Stripping wallpaper

There are two methods of stripping wallpaper in general use: soaking and scraping – with or without a proprietary stripping compound – and steam-stripping, using a special tool.

Knife to scrape it away from the wall. Make sure that your knife is kept ground sharp. Ideally, it should be of the type which has a stiff steel blade incorporated into the handle – the cheaper varieties bend and gouge plaster out of the wall.

If a piece of paper proves particularly stubborn, paint on some more water, leave it to soak, then try again – on no account attack a stubborn patch with the scraper as you may damage the plaster. Like washable paper, thick layers of old paper can be shifted more quickly if you carefully score the surface first with a wire brush.

Steam stripping is about as fast as using water but requires much less effort, creates less mess and minimizes the chances of damaging the wall. You can hire a steam stripper quite cheaply from hire shops and, if your old wallpaper is particularly heavy, it is worth the cost.

To use the tool, you simply press the steam-generating pad against the wall with one hand and scrape safely, not forgetting that you will often need both hands free to hang the wallpaper. At the same time, gather together all the other tools necessary for the job – plumbline, shears, tape measure, pasting brush, pencil and bucket. The shears are particularly important – try not to economize by using ordinary household scissors which are too small for accurate cuts on this scale.

One final preparatory step is to compare the shades of each separate roll of wallpaper. Where the batch numbers on the outer packing are the same, there should be no problem. But if the numbers differ, check the colour of each roll and arrange them so that similar shades run next to each other when you come to paste them up on the wall.

Where to start wallpapering

Where you start papering depends to a large extent on whether your wallpaper is subdued, or bold and striking. In the former case, follow the general rule that you should always paper away from the light – any overlaps between strips will cast shadows if you make them facing into it.

Start at the end of a wall, or against a window or door frame – where you will have a straight run before tackling the more intricate bits.

Where the wallpaper you have chosen has a bold pattern, start with a feature wall or chimney breast which immediately catches the eye. Centre up the pattern so it is symmetrical then work on from either side.

If your wallpaper pattern consists of strong geometric shapes, plan for the final strip to be hung in an obscure corner of the room – well away from the light – where the break in pattern is not too noticeable.

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