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Get the hang of wallpaper: Common questions answered

Don’t be afraid! Wallpaper is incredibly easy to hang yourself and can absolutely transform a space in one weekend. This design is Resene Tropic Exotic Wallpaper Collection TP80004.

Is it hard to hang wallpaper and can I hang it myself? These are two common questions that come up when considering wallpaper for your home, and the answers are simple: wallpaper is incredibly easy to hang, and yes, you can do it yourself! But if you’re new to wallpapering, your questions are unlikely to end here.

To help you get started, we answer some frequently asked questions about wallpaper so you can get the hang of this trending style. If you have further questions, ask the friendly staff in your local Resene ColorShop or send your questions through to the team of online Resene experts.

How do I hang wallpaper?

Wallpapering is easy once you get the hang of it. Here are some basic tips to help you out:

  • Always work from the side of the wall that is most visible and with the most amount of light and work along the wall until you reach the most inconspicuous area.
  • Measure the vertical length of the wall and measure your first piece of wallpaper to this length allowing an overhang of at least 10cm.  
  • Using a pencil and a plumbline, mark the width of the wallpaper roll by making a straight line down the wall. This will help you to line up the first piece of wallpaper.
  • Use a wallpaper roller to apply a thick amount of wallpaper paste (about 1-2mm thick) to the wall.
  • Smooth the wallpaper onto the wall using a rubber roller.
  • Use a straight-edge tool and a sharp knife to trim the excess paper at the top and bottom of the wall. 
  • Then repeat these steps for the rest of your wallpaper area. Remember to allow for any pattern repeat in your wallpaper so you can line up the pattern of each drop of wallpaper.

Check out this article for more advice from Resene Wallpaper Expert Ingel Janssen:
Tips and tricks for hanging wallpaper

What is paste-the-wall wallpaper?

If the last time you wallpapered your home was in the 1970s or 80s, then a lot has changed. Back in the day, wallpapering meant cutting pieces of wallpaper to size, laying them out onto long trestle tables and applying paste to each piece before allowing it to rest then hang. It was a slow, messy and fiddly job. Luckily, wallpaper is a lot easier these days. The latest paste-the-wall wallpapers mean just that – you simply need to apply wallpaper paste to the wall. The advantage of this is you don’t have to measure each piece of wallpaper beforehand, and you can unroll the wallpaper down the wall, lining up the pattern as you go. Easy!

What do the codes mean?

The label on the wallpaper roll tells you all the information you need about the design you have chosen, and there’s an international standard for the codes used on the label. These codes can tell you about the pattern repeat, whether it has good light fastness and whether the wallpaper can be used in wet rooms (look for a super-washable or scrubbable design). If you’re decorating a kid’s bedroom you might want to consider a scrubbable design so you can easily clean off little finger marks or scribbles from budding artists. 

International wallpaper symbols:

The symbols on a wallpaper label make it easy to see what kid of product you are using. For example, the icons on this roll of Resene Wallpaper Collection E307302 indicate that the design has a half drop pattern repeat, it's paste-the-wall, super-washable, strippable and has good light fastness.

What are the pattern matches?

There are three main types of pattern matches: no match, straight match, and drop match. 

  • No match wallpapers (also called free match and random match) can be hung randomly without any need to align the pattern precisely.
  • Straight match wallpapers line up at the ceiling and the pattern runs the width of the paper across the seam and onto the next strip of wallpaper
  • Drop match wallpapers come with a pattern repeat and the pieces will need to be staggered in order to line the pattern up.

What is a pattern repeat?

This tells you how far the pattern goes down the vertical length of the roll before it repeats itself. The pattern repeat is stated on the label, and it’s important to factor in the pattern repeat when lining up the next row of wallpaper, and also when calculating how many rolls of wallpaper you’ll need. Typically, a wallpaper with a longer pattern repeat will need more wallpaper, and have more wastage/offcuts, in order to make the pattern match up.

Pattern repeat types:

How do I choose a wallpaper design for my space?

There are many wallpaper designs to choose from at Resene, including damask, floral patterns, retro geometrics, animal prints, botanical designs and many fun patterns for kids. When choosing a pattern, think about the mood you want to create and the style of your room. Also consider the scale of the pattern – a wallpaper with a large-scale pattern often looks good in rooms with high ceilings and no wall ‘interruptions’ such as doors or windows.

If you’re planning to use more than one wallpaper design in the same room, make sure the scales of the pattern are dramatically different to avoid making the room look too busy. For example, choose an oversized pattern for a feature wall and a small or fine pattern such as pinstripes on the remaining walls. Test the wallpaper in your home by observing it at different times of the day and in different lighting as you would with paint samples. Ask your Resene ColorShop if a sample of your desired wallpaper is available for ordering, or if you can borrow the wallpaper sample book so you can see the wallpapers in your own home.  A wide range of Resene wallpaper books may be borrowed.

A note on Resene mural wallpapers: Mural wallpapers are a great option for feature walls. They come with several rolls of wallpaper with a unique part of the mural design printed on each roll. The rolls usually need to be applied to the wall in a specific order. It’s important to measure your space carefully before selecting a mural design to make sure it’s suitable for your room.

For more info on choosing patterns, read this article:
Roll with it

How many rolls of wallpaper do I need?

Calculating the amount of wallpaper you need can be tricky and will depend on the size of the room, the number of windows and the length of the pattern repeat. Most rolls are 52-53cm wide and in most designs there are roughly three drops from ceiling to floor per roll. The chart below can give you a general idea of how to calculate your wallpaper requirements, but it’s best to seek guidance from a Resene ColorShop expert to make sure you order enough. 

Remember the golden rule is to always order more than you think you need. Wallpaper designs are updated frequently, and old designs are sometimes discontinued, so consider buying extra rolls to store away in case you need to replace any wallpaper in your room at a future date.

How much wallpaper do you need?

I’m wallpapering over a painted wall – what prep do I need to do?

If you’re choosing to wallpaper over a wall that has previously been painted, first give it a clean with Resene Interior Paintwork Cleaner. If there’s any mould, you’ll need to treat it with Resene Moss & Mould Killer. If there are dents, dings or imperfections in the wall, fill them with Resene EzyFill Quick. Allow the product to dry before sanding smooth. 

Seal the walls with Resene Sureseal (solventborne or waterborne) pigmented sealer and allow it to cure before wallpapering. Resene Sureseal will make painted walls more adhesive. Once the room has been sealed, clean away any dust on the wall with a clean dry cloth. Before you begin wallpapering it’s important to apply wallpaper size.

What is wallpaper size and why does it matter?

Wallpaper size is a prep paste that makes wallpaper application a whole lot easier. Apply size before the wallpaper paste as it keys the substrate, creating better grip. Size also allows you to slide the wallpaper pieces into place more easily. 

What if I’m wallpapering a new plasterboard wall?

Sand with 100 grit sandpaper to remove any bumps and then dust with a clean dry cloth. Apply Resene Sureseal pigmented sealer (solventborne or waterborne) and allow it to cure. Resene Sureseal will ensure that wallpaper paste is not absorbed into the plasterboard, creating a better end result.

This room is wallpapered with Resene Elodie Wallpaper Collection 1907-140-04. Team this with timber flooring finished in Resene Colorwood wood stain and Resene Qristal ClearFloor.
Pair Resene Sakura Wallpaper Collection 291253 with timber flooring rejuvenated in Resene Colorwood Meranti.
Complement a feature wall in Resene Pavilion Wallpaper Collection 2109-157-03 with soft green hues such as Resene Linen and timber flooring stained in Resene Colorwood.

What if I am wallpapering over existing wallpaper?

It’s best to remove all existing wallpaper first. To do this, scour the walls with a removal product such as Metylan Wallpaper Remover. Use a flat-bladed scraper to remove the damp paper. Apply Resene Moss & Mould Killer if there are signs of mould or spores beneath the old paper. Fill any gaps or imperfections in the wall with Resene EzyFill Quick and sand smooth with 100 grit sandpaper when dry. Seal with Resene Sureseal (solventborne or waterborne) pigmented sealer before sanding once more.

If you prefer not to strip your wallpaper, you may be better to paint over it than wallpaper over it.

For advice on stripping old wallpaper, check out this article:
Stripping wallpaper

What if I have a bubble in my wallpaper?

Bubbles sometimes occur if an insufficient amount of wallpaper paste has been applied to the wall. You can often smooth out bubbles with your hand. But if the bubble is large, another way is to cut a small hole in the paper, stick some wallpaper paste in the hole and press it down. 

What about wallpapering around light fittings?

Switch off power mains before you paper over light fittings or power sockets, then unscrew the cover plate. Place your wallpaper over the top of the light fitting and make small cuts in the wallpaper, then reattach the plate in front of the paper so the wallpaper sits behind it.

For a demonstration of how to paper around a light fitting, watch Michelle Flynn’s trick in the video below.

What equipment do I need to wallpaper a room?

Here is a list of basic equipment needed for wallpapering a room.

  • Ladder
  • Wallpaper paste (pre-mixed pastes are a good option for beginners)
  • Wallpaper size
  • Rubber press roller or a wallpaper brush
  • Straight edge
  • Craft knife
  • Resene Interior Paintwork Cleaner (to clean painted walls)
  • Resene EzyFill Quick
  • Sandpaper
  • Resene Sureseal pigmented sealer (waterborne or solventborne)
  • Clean lint-free rags
  • Scissors
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Plumbline or laser level
  • Roller sleeve
  • Bucket 
  • Drop cloth

For more advice on hanging wallpaper, read these articles:
How to prep a room for wallpaper
How to wallpaper


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