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The Beginner’s Guide to Installing Wallpaper

If you’re going to be installing wallpaper in your house soon, be sure to read this easy step-by-step tutorial first! We’ll walk you through each step of the wallpaper installation process, and you’ll have a beautifully wallpapered space in no time!

The Beginner's Guide to Installing Wallpaper

I recently shared our half bathroom makeover, and the showstopper in this little space was definitely the wallpaper! I had dabbled in wallpapering once before. But this was the biggest wallpaper project I had tackled to date.

Admittedly, I was pretty nervous going into this project. Our space had some pretty detailed trim work and fixtures that I was going to have to navigate around. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out.

Fortunately, everything went smoothly and I LOVE the end result! I definitely learned a lot about installing wallpaper along the way. So I wanted to share the tips and tricks I learned so that your next wallpapering project will be oh-so-easy!

The Easiest Way to Install Removable Wallpaper

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

Before You Begin Installing Wallpaper

I’ll get to the wallpaper installation process in just a second. But first I need to touch on a few things I had to think through before I could begin just slapping wallpaper up on the wall!

Should I use peel and stick or pre-pasted wallpaper?

When we first moved in, I used peel and stick wallpaper on the back wall of our pantry to add a fun pop of pattern…

Organized Kitchen Pantry with Peel and Stick Wallpaper

When I decided to use wallpaper in our half bath, I thought it would be easiest to use peel and stick again since I wouldn’t have to mess with any kind of adhesive.

But I ended up falling in love with this gorgeous wallpaper from Anthropologie, which only came in the pre-pasted variety. So I decided to go for it even though it wasn’t peel and stick.

I am SO glad that I did! After working with both peel and stick wallpaper and the pre-pasted version, I would choose pre-pasted 10 times out of 10.

The peel and stick paper was SO sticky that it was harder to maneuver. It kept sticking to areas where I didn’t want it every time I would try to reposition it. The pre-pasted wallpaper that I used for the half bath was much, much easier to adjust and move around to exactly where I wanted it. It was more forgiving, too.

How much wallpaper will I need?

The short answer to this question is “more than you think.” 😉

I started by figuring out how much wall space I needed to cover. First, I measured the length of each wall in my space. I had two 5′ walls and two 4.5′ walls. This gave me a total of 19′ around the room.

I also knew that I wanted to cover 3′ of vertical wall space. So I multiplied 19′ x 3′ to get a total of 57 square feet of wallpaper needed. Then I would obviously need some excess to make sure my pattern always lined up, extra in case I made mistakes, etc. One roll of the wallpaper I had chosen covered 56 square feet, so it was a no-brainer for me to purchase two rolls.

Two Rolls of Removable Wallpaper

It was pretty easy for me to decide on two rolls since the total amount of wallpaper I needed was slightly above the square footage provided by one roll.

If your calculations aren’t so cut and dry, you may need to do a little bit more math to figure out how the “repeat” of the wallpaper you have chosen will determine how much excess paper you’ll need. The “repeat” is how often the pattern on the paper starts over again. This is important because you will want to line up the pattern on your wallpaper from strip to strip to make sure it looks seamless on the wall.

You can get more details about how to account for your wallpaper’s repeat to figure out how much paper you’ll need here.

Did you have to use wallpaper sizing or anything else on the wall before adhering the wallpaper?

If you are wallpapering over unpainted drywall, you will want to apply wallpaper sizing to the wall first in order to create a smooth surface. This will also help make it easier to reposition your paper as you are applying it to the wall. And eventually, if you want to remove your wallpaper, it will come off more easily with less damage to your drywall.

My wall had already been painted, so I did not use wallpaper sizing first, and it worked just fine for me.

What supplies will I need for installing wallpaper in my space?

Wallpapering supplies will vary slightly based on the type of paper you purchase. For our wallpaper installation project, I used…

Installing Removable Wallpaper Step by Step

Once you have purchased your wallpaper and gathered your supplies, it’s time to install! I recommend thoroughly reading the directions that come with the wallpaper you have chosen before you begin. Instructions will vary depending on the specific paper.

1. Wipe down the walls.

No matter what wallpaper we use, we’ll want to make sure we are starting with nice clean walls! Especially because we had just installed our beadboard and kicked up all sorts of dust, I was sure to wipe down the walls really, really well.

Half Bathroom Prepped for Wallpaper Installation

As I was wiping down the walls, I realized that there were a few spots where the gray paint I had used seeped onto the ceiling slightly. It wasn’t obvious when the gray paint was on the walls. But I knew once I put up the wallpaper those spots would stick out like crazy.

To remedy this, I broke out the ceiling paint and painted a quick line around the area where the wall meets the ceiling. I even came down the wall with the ceiling paint a little bit just to make 100% certain no gray was going to peek out from the top of the wallpaper.

Paint Touched Up on Bathroom Ceiling Before Installing Wallpaper

2. Draw a plumb line.

After my walls were prepped, it was time to install the all-important first strip of wallpaper. It is SO important to make sure that this first piece is perfectly straight because all of the other strips of wallpaper will line up off of the first one.

To make sure my first strip of wallpaper was placed correctly, I used a level to create a vertical plumb line. I drew the line on the wall with a pencil.

Drawing Plumb Line on the Wall with Level

My wallpaper brand recommended taking the width of my wallpaper, which was 20.5″, subtracting one inch. Then I drew my line 19.5″ away from the corner of the wall so that the paper would wrap around the corner a little bit. (I didn’t want the strip to end right in the corner because then the seam line would have been pretty obvious.)

Vertical Plumb Line for Installing Wallpaper

This line will end up being the guideline for laying my first strip of wallpaper.

3. Measure and cut your first length of wallpaper.

With my plumb line in place, I measured the height of my wall and added four extra inches to the measurement. This ensured that I had plenty of paper to cover my wall space.

Measuring Out Wallpaper

4. Helpful Hint: While you’re installing the first length of wallpaper, unroll the second length so it can flatten out.

As I was prepping my first piece of wallpaper, I unrolled the next length and laid it out pattern side up on our kitchen island.

Wallpaper Laid Out Flat on Kitchen Counter

This helped the paper to flatten out by the time I was ready to use it. It was SO much easier to work with the wallpaper when it wasn’t trying to roll up onto itself. The closer I got to the middle of the roll, the more essential it was to roll the paper out flat for a few minutes before working with it. (The tighter the paper was rolled up initially, the more it would try to roll up onto itself.)

5. Spray the back of the wallpaper with water to activate adhesive.

This is where different brands of wallpaper will recommend different techniques. Some types of pre-pasted wallpaper instruct users to fully submerge the paper in water in order to activate the adhesive.

My wallpaper brand recommended using a spray bottle to wet the back of the paper and activate the adhesive. I made sure that both the center and the edges of the paper were wet thoroughly. Laying out my paper on a tarp, I then sprayed it with water. I kept a towel nearby to wipe up any overspray before moving on to the next strip of wallpaper.

Piece of Wallpaper with Spray Bottle of Water

6. Fold in the ends of your wallpaper for “booking.”

This process moves very quickly. A soon as I sprayed the back of the strip of wallpaper with water, I then folded in each end of the paper toward the middle. I let it sit that way for 2-3 minutes. This process is known as “booking” and gives the adhesive time to activate.

Booking the Wallpaper

7. Adhere your first length of wallpaper to the wall, following your plumb line exactly.

After letting the booking process work its magic for a few minutes, I then took my first strip of paper into the half bath. I lined it up with the plumb line I had created to make sure it was installed totally straight.

First Length of Wallpaper Installed

You can see in the photo above that the last inch or so of the wallpaper wrapped around the corner of the room. This ensures that the next strip could line up neatly next to it.

8. Use a scraper to remove any bubbles.

Once the strip of wallpaper was lined up straight on the wall, I used a plastic scraper tool to work out any air bubbles.

Using a Scraper on Installed Wallpaper

As I was scraping, sometimes the adhesive from the back of the paper would ooze out the side. I used a damp paper towel to wipe this up right away. I wanted to make sure it would not dry on the front of my wallpaper.

9. Use an X-acto knife to trim off the excess paper.

I purposely allowed a few inches of my wallpaper to overlap onto the ceiling as I was adhering it to ensure that I had enough paper to reach the top of my wall. I used my scraper to push the wallpaper into the crease between the wall and the ceiling. Then I used an X-acto knife to trim off the excess paper that was no longer needed.

Using X-Acto Knife on Wallpaper

We left the top trim piece off of our beadboard so we could just cover up the bottom edges of our wallpaper later. If you have this option, I highly recommend it. It made the process so easy! But if we had been ending the wallpaper at a baseboard or trim piece, I would have again left a few extra inches that I would then trim off at the baseboard line.

It is REALLY important that the X-acto knife blade is sharp at all times. As it gets dull, it doesn’t cut the paper in a clean line, leaving jagged edges behind. I used four different blades while installing wallpaper in our small space, just to make sure my blade was always nice and sharp.

10. Line up your next length of wallpaper and repeat the process.

Once I had my first piece of wallpaper installed, it was time to repeat the process! I held up the next section of wallpaper to make sure the design would line up perfectly. Then I cut the length of wallpaper I needed off of the roll.

I then followed the steps I laid out above to continue to add strips of wallpaper to the wall one at a time.

Three Lengths of Wallpaper Installed

Once I got into a rhythm, the process went pretty quickly. It was fun to see the beautiful design cover more and more of the wall!

Wall of Wallpaper Installed

FAQs

The wallpaper process was fairly straightforward, but there were a few tricky areas that I wanted to make sure I addressed.

What if I have trim work or other obstructions to work around?

One of the areas I was most nervous about wallpapering was this corner that had both window and door trim. Our trim is pretty detailed, and I was worried about cutting around the design exactly.

Installed Wallpaper and Craftsman Style Window Trim and Door Trim

Thankfully, since we had just installed our window trim, I was able to wait to caulk it, and I could just slide the wallpaper behind the trim pieces for a seamless look.

I found that it helped if I worked on the space behind the trim with a narrower strip rather than the full width of the wallpaper. So I used my level to help me cut my strip of wallpaper vertically. Then I could install the piece above then window without obstruction and was only dealing with a very narrow piece as I was working to slide it behind the window and door trim.

If you have detailed trim and don’t have the option to slide the wallpaper behind it, you could use the scraper tool to push the wallpaper up against the trim line as closely as possible and then trim off the excess with an X-acto knife.

How do you install wallpaper behind a light fixture?

Another tricky area to wallpaper was the spot behind the light fixture, particularly because we were going to be changing the fixture and moving it over a little bit.

As I was wallpapering, I again cut one of my strips of paper vertically, installing the piece that wouldn’t go behind the plate on the back of the light fixture. I waited to install the final small strip until my electrician came to install the new light so I knew exactly where to cut around the plate on the back of the fixture.

Half Bath with Wallpaper, Missing One Piece

Before the electrician came, I traced the plate on the back of the new light fixture and made a template for it so that once he had placed it, I could easily install the last strip of wallpaper.

Template for Back of Light Fixture

He installed the new light fixture plate on the wall. Then I took measurements of exactly where it was located. I used my measurements + the template I had created to trim out an appropriate sized hole in my remaining wallpaper strip. And then I installed the final strip of wallpaper. Once it was in, the electrician was able to hook up the remainder of the light fixture. (He was very patient with me! 🙂 )

New Light Fixture with Wallpaper

How did you handle the corners?

Another tricky spot I encountered while wallpapering was trimming the excess paper away from the corners. There just ended up being so much excess paper in a very small area in the corners that it got hard to navigate.

It was easiest to use the scraper and X-acto knife to trim as much from the sides as possible, using scissors to remove the extra strips and get them out of the way. I kept trimming little by little toward the corner, using both the X-acto knife and scissors until all of the excess was removed.

Corner of Half Bath with Installed Wallpaper

(Apologies that I don’t have more detailed photos of this process. I didn’t have enough hands to hold the camera and trim the paper at the same time!)

Did your design line up 100% perfectly?

Since my wallpaper was going all the way around the room, I knew that there would inevitably be a spot where my wallpaper wouldn’t line up perfectly. I planned it so that the mismatch would happen in a spot that wasn’t super obvious– right above our doorway trim.

Installed Wallpaper Not Lined Up Perfectly

I lucked out and the mismatch ended up not being too, too bad, but if you know where it is and look closely enough, you can see where it doesn’t exactly line up.

After doing this project, would you choose to do wallpaper again?

Even thought I was nervous going into this project, installing wallpaper actually ended up being a pretty straightforward process. It took some time and patience, but it wasn’t nearly as frustrating as I expected it to be!

Powder Room with Beadboard and Wallpaper with Brass Light Fixture

The beautiful punch of color and pattern is well worth the time and effort it takes to go through the wallpaper installation process. I would not be at all opposed to using pre-pasted removable wallpaper in another space in our house!

Finished Powder Room with Aqua Wallpaper Installed

Here’s a quick look at the bathroom before and after the wallpaper installation (and other upgrades as well):

Powder Room Transformation Before and After Photos

Yippee! We are so thrilled with the transformation, particularly with the gorgeous wallpaper treatment. It makes such a bold statement in the space!

If you are planning on installing wallpaper in your home anytime soon, be sure to pin the image below so that you can refer back to this post:

How to Install Removable Wallpaper

And if you’ve missed any of the other posts in our powder room series (including the big reveal!), you can catch up here:

Planning a Pretty Powder Room

Aqua Removable Wallpaper Ideas

Powder Room Reveal

Thank you so much for following along! Have a wonderful day!

This post contains affiliate links. For more information, see my disclosures here.

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