How To Apply Wallpaper

Preparation makes a world of difference when it comes to hanging wallpaper. These are basic steps, but they make the job go smoothly, eliminate problems before they occur, and make the work much more enjoyable. You've selected a room to beautify with wallpaper that took days or weeks to select. You've measured the room, calculated the square footage needed and purchased the wallpaper from a trusted supplier. Now it's time to begin. But don't start cutting wallpaper yet. First, let's prepare the room.

Remove the furniture

By emptying the room of furniture you leave yourself a wide open work space. This is important because you may need a step ladder to apply the wallpaper and dragging a ladder across a room crowded with furniture can ruin your day quick. It also gives you room to carry in large, folded strips of wallpaper, a task you'll be repeating often.

Empty the walls

Remove all paintings, posters, nails, screws, switchplates, outlet covers, stickers and decals. The walls need to be clear to hang the paper, and nothing throws a wrench in your rhythm like snagging a nail or bumping into a forgotten outlet cover.

Set up shop

Wallpaper is long and unruly stuff. You'll need to cut accurate and straight lines. That means you'll need a comfortable, spacious, level and hard surface upon which to work. If you use your dining room table, you'll end up with razor cuts across the polished finish. Invest in a 4x8 sheet of plywood and drop it across an empty desk or a pair of sawhorses if you have some handy. Make sure you have plenty of elbow room. The work station should be in a room adjacent to the room being papered, not in the same room. This gives you enough space to work on cutting and booking (more on that later) in one room, and enough space to work on hanging in the other.

Measure and Cut

This step varies in difficulty depending on the type of wallpaper being used. For some patterns, simply measuring the height of the walls will be sufficient. But always remember to add a few inches of length to each strip. This gives you room to apply the paper and make a precise cut at the base once it's hung. But some styles will require more technical skill. For example, if the style calls for a certain section of the pattern to appear at the ceiling, you must adjust the cuts accordingly. Other styles require horizontal alignment. In that case, certain patterns will have to align at the seams. It is important to measure twice and cut once, especially when this is the case.


To properly activate the adhesive of the wallpaper, it must be booked. This process begins with soaking the wallpaper into lukewarm water. For best results, submerge the wallpaper rolled up with the adhesive side facing out. Ensure the wallpaper is fully submerged and let it soak for 15 seconds. Then remove the wallpaper from the water, unroll it face-down on your work table and fold both ends of the strip into the middle, so that the adhesive sides touch each other. This is the "booking" process, which further activates the glue and helps distribute it evenly across the surface of the wallpaper. To save time, do several strips at once.


With a pencil, mark a plumb line where you plan to begin the wallpaper. This line will be your guide on the first strip. With the first strip hung perfectly straight, you will be able to align the seam of each subsequent strip to keep the wallpaper straight throughout the room. A plumb line can be drawn using a plumb bob, which is a simple tool that hangs a length of string in a perfectly straight line. A level can also be used to provide a straight line.

Hang, Smooth and Trim

You are now ready to hang the first piece. Unfold or "unbook" the first strip of paper. Carefully align the paper to the plumb line and the ceiling. Once the paper is aligned let it sit and the glue will quickly adhere it to the wall. Check for wrinkles or bubbles. A wallpaper brush or a wide putty knife will work well to smooth out the paper. Once you're happy with the result, hang the rest of the strips in the same manner. When you're finished, simply trim along the floor or baseboard molding with a sharp utility knife to complete the job.