Decorating & Design

January 13, 2009

Wallpaper Guide

Wallpaper is hot and easier than ever to install.

Wallpaper is back in a big way with a wide array of luxurious papers on the market. Wallpaper offers a quick and effective way of making a design statement; colours, patterns and textures are almost limitless and can work in any room in the home. The new wallpapers are DIY-friendly, making them a popular choice for the weekend warrior.

In this article:
Before you buy
Buying wallpaper
Preparing the walls
Machine-printed paper
Hand-printed paper
Vinyl wall covering
Embossed paper
Woven fabric wall covering
Flocked paper
Lining paper

Before you buy

  • Measure entire wall surface excluding window or door openings
  • Measure floor-to-ceiling height between baseboard and ceiling frieze
  • Add about 4” to floor-to-ceiling height for trimming allowance

Buying wallpaper

  • Colours may vary between batches so be sure that all rolls are from the same batch
  • Buy an extra roll to allow for mistakes
  • Check with manufacturer’s charts for recommended number of rolls for your measurements
  • Use paste recommended by the manufacturer
  • Avoid wallpapers that are too thin — heavier wallpapers are easier to hang and are less likely to tear

Preparing the walls

  • Wall surface must always be smooth as any imperfections will be visible
  • Baseboards, ceiling and window frames should be painted before hanging wallpaper
  • Strip walls of existing wallpaper
  • Walls painted with latex paint should be sanded prior to hanging paper
  • Any cracks or holes in walls should be repaired
  • Any new plaster must be completely dry (this typically takes a few weeks)
  • If dealing with uneven surfaces, lining paper can be pasted horizontally on to walls first to provide a smooth finish for your wallpaper application

Machine-printed paper

  • Most common wallpaper type available, sold in rolls
  • Typically roller-printed onto white or coloured backgrounds
  • Thicker papers are washable
  • Paper will stretch slightly when made wet for pasting
  • Some are pre-pasted for easy hanging
  • Wide range of patterns and colours available

Hand-printed paper

  • Patterns created using stencils, screens and blocks
  • Innate hand-crafted beauty
  • Colours are sharper than machine-printed papers
  • Should be hung by a professional
  • More expensive than machine-printed papers

Vinyl wall covering

  • Water resistant so appropriate for bathrooms and kitchens
  • Hard-wearing and durable
  • Available in an array of colours and designs
  • Surface offers a shinier look than paper
  • Washable
  • Hides wall surface defects well
  • More costly than paper

Embossed paper

  • Available in a wide variety of colours and patterns
  • Also available in patterns imitating natural materials
  • Delicate in quality — should only be used in low-traffic rooms
  • Difficult to remove once applied to walls

Woven fabric

  • Available in an array of fabrics such as burlap, silk, cotton, wool and canvas
  • Creates a warm, natural look
  • Provides more sound absorption than regular papers
  • Maintenance requires vacuuming or sponging
  • Should not be used in bathrooms or kitchens as fabric will absorb odours
  • Requires underlay paper for installation


  • Made of paper-backed woven grasses and reeds
  • Wide range of textures possible
  • Creates a warm, natural look
  • Seams are more apparent than with other wallpapers
  • Colours are limited

Flocked paper

  • A luxurious wall covering with patterns carved into velvet pile
  • Most appropriate for formal areas
  • Should be restricted for use in space with little traffic
  • Should not be used in bathrooms or kitchens

Lining paper

  • A plain underpaper that provides a flat surface for hanging decorative wallpaper
  • Should be hung horizontally around a room
  • Available in several grades