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Hanging Wallpaper

Source: Martha Stewart Living, September 2000


Remember how difficult wrapping a present looked when you were a child? Well, hanging wallpaper is the equivalent for most adults: a skill that looks more difficult than it is. You can master the basics with common sense, the right tools, and some practice. As with any craft, beginners may make mistakes, but if you choose the right kind of paper and pattern for your first project, slip-ups can be remedied -- or avoided altogether.

Master paperhanger Scott McDonald, of Vertical View Paperhanging in New York City, suggests that you avoid costly hand-printed papers, which stain at the touch of one drop of water, rip easily, and permanently retain the slightest crease. Instead, simplify your project by selecting one of the many inexpensive vinyl-coated papers. They're washable, so excess glue can be wiped away with a damp sponge, and they stretch, to help align seams or to let you peel off and rehang a strip that isn't quite right.

When choosing a design, look for a stripe or a dense, overall pattern, which will minimize tricky matching; steer clear of "drop repeat" patterns until you've mastered basic hanging techniques. Some paper comes with a blank selvage on each edge of the decorative panel to protect the printed area of the roll from damage during shipping. Avoid the tedious job of cutting off the selvages by requesting a pretrimmed paper.

Prepare walls by spackling and sanding as you would for paint; imperfections will mar the final surface. Then apply a coat of primer (McDonald recommends oil-based primer). Once the primer has cured, the room is ready to be lined with a finish that will be a reward for all the effort you put into it.

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