Surface Preparation

The most important part of the wallpaper job is to make sure the wall surface is properly prepared. Time spent before hanging the wallpaper will make the job easier and help insure satisfactory results that will last for years. Always read the manufacturer's instructions on the product's label before using.

Basic tips for all wall surfaces include:

  • Remove all switch plates, outlet plates and wall fixtures that are not permanent. If removing any type of electrical obstacle, remember to disconnect the source of electricity.
  • The wall surface should be cleaned, dry, structurally sound and free of grease, mildew or other stains.
  • Ball-point ink, grease, lipstick, crayon or any foreign contamination should be cleaned with a stain killer primer/sealer to prevent any bleeding of the mark through the wallpaper. Marking pen inks must be removed from the wall.
  • Mildew should be cleaned from the wall surface with a solution of two cups household bleach per gallon of water. Rinse and allow to dry. Any mildew stains should be sealed with a good quality stain killer/primer, and any exterior and/or in-wall source of the moisture that may promote mildew growth must be eliminated.
  • Any loose paint must be removed from the wall. Glossy and semi-gloss paint should be sanded to dull the surface and a coat of adhesion promoting primer applied prior to the installation of wallpaper.
  • Any wall irregularities should be corrected with either spackling, drywall compound or other wall repair materials.

The most important step before applying a primer and hanging wallpaper is to make sure that the wall surface is clean, dry and sound. Always remember that you will be using a water-based adhesive to hang the wallpaper which puts stress on the wall surface as the adhesive cures and the wallpaper shrinks or contracts. If the wall surface is not sound, adhesion failure will occur.

Special Considerations

Each type of wall surface needs to be treated accordingly:

New drywall: Make sure the drywall is free of contaminants such as dust, dirt and mildew. Joints and spackled areas should be thoroughly cured and sanded smooth. Best results are obtained when the moisture content of the drywall is at or less than 5 percent. Apply a good quality opaque/white primer.

Paint: Test painted surfaces for moisture sensitivity. Hold a wet sponge or cloth to the paint surface for 15 seconds, then rub the surface vigorously with a cloth. If little or a slight amount of paint is removed, paint should be sound. If all or a large quantity is removed, the wall should be washed with ammonia and water or sanded and washed to remove the paint. Painted walls should also be tested for adhesion. Cut three small x's into the painted wall surface, then apply a piece of clear cellophane tape over the x's. Yank the tape off vigorously. Inspect the tape for any paint: no paint flakes indicates good adhesion. Paint flakes on the tape indicate that the paint adhesion is not adequate for hanging wallpaper. The wall should be sanded with a coarse sandpaper to remove or break through the old paint. All painted walls should be primed with a good quality opaque/white primer.

Walls where old wallpaper has been removed: Old adhesives should be removed by sanding or by using adhesive remover. Rinse the wall and allow to dry. Old adhesives can act as a food source for mold and mildew and makes the wall surface uneven and difficult to bond to. If the wall shows any signs of existing mold or mildew, it should be washed with a diluted household bleach solution and thoroughly rinsed and allowed to dry. Repair the wall as necessary. Prime with a good quality wallpaper primer. If the old wallpaper is peelable, remove both the top and bottom layer of wallpaper.

Existing wallpaper: Make sure the wallpaper is firmly bonded to the wall and has no lifting seams or loose spots. You can check for poor adhesion by rubbing your hand over the surface of the wallpaper and listening for a "crackling" sound. Make sure the surface is clean and free of any dirt or grease. If the surface is textured or patterned, consider the wallpaper you are about to hang and decide what primers are suitable.

Paneling: Prime with adhesion promoting primer. Groves should be filled, then reprimed and/or an appropriate wall liner should be used. For best results, use a clay-based adhesive. Some wallpaper will require additional priming of the wall liner. See wall liner instructions for priming, installation and adhesive recommendations.

All of these procedures should be followed by an application of a good quality wallpaper primer.

If there are any questions concerning the surface to be covered, test installations of at least three strips applied three days in advance of main installation is recommended, or follow manufacturer's instructions.

Back to How to Hang

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