Getting to Know Wallpaper

Add personality to a living space by decorating the walls with fabric, prints, or wallpaper.

By Bob Vila | Updated Aug 29, 2019 4:22 PM

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Tips for Hanging Wallpaper


Wallcovering can be used on walls and ceilings, as well as around windows, doors, and baseboards. The wallcovering family includes burlap, cork, embossed paper, fabric, foamed vinyl, foils, grasses, hand or screen prints, and washable prints. It is sold in rolls and comes pre-pasted, meaning that it must be soaked in a tray of water to activate the paste or glue-ready. Prepasted vinyl wallcovering is by far the easiest to handle. The others, especially those made of fibrous materials, are more difficult to hang and maintain.

Wallcovering is priced by the single roll, but packaged in double rolls called a double-roll bolt. Residential wallcovering is made in widths of 20-1/2, 27, and 36 inches; the wider the roll, the more area you’ll cover with each strip.

Remember that patterns repeat.

This means that what you see in the wallpaper book will multiply and repeat over and over again. How much of any pattern you will see depends on the pattern repeat measurement. In general, any pattern with a repeat of 6 inches or less will appear quite busy. Larger patterns with a repeat of 12 inches or more will appear more random and be easier on the eye, especially in a small room. Whatever your pattern choice, keep durability, washability, and strip-ability in mind. Some papers are easier to maintain than others.

The dye lot numbers help establish consistency in color.

Every roll of wallpaper is identified by a dye lot number, which may also be referred to as the run, batch, or shade number. This number is important because it ensures that all of your paper will carry the same shade and ink qualities. Though the printing process and the pattern may be the same, the ink doesn’t always take to the paper the same way. Differences in shade and pattern can be dramatic, so don’t mix and match dye lot numbers. If the store doesn’t have enough rolls from the same batch, ask them to order it specially. If you do have to reorder, ask for the same dye lot number.


Tools for Hanging Wallpaper


Think about what styles you’ll want long-term.

There are things to consider before wallpapering, particularly since the wallpaper you’re looking at may be around longer than you expect. It’s not unusual for homeowners to keep the same wallpaper for 15 or 20 years, so think long term when picking out a pattern or material. Babies grow up, little girls turn to sports, psychedelics are replaced by pastels, and decorating trends change, so beware the bold patterns and themes.

Take into consideration wall imperfections.

Hanging wallpaper can expose or mask the imperfections in your home. It can hide a corner that isn’t really square or a window frame that runs slightly uphill. In general, stripes make a room seem taller and draw the eye up vertically. With stripes, however, crooked walls or windows become very visible. Florals and random repeats hide imperfect lines, which is why flowers abound in classic Victorians. Colors also affect the feel of a room. Light color seems to open up a room, making it larger. Dark colors do just the opposite.

Make sure you have all of the necessary measurements.

When wallpapering, you don’t want to get caught short. First measure the height and width of each wall, then multiply them to get your square footage. Subtract 10 square feet for every door or full-sized window. Add together the square footages of each wall for a total wall area. You must know the pattern repeat for this method to work, so let a sales professional calculate how much paper you’ll need. He or she may suggest you use the strip method, which determines your wallpaper needs based on the perimeter measurement of the room, the height of the ceilings, the pattern repeat, and the matching required.

Remember that the excess paper you trim to match patterns and fit corners counts as waste. When you’re hanging paper with a pattern repeat, you’ll need the pattern to line up, again creating waste. Vertical patterns repeat anywhere from 1 to 25 inches. The greater the distance between repeats, the more paper you will need for matching, the more rolls you will need to buy, and the more waste you will create. For all of these reasons, professionals recommend buying an extra roll or two, in the same dye lot.