DIY it or hire a professional? When it comes to installing wallpaper, the decision of how (or who) to do the job is a personal one. We chatted with three talented installers—Roll Her Sleeves, First Floor Chicago, and The Wallpaper Guy—as well as our friends at ROMAN to get their hard-won installation tips, tricks, and advice. Whether you’re tackling it with your own two hands or bringing in an experienced pro, keep reading for these invaluable insights.
Best tips for a perfect wallpaper installation
Roll Her Sleeves: Be patient and breathe. Line up your pattern at eye level. Keep a couple rags close by, and keep your hands clean. Snap your blades often. For pre-pasted papers, we find the easiest method is to roll water on the back with a clean roller. A spray bottle can come in really handy if your paste is drying out too fast.
First Floor Chicago: Whether working with a bold pattern or subtle, monochrome material, the main thing is that wallcoverings bring a level of visual texture to the space it inhabits. The great thing is that there's so much to choose from. Working with a designer can smooth out the process for the homeowner by focusing the decision-making process.
The Wallpaper Guy: Do your research and hang with confidence or get a pro. Traditional wallpapers are just what they are—traditional—but newer techniques can make the installation process easier. With that said, it may not make the process and result any better. Peel and stick, for example, can go up very quickly, but aesthetically they can sometimes fall short when compared to traditional wallpaper. The tradeoff is they can be removed in a matter of minutes without any mess.
ROMAN: Alternate rolls when using a drop match pattern. Some wallpapers, like Plumes, feature a half-drop pattern match. This means that instead of repeating straight across the wall on every sheet, the pattern won’t repeat until the third sheet. To minimize waste, prepare your wallpaper sheets for installation from two separate rolls, marking one roll ‘odd’ and the other roll ‘even’ to prevent mix-ups. See this tip in action here.
Most important installation process steps
RHS: Pay attention to the instructions—those details are important for a successful installation. Hang your first drop perfectly level, otherwise the rest of your installation will be a headache. Line up your pattern at eye level; any drift in the pattern will be less noticeable.
FFC: Three most important steps: planning, planning, and planning. Always think two steps ahead.
Measure correctly—have enough wallpaper to complete the project. If you run out halfway through you may not get the same batch/dye lot numbers, which could be problematic.
Preparation, preparation, preparation! Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
Buy the right tools for the job, and high-quality ones.
ROMAN: Engineer the room: Take a moment to measure and map out your room. Consider any prominent features, like a fireplace, bay window, or large piece of furniture. For wallcoverings with a noticeable pattern, it’s best to plan your install to center the pattern above that feature. You want your wallpaper to start and end in an inconspicuous area, while avoiding seam placement at the edges of any obstacles, like windows, that can make hanging difficult. Professional wallcovering installers refer to the ending area as the “kill point.” Common kill points include the corners behind doors and just above the door frame. See this tip in action here.
Number one piece of wallpaper installation advice
RHS: Use a laser level!
TWG: Do your research on the wallpaper. Read the data sheet; not all wallpapers are installed the same or behave the same. And stay within your limitations—some wallpaper can be expensive, so leave those to the pros.
ROMAN: Use a high-quality paste. PRO-880 Ultra Clear Strippable is the best-selling wallpaper adhesive in North America. It provides excellent tack and exceptional ‘slip’ for easy positioning and pattern matching. PRO-880 can be applied with a paint roller or brush and cleans up easily with water. It has zero VOCs, low odor, and contains biocides to help resist the growth of mold and mildew on the adhesive film.
Most common installation error
RHS: Not applying a base coat to match the wallpaper! We use ROMAN Pro-977 wallpaper primer and have it tinted. This helps to hide the seams, which is especially helpful for darker wallpapers, or any time the wall colour is vastly different from the wallpaper. It also seals the wall to help with eventual removal.
FFC: [You need the] ability to think visually. There are so many different situations that require experience to deal with properly: tight corners, weird angles, out of plumb drywall, uncooperative paper… It's sad to see a really great pattern hung poorly. Rarely can a bad job be "fixed”—it almost always needs to be started over.
TWG: Preparation, preparation, preparation! From priming/sizing to something as simple as having the right size stepladders—too big or too small can really have a big impact on the end results.
ROMAN: Don't skip the primer. For installations on new or latex-painted drywall, PRO-977 Ultra Prime is preferred. PRO-977 dries to a durable, matte white finish that protects the wall surface during installation and increases ‘slip,’ making it easier to position wallpaper while hanging. When it’s time to redecorate, PRO-977 promotes strippability, making it easier to remove your wallpaper with less damage to walls.
Other installation errors to avoid
RHS: Not using a level. Having a perfectly level first drop is key! We use a laser level to speed up the process.
TWG: Make sure you measure correctly—we find that online calculators seldom get it right to factor in the pattern repeat. Not having the proper wallpaper installation tools can cause issues—you need to have the right equipment on hand. Preparation—fill/sand, prime, and allow time for different applications to dry before moving on to the next. Plumb the paper—the paper needs to be vertical, and every wall needs to start straight and finish straight.
How wallpaper transforms a space
RHS: Impact! Wallpaper drastically changes a space in very little time and with relatively minimal effort.
TWG: Paint and furnishings can completely transform a room. Wallpaper, on the other hand, not only transforms a room, but also gives it depth, texture, and warmth. Wallpaper can tell a story—it can express your fun side. Above all, it can make a statement about you or the project that it is being showcased in… Wallpaper is really the way to go as far as interior design.
Must-have tip for removing wallpaper
RHS: We use a steamer. My best tip is to go slowly with the steamer and let it do the work! Also, before you hang the wallpaper, apply a wallpaper primer (we use ROMAN brand). It will prevent the paste from absorbing into the wall, which helps with removal.
TWG: Wallpaper removal can be very difficult, but it can also be very therapeutic. My tip for removal is warm water with dish soap. The soap will soften the water and make it easier to penetrate the surface of the paper. Keep wetting the paper until it starts to loosen. Don’t rush this process. Wetting the paper alone can take hours to do, but it will be well worth it. Keeping the floor dry and protected is important here as well.
More wallpaper best practices from ROMAN
Do you advise against cutting your paste with water?
Some ROMAN adhesives, like PRO-880 Ultra Clear, may be diluted with clean water for use with lightweight or pre-pasted wallpapers. Other adhesives, like PRO-732 Extra-Strength Clay and PRO-555 Extreme Tack, should be used at full strength to maintain their performance.
When diluting adhesive, always use clean, potable water. Non-potable water can introduce contaminants that may adversely affect the adhesive.
How much paste should be applied to the wallpaper?
A thin, even coat of adhesive is recommended. ROMAN recommends applying paste with a 3/8-inch nap paint roller to ensure even coverage.
What are some things to keep an eye out for during application that may suggest the paste is being applied too generously or sparsely?
Large, wet bubbles and excess paste at seams may indicate that the wallpaper has been pasted too generously. Conversely, seams or air bubbles that are difficult to lay flat may suggest that the paste has been applied too sparsely.
How can one avoid damaging their paper if they want to hang art or other decor over it?
Use this simple trick to avoid unsightly nail holes: Using a sharp snap-blade knife, cut a small, upside down ‘V’ where you plan to place your nail. Carefully lift the flap and drive the nail directly into the drywall. When it’s time to redecorate, remove the nail, patch the hole, and glue down the wallpaper flap.
What is the importance of booking wallpaper before applying it to the wall?
Booking provides wallpaper a chance to absorb moisture from the paste and relax before hanging. Traditional paper-backed wallcoverings, like many made by Hygge & West, will absorb moisture from the water-based adhesives, then swell and expand. If the material is not booked prior to hanging, this expansion can occur on the wall causing bubbles, wrinkles, or issues at the seams.
Any other best practices you’d like to share?
Store your ROMAN products in a cool, dry place, and keep them from freezing.
All ROMAN adhesives contain biocides for in-can preservation and to help resist the growth of mold and mildew on the adhesive film.
Pour your adhesive into a paint tray or secondary container when hanging wallpaper. Working from a paint tray or secondary pail will help prevent the introduction of contaminants that may adversely affect the adhesive during long term storage.
Meet our panel of installers
Roll Her Sleeves: Roll Her Sleeves was founded in 2009 by Carolyn Jane Borer in 2009. In school, Carolyn studied Theatre Arts: Technical Production, and as such, she works on film and theatre sets in addition to her regular work (one of the early film sets she worked on required wallpaper installation, where Carolyn quickly learned the trade). When her apprentice, Leslie, joined the company in 2014, much of their business came from working on model homes. The demand grew and grew, and Roll Her Sleeves has since become one of the top wallpaper installers in Ottawa.
First Floor Chicago: Founder Brian Durance studied graphic design and, later, also received a degree in interior design. He’s worked as a foreman for a home finishing company, in the Chicago art scene, and in contemporary furniture before starting First Floor Chicago. When he launched his business, his intent was to provide small to midsize design firms with contractor services—painting, wallpaper, art handling—with the motto of "Let's start on the first floor and work our way up, together." It quickly became evident that the need for qualified wallpaper installers was a higher priority, so Brian pivoted all his resources to focus on that.
The Wallpaper Guy: Gary Whitham was born and raised in Manchester, England. At the age of 17, he took a four-year apprenticeship that developed his love of interiors and decorating. This apprenticeship led to a career of over 30 years in the wallcovering and decorating industry, during which he amassed a wealth of knowledge and continues to hone and refine his craft. After a move across the pond in 2019, he set up The Wallpaper Guy. After building up his great reputation, his wife and business partner, Carlie, joined the company full time in 2021, where she handles incoming inquiries, coordinating wallpaper orders, scheduling, and quoting. (In the industry? The Wallpaper Guy is currently looking for top-quality installers to join their team!)