What to Plan Before Hanging Wallpaper

1 of 7 in Series: The Essentials of Hanging Wallpaper

If you’re hanging wallpaper, careful planning will improve your chances for success. Before you hang the first strip, determine where you want the seams to be and figure out to to deal with uneven ceilings and walls. If you've never hung wallpaper, consider wallpapering a bedroom for practice — and then tackle a kitchen or bathroom when you have more experience.

Here are the steps to planning for success:

  1. Locate seams.

    To avoid unpleasant surprises that result from poor seam placement or having patterns cut off in awkward places, don't rush into hanging wallpaper right away. Take a few minutes to evaluate the room to determine where you want each seam to fall and where the patterns will begin relative to the ceiling or the corners of a room. Ask yourself:

    1. Which is the dominant wall? Plan to lay seams where they’ll be the least noticeable. Although seam planning should start on the dominant wall, it’s not the place you want to start papering.

    2. How are windows, doors, or focal points (such as a fireplace) spaced on the wall? If the wall has two windows, a symmetrical approach works best. Simply start by centering a seam or strip on the wall between the two windows and work your way out to the corners.

    3. Where do you want the final seam? Because you’ll be working around to the final seam from two directions, you need to cut one or both of the last two strips to fit the remaining unpapered space. This means that the pattern probably won’t match at the final seam. An inconspicuous place for the seam is over an entry door.

    4. Are the ceilings and walls reasonably level and plumb? Because the patterns on the paper are truly horizontal and vertical, they make out-of-whack walls and ceilings even more noticeable.

    5. Does the wallpaper pattern create a special need? With a large pattern, cutting the paper vertically at a corner of a room may cause a noticeable break in the pattern. To overcome that problem, start working from the center of the wall or from another spot.

  2. Determine the starting point for the first strip of wallpaper.

    If you plan seam placement, avoid starting with either of the two strips that lie on either side of the final seam. You want these two drops to be the last ones you do because both drops may have to be cut simultaneously, which requires that they both be wet enough to peel back and reposition.

    It’s usually easier for a right-handed individual to work counterclockwise around a room and a left-handed person to work clockwise.

    Wherever you start, use a plumb and chalk line (or a carpenter’s level and pencil) to create a straight, vertical (plumb) guideline. Position the plumb or level at the desired location. Install the first drop about 1/8-inch from the guideline.

  3. Plan for dealing with unlevel ceilings and out-of-plumb walls

    If you have ceilings that are out-of-level, avoid a straight-across pattern, which would emphasize the out-of-level ceiling. Instead, consider a vertical pattern, such as stripes, or drop-match pattern. Similarly, if you have out-of-plumb walls, avoid vertical patterns because a vertical pattern may start on one wall and cross over to the other at inside and outside corners.

    You may be able to further minimize such problems, at least on the most noticeable wall, by adjusting the position of the paper to avoid having pattern elements close to the edges of ceilings or outside corners.

  4. Create out-of-plumb guidelines.

    If you have ceilings or walls that are out of plumb, create a guideline with these steps:

    1. Measure about 4 feet down from the ceiling at each corner and snap a chalk line between the two points.

      If an out-of-level ceiling calls for it, you can establish an out-of-plumb vertical guideline.
      If an out-of-level ceiling calls for it, you can establish an out-of-plumb vertical guideline.
    2. Use a framing square to draw a line perpendicular to the chalk line.

    3. Extend the out-of-plumb line by using a pencil and a straightedge until the line runs from floor to ceiling.

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The Essentials of Hanging Wallpaper

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