How To Hang Wallpaper

Everything You Need For Wallpaper Installation

Tools Of The Trade

Redecorating is satisfying and fun, but you might find obstacles along the way. Don’t worry! If you have the right tools, your journey to a beautiful new home will be a whole lot smoother. With the perfect wallpaper and just a little coaching, you'll see how easy giving your home a completely beautiful new look can be. Before you begin your new project, you should have all of the following:

  • Smoothing tool
  • Roller and tray or pasting brush (for non-pasted paper)
  • Paste (for non-pasted wallcoverings)
  • Trim guide (or broad knife)
  • Sharp shears
  • Wall primer
  • Seam roller
  • Razor knife with extra blades
  • Bucket & sponge
  • Sandpaper
  • Border & seam adhesive
  • Water tray or pre-paste activator (for pre-pasted paper)
  • Level or plumb line
  • Yardstick
  • Drop cloth
detail interor showing modern pattern wallpaper behind a desk
interior of a living room with patterned wall covering

Prepare Your Walls

man cleaning wall to prepare for hanging wallpaper

Before you begin hanging new wallpaper, your walls must first be prepared. Taking the time to get your walls ready will make the job so much easier! If you haven't yet, read our guide to wall preparation.

How To Hang Wallpaper Straight

man making a level vertical line on a wall to prepare for hanging wallpaper straight

Your wallpaper project will be a success if the very first strip of paper is hung straight. To get it right, measure the width of your wallpaper and subtract half an inch. Measure and mark this distance from your starting point (a corner or doorway). Draw a vertical line using a level or a simple tool called a plumb line, which can be found at any hardware store.

For your plumb line, attach the weight to one end of the string and rub the cord with chalk. Tack the line to the spot on the wall and drop weight just above the floor or baseboard. When the weight stops swinging, grasp the bottom of the cord and hold taut. With your other hand, pull the cord away from the wall and snap it back. This chalk line is your starting point. To avoid seeing the chalk through your new paper, remember to remove any excess after you have positioned the first new strip.

How To Match Wallpaper Patterns

man matching pattern while installing wallpaper

Lining up wallpaper patterns might seem tricky, but it’s actually easy to do! Measure the distance from ceiling to baseboard and add four inches, or two inches at each end. Unroll your wallpaper, pattern side up, and remove the curl by reverse rolling. Choose the design you wish to be at ceiling level and start measurement two inches above this point. Measure and cut the strip to size. Before cutting the second strip, carefully match patterns. With this simple technique, you’ll always be able to match your patterns!

How To Book Wallpaper

Most of the time, the best method for preparing wallpaper is “booking.” Taking the time to book your wallpaper for about five minutes will prevent the paper from expanding on the wall. This gives the wallpaper adhesive time to activate or saturate the paper.

Booking Pre-pasted Wallpaper

Fill water tray halfway with lukewarm water. Loosely roll wallpaper strip, pattern side in. Submerge in water for 15 seconds. Always follow manufacturer's instructions, because exact times may vary. Pull out slowly, unrolling as you go. Allow excess water to roll off.

Book the paper by folding the top and bottom of the strip loosely to the center with the pasted sides together, being careful not to crease the paper. If you prefer to not submerge the wallpaper, you may apply pre-paste activator with a pasting brush or roller to the back of the paper. You will still book the paper to relax creases.

illustration showing how to apply paste to wallpaper

Booking Non-pasted Wallpaper

Unroll paper and apply adhesive with pasting brush or roller to back of paper, starting at the center and working outwards. Be sure edges are well coated. Book the paper by folding the pasted sides against each other to relax creases. Wait about five minutes, and your wallpaper will be ready to hang. Make sure to follow the instructions for your specific wallpaper paste to get the best results.

illustration showing how to book wallpaper before hanging

Hanging Your Wallpaper

Before getting started, cover your furniture and floor with drop cloths and set aside a wastebasket or box to hold the trimmings. Unfold the top portion of the first pasted strip and align it with your vertical chalk mark, overlapping about two inches of paper onto the ceiling. Make certain the main design pattern is positioned on the wall where you want it and that the strip is lined up perfectly with the chalk mark. Using a smoothing tool, work from the center of the strip to the edges and remove any air bubbles. When the top portion is smooth and the positioning is perfect, unroll the bottom half and continue smoothing, allowing the paper to overlap the baseboard. Double check that all air bubbles have been removed and that the strip is securely fastened to the wall.

illustration showing how to hang wallpaper


Using the trim guide and cutting instrument, trim off the excess paper at the top and bottom of the strip. Move both tools simultaneously for an even cut. Sponge down the entire strip, including the woodwork and ceiling, to remove any excess paste (be sure to rinse sponge in clean water after each use). Move on to the next strip, taking care to match the pattern and butt the edges of the strips. Do not overlap seams!

illustration showing how to trim wallpaper during installation


Always hang the ceiling covering first if you plan to use matching or contrasting wallcoverings. Note: some random-match patterns have side-to-side shading and require reversing alternate strips top to bottom. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Wallpaper Seams

Well-matched seams are extremely important to the quality of your finished room. After several strips have been hung, roll each seam lightly with a seam roller. Be careful not to roll too hard -- paste may squeeze out, leaving a dry seam and possibly damaging the wallpaper surface. Note: Certain prepasted wallcoverings have instructions not to roll seams. Always read your manufacturer's instructions carefully, and your wallpaper experience should go smoothly!

illustration showing how to properly roll wallpaper seams

Doors And Windows

When you come to a door or window casing, overlap the woodwork with the pattern. Position and smooth the paper up to the casing. Make a diagonal cut from the overlapped side of the strip to the outside corner of the casing. This will allow the top portion of the strip to be smoothed flat against the wall. Trim off excess as you did at the top and bottom of previous strips. Before trimming around casings, tap the wallcovering firmly into place with the smoothing tool. Sponge off excess paste and proceed with the next strip.

illustration showing how to trim wallpaper around doors and windows

Wall Corners

Next, measure the narrowest width of the retained strip. Snap or draw another vertical line half an inch less than the narrowest width measurement from the inside corner. Hang the retained strip along the vertical line, tapping the excess into the corner. Gently reach underneath and lift up the strip of paper that was cut directly in the corner and tap the new piece into place, overlapping the corner. Apply a small bead of border and seam adhesive to the overlapped area and lay down the piece that fits perfectly into the corner. Smooth the corners and remove any excess adhesive.

first of two illustration showing how to trim wallpaper around corners second of two illustration showing how to trim wallpaper around corners during installation

Electric Outlets And Switch Plates

Caution! Use extreme care when working with outlets of any kind. We recommend turning off your electricity before working around any electrical outlets.

Remove plates from switches and outlets. Loosen back plates of any wall fixtures. Proceed normally with hanging your paper until you come to an outlet box. Smooth paper to outlet and mark an outline of the electrical box on the wallpaper with a pencil. Pull the strip away from the wall and make an "X" cut from corner to corner inside the box. Smooth the strip down the rest of the way. Trim off the four flaps inside the box and replace the plate.

To make the plate less noticeable, it can be covered with wallpaper before replacing it on the wall. Select a scrap of paper that will match the area cut out for the opening and place it over the plate (overlapping on all sides). Make a diagonal cut to each of the outside corners and into the inside corners of any openings. Wrap the excess around the back of the plate, smooth and replace.

If you come to a wall fixture, make a cut from the side of the strip in as far as the fixture will be when the strip is positioned. Make an "X" cut at the end of the cut. Slip the strip behind the back plate, allowing the fixture to slip through the cut slot and into the "X." Trim the four flaps from the "X" cut, then smooth and rejoin cut edges on the other side and continue smoothing the paper.

illustration showing how to trim wallpaper around electric outlets and switch plates

Glossary Of Terms For Wallpaper Installation

Note: The term "wallcovering" in today's usage refers to any materials used to cover walls. "Wallpaper" is a traditional term used only for paper wallcoverings.

  • Adhesive: A paste for applying wallcovering to a wall.
  • Backing: A fabric, paper or synthetic material to which wallcoverings are laminated for strength and support.
  • Booking: The technique of folding the top and bottom of a wallpaper strip to the center, paste side to paste side. This allows the material to "relax" for several minutes so that it can assume its final dimension from the water and/or the paste. For booking time, refer to manufacturer's instructions.
  • Broad Knife: Wide putty knife used as a trim guide and also for scraping old wallpaper from walls. It may be used to spread spackle in order to fill holes or cracks in walls.
  • Butted Seam: To "butt" a seam, edges of wallcovering strips are fitted edge to edge without overlapping.
  • Deglossing: The breaking down of a glossy painted surface so that wallcovering will adhere to the surface properly.
  • Lining Paper (blank stock): A blank wallcovering used to cover a rough wall to provide a smoother surface.
  • Non-Porous: A surface that cannot be penetrated by moisture or air. Examples include solid vinyl wallcoverings or oil-based paint.
  • Pattern Match: How the wallcovering matches from strip to strip. There are three types: 1) Straight Across Match where every strip is exactly the same; 2) Drop Match where every other strip is the same; 3) Random Match where there is no noticeable repetition to the design.
  • Pattern Repeat: The length of a pattern before it repeats.
  • Plumb Line: A tool used to drop a perpendicular line on a wall to aid in hanging a strip of wallcovering vertically.
  • Prepasted: A wallcovering which has dry adhesive applied to the backing by the manufacturer.
  • Seam Roller: A tool used on wallcovering seams to ensure that the edges are firmly adhered to the wall.
  • Smoothing Tool: A tool used to remove air bubbles and to smooth a pasted strip of wallcovering onto the wall.
  • Trim Guide: A tool used as a guide with a cutting instrument to trim wallcovering evenly.

Let’s Find Your Wallpaper!

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