What You Will Need
The Main Five:
- vintage wallpaper
(visit the Hannah's Treasures website to browse through hundreds of
great vintage wallpaper patterns. Also, be sure to read our other post,
How much wallpaper do I need?)
- wheat paste / wall size
(we recommend Golden Harvest, which can be found online on
Home Depot's website)
- paste brush
- wallpaper smoothing brush
- seam roller
You can find "wallpapering kits" online that include a paste brush, smoothing brush, and seam roller, or you can find these items individually. In lieu of a smoothing brush, you may use a soft sponge.
- 6 ft. work table
- 6 ft. straight edge
- plumb bob and chalk line or laser level
- rotary cutter
- sharp scissors
- 2 ft. ruler / short straight edge
- small buckets for paste, size, and water
- drop cloths or newspapers
- clean rags and sponges
- self-healing cutting matt (if you don't have a good cutting surface)
- tape measure (always handy)
- paint roller for "size" (if you prefer a roller to a brush)
Hanging Your Vintage Wallpaper
*be sure that your walls are clean and properly prepped before moving on to the next steps. Read our post How to Prepare your Walls for Hanging Vintage Wallpaper.
Step 1: Size your walls
Sizing is a fancy name for a rather simple process. The traditional wheat paste that you need for hanging vintage wallpaper is actually called "wheat paste / wall size." The difference between the "paste" you apply to the paper and the "size" you apply to the wall is that the size is a much thinner, more watery variation of the paste you will make for hanging the paper.
Follow the directions for mixing wall size on the paste container. You'll want to prepare the size ahead of time using hot water and giving it enough time to cool. Unlike wallpaper paste, wall size should be a very thin mixture and much runnier. Once you've created the size, apply a thin coat all over your walls with a brush or a roller.
Step 2: Preparing the paste
Always use a traditional wheat paste for hanging vintage wallpaper, and make sure the package says "for hanging paper". It's best to follow the package directions for making the paste, but keep in mind these helpful tips:
-Prepare the paste ahead of time with hot water and let it cool.
-The consistency of the paste should be a thick liquid, something like heavy cream, and it should not be lumpy.
-Keep in mind the thickness of your paper. The thicker the paper, the thicker the paste, and vice versa.
Step 3: Setting a vertical plumb line
After letting the size dry for a few minutes, it's time to mark a straight line from ceiling to floor in the place where you want to start hanging the paper. Paperhangers traditionally used a plumb bob to mark a straight vertical line, but we prefer the handiness and efficiency of a laser level, which can be easily reset to align each new piece as you hang it.
Common starting places for hanging wallpaper are near a corner or a door frame. Do not start by butting the edge of the paper exactly into the corner. Instead, measure the width of your paper (not including the selvage edges), subtract a half-inch, and mark a plumb line that distance away from the corner. (For example, if your paper is 18 inches wide, measure 17 1/2 inches to the right of the corner, and set a plumb line.) This line is where you will align the left hand side of the first strip. You will be starting almost a full paper's width from from the corner and moving away from it, but as you make your way around the room, you will come back to that first corner to finish. Because corners are not always straight, it's better to wrap slightly around them than to butt right up into them.
Depending on your room, there may be different considerations for where to start. For our striped feature wall, we decided to start just to the right of the dining room soffit. In doing so, we avoided having to cut a large section out of the middle of the paper, but starting in the center of the wall did make us have to work both from left to right and from right to left.
Be sure to consider your room carefully and choose the best starting point for your unique space.
Step 4: Cutting wallpaper strips
To determine how many strips you need for one wall, divide the wall's length by the width of the paper (not including the selvage edges.)
There are different processes for how to cut wallpaper strips depending on whether the paper is a straight pattern or a drop pattern. It is therefore important to realize what kind of wallpaper you have.
How do you know if you have a straight pattern?
On a straight pattern, the design on the left-hand side will exactly line up with and complete the design on the right hand side.
With straight patterns, you can go ahead and cut the correct number of strips for the wall. Make sure to cut each strip 6 inches longer than the height of the wall. These extra inches will give you 3 inches on top and bottom allowing you to maneuver the paper for correct matching.
We only recommend cutting strips for one wall at a time. Because vintage wallpaper is in limited stock, we like to leave room for human error and necessary adaptation and adjustment.
How do you know if you have a drop pattern?
On a drop pattern, the left side and the right side do not line up exactly. Instead, the pattern descends at an angle, giving a staggered appearance to the design.
Drop patterns require adjusting. You will have to move the adjacent strip up or down in order to match the pattern to the previous strip. When cutting a drop pattern, it's easiest to cut and hang one piece at a time. After you have one strip on the wall, you can easily see where the pattern on the next piece should begin in order to match. You may lose a foot or two of paper as you adjust for matching, but any large scraps you have left over are good to keep for future repairs or touch-ups.
When you determine where the pattern on the next piece should begin, be sure to actually cut the wallpaper three inches above that point and three inches below the baseboard's length. The extra six inches of paper are even more necessary with drop patterns.
Step 5: Applying the paste
Turn the strip of wallpaper print-side-down on the table, keeping in mind which end is the "ceiling" end and which end will touch the floor. Always orient each new piece the same way on the table for correct trimming and hanging.
Once the strip is print-side-down on the table, situate it so that the "floor end" is aligned with the edge of the table nearest you and the rest of the paper runs across the table and hangs over the farthest edge. You will have six feet of paper on the table and the remaining paper (which should be the "ceiling end") draping toward the ground.
Using the pasting brush, spread the paste evenly over the paper. Cover the paper edge to edge. Be generous so that no part of the paper is left unpasted or underpasted, but don't be too excessive. You don't want to apply such a thick layer of paste that it will weigh down the paper and squish out in all directions when pressed to the wall.
Once you've applied the paste to this first section of the paper, you will fold the pasted paper in upon itself. Take the pasted end and fold it in half over the rest of the pasted portion. Carefully align the selvage edges. You should now have approximately 2/3 of the whole strip folded so that the printed pattern shows on the table while 1/3 of the whole strip should still be print-side-down and ready for pasting. You must match the edges correctly as you fold it so that when you trim the selvage edge in the next step, your trimming will be straight. Gently press the paper together just enough so that it stays, but do not crease it.
Now turn your attention to the unpasted portion of wallpaper. Pull the paper onto the table so that all of the unpasted paper is now in the working area. Paste the rest of the paper.
Fold this strip in on itself again, overlapping the already folded piece by an inch or so. Make sure the edges are aligned and the selvage edges match on the overlapping portion.
Step 6: Trim the selvage edge
The easiest way to trim and hang wallpaper is using the lapping method. In the lapping method, you must trim just one selvage edge from the paper. When you hang each new piece on the wall, the trimmed edge will overlap the previous piece's remaining selvage edge. This method better disguises slightly crooked trim lines because the background of the selvage edge will camouflage any potential gaps. Lapping does create slightly raised seams, but with thin or average papers, the seams blend into the wall nicely. Lapping was also the most common method used by mid-century women, so it's authentic to the paper's era.
When lapping, always trim the same selvage edge on each strip. Most people naturally work from left to right when hanging wallpaper, which means that you will likely need to trim the left selvage edge. In some cases, you may choose to work from right to left and will need to trim the right-hand side of each strip. Whatever you do, just be consistent.
To trim the paper, align your long straightedge with the selvage edge. Using your rotary cutter, follow the length of your straightedge and trim off the selvage edge on one side. If you lined up the paper correctly when folding it, the edge should trim straight. Note that the final strip to be hung in the room will need to be trimmed of both selvage edges.
Step 7: Hanging the wallpaper
Take up your folded and trimmed wallpaper strip by holding the smaller folded section, which should be the "ceiling end". Climb the ladder and carefully separate the top folded section. Apply the paper to the wall with an extra 3 inches sticking out beyond the ceiling. Ceiling lines are rarely straight, so it's better to trim the paper to match the ceiling line than to butt the wallpaper right into the edge.
Align the left edge of the paper with the plumb line. Press the paper to the wall and gently smooth with the smoothing brush. Do not stretch of force the paper when smoothing or it may tear. Brush from the center to the outer edges to get rid of air bubbles.
Once the top portion is in place, climb down from the ladder and reach behind the hanging paper to separate the remaining folded section. Align this section with the plumb line, press it to the wall, and brush smooth. You should have approximately 3 inches of paper hanging below the baseboard too.
If you need to adjust the paper, gently remove a few feet of paper and realign. You may also carefully shift it into place by pushing and maneuvering the paper slowly with your hands. If in the process the paper starts to lose its stickiness, apply a small amount of fresh paste to the back of the paper or onto the wall.
When the strip of wallpaper is in place, climb up the ladder again with scissors in hand. Lightly run the back of the scissors along the ceiling edge to crease the paper for trimming. (Do not use the sharp side or the paper will tear.) Once you've marked the ceiling edge, pull a few inches of the paper away from the wall and cut along the marked line with your scissors. Then smooth the paper back into place. Do the same to the bottom.
Step 8: Hang the following strips
After pasting the second strip, hang it to the right of the first. Hang the paper just as before, but overlap the trimmed side onto the previous piece's selvage edge. You will be overlapping approximately 1/4 to 3/4 inch.
After the new wallpaper strip is applied, use a seam roller to gently press the seam flat. Don't push too hard or you may cause the paper to shine.
Using a damp sponge, gently wipe away any paste from the front of the wallpaper. This may temporarily darken the paper, but it will dry just fine.
As long as the wallpaper is "colorfast," you can gently brush it with a damp cloth without removing or smearing any color. All papers printed in the 1940's and later decades are colorfast. With papers that are from the 1930's or earlier, you may want to apply a spray matt fixative on the front of the paper before hanging it. You should also be more careful about not getting paste on the front of these papers.
As you work, clean off any paste that gets on the woodwork, ceiling, or floor as well. The rest of the wallpaper strips are hung in the same manner.
The strip of wallpaper that meets the corner must be dealt with differently than the other pieces. In order to minimize the distorting effect of a corner, you will bisect the width of the wallpaper piece and hang it in two separate parts.
Measure the distance from the edge of the last hung wallpaper strip to the corner. With that measurement in mind, trim your new piece so that its width is only one inch greater than the distance from the previous piece to the corner. It's important that you cut the piece one inch wider than the distance to the corner so that the paper does not end up exactly in the corner. Instead, the paper will wrap around it slightly. This will keep the pattern straighter on your wall, protect it from coming loose, and also give it a more professional look.
When you hang the second half of the strip on the new wall, make sure to mark a fresh plumb line so that the next wall of paper is hung straight.
Follow these tips and before you know it...
Be sure to Download our thourough How To Hang Vintage Wallpaper DIY Guide which has all this information plus more helpful tips on topics like...
-Knowing your wallpaper and knowing your room
-Drop patterns vs. Staight patterns
-Alternative methods for cutting drop patterns in order to save paper
-Papering in corners
-Papering around windows
-Hannah & Marilyn