Woman Putting Up Wallpaper

Wallpaper. What it is, how to hang it, where to hang it & why buy it

Wallpaper. It’s back “in” apparently.

Love it or loathe it, the existence of wallpaper in our homes is often dictated by fashions and fads, and therefore it has come and gone, and then come back again, time after time after time.

So why the fascination? Why should we take it seriously this time around?

We explain what to buy, for what room, and how to hang wallpaper correctly.

What are the reasons that wallpaper, the stuff your grandparents had on their walls,  has all of a sudden come back into fashion? Do you know?

Wallpaper! Is it in, or out of fashion?

Wallpaper used to be the in-thing when I was young but it quickly went out of fashion.

What wallpaper should you buy, and for what part of the house?

Other fashions come and go, that’s the whole point of fashion, it’s temporary, but wallpaper has never really gone completely out of fashion.

The enthusiasm and use of it fluctuates between the generations and between cultural and demographic changes in the last couple of hundred years, so why is it resurging again, now?

Some would say that the TV shows are to blame as nowadays as people are choosing to stay and improve their homes rather than move on.

Based in part that the typical “Property p*rn” show such as Grand Designs, which often entailed huge building projects, people are now choosing more manageable and small projects, such as, rather unsurprisingly, putting up wallpaper in the house!

People can’t be bothered to DO any DIY nowadays, some may say….

* Cue Laurence llewelyn-Bowen to swan in, save the day, and take care of the decorating whilst he locks Kevin McCloud in his caravan to stop him building something else whacky……..

kevin McCloud Grand designs
Kevin McCloud from Grand designs

For as long as paper or cloth-based wall coverings have been invented, (which you may be surprised to know was way back in the 18th century for printed wall paper) wall hangings of tapestry or cloth were the norm, but often made by the family themselves that lived in the house.

People have been making dull walls nice and bright, and a bit interesting anyway, for millions of years if you include prehistoric cave painting.

“………..after all, wasn’t that just a case of Mrs. “Ugg!” trying to make the matrimonial cave a bit more homely by painting a picture on the wall of her husband killing a sabre toothed tiger for tea??!……”

The room you are sat in right now may have wallpaper on the walls or you may even recall a nightmare time when you first tried your hand at hanging wallpaper in your own home?

Well regardless of WHY wallpaper is back in fashion, if you are determined that you want to make a major and positive change to a room you spend time in then I think we can certainly help you today.

This is a handy, easy to understand and original collection of advice, tips and knowledge, and a step by step guide on wallpaper, it’s variations, it’s styles, how to apply or “hang it” and a few top tips thrown in too!

Wallpaper is such a versatile wall coating medium that it can be used more or less anywhere where a wall or vertical surface needs some decoration, even, we found out earlier, on outside walls!

Wallpaper has more uses than simply decorative though and in some cases, damp proof wallpaper and even insulated wallpaper can be utilised to add value and warmth, quite literally, to any room you choose.

What are the main benefits of using wallpaper in the home?

Wall paper has many uses indoors, some obvious, and some not so obvious so here are a few we put together to help you in your next DIY project.

Tip one: Wallpapering has never been easier!

There are new types of paper, tools and pastes coming onto the DIY and trade markets each year and with a bit of research, following the rules and taking your time to get the job right, there is nothing stopping you getting out that pasting table, the one you only use for car boot sales (DOH!) and get pasting!

Tip two: Be careful that the surface you intend to decorate is suitable and prepared.

If the wall you want to decorate is, for example, damp, this is not a good start and you should not attempt to do it until you cure the damp.

There are damp sealers available that you can paint on, however a word of caution, damp coming into your house usually signals a problem with your OUTSIDE walls and you should look to cure that issue before continuing to hang your paper.

Tip three: Choose the correct wallpaper for the job

You also need to choose a suitable wallpaper for the room your attempting to decorate, as wall paper in bathrooms and kitchens are notably different and need to be colour fast and wipe clean.

High traffic area such as hallways should be a particularly durable paper to cope with knocks and scuffs.

Tip four: Use patterns sparingly and where needed.

Patterned wallpaper brings back memories of gaudy and “busy” 1960’s and 1970’s patterns that could send the most hardcore hippy on a “trip” or at least screw their vision up after looking at it but nowadays there a range of subtle patterns than really bring the WOW factor into any space.

There are of course designer patterns, Laura Ashley being perhaps the one that springs to most peoples minds, but unless you yourself have money to burn, there are plenty of cheaper options if you look hard enough.

 Tip five: Think about colour and how it may affect the room.

Can you supply a price to paint my house with wall coatings


Colour psychology is all the range nowadays and you can really transform the “feel” of any space in your home with the right colour.

Smaller rooms need a light colour, without fail but you can mix and match colours to complement each other and bring some interest into the space.

For rooms that open out onto the garden, for example, choose a colour of wallpaper that best reflects or complements the LIGHT coming into the room and the colours than can be seen by looking outside.

Make sure you consider the other aspects of the room when hanging paper.

Will the pattern or colour go with what is on the floor, or will it clash with the colour of the doors and skirting board for example?

Take a holistic approach when decorating a room.

Tip six: Consider textured wallpaper for damaged and rough walls.

If the wall in question is not in tremendously good shape than decorating with a thin paper will make it look ten times as worse.

If there are bumps and imperfections in the wall, ones that cant be obliterated by sanding down or using filler, then make sure you use a textured paper such as anaglypta or wood-chip, however take a look down at your local wallpaper store and see if they have anything that would be suitable for a wall in poor condition.

What types of wallpaper are available to buy nowadays?

There are many different types of paper, each suited to it’s own specific use, so here’s our explanation of some of them.

1. Vintage or retro wallpaper

1960s wallpaper
1960s wallpaper if used SPARINGLY can add a retro feel to your room

By far the most interesting and fun type of paper that you can buy is OLD stock, sometimes found at specialists but for the money-savvy, cut out the middle-man and find it yourself.

Try looking on ebay first but also these old rolls, often only a few in a bag, are rarely enough for a whole room but can be found in junk shops and charity shops and sometimes at your local car boot sale.

Just don’t decorate an entire room with it, Wallpaper is fun to hang but a pain in the ass to remove so be warned.

2. Ready-pasted wallpaper.

For the cheats amongst you, instead of covering the back of the paper before hanging, you can buy ready pasted paper, which is normally made sticky by wetting the back of it, but it’s a more expensive and less versatile and should only be used as a last resort.

You also need to buy a special trough for wetting the paper. Avoid this method, do it properly.

3. Woodchip wallpaper

OK, anyone who has lived in a student house at some point over the past 30 years will instantly recognise, and perhaps despise (!) woodchip paper, but don’t let the past put you off!

How many turbines dya want maaan?
Groovy man.

Woodchip wallpaper is cheap to buy (obviously) but is quite durable and hard wearing and of course you can paint it any colour you like.

It’s very good for covering over walls with defects, bumps and scars, drawing the eye away from wall indentations with it’s hypnotic textured pattern but to avoid the student house look, don’t over do it and don’t use wood-chipped wall paper in hallways or main rooms.

4. Lining paper.

Lining paper is a plan, bog standard and off-white wallpaper which is usually only used to coat a wall for painting, to give it a better surface for the paint to adhere to.

Not the best trick in the book by far.

5. Textured relief wallpaper.

This is a heavily embossed or highly textured wallpaper, along the lines of anaglipta we talked about earlier and there is a very wide range of patterns to choose from, but it’s a wallpaper that makes a statement so think wisely before buying.

It is best in cases of doubt or uncertainty, or just buy one roll and try it out on one section of wall before committing yourself to envelope the whole house in it and then regret it afterwards.

6. Coated wallpaper, or Vinyl wallpaper

Sometimes wallpaper that is made for specific areas in the home, such as the bathroom, are coated with PVA over the printed part of the pattern to create a colour fast and impervious surface.

Whereas vinyl wallpaper has a cotton backing and the pattern is printed onto a coating and then heated up in the factory to make it stick together

7. Standard printed wallpaper

This is by far the most common form of paper wall covering, and the one you are probably most likely to go out and buy. It is available in a myriad of styles and when choosing this, you should always go for the best quality paper that you can afford.

Cheap wallpaper is a false economy and it it will LOOK CHEAP when you hang it, plus it won’t last long, meaning that in a year or two, you are going to have to do the same thing again, but this time if you try and remove cheap wallpaper, it is going to take AGES, so do yourself a favour and dig deep for the better stuff.

And the last piece in the jigsaw puzzle, too minor for me to add it as number eight on our list,  are BORDERS.

These are thin rolls of pattern, sometimes ready pasted, that can add a relief or mask a join in the paper, but again, this is to be used wisely and sparingly, but you can really set a room off, especially if the main walls are painted paper.

So with that lesson over, what about the tools and equipment you will need to hang wallpaper?

Items you need to buy for your wallpapering project.

Some of these will be blindingly obvious and some maybe not so, and it depends on your level of expertise, your knowledge, and the budget that you have allocated to pay for this decorating project.

A pasting table. Available from various places, we got one at toolstation.com, a prodec model, for about £40, although ask around as most people will have one you can borrow for free.

Pasting bucket. Various places sell these and DO NOT be tempted to splash out on some custom made expensive model as you will waste your money, Any old bucket will do and even one like a “RODO” plastic builders bucket, from decoratingwarehouse.co.uk for about 2 quid.

Scissors. Good ones. You WILL need a pair of scissors to cut your paper, and from experience it is actually best to buy one half decent and avoid ones from “pound shops” as your finished wallpapered room will look messy and untidy if the lines are not dead straight.

Try out Harris Taskmaster decorators Scissors from ilovewallpaper.co.uk, a snip (!) at only around 4 quid.

The wallpaper itself! Yes, I know very obvious, but if you have forgotten you need that, you evidently have not read anything on this page. Available online from far too many places to list.

Pasting brush. Once again, don’t be tempted to buy one from Poundland. Invest in a good one and you will find the job easier, plus it will last for many years if looked after.

For the DIY novice, we recommend Harris Wallpaper Brush 876N from B&Q for about £5 or £6, or for the professional decorator, select a Hamilton Perfection 9 Ring Paper Hanging Brush, (below) at about £38 from the chaps at decoratingwarehouse.co.uk

(No we are NOT being paid to say this either)

Paper hanging brush
Now THIS is one of the BEST brushes you can buy for hanging paper

Wallpaper steam stripper: We used a Wagner W-14 model from directbrandtools.com and we paid about £30 quid for it.

Wallpaper paste. If you are using the traditional wallpaper mentioned earlier in this article then you are going to need a paste (glue) to affix it to the wall. (That’s is the tricky bit by the way).

Despite what you may think, there are actually a few different types of paste available, mostly in powder form, and they are:

  • Standard or all-purpose; Suitable for light to medium weight paper.
  • Heavy duty; Suitable for hanging embossed paper or paper-backed fabrics.
  • Stain-free; To be used on very delicate paper
  • Fungicidal wallpaper paste; Used where there is a risk of mould becoming present after decorating, which incidentally if that happens, you could be wasting your time papering after all.

Other items needed to hang wallpaper not listed above: A stepladder, a scraper, a tape measure, a pen or pencil, a seam roller (Hamilton seam roller, £6 from B&Q), a plumb line, a spirit level, dustsheets, sandpaper, and of course wear old clothes.

How to apply the wallpaper: The difficult bit.

With the knowledge above, and the purchase of the correct paper for the job, and the right tools and equipment, your next interior decorating project is ready for you, so off you go!

Let’s hang some wallpaper!

Now you have all you need to do the job, the first thing to do is of course to clear out the room that is to be decorated.

If you are decorating the entire room, make sure all other painting work, such as skirting, mouldings, ceilings etc., are done BEFORE YOU START TO HANG YOUR WALLPAPER.

Any large items of furniture should be moved to the centre of the room and cover with drop cloths or CLEAN dust sheets.

Remember it is of vital importance to keep children and pets AWAY from where you are working.

What can seem fun can quickly turn to a nightmare if you are concentrating on what you are doing and cannot see either the dog drinking the wallpaper paste or your 2-year old daughter cutting her hair with those super sharp scissors of yours.

Don’t laugh, take safety seriously.

Also, if this is your first attempt, please be realistic in your skill and ability to hang wallpaper as despite people like myself making it sound easy, this bit is NOT and if you fluff it, you will wish you had called your local decorator in, so with that in mind let’s continue.

Once you have a clear and unobstructed work area, arrange your tools and equipment so they are to hand and place the pasting table BEHIND you so when you face the wall that will be accepting the paper, the table should be behind you. You’ll quickly find out WHY once you start.

Make sure the walls are prepared too, which means if there is wallpaper already on the wall, you have to get it off, and using a steamer with a wide scraper is best for this.

Make sure you dispose of the old paper in your green recycling bin.

Fill in any cracks or bumps using a fine surface filler, such as Ronseal Smooth Finish, which costs about £12 for 2kg from tradetoolstore.com and other outlets, and then sand down the rough edges of each repair so they are smooth to the wall.

After any repairs, brush the area down with a damp brush to get rid of dust.

For newly plastered walls, make sure that you brush a thin solution of diluted wallpaper paste over the entire surface.

Measure the length of wallpaper you will need and then lay out the paper across your table and cut it to length.

Try and be as exact as possible and bear in mind if you cut too much off it is better than cutting it shorter than you need by mistake as the former is more easy to put right than the latter.

Once you are happy that you have cut the correct length, DUPLICATE THIS by cutting each length accordingly, using your first, CORRECTLY MEASURED piece as a template and allowing an inch each end for overlaps, which you will eventually cut away.

Remember use your tape measure so you know how much paper to cut off, although if you have done that before you went to buy the wallpaper, you should have ample to complete your DIY job.

Now place your paper FACE DOWNWARDS on your pasting table and apply your paste, starting in the middle and working outwards, making sure it goes all the way to the edges.

Fold your now-pasted paper over onto itself at the top and repeat until the entire length of paper has been pasted and is now ready to hang.

Start hanging your paper at the EDGE of a wall, NOT in the middle (!) and work away from the window in a careful but methodical fashion.

Try and leave an inch overlap on the top and bottom so you can trim to a nice and sharp edge.

Use the paperhangers brush to brush the paper onto the wall, using gentle strokes from the middle outwards, and get all air bubbles and excess paste out from the paper.

Then you need to run the tip of the scissors along the paper at the point where it joins the ceiling to score a nice straight line.

Then carefully peel the paper back slightly and cut the line you just made.

Once that is done, carefully but purposely press the edge back with the brush so it marries with the ceiling edge.

Unfold the rest of the paper and apply using your brush all the way down to the skirting board, where you need to use your scissors again to make that nice neat line.

There you go, you have hung ONE sheet of wallpaper.

If you are happy with the results, carry on, but if not, go back and correct any issues before you continue making a balls-up of the rest of the room.

When you get to a corner in the room, mark a line on the wall so the paper overlaps and then hang the paper so it falls over the door or window and make a diagonal cut.

Then brush the paper into place along the side of the door frame, scoring with scissors, and then cut away the paper that hangs over the door and put aside.

Repeat these steps around your room and hey presto, you have decorated your room with wallpaper!

After you have cleared up, open the windows in the room which will help get rid of any smells and will also aid drying, although if the weather outside is wet, it’s best NOT to do that as the moisture can enter the room and ruin your work, so take note.

You have now decorated your room. Well done.

Please note that the products mentioned on this page are NOT for sale through our company and we were NOT asked or coerced in any way to mention them by any of the stores, and we did NOT receive any payment or incentive to review any of these tools or items, the above are GENUINE reviews of products that I MYSELF have used. Thanks


This is an original article by Ex pro-decorator and building surveyor, Guy Alexander Bell Bsc.(hons).Pg.Dip.

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