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Choosing Wallpaper

Wallpapering a room—once a Vr messy, tricky task best left to professionals—is now almost as easy as painting. Improved wall coverings deserve part of the credit; they don’t rip, shrink, or wrinkle as easily as older papers. New slower-acting adhesives help, too, by giving you more time to hang the materials correctly.

Selecting Wallcoverings

Type

Use

Application Tips

Cost

Solid paper

The least-expensive type of wall covering. Can be damaged if scrubbed, so use only in a low-traffic areas.

Difficult to strip. Hang with wheat-based paste. Work carefully because this material is easy to tear. Butt edges and roll seams; clean immediately, using a damp (not wet) sponge.

Low

Vinyl-coated paper

Most any situation, except where there’s high humidity. More durable than solid paper.

Paste and hang one strip at a time; roll the seams and immediately clean the adhesive from each seam.

Wide range

Paper backed vinyl

Excellent for high-traffic or high-humidity areas

May be stripped. Hand-printed vinyls must be trimmed. Use plenty of adhesive; do not stretch as you hang. If the seams curl, paste them down with vinyl-to-vinyl adhesive; remove excess adhesive immediately.

Wide range

Cloth-backed vinyl

Excellent for high-traffic and high-humidity areas.

May be stripped. Stiff and difficult to shape to wall or ceiling surfaces. If the paper is lightweight, use a wheat-paste adhesive; if heavy, use a vinyl adhesive.

High

Wet-look vinyl

Kitchens, bathrooms, laundry areas, and mudrooms

You may need to apply a lining paper first; surface imperfections will show.

Medium

Flocked

Avoid in high-traffic or difficult-to-clean areas.

Keep adhesive off the face; if adhesive does get on the face, remove it immediately with clear water and blot, don’t rub. If flocking mats, gently go over it with a suede brush.

High

Foil

Kitchens, bathrooms, and laundry areas, because it is easy to clean

Consider hiring a pro; this is difficult to hang. Don’t crease paper as you paste and hang it. Be careful around electrical switches and outlets.

High

Burlap/ grass cloth

Anywhere except in hard-use areas where there’s lots of grease, dampness, and dirt

Lining paper required. Butt edges and roll seams. Mix vinyl adhesive with 1/2 pint less water than instructed; apply two coats of adhesive with a mohair paint roller cover.

High

Hand-screened paper

To achieve a stylish effect

Because it is expensive and often made of paper that is easily tom, consider hiring a professional.

Very high

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Removing Old Wallpaper

Unless you’re working with a strippable-type paper, stripping old paper is a messy, time-consuming task. Before you decide to take on the job, ask yourself if you really need to take the old paper off before applying the new. If the old wallpaper is on the wall nice and tight, leave it there. You can eradicate a small blemish by cutting away the damaged section and piecing-in a patch to level the surface. Bubbles can be slit, reglued, and flattened. If the old paper is loose or in bad shape, you have no choice but to remove it.

Tools: Taping knife, scoring tool, sponge, spray bottle, scraper, and a wallpaper steamer.

Scrape and peel loose paper. Some heavier wall coverings— especially vinyl types—can be peeled off in strips. Loosen an edge with a taping knife and pull it down or up. A wallpaper scraper with a replaceable blade is the best tool, though a paint scraper can work. Slip it under the paper with one hand and peel with the other.

Use a scoring tool. If the paper won’t peel off in one continuous strip, make slits just deep enough to cut the paper. A wallpaper scoring tool does this quickly. Use it like a computer mouse to make a random pattern of curved cuts.

Scrub with wallpaper remover. After scoring the paper, soak the slits with a liquid wallpaper remover. If the wall covering has a light vinyl coating, it may help to sand the coating first. Scrape off the old paper.

Use a sprayer. If the wall is plaster, soak the paper thoroughly with mist from a plant sprayer or a pump sprayer. When wet enough, use a scraper to remove the paper. Avoid soaking drywall, which can be damaged by excess moisture.

Use a wallpaper steamer. A wallpaper steamer works well for removing lots of paper. It has a small boiler that furnishes steam to a plate that you hold against the wall. Especially if you’re dealing with non-strippable wallpaper, you can remove more old paper in an hour with a steamer than you previously could in a day of soaking and hard work.

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