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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 removable wallpaper 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
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. 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. If you are installing peel and stick wallpaper, this step is of paramount importance. Be sure not to use any cleaning products that will leave any sort of residue as this may stop the wallpaper from sticking. 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. So how do you win in this conundrum. Well, let’s take a look at the issue first. A lot of paint products today or made using Teflon or Latex. Sometimes they are called “wash & wear” paints as they are made to withstand and repel stains and dirt. The problem is this paint is also repelling the adhesive quality of wallpaper. This can cause your wallpaper to literally fall off the wall. Before you install your wallpaper, you will want to know if the paint on your wall will create an issue for you. And even if the elements in your paint aren’t an issue, 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.

Falling Olive Dapple Wallpaper

But fear not, primer is the answer. Whether it’s drywall with no paint or a problem paint, applying a primer to the wall should solve these issues. It can also prevent moisture from absorbing into the wall and, therefore, avoid mold and fungus issues. So prepare your wall with a good coat of primer to make sure to get the longest life and the best quality out of your wallpaper.

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. Removable wallpaper isn’t recommended in a bathroom with extreme conditions. If the bathroom experiences extreme heat and humidity, it is going to be a challenging space for peel and stick wallpaper.

Traditional wallpaper is much better suited but even then, 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, even traditional wallpaper may not be suitable for an extreme environment. However, in a bathroom with a shower, if the door stays open and there is ventilation, you are probably fine.

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 TSP.
  3. Apply a primer to seal the wall.
  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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