How to Put Up a Wallpaper Border

Kimberly Bartosch

Wallpaper borders add a decor accent to most any room. With careful prep work and application, you can change most any room with this artful touch.

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A wallpaper border adds a colorful accent to any room, but if installed incorrectly it will look tacky and awkward. With the right tools, know-how and patience, it's not that hard to get the wallpaper border straight and even so it has that professional touch.

  1. Fill in dents, cracks, nail or screw holes on each wall with joint compound using a putty knife. Once dry, sand your walls with 120-grit sandpaper until they are smooth. For already smooth, but painted walls, lightly sand the area where you want to place the border. This ensures the wallpaper border sticks to the wall. Scrape and sand any areas to remove peeling paint.

  2. Mark a faint line with a pencil for the bottom edge of the wallpaper border with a straight edge and level to ensure the line is straight. If you're adding a border at chair rail height, place the line between 32 and 36 inches from the floor for an 8-foot ceiling.

  3. Measure the wall’s length. Cut the wallpaper border to that measurement with an extra 3 inches to allow for pattern matching and overlapping.

  4. Set the dropcloth on the floor where you plan to work. This keeps adhesive or paste drips from getting onto your floor or carpet.

    • Soak pre-pasted wallpaper in the wallpaper plastic tray filled with water for a few seconds to activate the paste. Fold the paper in half -- do not make a crease -- connecting the paste sides together. This is called booking. It continues to activate the paste, keeping the paper wet while preventing the paste from dripping everywhere.
    • Roll adhesive onto unpasted wallpaper. Lay the paper pattern-side down. Apply the paste to

      the top half of your paper with a paint roller folding that section back to meet the middle. Do the same on the bottom half. Leave the paper to rest in this booked fold for 10 minutes so the paste activates.
      * Apply adhesive paste directly to the wall if you are using a paste-the-wall border material following the border's height and length dimensions.  

  5. Tip

    Verify the type of wallpaper border you have: pasted, paste-the-wall and unpasted. Follow the manufacturer's directions for preparing the wallpaper for hanging. Use a vinyl-over-vinyl border when applying the border over vinyl wallpaper.

  6. Start in a corner of the room to hang the wallpaper border, following the line you made, allowing for 1/2-inch or more overlapping at each end. Smooth the paper with the smoothing tool, working from the center of the border out to each edge to remove trapped air bubbles.

  7. Measure and cut the next strip for the next wall's length, ensuring that the pattern at the end aligns with the one already on the wall. Repeat Steps 5 and 6 to hang the new border. Apply the seam roller to seams to make them flat and smooth and to work out any trapped air bubbles.

  8. Continue applying the border around the room, cutting where you can to match the pattern and overlapping enough to match the seam. Wipe off any excess glue or paste with a wrung-out, but damp sponge.

Windows, Doors and Cabinets

When hanging wallpaper borders around sinks, counters, cabinets, windows and door frames, overlap the horizontal and vertical strips at the corners. Cut through both strips with scissors at a 45-degree angle and apply paper to the wall with a wallpaper knife and smoothing tool. Remove excess paper with your utility knife and clean the glue from the sink, counter, cabinet or frame with a clean, damp sponge or cloth.