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How to Apply Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper for Long-Lasting Results

Better Homes and Gardens logo Better Homes and Gardens 8/6/2020 Jessica Bennett
a living room filled with furniture and a fireplace: With the right preparation and tools, temporary wallpaper is easy to hang. Follow our how-to instructions to achieve a professional-looking finish. © Ann VanderWiel Wilde With the right preparation and tools, temporary wallpaper is easy to hang. Follow our how-to instructions to achieve a professional-looking finish.

Peel-and-stick wallpaper offers an affordable, DIY-friendly alternative to traditional wallcoverings. The self-adhesive backing doesn't require any messy paste, and if you make a mistake while applying, you can simply pull it off and start over. Applying temporary wallpaper isn't quite as simple as simply peeling off the backing and sticking it to the wall, though. You'll need to do some prep work to ensure it adheres properly to the wall. A few tools and tricks will also come in handy to help you get the smoothest finish possible. Follow these step-by-step instructions on how to apply peel-and-stick wallpaper to achieve bubble-free, long-lasting results.

a living room filled with furniture and a fireplace: Ann VanderWiel Wilde © Provided by Better Homes and Gardens Ann VanderWiel Wilde

How to Hang Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

Before you begin, note that peel-and-stick wallpaper typically adheres best to walls with a smooth texture and an eggshell, satin, or semi-gloss finish. Check the wallpaper manufacturer's instructions to ensure the product will stick to your type of walls.

To ensure you purchase the correct amount of removable wallpaper, carefully measure the space you plan to cover. Buy slightly more wallpaper than you think you'll need to accommodate mistakes and tricky areas such as windows, doors, or tight nooks.

Supplies Needed

  • Sponge or cloth
  • Mild cleaner
  • Measuring tape
  • Straightedge
  • Pencil
  • Peel-and-stick wallpaper
  • Plastic smoothing tool
  • Utility knife

Step-by-Step Directions

Follow these instructions to apply peel-and-stick wallpaper and quickly add color and pattern to your space.

Step 1: Prep Walls

Turn off the power for safety, then remove outlet covers and light switch plates in the area you plan to cover. Clean the wall's surface by wiping it down with a damp sponge or cloth and a mild, non-abrasive cleaner. Wait at least 24 hours to allow the surface to dry completely. Some temporary wallpaper should also be acclimated to the room's climate; check the manufacturer's instructions.

Step 2: Make a Guide for Your First Piece

Measure the width of your peel-and-stick wallpaper ($34, Target), then transfer that measurement to your wall with a pencil. Use a straightedge and level to draw a line from the ceiling to the baseboard (or the length of the area you'd like the cover) along your marks. This guide will help you apply the first strip of wallpaper in a straight line.

Step 3: Apply Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper

Peel off about 12 inches of the adhesive backing and line the wallpaper up with your lines, starting from the ceiling. Moving from top to bottom, press and smooth the wallpaper against the wall, peeling off the remaining backing as you go. Using downward strokes, run a plastic smoothing tool ($8, The Home Depot) along the wall to remove air bubbles. Once the entire piece is adhered to the wall, use your straightedge and a small utility knife to carefully cut along the baseboard and remove any excess.

Step 4: Match Patterns and Repeat

When applying subsequent pieces, take care to line up the wallpaper's pattern to ensure a seamless look. Overlap the second piece slightly with the first and run the smoothing tool along the seam to make it lay as flat as possible. Trim at the bottom as needed and repeat to cover the entire surface.

Step 5: Work Around Windows and Outlets

Once you encounter a window, door frame, or outlet, let the wallpaper overlap it. Once the piece is applied, use a straightedge and utility knife to trim around the obstacle and remove the excess. Smooth the paper against the wall around all sides of the outlet or window. For electrical outlets and switch plates, ensure the power is still turned off and use a utility knife to carefully cut away the paper over the opening. Don't worry about rough edges around the hole; the outlet cover or switch plate will hide most imperfections. You can also apply paper to flat plates for a seamless look.

Step 6: Check for Air Bubbles

If any air bubbles remain, use the tip of your utility knife or a pin to create a small hole in the middle of the bubble. Press down to release the air trapped inside and smooth the wallpaper.

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