Common problems with wallpaper

Wallpapering can be a daunting task to the newbie DIYer, but with the right tools and the right knowledge it needn’t be. In this troubleshooting guide we look at the common problems that can arise with wallpaper and how to overcome them (thus maintaining domestic harmony with the other half).

Common problems with wallpaper

Common problems with wallpaper

Advice on wallpaper

Read on for advice on how to deal with bubbled and creased wallpaper, how to match patterned wallpaper patterns and hanging wallpaper in a stair well, or jump to the following sections:

  • Dealing with bubbles and creases
  • Dealing with lifted wallpaper seams
  • Concealing gaps between wallpaper joins
  • Repairing damaged sections of wallpaper?
  • Wallpapering around sockets and switches
  • Wallpapering behind a radiator
  • Do I need lining paper?
  • Matching patterned wallpaper patterns
  • Hanging wallpaper in a stair well?
  • Can I use all types of paper in all rooms?

    Dealing with bubbled and creased wallpaper
    It pains us to say it but bubbles usually mean the paper has been poorly applied. If there are lots of bubbles you might be better just replacing the whole length of paper. Tiny bubbles can be pierced with a pin and pressed flat. Larger bubbles can be removed using a craft knife and making two tiny cuts forming a cross over the bubble. Peel back the four flaps, apply wallpaper paste and smooth back down with a sponge, wiping away the excess.
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    Dealing with lifted wallpaper seams
    Carefully slide the blade of a craft knife under the paper and peel it back enough to apply adhesive to the wall beneath it. Take care not to get paste on the surrounding paper, and, using a seam roller, flatten the edges together. Wipe away any excess paste with a damp sponge and dry the seam with a clean, dry cloth, remembering to always work in one direction.
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    Concealing gaps between wallpaper joins
    If the wallpaper paste has dried beyond the ‘butting up’ point and you notice a small gap between sections, use this handy trick. Simply buy a tester pot of paint that matches the wallpaper colour and carefully, very carefully, paint in between the gaps. We’re confident no one will notice!
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    Repairing damaged sections of wallpaper ?
    Torn paper isn’t the end of the world. Simply peel back the torn section and using a slim paintbrush apply paste to the section of exposed wall. Smooth back the torn flap and position with a damp sponge, wiping clean with a dry cloth.
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    Wallpapering around light sockets and switches?
    We've a great guide, How to wallpaper around doors, windows and switches, which gives you all the information you need.
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    Wallpapering behind a radiator??
    Either remove the whole unit (having turned off the valves and positioned a bowl and plastic sheeting beneath) or simply paste and hang the paper to about one inch above the radiator so it flaps over the front. Using scissors cut the paper at least 50mm (2”) below the top and smooth it behind using a radiator roller.
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    Do I know if I need lining paper??
    If yours is a new-build with perfectly symmetrical walls you won’t need lining paper. If you live in a Victorian semi with walls that have been knocked, filled, papered and stripped over the years, you probably do.

    Lining paper smoothes imperfections and improves surface porosity, giving your walls a flawless finish. Available in grades of 400-1400, we recommend you don’t go below 1000, which becomes too thin and stretchy.

    Just remember to hang lining paper horizontal to the floor, using a spirit level for accuracy, so that the top layer of wallpaper's joints don't line up with the lining paper. (If you’re planning to paint the lining paper, hang it vertically).
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    Matching patterned wallpaper patterns?
    If you’ve fallen in love with a paper that has a repeating pattern you need some careful planning to get it right first time, and you should anticipate a fair amount of waste to get the perfect match!

  • Drop match patterns come in two different kinds and are the most complex because the pattern needs aligning both horizontally and vertically with the papers on either side.
  • Half-drop patterns repeat at the ceiling line on every other strip, ie it requires three strips of wallpaper to repeat the vertical design. So if you were to number the strips consecutively, strips 1, 3 and 5 would be identical, so would 2, 4 and 6. We suggest you lay out your papers in advance and lightly pencil the order number on the back to avoid confusion.
  • A multiple drop match, eg a dense Paisley pattern, is not recommended for newbies as it’s the most complex pattern to match. It can take four or more strips to repeat the vertical design and a whole lot of head scratching. Definitely recommended for the pros.
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    Hanging wallpaper in a stair well?
    The first rule is to get someone in to help you. Now, you’ll need to either hire a temporary scaffold or make your own. Depending on the layout of your staircase you can either use one ladder with a scaffold board resting on a stair or stepladders at either end with the scaffold resting on different steps. Once you’ve measured the height of the head wall (the wall at your back when climbing the stairs) and cut your paper accordingly, paste the wallpaper and fold the bottom half back on itself. Get your helper to support the scaffold while you do the high work.

    When you come to paper the well wall (the highest wall up the stair side) you’ll be working with longer drops; this is where your helper will need to support the weight of the pasted and concertina-folded paper, which can be quite heavy. Be prepared for lots of climbing up and down, repositioning the scaffold and board in place. Don’t be tempted to reach out to hang paper – this is usually where it all goes horribly wrong. The HSE has produced a great leaflet on using ladders safely.
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    Can I use all types of paper in all rooms??
  • Vinyl-coated papers are tough and washable so they work best in rooms prone to condensation. They consist of a pattern printed on to a thin skin of vinyl (plastic) with a paper backing behind.
  • Vinyl papers are an even tougher choice than vinyl-coated papers as the vinyl skin on the front of the base paper is thicker and pretty much impervious to water. NB this can make removing them quite tricky. Excellent for kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Textured vinyls are a hardwearing paper with a deep embossed surface pattern that makes them ideal for high traffic areas and uneven walls.
  • Woodchip papers: We would strongly advise against them. In our opinion they are ugly and a nightmare to remove.
  • Washable papers aren’t the same as vinyls as the patterned paper is treated with a transparent plastic coating that can easily be wiped down.
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