanging brush: for smoothing paper onto walls and into angles. Use a sponge on washable and vinyl papers. Seam roller: for ensuring good adhesion along seams (not used with embossed papers). A cloth-wrapped finger does almost as well.

Pasting table: for pasting lengths prior to hanging, it’s slightly wider than a standard roll width. Any table over about 1.8 metres (6ft) long can be used.

Avoiding bubbles

The purpose behind soaking time (apart from making paper supple enough to handle) is to give it time to expand to its natural limit. On the width this can be 6mm-12mm (V^in-1/2in) and the average wall-size drop will gain 24mm (1in)on the length-this explains why you have more to cut as waste than you started with.

If you haven’t given paper the time it needs, it will expand on the walls – but its spread will be contained by adjoining drops and so you get bubbles in the central part.

Soak medium weight papers for 3-4 minutes, heavy weights for about 10. Ready-pasted papers don’t need too long a soaking, but to ensure they get wet all over, roll drops loosely and press into water till they are completely covered.

Pasting and soaking

Position the paper with its top edge at the right-hand end of the table (or at the other end if you’re left handed). Paste it carefully to ensure that all parts, the edges especially, are well covered. Work from the centre outwards in herring-bone style using the width of the brush to cover the drop in sweeps, first to the nearest edge, then the other – excess paste here will go onto second drop, not the table. Cover two-thirds of the drop, then fold the top edge in so paste is to paste. Move the drop along the table and paste the remainder, folding bottom edge in paste to paste. Because the first folded part is longer than the other, this will remind you which is the top. Fold the drop up and put aside to soak while you paste the others.

This technique will give you a manageable parcel of paper to hang no matter what length the drop – but always remember to make the first fold longer – this is the one offered to the ceiling line. If in doubt mark the top edge lightly with a pencil cross.

Hanging pasted paper

Wallpaper must be hung absolutely vertical if it is to look right, so always work to a vertical line , then pick the drop up by the two top corners and take it to the ceiling line. Press onto the wall using an absorbent sponge to mop up and push out air bubbles. Press firmly on the edges with the sponge or a seam roller, then trim waste.

Few walls present a perfectly clear surface for paperhanging. Almost all will contain such small obstacles as light switches and power points, while some may carry wall-mounted fittings such as curtain tracks and adjustable shelving. Small obstacles can be papered round with some careful trimming, but larger obstacles are best taken down from the wall and replaced when you have finished decorating. That way you will get a really professional finish.

Creases can also spoil the look of your work. If they occur, take steps to remove them before the paste dries. Here’s how.

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