With Wallpaper the Proof is in the Prepping

Surface preparation will make or break a wallpaper project. If you fail to follow proper prepping procedures, it is highly unlikely that you will be satisfied with the results. But if you buy the proper tools and follow the proper procedures, your wallpaper project will be a thing of beauty.

Here are some guidelines for prepping for paperhanging. Your local independent paint and wallpaper store can provide you with greater detail as well as all the products you need to ensure a successful project.

The Do's

  • Read all the manufacturer's instructions before beginning any wallpaper project. Check to see what the manufacturer recommends for prepping the surface.
  • Choose the appropriate primer/sealer. A primer/sealer is an oil- or acrylic-based coating designed for use under wallcovering to seal porous surfaces prior to hanging. Using a primer/sealer is a necessity on almost every wallpaper project.
  • Make repairs to the wall surface. Make sure all holes, cracks and joints are properly repaired. For painted walls, remove any peeling paint with a scraper, apply patching compound to any cracks or holes, wash greasy or dirty areas, apply a primer/sealer to any newly patched areas, and sandy any glossy or semi-glossy surfaces to "dull" them and ensure proper adhesion.
  • Consult the manufacturer for additional instructions if wallcoverings are to be hung over a specialty surface such as wood paneling or textured walls.
  • Paint the ceiling, trim, doors, etc., before hanging wallpaper. It is easier to remove wallcovering adhesive from a painted surface (just use a wet sponge) than to remove splattered paint from wallpaper. Plus, painting first ensures that no unpainted surfaces show through where trim or the ceiling and wallpaper meet.

The Don'ts

  • Don't get in a hurry. Taking time with the preparation makes the installation go smoothly. Don't cut corners or try to take shortcuts.
  • Don't try to skimp on tools or materials. When prepping for paperhanging and then hanging the paper itself, you will need a variety of tools, including sandpaper, joint compound, a ladder, yardstick, cutting tool, scraper, putty knife, string (plumb line), level, smoothing brush, bucket and sponges, just to name a few.

The Sometimes

  • Sizing is an old industry method that occasionally applies in limited circumstances. Check the manufacturer's recommendations, but in most cases, new premixed primer/sealers have almost eliminated the use of sizing products.
  • Some areas, like basements, bathrooms and closets, develop mildew, which has to be eliminated before hanging wallpaper. Scrub the area using a mixture of equal parts household bleach and water until the discoloration disappears. Rinse with water and allow to dry before proceeding.
  • Some specialty wallpapers like foils, unbacked and grasscloths require the use of lining paper. Lining paper is blank stock which can be applied to properly prepared walls, maximizing adhesion, providing a smoother surface and minimizing the possibility of mildew and staining.

The Nevers

  • Never hang over existing wallpaper—unless removing the old wallpaper will damage the wall, and even then, remove any paper that is not tight to the wall. Removing old wallpaper and repairing the wall surface help ensure a solid foundation for the new paper. Strippable wallcoverings should come down easily without the aid of removal products. Several methods are available to aid in removal of nonstrippable papers, such as dry scraping, steam, a heat gun and chemical removers.
  • Never cut the first piece of wallpaper until the surface has been properly prepared, all the measurements have been double-checked and the necessary tools are at hand.
Courtesy of the Paint and Decorating Retailers Association - www.pdra.org