Firstly, you need to ensure the walls are flat – it’s almost impossible to paper a wall that is all lumps and bumps, so remove any nails, hooks or screws with pliers. Fill in holes with a filler and finish off with sandpaper, so it doesn’t cause a bump under your strip.

There are lots of demos on YouTube, usually professionals with a pencil behind one ear, in white dungarees with the right brush and smoothing thingy already to hand, so let’s start with the basics.

Equipment - Yes, you will get messy, so wear old clothes, or invest in the dungarees! Get the right tools - hardware stores usually have brushes and rollers, so choose a good quality roller or a nice fat brush for slapping on the glue and a wallpaper hanging brush for smoothing. Some primer, a big tub of wallpaper paste, a plumb line, a tape measure or spirit level, and a table big enough to lay out a good length of paper, don’t worry if the paper is too long, we will come to that later. Protect the table with some sheets of plastic or old newspapers, and tape them down. A stepladder and a single side blade or knife with a retractable blade will be needed too, and some good long scissors. Oh, and the pencil.

How many rolls to buy?

Here's an example to help you calculate:

2.4m (height of room) x 19.2m (room width ÷ by wallpaper roll width) = 46.08

46.08 ÷ 10m (length of the wallpaper roll) = 4.6 total rolls needed:

Most wallpapers have a repeat pattern, so work out where they start and finish, as you will probably waste a bit of paper matching up the drop. ‘Random match’ is the easiest and will not create any waste when measuring strips, as these wallpapers line up randomly at the seams. Other wallpapers may result in some waste when you match the pattern from strip to strip.

Check all sheets are hung the same way, so you don’t find one length upside down!

Paste can be bought ready made. Some papers are ‘paste-the-wall’ and ‘not paste-the-paper’, which some say is quicker and easier.

Ready to go – First-timers would be wise to start behind a door so if you mess up your first sheet it’s hidden! Firstly, paint the whole wall with a wall primer/sizer – this creates a smooth surface for the paper and seals the surface, so the paste doesn’t soak into the wall.

Lay out your cut length and apply paste to it if it is the non-pasted variety - to the ends and edges as well. If the paper is too long for your table, you can loop it lightly forward, edge to edge, gluey side to gluey side, and make sure it is aligned, it’s called booking it up. From the left-hand corner of the wall you are about to decorate, measure 50 cm and make a pencil mark to give you your starting point, and draw a line down using either the plumb-bob or spirit level, giving you a straight line to hang against. If you have the ‘paste to the wall’ variety, use a roller - it’s quicker. Just paste enough for one length, and a little extra - this means you can hang the second piece without worrying about applying paste over your first piece.

Hold your first piece to the top (easier if you have a pal helping), cut with scissors. allowing for a few extra inches. Then unfold gently, slide it to meet your pencil line and use the wallpaper hanging brush to smooth out bubbles, centre to edges, top to bottom. Cut to fit at the top and bottom using a sharp knife. Wipe excess paste with a moist rag or sponge. Your first sheet hung, and you have a straight edge for the second sheet. The first ‘drop’ is key, as all others will align to it, so it is important to ensure it is ‘plumb’ otherwise your wallpaper could look wonky. Once the edge is positioned, and vertically correct, smooth the paper down, then trim off any excess.

Paper is forgiving! If it matches, you’re nearly there.


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan