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How To Prepare Your Wall For Wallpaper

The Roman philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” The opportunity to buy the wallpaper of your dreams may be right around the corner. Maybe next payday? But will you be ready once you have the wallpaper in your hands? Even if you have the means to hire an installer, it still may be up to you to know how to prepare your wall for wallpaper. Yes, the work of installing begins before the installation happens. In fact, the most prepared among you will have taken some very important steps about 30 days prior to installation day. But more on that later. Keep reading and we’ll tell you how to prepare your wall for wallpaper so you can avoid the pitfalls that await.

Ostrich Strut Wallpaper
Smooth

The first thing you will want to do to prepare your wall is make sure it is smooth. Start by removing any hooks, nails and light switch plates. This will invariably leave holes and raised areas where these items were. Any bumps or craters in your wall may be visible through the wallpaper and could affect the way the print looks. Prepare your wall by filling in any holes or craters with spackle and sanding any bumps. You will be left with a smooth and even surface. Most of the time a light texture isn’t a problem, but deep textures in your walls should be smoothed. A smooth wall will ensure that every inch of wallpaper surface area is being held against the wall. This will help prevent issues of lifting over time as well as eradicate hiding areas for moisture which can lead to mold.

Removing Outlet Cover

Wallpaper with a white background or very light colors can sometimes reveal the wall’s texture through the paper. Darker colors tend to cover up any imperfections. You can see here, Traci Sheppard from Phoenix And The Ocean testing a sample of the Huddy’s Dots design. In this case, she is wallpapering over a painted concrete wall, not the easiest thing to smooth. If you look closely, you can see the texture peeking through. Fortunately, it wasn’t enough of a problem to discourage her from moving forward with her wallpaper plans.

Traci Sheppard Huddy's Dots Sample

Some texture to your wall may actually be beneficial, especially if you are using a wood or brick design. It can give the wallpaper a more enhanced realistic look, if that is what you are going for.

Clean

The second step will be to clean your wall. This step should not only happen now, but also again right before installation. After you have sanded your wall, there may be all sorts of small dust particles that you don’t want to paint over nor install over. It is recommended that on the first pass, you use a strong cleaner like sugar soap or TSP (trisodium phosphate) to get rid of grease and other build up. If you already have paint on the wall, then using a solution of hot water with a small amount of vinegar will do the trick. Then, you’ll also want to revisit this cleaning step with just a soft wet cloth around 24 to 48 hours before you install your wallpaper. Thanks to Bud from White Sparrow Farm, we can see just how it’s done.

Clean Wall
Paint & Primer

Paint can be a problem. The presence of and the lack thereof. Eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss paints seem to do best with wallpaper. You don’t want to install any wallpaper directly to drywall. For paste-the-wall wallpaper, the drywall can soak up the paste not leaving much for the paper. It is best to apply a primer to seal the wall before applying the paste. This also stops moisture from absorbing into the wall preventing the growth of mold and fungus.

Now, sometimes it can take nearly a month for paint to fully dry and set. This is why I said earlier that you’ll want to start preparing 30 days out.

Moisture

Side Note: Can I put wallpaper in a bathroom? I have seen this question asked many times. Nobody’s bathroom is the same. And when you say bathroom, do you mean a room with a toilet? Or a room with a shower? These details will determine much about whether the wallpaper will have trouble adhering to your walls and will also indicate how you can prepare your wall so that it is suitable for wallpaper.

Wallpaper will work but you will want to make sure the paste you use is a mold/mildew inhibiting paste like Roman Pro-543. The last thing you want is an unhealthy monster growing where you can’t see it. Finally, wallpaper may not be suitable for an extreme environment, like if the walls tend to get soaked with water. However, under normal circumstances, as long as the door stays open and there is ventilation, you are probably fine. If you are installing anywhere else in your home, using a “strippable paste” will help ensure an easier removal experience when you want to remove your wallpaper.

Ostrich Strut Wallpaper installed by Girl and Grey

So Let’s Recap how to prepare your wall for wallpaper
  1. Smooth the wall. Fill holes and sand bumps and heavy textures.
  2. Clean your wall. For best results use sugar soap or hot water with cleaning vinegar.
  3. Apply primer to seal the wall.  (If painting, use an eggshell, satin or semi-gloss paint).
  4. Wipe down your wall with a damp cloth 24 hours prior to installing.
  5. Install your wallpaper and make your interior dreams come true.

Knowing how to prepare your wall for wallpaper is important to make sure that you get your money’s worth out of your purchase. The more precautions you take beforehand, the more bulletproof you will be against all the things that can go wrong. So when you get the opportunity to buy your dream wallpaper, prepare your walls first, and luck will follow.


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