Wallpaper hacks: 9 DIY tips to get a professional finish

Two people, one hanging wallpaper on a bare wall, one using a pasting table
Wallpaper hacks are all about perfecting your technique (Image credit: Getty Images)

These clever and practical wallpaper hacks should make your DIY life just that little bit easier. It will also mean the next time you repaper or hang wallpaper you will know how to achieve that professional-looking finish. 

Knowing the basics of how to wallpaper is a great start, but introducing a few smart wallpaper hacks means you can take a step beyond the fundamentals. You won’t struggle removing old wallpaper, you’ll know how to get a smooth, clean and even finish every time and never see a gap in the seams of dark-coloured wallpaper. 

These are just a few of the essential techniques to obtain a great finish. Read on to discover more.

Wallpaper hacks to make wallpapering easier 

Whether you are hanging or removing wallpaper, introduce this collection of wallpaper hacks to speed up the process and get a great finish.  

1. Reroll your wallpaper in the opposite direction 

When you unwrap a roll of wallpaper and lay it out on a pasting table the wallpaper simply keeps rolling back up. You can use a wallpaper brush or wallpaper scissors to weigh the paper down, but there is a better option. 

Simply reroll a metre section of the wallpaper in the opposite direction of the original roll and unroll. The wallpaper will now stay flat – without a weight – ready for pasting.

2. Keep your pasting table clean and pasting even 

A dirty pasting table can mean dirty wallpaper. So when applying paste to wallpaper you want to keep your pasting table as paste free as possible. And at the same time you want to be adding an even layer of paste.

Roll out a length of wallpaper and line up the far edge of the wallpaper with the far edge of the table. Put the wallpaper paste in the roller tray, get a 4–inch or 9–inch roller, add plenty of paste and roller onto the wallpaper, making sure to get an even layer. Go along the edge and into the middle.

Now move the wallpaper to the edge of the pasting table nearest to you and apply the rest of the paste. When finished make sure you know how to dispose of wallpaper paste properly to avoid any unexpected or unwanted problems. 

3. Keep wallpapering tools in your pocket 

There is nothing more annoying than putting down your brush, scissors, knife or pencil and then climbing up a ladder without them. When you go to mark or make a cut at the ceiling and realise you don't have what you need, it can be frustrating having to climb all the way down the ladder again.

Over the course of a job, this can be time-consuming and annoying so keep your tools in your pocket. Get into the habit of putting them back there again after use too.  

Women stood on ladder hanging wallaper with brush in back pocket

Try to keep your wallpaper tools in your pocket so they are always to hand and ready to use (Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Paint the wall for perfect looking seams  

It doesn’t matter how well you put up your gorgeous new contemporary dark wallpaper, there is always still a chance that small gaps will appear around the seams. 

One option is to get a similar colour paint to the wallpaper and paint a strip on the wall where the seams are going to be before putting up the wallpaper. A 2-inch brush should do the job. 

5. Score wallpaper for easy removal 

To make wallpaper removal easy, you can score the paper with a Stanley knife. Create criss-cross patterns around two inches apart from top to bottom. Do not push too hard otherwise you will be digging into the plaster.

Now get a bucket of water and a large sponge and soak the wall. Leave for 10–20 minutes. Add a good amount of washing liquid or fabric softener to help soften the wallpaper. Alternatively place a wallpaper steamer over the scored wallpaper for quick and easy removal with a scraper. 

Woman using a wallpaper steamer and scraper to remove wallpaper

Score wallpaper with a knife before using water or a steamer for easy removal (Image credit: Getty Images)

6. Work out quickly where to start  

Start towards the left around half a roll from a corner and mark with a pencil. Now use a new roll of paper and place against the first mark and see where the next drop will be. Do this across the whole wall.

This is to try and avoid having to cut thin slivers against doors, windows, sockets and corners. Adjust the start mark if needed. 

7. Measure twice and cut once  

The old adage measure twice and cut once is just as relevant today as it's ever been. It helps ensure you are making a cut in the right place. There is nothing worse than cutting a drop of wallpaper an inch or two short, as it renders it useless and can be an expensive mistake.

An alternative way to measure is to place the roll of wallpaper on the floor, climb a ladder and pull the roll up to the ceiling. Make sure to leave a few inches extra at the top and bottom. Get off the ladder and mark the wallpaper halfway down the skirting board or at the bottom of the skirting board and cut.  

8. Use a seam roller 

The edges of a drop of a wallpaper are the part that is most likely to lift. So make sure that you apply the same amount of paste on the edge as the rest of the wallpaper. Brush down with a wallpaper brush and wipe off any excess paste and then use the seam roller to gently move up and down the seam until finished.  

9. Get a clean cut and straight lines top and bottom 

To help get matching lines and cuts along the bottom and top of your wallpaper do two or three drops at a time. This is ideal for flat walls. Put up multiple rolls and push in the top and bottom on all drops with a wallpaper brush. Then run the back of a pair of scissors along all three drops at the ceiling and skirting to mark the cut.

Now gently ease off the first drop at the ceiling and cut with scissors and repeat for all drops top and bottom. Push back into place with a wallpaper brush.

If cutting with a knife, use a snap knife. These are sharp and you can snap off the blade for a fresh one. Ideally let the paste dry for five minutes before cutting. You can use a large putty knife or long level as a guide. Make sure the knife is sharp otherwise it will rip the paper.

Once the paper has dried think about caulking skirting boards to create a final seal at the bottom. Use decorators caulk so you can paint over it.   

Person holding a large putty knife

Press a large putty knife against the edge and cut with a very sharp knife for a crisp clean finish (Image credit: Getty Images)

How much does one roll of wallpaper cover? 

A single roll of wallpaper is typically 10 metres in length (around 33 feet) and 530mm wide (around 1 foot 8 inches). The average height for a wall in the UK is around 2.4m or 8 feet. In this scenario a single roll will give four drops or maybe three on patterned wallpaper. Four drops will cover around two metres, width wise. 

So you will need two rolls to cover a single wall in a 12ft x 12ft room or 7 or 8 rolls for the whole room (depending on how many doors and windows you have).

Steve Jenkins

Steve is Homebuilding & Renovating's DIY content editor, and has been a writer and editor for two decades. He is an avid DIYer with over 20 years of experience in transforming and renovating homes. He specialises in painting and decorating, but has strong all-round building skills, having previously worked in the industry for 10 years.