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The Ultimate Wallpaper Guide

Installation Questions and DIY tips

Unsightly wallpaper seams can be avoided by following the proper procedures for “booking” and smoothing wallpaper. “Booking” helps wallpaper to evenly absorb the moisture that activates the adhesive so you don’t have to worry about wallpaper shrinking up while it sets. A wallpaper smoothing tool should be used after you hang each strip. This will help the seams line up and smooth out the paper. A seam roller can also help seal and set wallpaper seams. It is important to know if you choose a grasscloth or natural fibre wallpaper, that seams will show because the natural fibres do not create perfect seams. This is actually a style choice and one reason why coverings like grasscloth are popular with decorators who are looking to create a natural and textured look in their space.

Before you begin any preparation or decoration work, it’s best to clear the room as much as you can. Move any items that need to stay into the centre of the room and cover them with dust sheets. Use dust sheets to protect the floor, too.

It’s also a wise move to soak the paper on the wall with hot water, as this makes it much easier to remove. You’ll find the water soaks in more easily if you cut the paper first by scoring it with the blade of a stripping knife, or you could run an orbital scorer over the surface. But make sure your stepladder is stable when you’re tackling the higher sections.


Walls almost always need some surface preparation before you can start painting. Even brand-new plaster needs sealing. You should fill any cracks and holes and make sure all surfaces are clean, smooth and dry. You can paint over emulsion-painted surfaces that are in good condition, but make certain you strip back or sand off any peeling paint.

Safety first

Always wear a dust mask while you’re sanding. With old paint, there can be an extra risk of breathing in poisonous lead dust. If you’re in any doubt, use a simple lead testing kit. If there is lead, use a specially formulated liquid sander instead. It’s also a good idea to put on some safety goggles to protect your eyes.

Also remember to wear protective goggles and masks when cutting or sawing metal. Clear away all metal dust and small pieces before starting work again.


The difference between a good and bad paint job usually depends on how carefully you prepare the surface.

No paint can properly mask grubby or uneven surfaces, so make sure you remove any dirt, grease and loose or flaking material, fill any holes and repair defects. There may even be areas that need touching up on new surfaces.

Washing your surface

You should always wash a previously painted surface before painting over it. The less dirt or grease on a surface, the better your final paint job will look.

Grease, nicotine stains, children’s drawings and finger marks can all be taken off with sugar soap. Some sugar soaps come in a dissolvable powder or pre mixed liquid form.

Ensure you wear safety goggles and gloves when using sugar soap as it can irritate your skin.

Apply this with an old (clean) paintbrush or sponge, working into the surface as if you were washing the dishes. Leave the solution for a few minutes before rinsing off with clean tap water and sponge. Not only does the sugar soap clean the surface, it also provides a better surface for the paint to adhere to

In older houses, you still sometimes find distemper. This old-fashioned emulsion is often dusty or powdery to the touch, and rubs off as you wash the surface. It’s not a good idea to paint or wallpaper over it, as neither will stick. Instead, try to wash and scrape off as much as possible, and then seal the wall with a stabilising solution.

Sanding down

Sanding creates a smooth, even foundation that massively improves your final finish. It also gives a slight roughness (known as a ‘key’) that helps primer or paint to adhere to. On stripped plaster, sanding can level out any repairs and remove stubborn traces of old wallpaper or paste.

When sanding the surface of the walls use a smaller grade/grit of paper. The grades of wallpaper are based around the finish you are aiming for. For example a 70 grade paper is great for quickly removing excessive debris; however it will leave a rough surface. A higher grade will give a finer finish on more delicate surfaces. For this task we would recommend a multi-purpose sandpaper such as a 70 grade, we also offer mix grade sandpaper packs which are great for a variety of different projects.

When sanding, use a sanding block and wrap the sandpaper around it, this will ensure you cover an even surface. Sand the surface in circular motions covering all areas. If you are smoothing rough surfaces, run your hand over the area to check if it’s smooth and matches the rest of the area.

When sanding wood, try to work in the direction of the grain. Work from a lower grade sandpaper and finish with a higher one. This will create a smoother finish to paint over. Sanding wood creates a lot of dust, so make sure you wear a dust mask and eye protection, have plenty of ventilation and cover anything vulnerable with dust sheets. When you’ve finished, you’ll also need to dust down the whole sanded surface from ceiling to floor, and vacuum it thoroughly. If you don’t, you risk wood particles sticking to freshly painted surfaces.


You won’t need to prime a surface that’s been painted before and is in good condition – washing and light sanding are usually enough. However, if the surface is stained with nicotine you may want to consider using a specialist primer. If the wall is freshly plastered, you will need to apply a layer of primer before you paint your final coat of colour.

On a porous surface, primer stops the top coat from being absorbed, so you need fewer coats of paint to get a good coverage. On non-porous, shiny surfaces, paint often won’t bond properly – so the primer gives it something to stick to. As different surfaces need different primers, make sure you choose the right one and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Water-based primers tend to give off less odour and are less damaging to the environment.

Choose a primer that will relate to your final colour, for example if your final coat will be a natural white, use a white primer. Similarly if your final colour will be a dark red, use a grey primer, this will help create an accurate final colour. Applying your primer layer is the same as if you were painting normal emulsion paint. Take your time applying even layer with a brush or roller. Work in sections across the surface and allow plenty of time for the paint to thoroughly dry as per the products instructions.

Priming for different surfaces

There are specific primers for different surfaces and applications

  • Multi-purpose primers
  • Wood primers
  • Metal primers
  • Radiator primers – these are heat resistant which is very important
  • Plaster sealers – specific to newly fitted plaster board
  • Specific surface primers – these can include tile primers, radiator primers and PVC primers
This is part of the curing process of the adhesive. As the wallpaper adhesive dries, it will begin to tighten and bubbles will disappear after 3-4 days.
It normally takes 3-4 days for the adhesive to cure fully in an ambient temperature of 22 degrees. If there are still bubbles remaining, it may be a result of the adhesive still drying in those areas. Give it a couple of days and they should disappear.
Contact us if you are unsure or if the bubbles are still evident after 2 weeks.

We always recommend our Bartoline Flake Adhesive and Ready Mix for installing wallpapers.

If you are installing the wallpapers yourself, ask for our DIY adhesive. We will work out how much glue is required for your project and always make sure your follow the mixing instructions.

Please note that we only supply our DIY adhesive with wallpapers purchased from us.


Hanging wallpaper can make a big impact on your room depending on the colour and the design. As walls and corners aren’t often straight, don’t rely on them as a guide when you hang paper.

Where to start wallpapering

Ideally begin at the corner and hang your first length of paper on a wall with no doors or windows. That way, you can hang a full length from the ceiling to the top of the skirting-board.

Choose a wall to the right of the window if you’re right-handed or to the left if you’re left-handed. Also, it’s best to work away from the window, so the paper edges don’t cast a shadow if they overlap slightly. And try to avoid having to hang narrow strips against a window or door. If necessary, cut the first length in half vertically along the edge that’ll overlap the corner.

Last but not least, if your wallpaper has a large pattern, it’s a good idea to hang the first length over a fireplace or other focal point. Then work away from it in both directions to make the design central and symmetrical. Complete this area before papering the rest of your room.

How to hang the first length of wallpaper

It makes sense to take your time when hanging wallpaper. Be particularly careful with the first length – it’s important to get that one straight.

Top tip – Wall plug markers

Unscrew all your wall fixings before you start papering, but leave the wall plugs in place. Mark the position of each one by pushing a matchstick (with the head broken off) into the plug, leaving it slightly proud.

As you hang your paper, bring it over the marked position and press the paper onto the matchstick to pierce the paper.

Then smooth the paper with a paperhanging brush. When the paper is quite dry, remove the matchstick and replace the fitting.

Top tip – Keeping your scissors clean

Occasionally dip your wallpaper scissors into a jar of clean, warm water to loosen the build-up of paste.

Step 1

To position your first length of wallpaper, use a plumb line or spirit level to draw a line from ceiling to skirting board, 480mm out from the corner. This allows a 50mm overlap onto the window wall.

Step 2

Place your first pasted length at the top of the wall with its right-hand edge running down the vertical line. It’s easier if you can keep the left-hand edge of the paper off the wall.

Try to leave about 50mm of excess paper above the top of the wall for trimming. Hold the paper at both sides and make sure you don’t let the lower paper drop suddenly as it could tear or stretch.

Step 3

After you’ve lined-up the right-hand edge, smooth the paper down with a paper-hanging brush. Work from the centre of the paper out to the edges, checking there are no bubbles and that the edge stays bang on the pencil mark.

Step 4

With the first length in place, crease the top and bottom of the paper against the ceiling and skirting board junctions. Gently pull the paper away from the wall and cut along the creases with wallpaper scissors. Then brush the trimmed edges back into place.

Step 5

Fit the next length against the previous one, matching the pattern at eye level. When you’ve got two or three pieces in place, run the seam roller lightly down the joins. But be careful not to press down too heavily on textured paper or you’ll flatten the pattern.

How to wallpaper in internal corners

When you’re papering in corners, it’s much easier to cut a length of paper vertically and position the join at the corner, especially when your wall is slightly crooked or your corner isn’t completely square. Measure and cut the paper so that it reaches slightly beyond the corner. If the off-cut of paper is half a width or more, then use it as the next length. If it’s even smaller, start with a new length.

Top tip – Uneven walls

If the lines and angles of your walls are uneven, it may be better to choose a plain paper or one with a small, frequently repeated pattern. In particular you should avoid striped papers as these can make irregularities very obvious. Alternatively, you can wallpaper a single feature wall.

Step 1

Measure the distance between the edge of the last length you’ve hung and the corner at the top, bottom and middle of the wall. Use the widest measurement and allow an extra 25mm for turning onto the next wall. Cut a length of paper to this width.

Then paste and hang the cut length and fit the paper to the edge of the previous strip, aligning the pattern at eye level. Allow the extra 25mm to stick lightly to the next wall, and use a paper-hanging brush to smooth the paper into the internal corner.

Step 2

Make sure the paper’s firmly pressed against the wall by running the seam roller along its edge. Wipe any excess paste from the roller before it dries. If you spot any creases, tear the paper and overlap the pieces so they lie flat – a tear will show less than if you cut the paper (although it’s better to cut vinyl paper).

Step 3

Hang the plumb line on the next wall at a distance from the corner that’s either the width of the full paper roll or your offcut (whichever you’re using). Make some pencil marks behind the vertical line at intervals down the wall. This will give you a completely vertical edge for starting the next wall.

Step 4

Hang the next length with its right-hand edge aligned with the pencil marks and overlap the paper turned from the previous wall. If your paper is patterned, match the two pieces as closely as you can and use border adhesive along the overlapping strip.

How to wallpaper in external corners

You’ll often find that walls and corners aren’t completely straight or at perfect right-angles. If this is the case, you should position an overlapping join at an external corner.

Step 1

Start by measuring from the edge of the last full width to the corner, and allow an extra 25mm for the turn onto the next wall. Cut a length of wallpaper to this width. Then hang it as far as the corner and bend the excess paper around the corner onto the next wall.

Step 2

Use a plumb line to get a vertical start on the next wall and lay the paper over the overlapping section of the previous length. Then stick it with border adhesive, which is much better than walppaper paste for sticking paper to paper.

Step 3

A mismatched pattern is more obvious on an external corner, so you’d be better doing this with small repeated patterns or plain wallpaper. The overlap will also show up more if you’re using textured or flock papers.


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We offer a professional installation service for our clients in most regions across South Africa, however we also understand if you want to get a little creative and transform your home.

Installing wallpaper may seem a daunting task but modern wallpapers are designed to be easily installed and removed, perfect for do it yourself projects.

We have provided you with a couple of handy tips and videos when it comes to installing wallpapers.






Cape Town

Unit 202, Pine Park, Pinelands, 7405

021 465 6547



6 East, Kramerville Corner, 8 Kramer Road, Sandton, 2196

011 262 5213



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