Updated: Apr 25
Whether your interior style is minimalist, maximalist or something in between, you’ll probably want to wallpaper at least one wall of a room, creating a stunning feature. So is wallpapering a job for the experts or something you can have a go at yourself? In our experience, the right tools, good quality materials, plus a dash of common sense make it a job most people can get to grips with.
Our comprehensive guide to wallpapering like a pro covers everything you need to know to give it a go with confidence. Read on for a detailed wallpapering step-by-step guide, answers to your most-asked questions, and a link to our brilliant clearance wallpaper offers. Here goes.
How to wallpaper in detailed steps
Learning how to wallpaper from scratch is a matter of following instructions and taking it slowly. Our first expert tip is to take it easy. Give yourself time to understand each step properly before acting. Be methodical and stay calm. Do not let the wallpaper get the better of you. It might look funny on TV when someone wallpapers themselves to a door or hangs an expensive roll upside down. But when it happens in real life, it isn’t funny at all.
There are two sorts of wallpaper, paste the wall and paste the wallpaper. Some people find it less messy to paste the wall than paste the wallpaper, their own faces, the furniture and so on.
First, let’s look at how to apply paste-the-wall wallpaper.
How to use 'paste the wall' wallpaper in 16 steps
First, get the tools of the trade together.
Plumb line or spirit level
Here’s what you do.
It might look clean but even so, wash the surface you’re papering with sugar soap first to take the dirt and grease off and give the paste a good surface to stick to. Then leave it to dry.
You’ll want a nice, smooth surface, so repair holes and scratches with filler. Use a filling knife for an instantly smooth surface, leave it to dry, and sandpaper it flat. The more careful you are, the better you’ll do.
Decide where you’re going to start papering (more about that later) and draw a vertical line 5cm from the starting point.
This one is really important. Make sure your guideline is properly vertical using a spirit level or a plumb line. A mistake at this stage will leave you with a tricky job ahead of you. And the end result will be slightly wonky wallpaper.
Measure the drop of your wall, in other words, how high it is. Add 10cm so you can trim it with confidence, giving yourself decent leeway. If you’ve chosen patterned wallpaper with large patterns it’s a good idea to decide where you want the pattern to start. What do you want to see at the ceiling level right at the top? A full pattern or part of one?
Cut your first strip to the size you’ve worked out using proper wallpaper scissors. Measure it at least twice before you make your cut so you know for sure it’s right. Again, using the proper tools of the trade makes a big difference. No struggling with the kitchen scissors.
Use the first length you’ve cut as a template for the rest. For patterned wallpapers, take care to cut every section so it matches the ones before and after it – particularly important for patterned wallpapers. Take your time with cutting your wallpaper and you’ll do fine.
Mix your paste-the-wall adhesive.
Check all your tools are at hand.
Brush the adhesive on the area of the wall you’ll be papering with your first strip. Make a layer 1mm thick. Keep your brush strokes long and smooth and take your time spreading the paste evenly. Start at the top and work your way down to help avoid drips.
Line up the paper to your guideline, making sure you’ve got the pattern right. Check before you actually hang the paper. It’s horribly easy to hang patterned wallpaper upside down when you’re rushing or nervous.
Working out from the middle of the paper to the edges. Brush or roller the paper smooth to get rid of bubbles and create a smooth finish
Carefully trim the paper at the top and bottom using your retractable knife or trimming wheel. Take it slowly. Do it a bit at a time if you feel safer that way. If you’re not confident with the way the tools feel and work, you can practice on scrap wallpaper first.
Slide the second piece of pasted paper up against the first one, checking the pattern carries across properly. Press it gently but firmly onto the wall, smoothing it from the middle outwards and using a cloth to gently wipe away any extra paste that oozes out
Use your seam roller to smooth the joint between them.
Repeat all this when you start the next wall, kicking off with another accurate vertical line 5cm from the starting point.
Corners to handle? We’ll answer questions about wallpapering corners later on.
How to use 'paste-the-wallpaper' wallpaper
You slip on a banana skin. You paste a sheet of wallpaper and end up wallpapering yourself. It’s comedy gold. Luckily this type of wallpaper isn’t actually that difficult to handle.
Measure and cut your wallpaper in the same way as paper-the-wall wallpaper.
Use the right paste – you need paste-the-wallpaper paste. Brush it on the back of the paper, working from the middle outwards to the edge and doing your best to create an even 1mm layer.
Fold the wallpaper loosely into a concertina and leave the paste to soak in for the right amount of time – follow the instructions on the paste pack.
Take the concertina of paper up your ladder. Pick it up by the top corners of the end you want to hang it from. Carefully slide the paper so it neatly meets your vertical line, then smooth it with a roller to get rid of bubbles and extra paste, working from the middle outwards.
Clean the paste table before you paste the next piece of paper.
Carry on hanging.
How to wallpaper corners
To complete the job, you need to know how to wallpaper inside corners like a pro, and the same for outside corners.
How to wallpaper inside corners
As you reach the last strip of paper before you come to a corner, measure and cut the strip lengthwise so it can wrap around the corner by about 2cm. Always cut on a table, never cut wallpaper in place.
Hang the strip as normal but peel it back from the corner by a few centimetres.
Make a vertical guide line about 5mm away from the corner than the narrowest width of the cut-off point. Then hang your next piece on the next wall so it tidily wraps the corner.
After smoothing the secguidelineond piece, trim the corner. Peel the paper back from the corner so you can position the first drop under it.
Smooth the second drop over the first and roll it all flat. Smart!
How to wallpaper outside corners
Wallpapering outside corners is different. Here’s how to wallpaper outside corners.
Never put a seam right on the sharp at the corner, where damage by people and pets can peel it apart.
If your corner is perfectly straight you can simply go round it, carrying on wallpapering as normal. If not, carrying on as normal will leave you with a wonky look and a finish to match. If that’s you, you need to use the wrap-and-overlap method we’ve already talked about, with a couple of differences.
Wrap your corner at least 8cm to make sure it sticks properly and stays there.
Measure, cut and position your second piece so it stops about 6mm before the corner.
Wrap the wallpaper around the corner and smooth it. Measure and mark the paper’s width on the next wall, making a vertical line to stick to using your spirit level or plumbline.
Don’t forget to pattern match if you need to.
Next, let’s take a look at some of the ‘how to’ wallpaper questions we’re asked most of all. They all matter, and we’ve made them as simple and straightforward as we can. If you have any more questions, let us know. We’re always happy to help.
How many rolls of wallpaper do I need?
Measure each wall of the room you want to wallpaper separately, then use an online wallpaper calculator to give you an accurate idea of how many rolls of wallpaper you need. Like every other step in wallpapering, measure at least twice so you know for sure it’s right.
How wide and long is a roll of wallpaper? Rolls of wallpaper are 10m long and 53cm wide.
Where to start wallpapering?
You’d think it would be easy enough, but there’s more to know where to start wallpapering than you might think. If yours is a basic rectangular or square room and you want to hang wallpaper with a small pattern, you can hang your first strip of paper close to a corner using a vertical guideline. Hang the first piece near the corner, leaving half a roll-width to hang on the other side, and it’ll look perfect.
Large pattern wallpapers look great centred, so you’d want to hang your first piece in the middle of a wall. If there’s a fireplace you’d start hanging in the middle above the mantelpiece. If the room has one or more windows, a large pattern paper looks great centred in between the windows or above and below a central window. But the best place to start, is by choosing that perfect wallpaper or mural.
Can you wallpaper over wallpaper?
Can you wallpaper over wallpaper? The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, but it depends on the existing layer of paper and it could prove disastrous. First of all, it’s best never to paper over a many-layered wall. If you have layers and layers of wallpaper going back decades it’s best to get rid of it and start fresh. If there’s only one layer, go for it. But you’ll need to bear this in mind:
If it’s a vinyl wallpaper you can’t paper over it. The waterproof coating means the paste won’t stick. The paper just slides off. Even if you get it to stick, mould might develop between the layers.
The condition of the wallpaper you want to paper over matters. If it’s textured, applied badly, damp, damaged, peeling or cracking, it’ll look terrible under your new paper. The base wallpaper should be in really good condition. If it isn’t, get busy with the scraper.
The same goes for lining paper. You can’t put lining paper on top of old wallpaper. It will look awful.
The colour of both papers matters too. If the base one is dark and the new one is light, will it show through? Will the print leak through to the surface when the dye is wet by the paste? The same goes if the original paper is patterned and the new one is plain. What will show through?
Some say you can paint old wallpaper before papering over it. We think that’s taking a risk too far.
A great tip if your wall is suitable for papering over? Thick or 3d patterned wallpapers like anaglypta are great for hiding uneven surfaces.
Can you plaster over wallpaper?
It’s another common question. Can you plaster over wallpaper? Yes, you can hand-plaster over wallpapered walls, and it can sometimes save a lot of time and hassle.
If the wallpaper is really stuck and you can't get it off even when it’s wet, you can try to plaster over it. It’s wise to do a test first, to check the plaster will stick. If you have more than one layer of wallpaper, it probably isn’t a good move to plaster over it. The plaster can dampen the layers and make them peel off or even fall off, plaster included.
If there’s only one layer of paper and it’s in good condition, it may be worth a try. You’ll need to test a small section first. On the other hand, one layer of paper doesn’t usually stick that fast. You should be able to strip it off. It’s up to you, but remember the risks.
How to dispose of wallpaper paste?
Can you just flush and forget it, or are there special rules? How to dispose of wallpaper paste leftover from your first dazzling wallpapering success? Most wallpaper paste is water-soluble and biodegradable, safe enough to be flushed down the loo bit by bit. Water the waste-paste down as much as you can before flushing it away in small amounts. Alternatively, leave it out to dry. It’ll shrink down into a tiny scrap of material to go in the household waste.
Now you know how to wallpaper. All you need is... actual wallpaper! Some contemporary wallpaper is incredibly costly, running to hundreds of pounds a roll for exclusive hand-printed exclusive designs by artists. But you don’t need to spend a fortune to get a wallpaper that will bring your room to life, adding character and warmth, style, and fun.
Trends come and trends go but wallpaper never goes away. Make your space sumptuous and welcoming, cool and calm, exciting and stimulating with our wonderful clearance wallpaper department. See what makes your heart beat faster. And always feel free to ask us questions.