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Wallpapering basics: Tips and tricks for a perfect finish

by | Feb 5, 2023

Home $ A guide on home improvement in the UK $ Wallpapering basics: Tips and tricks for a perfect finish

Adding wallpaper to a room can be a great way to give your property a fresh look and feel and an easy way to conduct some much needed home improvement

The great thing about wallpapering is there is little that you only need some basic tools in order to conduct wallpapering yourself. As long as you have the materials and a bit of patience.

As you read this article, you will learn how to wallpaper step-by-step, from the preparation to the finishing touches, ensuring that you have all the information you need to get the job done right. 

But first, let us begin by making sure you have all the right information to begin the process as there are some steps you need to take in order to prepare and make sure the process actually adds value.

A man doing wallpapering

What should you know about wallpapering before you start?

There are a few things that you should make a note of if you’re someone looking to wallpaper their wall and produce a good job.

First of all, wallpapering must be done strictly on an indoor space rather than an outdoor space unless you paint on an outside wall using a garden wall mural.

This includes making sure you know how much wallpaper you actually need and if the wall has the right foundation in order for wallpaper to be applied to it. So, set yourself up correctly before getting stuck in!

How much wallpaper do you need?

First of all, try to figure out how much of the wall you actually need to cover. This means measuring the wall and figuring out the height and width of the wall in order to calculate the surface area.

This makes it easy to then purchase the wallpaper as wallpaper usually is purchased in amounts related to the surface area that can be covered by the roll.

For instance, it is common to buy a roll of wallpaper that says on the packaging “covers 50 square metres”. If you have measured your wall and you know it is 30 square metres, then this roll of wallpaper will be suitable for the job.

Is the wall plastered or unplastered?

If the plastering in a property is falling off or it is not sufficient, then the property may become hard to actually finish with wallpaper. Plasterboard makes sure everything is smooth and the wallpaper glue sticks properly.

Be prepared to deal with air bubbles and bumps in the wallpaper if you don’t have a smooth plaster finish and if the wall is completely unplastered this will not be a good look, even if the wall is relatively flat.

Plastering can be done in a few hours, depending on the size of the wall and will dry in as little as a day. So, it is definitely worth paying someone to complete this additional step or doing it yourself.

What will you need before you start?

There are a range of tools that you will need and you’ll need them in different orders as you complete the wallpapering of a property. 

First of all, start with preparation materials. These include a dust sheet and a step-ladder, followed by tools for measuring and cutting wallpaper, such as a spirit level, ruler, pencil, Stanley knife, and scissors. 

Then tools to actually complete the wallpapering of the wall such as wallpaper paste, a brush, and smoother. Finally, items for the finishing touches, including a table and a steam roller.

Someone conducting wallpapering on their property

Wallpapering, how to do it yourself (DIY) step by step

Once you have prepared, the steps to actually add the wallpaper to the wall begin. In nine simple steps you should be able to come up with a smooth-looking finish that is exactly how you envisioned.

Step 1: Remove any paper that is on the wall already

Wallpaper already on the wall will create bumps and mean when the glue dries and the wallpaper is applied, there isn’t a smooth finish. 

Step 2: Lay out the dust sheet

Next, before you introduce anything to the property that could cause a mess such as plastering the wall or dealing with glue or wallpaper, it is important to put down a dust sheet over any areas you don’t want to clean up.

If you want to avoid cleaning altogether, cover everywhere, including the floor of the room where you are wallpapering. Alternatively, and especially if the dust sheets you’re using are not enough to cover everywhere, you could cover the furniture only.

Step 3: Prepare the wall

Preparing the wall can mean plastering the wall if the plaster is not done very well or simply cleaning the wall of dust and debris. Apply a warm cloth to the wall and begin wiping away so the surface of the wall is smooth.

This is especially important after you have removed any wallpaper from the wall as there could still be some residue there that is left and dust that could cause air pockets in the following steps.

Step 4: Draw lines using the spirit level

Before you begin sticking, you want to make sure that you align the wallpaper vertically and accurately too. Especially if there is a pattern in the wallpaper. 

Patterned wallpaper will stand out as being slanted if you do not follow this step correctly and the wallpaper ends up being installed at an angle.

Therefore, using a pencil, mark out on the plasterboard where you will glue the wallpaper to the wall before you even open the glue. Make sure each line is the right width for the wallpaper so you can see the lines as you go.

Another way you could do this is by drawing a line every time you stick a new sheet of wallpaper down. This is sometimes more accurate as you can adjust as you go but there is a chance you ruin the wallpaper that is drying.

Depending on your style and how much experience you have wallpapering, this is a decision you have to make with the more advanced wallpapers being able to accurately measure everything all at once.

Step 5: Cut the wallpaper out

Next, you want to cut the wallpaper according to the height of the wall you need rather than the width. This is because you already marked out the widths in the previous step so you should know where their sheets of wallpaper are going.

This means you just need to cut the wallpaper representative of the heights of the wall. Bear in mind that there could be an obstruction which means the height that you need to cut isn’t always the same. 

For instance, if you need to cut around a radiator or there is a window in the part of the wall you’re wallpapering, this will require a more careful measurement.

A radiator that makes it hard to do wallpapering

Step 6: Apply the wallpaper paste

Before you add the wallpaper, you need to add the paste or the glue that will stick the wallpaper to the wall. You should only paint the glue for one strip of wallpaper at a time as the glue is fast frying and could dry before you add the paper to the wall.

In addition, make sure you apply the glue to the wall rather than the wallpaper as it is a lot easier to do so.

Step 7: Stick your wallpaper to the wall

Next comes to the step you have been waiting for, add the wallpaper to the wall by starting at the bottom and moving up, pressing out any air pockets or large amounts of glue as you go.

This is where you can use your smoother tool to press out these types of inconsistencies in the wallpaper. Do not stop until the wall is completely small as once the glue dries, there is little you can do about any bumps but start again.

Step 8: Trim any overlapping wallpaper

Unless you do a completely perfect job, when you have finished, there will probably be some wallpaper that is overlapping onto the floor or ceiling of the wall you have wallpapered.

So, this is where you come in and trim these edges using a Stanley knife. Without pressing too hard which will ruin the plasterboard of the wall, draw the line along the edge of the wallpaper to cut the paper.

The paper should cut fairly easily so there is no need to press down with a lot of force. Also, if you’re not sure about how steady your hand will be, try using a ruler to make these cuts with the knife.

Step 9: Conduct the right after care for the wall

After you have finished wallpapering and you’re happy with how things look, there should be a minimum of two days before you touch the wall or state interacting with the wall by putting back furniture against the wall or anything of that nature.

Some wallpaper glues take as long as a week to dry too. So, be sure to give the right amount of time as it is easy to tear the wallpaper in the stages where it is drying.

Finally, be sure to remove your dust sheets and clean up, ready to enjoy the wall of your property.

Common mistakes when wallpapering

Unfortunately, it is more common than you think to ruin wallpaper if you’re wallpapering yourself, especially if you are doing it for the first time or with little experience. Or, are trying to automate the process without understanding the basics.

This is despite the process of wallpapering being fairly straightforward and the steps not requiring any particular skill. To help you avoid this happening to you, here are some of the most common mistakes you should avoid when wallpapering.

Not taking safety precautions

Filling a wall with wallpaper can seem fairly safe but there are a few hazards along the way. These include:

  • Not securing ladders properly if wallpapering a higher wall
  • Not wearing mask protection for dust when plastering
  • Inhaling the fumes from glue for too long
  • Not being careful with a Stanley knife

For more dos and don’t of this nature, click here for an article that goes over this in more detail.

A wall that has wallpaper added to it

Not preparing the walls correctly

Wall preparation is key in order to prevent bumps and ensure the wallpaper does not peel away from the wall over time. 

For instance, if there is a lot of dust and there also wasn’t the right amount of glue applied to the wall, this would likely result in the wallpaper simply falling off.

Not paying attention to sockets 

As you cut out wallpaper, it is easy to forget about the socket on the wall and not realise that you have to cut around it until half of the paper is already stuck.

To prevent this mistake, make a note of all the sockets on the wall beforehand and cut out the hole for the socket with careful precision. You may have to use  

Forgetting to cut paper correctly

Sometimes, it could be the case that you forget to cut the paper that you have stuck to the wall. As a result, you may end up wasting more paper than necessary.

Especially if you know that the wallpaper you do have is low to begin with, you have to be careful of this.

Using wallpaper that is too dark

Dark wallpaper can ruin the aesthetic of a property. What’s more, is you cannot paint over the wallpaper very easily as you would have to use quite a few coats of paint.

So, select your colour choice carefully as some wallpapers are extremely hard to paint over.


All in all, wallpapering is a straightforward process but if you don’t follow the correct steps, a lot can still go wrong and you can end up going over budget in which case you may need a home improvement loan.

From making sure you have gotten rid of all the air bubbles in the wallpaper to checking you have the right tools to complete the process, follow the steps carefully to get the finish you desire.

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Donnell Bailey

Property expert

Donnell is a property expert focusing on the property market, he looks at a combination of legislation, information from property managers, letting agents and market trends to produce information to help landlords.