Wallpaper - cutting and pasting

Label information

Details of matching patterns on the wallpaper are indicated by the following symbols on the roll label:

No vertical offset No vertical offset in pattern Vertical pattern repeat distance Vertical pattern repeat distance
Vertical pattern offset distance Vertical pattern offset distance   
Direction for hanging Direction for hanging Reverse alternate lengths Reverse alternate lengths

The vertical offset of the pattern determines how much waste you are likely to get when you match up a pattern.

Always keep at least one of the labels from the wallpaper rolls, it contains useful information.

Cutting the lengths

Measure the vertical drop on the wall and working on the pasting table, cut a length from a roll about 200mm (8 inches) longer than the measured drop - this allows from trimming later.

If the paper has a pattern, try matching the first length against remainder of the first roll:

  • If the pattern matches with the top edges in line, cut the second length from the roll and repeat using the last cut length as a guide for cutting the next length.
  • If the pattern is miss-matched with the top edge in line by less than 50mm (2 inches), adjust the cutting length for subsequent lengths (i.e. reduce the amount for trimming).
  • If the pattern is miss-matched with the top edge in line by more than 50mm (2 inches), try matching the cut length to another roll. You may find that you will need to work with 2 or 3 rolls to keep waste to a minimum.

TIP: As you cut each length, mark it at the top with the length number - this will not only show the sequence in which they need to be hung but also which end is the top.

As you finish with each length, carefully lay it aside, make sure that you don't crease it. Either roll it up or loosely it fold.

Only cut enough lengths for the next wall you are going to paste, this will avoid wastage.

Cutting widths

Sometimes it is necessary to cut down the width of wallpaper before you paste it, typically this is to get the desired 'wrap around' at a corner - typically about 12mm(½ in). This cutting should only be done during the actual hanging when the actual 'pat' width can be accurately measured.

When you have established the required width, lay a length of wallpaper on the paste table with the decorative side up then measure and mark the width from the edge which will butt up to another length - mark at spacing to suit your straightedge.

Never cut directly onto the paste table, a narrow length of timber you can place under the wallpaper is helpful.

Working along the length of wallpaper, line up your straightedge with the marks and use a sharp craft knife to cut along the edge using one pull to cut through the wallpaper.

Roll up and put the off-cut to one side as you may be able to use it elsewhere.

Choose the correct type of paste

In olden days, wallpaper paste was 'home-made' using flour and water; these days it is better to use one of the powder or ready mixed types available commercially. It is important to choose the appropriate paste for the wallpaper being used. Most commercial powder pastes have directions on the packet to suit different types of wallpaper, usually these just specify the varying amounts of water which should be used with the packet.

Paste for specific purpose include:

  • All purpose powder paste - suitable for all types of wallpaper having different mix ratios with water for the different types, normally contains a fungicide.
  • Starch based, cold water paste - suitable for all types of wallpaper having different mix ratios with water for the different types. Traditionally popular as it tends to fix wallpapers more firmly than the all purpose pastes.
  • Heavy duty paste - suitable for hanging heavy wallpapers.
  • Ready mixed paste - normally containing a fungicide, various types available to suit many types of wallpaper. It tends to be more expensive than the powder form and once opened has a limited storage life.
  • Vinyl adhesive - a special adhesive containing a fungicide for vinyl wallpapers. The fungicide is especially important when hanging vinyl wallpapers as it discourages mould growth.

Mixing powder paste

Always use a clean plastic bucket and mixing stick (a 12 x 12 x 600mm smooth, wooden batten is ideal); if the bucket has just previously contained wallpaper paste, wash it out thoroughly with clean water - likewise clean any existing paste from the mixing stick.

Carefully read the manufacturers instructions, the following are typical but take account of any variations. Note the quantity of water required for the type of type of wallpaper being used. If you have a large packet of paste powder and only want to use part of it, divide the powder by weighing it, don't try and do it by eye; and adjust the amount of water accordingly (e.g. half the packet, half the water).

Add the appropriate amount of clean, cold water to a clean plastic bucket - remember that once mixed, most paste made using powders cannot be thickened although they can be thinned - so it's better to use a little less water rather than a little more.

Stirring the water with the mixing stick, slowly sprinkle the paste powder on to the surface of the water. If the powder is added too quickly, or just poured in, the paste will become lumpy and useless. Try to avoid sprinkling the powder on the mixing stick or sides of the bucket - you want it on the water.

As you stir and add the powder, the paste will start to form and thicken; often the instructions will say to carryon stirring for a period after all the powder has been added - you'll probably notice the paste getting thicker and thicker.

The instructions will probably also specify a standing period (typically in the order of 10 to 20 minutes) before another good stir and the paste can be used.

Bucket with string

To aid you when pasting the wallpaper, tie a length of strong string between the handles across the top of the bucket - you will be able to wipe excess paste off the brush onto the string, and rest the brush with the handle on the bucket rim and the bristles on the string.


A proper pasting table is the ideal surface for working on, alternatively an old flat faced door or a long table can be used as alternatives - the main thing is that it is not so wide that you cannot reach the far side from your working position.

Always work with the pasting table between you and a window (in daylight, or between you and an overhead light at other times), this will make it easier for you to see any unpasted areas of the wallpaper.

How you paste the wallpaper will depend on whether you are left or right handed; being right-handed I work with the top of each length to my right, left-handed people may find it easier to work with the top to their left - it does not matter - where below refers to the 'top' of the pasting table, it means the paste table end where the top of the wallpaper length is - likewise with 'bottom'.

Lay the lengths of wallpaper, decorative side down on the pasting table. Line up the top and far edges of the first sheet of wallpaper with the top and far edges of the pasting table allowing it to overhang by about 6mm (¼in). At the bottom end of the table, let the paper fall onto the floor - 'end of roll' lengths tend to be 'curly' so you may need to put something at the top and bottom to hold them flat for pasting - once you apply paste to these lengths, they tend to stay flat.

Imagine the width of the paper divided into three strips (nearest you, middle, and furthest from you); pick up some paste on the brush and:

  • Paste the centre strip, where the paper overhangs the top of the table, brush towards the edge (never work from the edge towards the centre as the paste will get onto the decorative side). Work down the wallpaper about ¾ of the table length.
  • Then paste the section furthest away from you, blending into the middle strip and working at an angle away from you towards the edge (again, never work from the edge towards the centre).
  • Pull the paper towards you so the near edge overhangs the table by about 6mm (¼in) and paste this final strip, again working from the centre towards the edge.

When you have pasted the paper on the table, give a quick check that all the paper has been pasted, then:

  • Fold over the pasted top end by 50 to 75mm (2 to 3 inches), and 'concertina' the remainder of the pasted paper, place this at the top of the table so that the unpasted part of the length is now on the table top. Repeat the pasting procedure to finish off the length. Then fold over the bottom 50 to 75mm (2 to 3 inches), and 'concertina' the remainder of the pasted length.

Folded wallpaperLift the pasted length off of the table and place it on a clean surface where the paste can be allowed to soak in. Except for very thin wallpapers, all pasted wallpaper needs to be left for the paste to soak in before they can be hung; heavy wallpapers may need to be left for 10 or 15 minutes - the label should indicate the time required between pasting and hanging your particular wall paper.

The time required for soaking, should give you enough time to paste up another one or two lengths, and while the last one is 'soaking', you can be hanging the first lengths.

Ready pasted wallpaper

With ready pasted wallpapers, the pasted is already on the back of the paper it just needs to be 'activated' - normally by soaking in a trough containing just clean cold water. Full instructions should be supplied with the ready pasted wallpaper, the following is typical but the manufacturers instructions should be followed.

After cutting the paper to length and when ready to hang it, roll up each length with the top end outermost and with the pattern facing outwards. Immerse the roll in the trough of clean, cold water for the time recommended by the manufacturer (typically about 10 minutes).

Holding the top corners of the paper, gradually pull the roll upwards so that it unwinds, leave the lower end of the paper in the trough as long as possible so that the water will run down and back into it.

Once ready, hang as ordinary wallpaper and smooth out each length with a brush or sponge, trim top and bottom, and wipe off any excess adhesive.

Using a trough can be pretty messy, so place plenty of old newspapers under and around the trough to soak it up.