Everyone seems so interested in—but scared—of wallpaper, myself included. So when wallpaper designer Katie Deedy of Grow House Grow invited me into her home to observe a team of hanging professionals (shout out to Sarah Merenda, Max Kahan, and Yumi Hunt!) take down and put up her designs, I was elated. The whole process will finally be demystified, I thought to myself. And it most certainly was.
Things I am now one-hundred percent sure of: I will never attempt to hang my own wallpaper. The takedown process? More manageable, but still! Without using the proper techniques, it could be a long day of work that results in wall damage, which nobody wants. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Keep reading to discover what it’s really like—and what it really takes—to remove and hang wallpaper.
There are two ways to get wallpaper off your wall. You can spray it with a solution that consists of DIF, a wallpaper stripper concentrate, and water—or you can use a scoring tool to perforate the paper. Spraying and tearing off is the preferred method, because you can usually remove larger portions of the paper and you get a clean wall when you’re finished (the DIF solution dissolves the glue!). But if after a few rounds of applying the solution—by spray bottle or roller—the wallpaper still isn’t budging, it’s time to bring in the scoring tool… Which actually helps the DIF solution work faster (the perforated holes allow the liquid to seep in and get to work), but you get smaller portions of the paper to tear off. Be warned, scoring your walls sounds a bit like nails on a chalkboard.
One thing you should definitely not do is score wet paper. Imagine a paper mache situation on your wall. Yeah, not good. Also, the longer the wallpaper is up, the harder it is to take down. So don’t feel bad about calling in the professionals for backup if the wallpaper was hung years before your time and you don’t feel like dealing with it.
Let’s move on to hanging new paper, which is where things get a bit more complicated. Previous to watching wallpaper be professionally hung, I kind of thought I could do it on my own. I’ve done my fair share of painting and believe myself to be crafty and somewhat industrious. Boy, was I wrong.
Hanging wallpaper takes major skills. For starters, you have to precisely trim the edges off the paper. And no, “almost exact” won’t pass the test. Like, at all. Next, watching Kahan paint the back of the paper and fold it just so to let it “bake” left me feeling impressed, but also nervous for the paper! Merenda told me you can be somewhat rough when handling the wet paper, so it doesn’t bend or tear, but not too rough.
If I was painting glue onto a sheet of paper that was hundreds of dollars, I would be frozen. Frozen! Not at all rough!
But back to more of what you can expect, since I’m hoping this article leads you to finding a professional to help with your hanging. After trimming comes the glue applying, which leads to the “baking”, which more or less means letting the glue absorb into the paper before applying it to the wall. This usually takes around 10 minutes, but it depends on the paper. Wallpaper can be “over-baked”, in which case it will look like the consistency of “soggy toilet paper”... Which loosely translates to “ruined” and cannot be applied to your walls.
In addition to learning that hanging is a job better left to the pros, I also discovered that wallpaper is NOT cheap. It is an investment, but one that is well worth it.
Deedy said, “It’s art for your wall and it creates an environment.”
Which the room agreed is absolutely true. It’s larger scale than art and more statement-making than a one-dimensional wall color. It’s also addicting. Once you add it to one wall, you’ll fall in love with the look and feel (so they say).
Deedy also made a good point when she pointed out that we pay professionals to do a lot of things for us. From dry cleaning (do you know how to dry clean? probably not) to building IKEA furniture (I, for one, refuse), we trust professionals to take care of a lot of things for us on both a daily basis and on special occasions. Moral of the story: We shouldn’t feel bad about not being able to DIY hang our own wallpaper!
But speaking of the initial investment of the wallpaper itself, paying a pro to hang your paper isn’t exactly inexpensive—and like most things, you get what you pay for. The team I observed charges $500 - $600 dollars for a large wall like you see here. You pay per roll (which in this case, is three rolls), plus for the work of priming the wall, materials, and it adds up fast. If you’re investing in expensive wallpaper, it’s a good rule to add the expense of paying an expert to hang your paper to your total budget.
But back to the process, after baking it is applied by hand to the wall. After it is securely situated on the wall, it’s time for the tools, which aren’t used initially so the paper is scarred (aka marked!). Of course, someone will check it’s hung evenly and when the next sheet goes up, ensure that the print matches up perfectly. From here, all the focus is on the details. You might get to witness a fun, little roller in action that helps get bubbles out. Excess will be cut by doorways and awkward corners and the process will be complete.
See it sounds scary, and might feel a bit intimidating when the process is actually happening, but the final product will turn out amazing if you invest in quality paper and hangers. And while I’ve been assured that I can handle hanging my own removable wallpaper, I’m considering going the permanent route instead. Because after witnessing both processes, I’ve come to realize that real wallpaper is easily removable and I’d rather trust a pro than stress myself out.