Wallpaper first began as a cost effective alternative to expensive tapestries only the most elite could afford. It then transitioned into stuffy patterns adorning grandmas’ homes. Today, however, wallpaper has been revamped. it packs a powerful punch of color, pattern, texture and versatility for walls big and small.

With a typical lifespan of 15 years, unlimited looks for every taste, and an easy way to add depth to flat walls (or cover up flawed walls!), it’s no wonder wallpaper has become so popular.

Before you get started, there are a few rules of thumb you need to know and several tips and tricks you don’t want to miss!



  • What are the benefits of wallpaper?
  • How versatile is wallpaper?
  • Can I install wallpaper myself?
  • How can I clean wallpaper?
  • How can I add texture to my walls?
  • How can I mask flawed walls?
  • How long does wallpaper last?

The first wallpapers were simply papers glued to walls. Today, however, several manufacturing processes provide various wallpapers for different applications. Here is a run-down of what you need to know about each:

The conventional “wallpaper”; can be left as plain paper, or coated with an acrylic or vinyl film to help it better withstand moisture and stains.
PROS: Versatile
CONS: Difficult to clean; tends to be fragile; hard to strip
BEST USE: Bedrooms, offices and moderate wear areas

A rubbery plastic that are laminated to paper, nonwoven or fabric backings.
PROS: Withstands moisture, grease and repeated cleanings
BEST USE: Kitchens, bathrooms, entry ways and high traffic areas

Metalic films and foils that are laminated to paper or nonwoven backings.
PROS: Aesthetic – adds shine to dull wallsAesthetic – adds shine to dull walls
CONS: Highlights uneven walls; difficult to install
BEST USE: Small spaces

Synthetic fibers and papers are fused together; often, the nonwoven serves as a backing for metallics, vinyls and grasscloths.
PROS: Easy to install and remove; breathable
BEST USE: Can be used in the bathroom when installed with a mildew-resistant adhesive

Synthetic fibers and papers are fused together; often, the nonwoven serves as a backing for metallics, vinyls and grasscloths.
PROS: Easy to install and remove; breathable
BEST USE: Entryways, hallways or areas that tend to be bumped and scuffed

A weave of grasses.
PROS: Aesthetics – caters to a particular style; can be vacuumed to keep fresh
CONS: Can be soiled easily and is not washable
BEST USE: Low traffic areas that see little wear

Silk screening and block printing can replicate the look and feel of historical wallpapers.
PROS: Aesthetics – handmade feel; more unique than large run papers
CONS: Prices tend to be higher because of this time intensive process
BEST USE: A formal dining room, office or low traffic area

Wallpaper sizing can be very confusing. Prices are typically listed for single rolls, yet most papers are only available as double rolls. (A double roll refers to a roll that is twice as long as a single roll.)

It seems manipulating at first, but the reasoning is that by manufacturing in a double roll, there is more usable paper because of the longer, continuous run. For instance, if your wall height is 8 feet, you may only be able to get one strip per single roll, leaving 5-6 feet as waste. With a double roll, you would be able to get three strips, leaving little waste.

There are two traditional sizes for wallpaper:

  • European (also called Metric): 20 ½" wide by 33 ft. long per double roll, about 56 sq. ft. per double roll
  • American: 27" wide by 27 ft. long per double roll, about 70 sq. ft. per double roll

Although these sizes are typical, be sure to check lengths and widths of particular wallpapers you are considering for purchase, as some manufacturers use their own sizes. Additionally, wallpaper is available in various sized borders.

Nearly all wallpapers have some sort of pattern repeat. Repeat is the vertical distance between one point on the pattern to the identical point vertically. Typical pattern repeats range from less than an inch to two feet.

There are three major types of patterns:

Random: With this pattern, the pattern matches no matter how two adjoining strips are positioned. An example of a random match is stripes—regardless of the vertical position of neighboring strips of paper, the stripes will always match up. A random match creates little waste because there is no repeat to work around.

As a general rule, flip every other strip (one right side up, one upside down, one right side up…)to minimize the appearance color variations.

Straight Across: With this pattern, every strip must be hung with the same ceiling line. Suppose wallpaper has half of a diamond on each side of the seam. After the first strip of paper is hung, every other strip must be lined up the exact same way in order for the other half of the diamond to align correctly.

Drop: These patterns are the most complex because they must be aligned both horizontally and vertically among the strips of paper. Because of the dual alignment and the need to have enough paper to make the pattern match, drop matches often result in much waste.

  • Half Drop: This pattern repeats at the ceiling line on alternating strips. The design often runs diagonally. It takes three strips to repeat the vertical design (strips 1, 3, 5 and so on are identical, while strips 2, 4, 6 and so on are identical).
  • Multiple Drop: This pattern is the most complex of all. Similar to the half drop, except that the multiple drop has 4 or more strips before the vertical design is repeated. An example of multiple drop pattern matches would be a dense paisley pattern.



To determine the amount of wallpaper you will need for your project, plug your room dimensions into an online wallpaper calculator or follow this formula:

  1. Multiply the total wall length by the ceiling height to find the square footage of each wall being papered.
  2. Add each wall’s square footage together.
  3. Subtract the square footage of any large openings of windows and doors. This figure will be FIGURE A.
  4. Determine your pattern’s yield factor (a factor that accounts for waste, which grows as a patter repeat gets larger) using this reference guide:
    • If pattern repeat is 0-6", yield factor is .83
    • If pattern repeat is 7-12", yield factor is .73
    • If pattern repeat is 13-18", yield factor is .67
    • If pattern repeat is 19-23", yield factor is .60
  5. Multiply the yield factor by the total square feet in a roll. This figure will be FIGURE B.
  6. Divide FIGURE A by FIGURE B to find the total number of rolls to order.

A few cautions:

  • Unless your baseboards are uncommonly large, it is usually best to measure the entire height of the wall, not from the top of the baseboard.
  • Be careful to keep your terminology the same—if you use the total square feet in a double roll as your unit, be sure to order by the double roll; if you use the total square feet in a single roll, order by the single roll.

Keep in mind that you never want to run short on a wallpaper project. It is better to overestimate than underestimate. Some companies may allow you to return any unused paper—check the store’s return policy.

In addition, be sure to keep the lot or run number in case you do run out or need to repair a strip down the road. The manufacturer isn’t guaranteed to have your paper in stock, but there’s always a chance they might. If they do, you’ll want to get paper from the same run, as color variation—though often slight—can appear from run to run.

In today’s market, there are different adhesive options for various wallpaper materials. Always check with the manufacturer to find the best adhesive for particular wallpaper.

  • Wheat paste is the traditional choice. It is a flour-based powder that is mixed with water, and then applied to the paper’s backing. Wheat paste is ideal for grasscloth and historic uncoated papers.
  • Premixed vinyl is exactly that—premixed vinyl that is sold in buckets. There are two types:
    Clear: Suitable for a broad range of wallpapers and is often strippable.*
    Clay: Vinyl adhesive that is clay-based and is often used to hang vinyl, foils and heavily inked papers.
  • * “Strippable” means that wallpaper can be dry-stripped from the wall while leaving little paste or adhesive residue and without damaging the surface of the wall.
  • Prepasted adhesive is factory applied, and the glue is activated by briefly soaking the wallpaper in warm water.
  • Peel and Stick is the simplest adhesive. Simply peel off the paper backing and stick to the wall. You can often reposition paper with this adhesive.
Before installing, there are a few things you must first consider:

  • Use Internet software that allows you to virtually see wallpaper in your room to help you visualize the space.
  • Order samples to test the true color and texture of a particular paper.
  • View samples in various light sources, as well as during different times of the day.
  • Take into account the space in which you will hang the wallpaper. For instance, busy patterns may be perfect for a small bathroom or entryway, but the same pattern is often overwhelming in large doses.
  • Survey the walls that you plan to hang wallpaper on. Are they smooth and clean, or warped and nicked? Certain finishes—for example, metallic—will highlight wall flaws. Embossed papers help hide uneven surfaces.
  • Research wallpaper that will work for you. For instance, acoustical wallpaper can help reduce unwanted noise in a room.
  • Prep your surface for hanging wallpaper. Generally speaking, fill nail heads, nicks and cracks, then sand flush. Or, hang a liner paper prior to installation. Heavily damaged walls may need bridging liners. All liners should be hung horizontally.

The size of your wallpapering project and the material you choose will often dictate if this is a DIY project or whether it’s time to call in the professionals. If you plan to hang the wallpaper yourself, here are several basic tips to get you started:

  • Layout: Plan, plan, plan! Determine a layout that will keep patterns flowing across windows, doors and the ceiling. Consider creating the layout around the most-viewed portion of the wall, working your way around the room from there.
  • Straight: Using a plumb bob or level, make sure all edges are straight. It becomes very difficult to line up crooked seams!
  • Wrinkles & Bubbles: To avoid wrinkles and bubbles, flatten freshly hung paper with a plastic smoothing tool rather than a brush. Smooth as you go—don’t save this important step until the end.
  • Seams: Do not overlap two strips of paper, as you will create a noticeable raised edge. Instead, butt seams together, pushing them flat. Liner paper is often helpful with this.
  • The exception to overlapping paper is for projections and corners. Make sure seams end up 6 inches or more from outside corners to prevent peeling. For inside corners, allocate an extra 1/8 inch to cover the adjacent wall, while allowing the next strip to tuck tightly flush in the corner.
Most wallpaper can be cleaned with warm water and a sponge (but not all, so you have to read the manufacturer's care instructions). The wallpapers can be mulched vacuumed to stay clean.
Though once considered outdated, wallpaper has made a comeback in recent years. Below are several emerging trends:

  • Geometric patterns that are fun, fresh and timeless.
  • Custom ink jet papers are beginning to gain popularity. Customers can print wall-sized photographs. Though occasionally seen in homes, this trend is quite popular among athletic facilities, education buildings and community centers.
  • Retro and vintage papers, like many things second-hand, are becoming rather popular. Antique papers can often be quite expensive, so look for replicas to keep within your budget.
  • Small applications are prevalent, as homeowners seem to be testing out wallpaper before committing to an entire room. Consider papering the back of a bookshelf or kitchen cabinet, a trunk, a door, the faces of stairs, or even using wallpaper as makeshift wainscoting. If you’re not ready to commit, there are ample ways to incorporate small applications for a punch of color and texture.
  • Though traditionally not very “green”, wallpapers today are becoming more and more eco-friendly.
  • Acrylic coatings have been used to replace some vinyl coatings that often emit VOCs and plasticizers.
  • Water-based inks are sometimes used in place of their oil-based counterparts (which are known to contain VOCs).
  • Above all, inexpensive papers that are simple to remove and install are most popular—leaving homeowners with the ability to update more often.