Do it yourself!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

How To Hang Wallpaper

This article is mainly intended to relate my experiences in paper hanging to the diy or even someone wanting to hang professionally. I won’t go into the history or the hundreds of changes in manufacturing over the last 4000 years.In general,while wallpaper can be very beautiful and and effective in building design, it is a pain in the rear to deal with and can really try one’s patience.

It was good in the fact that it didn’t require a very large vehicle as the tools required were minimal. Nothing like painting or tile work, and it was relatively clean work. It is a respectable and admirable trade because not that many can do it very well. I have hung over 100,000 rolls of paper in the last 20 years. I didn’t get to see very much of the work of other hangers as I was always busy on my own, but I did get to see work done by some of the bad ones when called to re-do their job. It’s just not work that anyone can do. It takes extreme patience sometimes,trying to deal with problem papers,defects substrates,and sometimes customers that wanted you to work miracles while they stood over you.  I had painted and done sheet rock work for several years before so I had the background for the wall preparation that is so important for the adhesion and finished look of the paper.  My work was mostly done on new construction, maybe 60%. About 30% re-do work and about 10% commercial (54” vinyl).While hanging paper was trying at times and just a living it was very satisfying when you left a job that turned out looking very good and the customer very happy.  For anyone thinking of doing it for a living, I found one of the most important things you can do for success is to always show up or call. No one likes to be stood up.
Tools:
1.table: Most important is a table.You can buy sawhorse brackets,a 2x4 for the legs and a piece of plywood for the top for around $30. It makes it so much easier to have a table the same length as the height of your room. Usually that is 8’.Stores like home depot will cut the plywood for you. The best width is about 28”. Most papers you will see are 20 1/2”,while some are 27”. These are the two most common widths. Some kitchens are chair railed so that your paper lengths aren’t but 5’ or so,so you can get by with a kitchen table, but for full length pieces an 8’ piece of plywood works best. You will also need the wood surface to cut the paper vertically for the corners.
2.6"sheetrock knife:  Used for working the seams,smoothing,and a guide for your knife blade. 
3.smoothing brush:  Get one that is firm but not stiff enough to scratch your paper.  The finer the bristles the smoother the surface. Crucial for working the paper to the wall without getting air bubbles.
4.seam roller:  essential for tight, smooth seams
5.cutter:  Snapblade knives are probable best over all. I used single edge blades that I held in my mouth kind of like the way a seamstress holds thread or needles. The edge stays sharper on these blades and you don’t have to reach or hunt for it every time you need it. I think I only cut my lip once or twice.I’m sure the snapblade is best for beginners and first timers.
6.sponges:  Cellulose sponges work best because they are so absorbent,preventing water spots on your paper.If you can find in a half moon shape it works very well for getting into corners and up against the ceiling.A synthetic sponge worked well for getting the bulk of the paste off the surrounding areas and the joints.
7.metal straight edge Used for cutting paper vertically to fit in corners.Almost no corners are plumb.This allows you to re-plumb your paper and start down the new wall and keep your corners from pulling away from the wall with the least bit of settling.
8.3 5gal.buckets:  One will be needed for the adhesive, a couple for wash water,and maybe one to stand on.
9.drop cloth:
10.paint roller with 1/4"nap
11.sanding pole:  If your only planning to do one small job you could get by without this but if your going to do a good bit it’s a necessity. The walls need to be very smooth.Without the pole you’ll have to sand by hand.
Priming:  The first thing is to sand the walls.Then you need to prime or size them.It’s probably always best to do it. I usually followed painters who never used the right thing to prime with but the builders wouldn’t pay to change it so it was usually left that way. They usually prime the walls with the same flat wall paint that they put on the rest of the walls. Determine if any shading will bleed through and if it looks like it will use a pigmented primer and if not use a clear one, it’s so much easier to apply.All paint stores carry wallpaper primers. Primers help in the adhesion some, but mainly it will help if you need to strip and change paper later on.
Measuring and cutting out the paper:  Find the length and width of your paper. There should be a paper inside the wrapper that tells you this. Take a metal measuring tape and pull it out the width of your paper.  Determine where you want to start in your room. You need to start and finish in the least noticeable spot.That is usually behind to entrance door to the room. This should be the only place that the paper doesn’t match.Sometimes it’s better to kill it above that same door.Take the tape and measure from that point and use the metal end of the tape to make a mark.Then just measure from mark to mark all around the room. If your paper is a straight across match every piece will be the same. If it is a drop match every other piece will be the same.After you make these marks you will be able to see where every piece will go.Now go to your table and roll out a piece the height of your room and cut it.Now hold the remainder of the roll next to the one on the table until they match.Now slide the roll across the table. If the left side patterns are the same then it is straight across.If not;drop match. If you pick out a flower on the left side,the other half of it should be on the right side,straight across.If not it’s a drop match. Just be sure that if your going around the room left to right,  that the left side matches the right side of the piece below it.Match that and be sure you have plenty to cover the height of the wall and cut.Do the same so on and so on until you’ve gone around the room. You should have some excess to cut off of one of the ends.
Pasting or gluing:  I used a clay base adhesive on just about everything. If your hanging a paper backed vinyl you will need to thin it a good bit. If it’s a solid vinyl…not so much. If you bought one gallon empty it all into a 5 gallon bucket and mix in water until you’ve thinned it a good bit. Even pre-pasted papers I did this way. It’s so much simpler to roll a coat on the back than to try to wet the paper.Wetting the paper is just a big mess and sometimes it doesn’t stick. I never had any problems with sticking.   
Flip all of the pieces over so that the bottom is to the left. Pull a piece to the edge. Roll the bottom half of the sheet and fold the bottom up to that point.  Now roll the top half and fold the top down.Fold the whole thing once or twice more and set aside.I would usually glue 3 or 4 sheets at a time. You might want to do one or two at a time. They need to set 4 or 5 minutes each to have time to swell. By the time you hang the first one the rest will be ready. Mine would set 15 or 20 minutes sometimes. If you put them up too soon you’ll get a lot of bubbles under the paper.
Washing and rolling the seams:  I used 2 buckets of water with 2 different sponges. One for the first wash and one for the second. The first one was porous.I worked well for getting the bulk of the paste off the paper and in the summer really well for getting the paste off cabinets and other places where it had dried. Then I would use the second one, which was cellulose for absorbing all the excess water from the paper. Before I used the second one I would roll the seams and work them together with the seam roller and my 6” knife. You don’t have to roll hard, just lightly while working the paper next to the previous one. Mainly your trying to hide the white paper backing from showing. You may need to lay the knife almost flat and run down the joint to be sure it’s smooth.
It always works best to cut your paper in the corners.When you get to a corner measure to the corner at the top and the bottom. You will use the widest point to cut your paper by. Glue the next sheet and fold it once. measure from the left side to the required distance and make a very small cut. Do that at the top and bottom. Place the straight edge at the two cuts and cut the paper. After you put the first piece on you can plumb the second one while matching it up the best possible. This way you start each wall plumb and work your way around the room with the same point against the ceiling and floor or chair rail.

So, hopefully this will help someone. Good luck and have fun.

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