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Wallpapering Tools

Wallpapering is a job that most people attempt at least once. And, although I’m not going to say it’s easier than you think, there is nothing to fear so long as you take your time and invest in some basic kit.

You must be prepared to make mistakes though. If you want to get a professional result without wasting at least a couple of lengths of paper you’re wasting your time reading any further.

The Basic Tools You’ll Need

  • Pasting table
  • Pasting brush
  • Plumb line or spirit level
  • Wallpapering brush or plastic soother
  • Scissors
  • Trimming knife and straightedge

Pasting Table

I can remember my mum using the kitchen table for pasting wallpaper. It always looked like a struggle and I can’t say the end results were that impressive either?

So, yes, you can get by without but they don’t cost that much and you should only need to buy one – provided you don’t lend it out!

Hardboard pasting table
Hardboard Folding Pasting Table
(available from amazon.co.uk)
You can pick these basic folding tables up at most DIY stores and, although a bit flimsy, they are OK for occasional use.
Heavy-duty pasting table
Heavy-Duty Pasting Table
(available from amazon.co.uk)
Or you can spend a bit more and get something like this, with aluminium legs and an easy wipe-clean top.

Paste Brushes

You can paste wallpaper with a thick pile roller if you’re confident but most people will prefer a traditional brush.

The cheap brushes you’ll see in the DIY store with a thick head and stubby handle ar OK if you’re comfortable using them.

Flat wall brush
Pure Bristle Wall Brush
(available from amazon.co.uk)
I prefer a standard wall brush like this one. The 6″ wide brushes can be hard work if you’re not used to them. In which case a 5″ might be better? I wouldn’t go any smaller than this though.

Plumb Line

You can not hang wallpaper successfully unless you start from a straight line on each wall. You’ll also need to keep checking every few lengths that you’re not ‘running out of plumb’.

Traditional plumb bob and line
Traditional Plumb Bob & Line
(available from amazon.co.uk)

You can use spirit level but a traditional plumb line and bob does the job perfectly well enough.

Wallpapering Brush

Cheap nylon papering brushes cost £2- £5 and for some jobs they’ll be alright. But you could invest a few more quid and get something decent that will last forever?

Paper hanging brush
Prestige Paperhanger Brush
(available from amazon.co.uk)
For the majority of papering projects a standard wide brush like this one is ideal. The bristles are nice and soft so they won’t damage the paper.
The solid wooden handle is also easy to grip while allowing you to apply extra pressure for heavier wallcoverings.

The alternative style of brushes have metal ring inserts around the bristles to make them firmer. These brushes are great for heavy duty papers where you need to apply a lot of pressure but are not suitable for most lightweight papers.

Plastic paper smoother
Plastic Wallpaper Smoother
(available from amazon.co.uk)
For some flat vinyl wallcoverings these plastic smoothers can give excellent results. There is a higher risk of damage if you are too heavy handed though.

This particular tool can also be used as an edge trimmer but I’d advise against this as the edge will become rough and uneven after a few uses. More on this below…

Scissors

There are methods of applying wallpaper that don’t require the use of scissors but you’ll need something to to cut your lengths with. So they are still an essential piece of kit.

You could spend all day pondering what kind to buy but there are just a couple of basic considerations. Will a cheap pair of scissors suffice or do want a pair that are going to last forever?

For DIY purposes you’re probably better off just buying a cheap pair that you don’t mind losing or damaging?

Basic scissors
Silverline Decorators Scissors
(available from amazon.co.uk)
You’ll see a few options like these varying in price but there isn’t much difference between them. They’re not going to last forever and will lose their cutting edge over time but for a one-off project they are just fine.

Although they are rust proof you’ll need to keep them clean. Trimming wallpaper can be a messy business and a build up of dried paste on the edges will render your scissors next to useless in no time at all.

High quality scissors
Axus Decor Japanese Stainless Steel Wallpaper Scissors
(available from amazon.co.uk)
At the other end of the scale these 12″ shears will last forever and are a joy to use. They are razor sharp, heavy but comfortable. And not that expensive?

Trimming the Edges

Traditionally you’d trim the top, bottom and edges of wallpaper with scissors – although getting a straight line takes a lot of practice. However, you can cheat a little by using a light pencil mark.

A better way of getting a straight edge is to cut the paper ‘in-situ’ with a sharp blade and guide edge.

For trimming, a sharp knife is a must and regular stanley type blades go blunt far too quickly to be practical. The long blades with snap-off sections are much better.

Just make sure you snap off a new blade for EVERY cut – yes you will get through a lot of blades but it’s the only way to get a professional result.

Precision stanley knife
Stanley 9MM Snap Off Blade Knife
(available from amazon.co.uk)
These 9mm blades are sharper than the larger style blades and cheaper too. I’ve used these knives for over 10 years and wouldn’t use anything else.

The only snag is that you need a pair of pliers to snap the blades off cleanly but it’s a minor inconvenience.

Trimming blade
Axus Precision Edge
(available from amazon.co.uk)
To get a nice straight edge you’ll need a guide like this. A solid metal edge is much better than a plastic one as it will stay straight and give a neater result.

What Else?

  • A couple of buckets and a sponge are obvious essentials.
  • A solid pair of step ladders – because you can’t cut a straight line if the platform you’re stood on is wobbly!
  • A seam roller may be useful in some situations although you probably won’t need one? If the edges are not sticking down it usually means you haven’t pasted them properly.

In summary then, you’ll need to spend around £60 – £100 to get a decent set of wallpapering kit. It may seem like a big outlay but it should be a one-off purchase, if you avoid the cheap and nasty stuff, and will pay for itself in no time at all.

Comments

Carol Richards – I spent 5 days papering three quarters of a room with white unpasted wallpaper using a water based adhesive powder so that I could move furniture in.
Read more…

Now I find it is all peeling off and that it hasn’t adhered to the vinyl silvery raised paper underneath which a friend told me would be an excellent underlay. I feel so foolish as I am worn out as a full time carer trying to sort two properties.
Rather than have to strip the vinyl below off is there any alternative I can take like a prime and bonder adhesive (I.e. vinyl over vinyl) when it is paper over vinyl instead.

Would this work. It is expensive stuff, but if there is a short-cut I think I must take it. Would have been better to paint the room instead of making expensive wallpaper purchases, but I now want to resurrect what I have left.

Would be grateful for your advice. Also I have a ceiling in my bedroom with a stubborn crack and I wondered if it would be best to paint it with a stippled paint finish or wallpaper ceiling with anaglypta. I am 72 and getting rather tired.

Darren – As you have found, there is seldom an easy way to deal with a decorating problem and short-cuts often result in making things worse than before. However, …

[Wallpaper]
The problem you’ll have now is that the residue of wallpaper paste will need to be washed from the surface of the wallpaper otherwise it just undermine any further efforts.

A solution of sugar soap in warm water first then rinse with clean, warm water and allow to dry.

You then have a few options although, I should add, everything now depends on how well the original paper is stuck to the wall?

The cheapest option will be to rub over the entire with an abrasive paper just to provide a key/. You don’t have to go crazy so long as you ensure you’ve covered the entire surface.

Since you’re using a paper backed covering the best way to approach this is to apply a priming coat of extra-strong adhesive or slightly thinned PVA directly to the wall and allow to dry.

Then paste your wallpaper with a ready-mixed adhesive and apply as normal. You’ll need to ensure you remove any excess paste from the edges and joints straight away with clean, warm water though because it’s a devil to get off once it’s dry.

There are some very strong adhesives available, such as Muraspec FXBTekfix Vinyl over Vinyl and Roman Over Vinyl Wallpaper Adhesive but they are expensive and, since we don’t know how well your existing paper is stuck down, you could be wasting your money.

A budget option such as Wickes Ready-Mixed or Solvite High Performance may be a better bet?

[Cracks in Ceiling]
These can be difficult to get rid of since most likely they are caused by movement in the gaps between plasterboard sheets. This can be just natural expansion & contraction or a week fixing. Either way, painting or wallpapering over these cracks isn’t going to fix them.

Applying a fine scrim to crack and then covering with powder-based filler will be more effective although this often means the repair stands proud from the surface of the ceiling.

You may be able to mitigate this by increasing the width of the repair so you can get a feather-edge but it all depends on what the surface is like now and how big the problem is.

Doing this, and then covering the ceiling with a light-textured covering is one way of getting rid of the problem but, again, expensive and labour intensive.

Alternatively, a reinforced lining paper such as Albany Reinforced Paste the Wall Lining or Wallrock 55 Fibre Liner is a slightly less costly option.