Wallpapering Tips For First-Time

Wallpapering a room for the first time can be an intimidating, but manageable, project for anyone with a degree of agility and the ability to follow directions. Here are a few tips to keep in mind to decrease frustration.

Prepare Yourself For Success

Select the right paper for the room. Most people start with a pre-pasted paper destined for a room with flat walls with minimal cutouts for windows, doors, and outlets. In selecting paper, make sure you know how the patterns will lineup.
  • A random match has no requirements that you match the pattern.
  • A straight match will have the pattern an equal distance from the ceiling all around the room.
  • A drop match requires that you align the pattern half way down where it repeats.


Matching patterns just requires planning when you buy the paper, when you cut it, and when you hang it. If the back of the paper has an arrow to show which side is up, plan to hang it that way.

Set up a workstation where you can prepare the paper for hanging. You should have a table where you can roll out the wallpaper to look for flaws, measure it, cut it, and roll on the paste if your paper is not pre-pasted. You also need: a wallpaper tray, pen or pencil, carpenter's level, soft sponge, scissors, utility knife, smoothing brush, straight edge, and tape measure. If your paper is not pre-pasted, you also need a paint roller with a 3/8" nap roller cover. This will come in handy when you prime the walls. One way to avoid frustration is to have all your tools on hand.

Planning Will Save The Day

Pre-plan your layout before you cut. Your goal is to start and end in an inconspicuous place. Most modern wallpaper is 20.5 inches, which means that unless your room is a multiple of 20.5 inches, you will need to cut some strips to fit. Starting at a doorway, measure every 20.5 inches to see where the strips will end. Your goal is to have the patterns match in the corners and to avoid having skinny strips, so you may need to adjust your starting point. After planning, cut a few strips.

Cutting around doors, windows, and outlets is challenging. Don't pre-cut; instead, make the cuts when the paper is wet and you are positioning it on the wall.

Draw a plumb line. To assure that your wallpaper is straight, tack a weighted string to the wall near the ceiling and draw a line by the string with your straight edge or use your level to find where to draw the line. You will use the line to guide the placement of your first strip. When you are wallpapering a corner, you will use the plumb line again. Anytime you fear you are off-track, you can drop another plumb line. If your walls aren't straight, you don't want to overlap the paper (except at corners), but you can slide the paper around a bit and trim it at the top if necessary to make it straight.

Enjoy The Results

Don't obsess if you have a problem. If your efforts to measure, cut, and hang the paper leave you with a piece that is too short, too crooked, or ripped, you have not jeopardized the results. You can unobtrusively patch the paper at the bottom, reposition it, or book it by folding the paste sides together for later use around a window or door. Remember, you will have furniture in the room to block mistakes only you will notice.

The results of all your efforts will be a wallpapered room that you did yourself for the first time, and what you learned will make for an even smoother project the next time around.