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How To: Prepare Your Walls For Wallpaper

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07.01.15 | Darryl Husler

How To: Prepare Your Walls For Wallpaper


Everyone knows a good achievement (whether it be results in an exam, driving test, job interview etc) is down to preparation. Wallpapering is no exception and if you want to make life easier for yourself and cut down on the overall time of the job, it is worth spending a little extra time before.
This article will look at and give thought to some general tips in pre-wallpapering preparation and also look at the specifics of preparation.

General recommendations.
1) Start with the ceiling and finish that first.
Similar to washing a car it is easier to start with the roof and move down to the windows and wheels last. To give ease it is best to finish papering the ceiling first before starting on the general walls. Then if any problems arise with the ceiling these can be dealt with without potentially interferring or damaging the rest of the wallpaper.

2) Ensure skirting boards architrive, picture rail etc are all fitted.
There would be nothing worse than making a lovely job of wallpapering only to make rips, tears and marks when fitting some of the woodwork after. To avoid this, do it before. This will then also aid wallpaering as the woodwork creates reference marks to paper to. Furthermore ensure staining or painting of any woodwork is complete before also. It is all to easy to get paint onto wallpaper which can be a problem to remove later.

Specifics of preparation.
* Washing down.
Whether previous paint or wallpaper is on the surface the best way to start preparing is to give the walls a clean. That doesn’t mean gettting the shampoo and conditioner out! Rather there are special solutions that can be made or purchased which take care of this. A good recommendation is sugar soap. This can be applied with a brush, and removes grease and other impurities. It is then washed away with fresh water and a sponge.

At this stage, look out for signs of mould and condensation presence (usually black spots in a corner of a wall.) This also needs to be cleaned and is actually a health hazard. Use gloves and concentrated bleach to do this. It may also be worth investigating the cause of the condensation before proceeding. It would be painful to have lovely wallpapered walls only to find black spores reappearing.
Preparation is thinking ahead and outside the box too!

*Smoothing by sanding.
By sanding down the walls, you ensure a smooth and even finish without bumps or other undulations being present. When wallpapering you need the paper to sit comfortably and flat to the wall rather than sticking out and showing inconsistencies in the wall.
To sand, a block is recommended to which sanding paper is wrapped around it. Sand the walls in small circular motions to ensure an even finish. There are different ‘styles’ of sand paper but generally a multi-purpose one will do the job for the average wall.
When sanding remember to apply firm pressure as gentle sweeps of the wall will not be enough. A good test is to run your hands over the area when you think you have sanded sufficeinetly as you can test for smoothness and find any rough patches which remain.
This is a very dusty job! Wear adequate protection and remember to clean up the mess after as fine dust lingers everywhere. Infact covering objects with dust sheets before sanding is recommended where appropriate and possible.

* Filling.
A lovely flat wall is great. If this is you, you can ignore this point. In reality stripping the walls is likely to expose cracks or chipped pieces of plaster. Buying a filler product (which is essientally a dough type substance – similar to plastercene) and applying this with a filling knife / spatular will sort this problem. Work around the wall / room and ensure all is completed. Use the filling knife to smooth out the filler so it matches the rest of the walls surface in a flat style.

Remember: Massive chunks can not be done with this method and the walls will need replastering before proceeding. A specialist assessment on this would be necessary.

Once the filler is dry, go back to the sanding method and smooth out the newly filled areas, again to ensure the whole surface is even and consistent.

*Lining.
This is often a choice rather than a necessity but it can help. Some people decide to gloss paint straight away and skip undercoating. This can be done, but undercoat provides a good base and a platform. Lining walls for wallpaper is similar. If the filling you have undertaken has been extensive or there are still very fine cracks which remain on the wall (that filler can not remedy) lining is recommended.

Follow all these tips and whilst you may think they add time to the decorating job, it will save you time later when your right in the middle of papering and have to stop.