Part 1. Installing Wallpaper and Performing Brain Surgery:  Anyone Can Do It

Continuing last month’s theme of comparing painting to brain surgery, we now come to wallpaper, sometimes referred to as wall coverings. Last month we illustrated that painting is not as easy as it seems and that there are dangers in just “doing it yourself” or hiring the “cheap guy”. I pointed out that anyone can paint, just like anyone can do brain surgery, the question is whether the outcome will be a desirable one.

Well let’s magnify that x10 when it comes to wallpaper. Sure, on the surface it seems innocuous enough, it comes on a nice, neat roll not like messy paint that can be spilled or splattered where it doesn’t belong.

HA!  Wait till you hear this! Generally, a wallpapering job is more expensive than a paint job when you factor everything in. A professional wallpaper installer has the tools and knowledge to do the job right…it’s not as simple as slapping some paper onto the wall. Yet some people are content to save some money by hiring the cheap guy while, in the end, it may cost them much more.

Remember, wallpaper should not just be applied to the wall. A wallpaper-specific primer should be used first and then the proper adhesive (I’ll tell you why). Use the wrong primer or adhesive and your pricey investment will be ruined. The “handyman” down the street probably doesn’t know the proper materials to use, but I do!

Wallpaper primers:  If the installer does not use a wallpaper primer at all, you will likely have popped seams in a month or so, depending upon the weather. Worse yet, your drywall will be ruined when it comes time to remove the wallpaper resulting in an expensive removal job and wall restoration project. Furthermore, there are primers made for porous surfaces and some made for surfaces that are already sealed. All of this makes a difference.

Wallpaper adhesives:  Clay based, lightweight clear, heavy duty clear, powdered adhesive, no adhesive, and activators. They all have a specific use and the wrong one can ruin the results.  Perhaps one of most common mistakes I’ve seen is using a regular wallpaper adhesive to apply a wallpaper border. Sure, it sticks when the glue is wet, but as soon as it dries, the wallpaper border falls to the floor!

Of course, knowledge of the proper materials is important, but of equal or greater importance is knowing how to prevent gaps, line up patterns and cut the wallpaper so you don’t run out. This knowledge comes with the extensive experience of a professional wallpaper installer.

There are many types of wallpaper patterns:  random, straight, half drop, random drop and what I’ll call “hidden” patterns. If the installer is not familiar with these patterns and how to install them, your wallpaper will be misaligned and unsightly. And there is a good chance that wallpaper was wasted, in an effort to align the panels, and the installer runs out of paper before the job is complete. Bye bye wallpaper.

When you work with geometric patterns in houses that are not perfectly square (trust me, no house is perfect) there is another level of professional experience required to make the job look good. A pro has ways to make stripes and plaids look aligned even when the house is crooked. The “cheap guy’s” job will look…well, cheap.

Common mistakes made by those with little experience are:  stretching the wallpaper so the pattern doesn’t match, over-rolling the seams so there is no glue left, overlapped seams, gaps in seams when the paper dries, air bubbles, not knowing how or when to make double cuts, etc. The tricky part is that these incorrect techniques often don’t appear as problems until after the wallpaper has dried.

I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom. Actually, I’m trying to help you avoid doom and gloom.  Believe me, I’ve had to help plenty of customers with wallpaper jobs that had gone awry by the “cheap guy”. However, wallpaper can be an amazingly beautiful addition to your decor. There are prints, patterns and color combinations that you will never get with paint. Even a focal wall with wallpaper, or a framed wallpaper panel, adds a lot of pizazz to a room. Plus, the savvy customer who hires a professional wallpaper installer will be pleasantly surprised if they choose to remove the wall covering in the future to change to a new one or even go back to paint. Properly prepared walls and properly installed wallpaper is not that expensive to change.

Next month, in Part 2 of Installing Wallpaper and Performing Brain Surgery:  Anyone Can Do It, I will share some entertaining wallpaper horror stories I’ve come across in my 37 years in this business. Entertaining for you, but not for the customer! I will also share some tips on how to find an experienced, reputable, professional to hang your wallpaper…and you will see that T. Whitaker Painting meets the requirements! 

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