The very first purchase I made for our new (to us) home was the wallpaper featured in this post. According to my Wayfair app, I purchased Twilley wallpaper by Laurel Foundry Modern Farmhouse on November 22, 2022- the very day that we closed on our house. This DIY drywall repair & wallpaper project was finally officially complete on August 6, 2023. Thankfully, I’m still obsessed with the pattern.
This post will go through the entirety of our wall project, which wound up including both DIY drywall repair and wallpapering. If you, like us, have ripped down old wallpaper and inadvertently damaged the wall, you’re in the right place. If you have a perfectly intact wall and wish only to learn about how to apply pre-pasted wallpaper, you’re in the right place too-you just may want to scroll down a little.
I’d like to provide a time estimate for this project, but I really can’t. We worked on it over the course of months, little chunks of time here and there. Not to mention we’re rookies! One of the main purposes of this post is to describe lessons learned by going through this process as new DIY-ers and first time wallpaper-ers.
Materials Needed For DIY Drywall Repair
- Roller brushes
- Drop sheets
- Drywall Joint Compound
- Large plastic bucket
- Drill & paddle mixer
- Squeegee trowel
- Box cutter
- Fine-grit sandpaper
- Paint tray
Materials Needed for Pre-Pasted Wallpaper
- Paper towels
- Roller brush and paint trays, or hose
- Bench scrapers or other small straight edge
- Large straight edge tool
- Box cutter
- Extra blades for box cutter
Damaged Drywall Repair Process
When we moved into our house, the wall in question had wallpaper in place. It was beginning to peel away in a few different places, and definitely needed to be removed. However, when we ripped it away from the wall, the drywall behind was damaged in several places. Re-wallpapering our wall had to be delayed until the wall could be repaired. Thus began our adventure in DIY drywall repair!
Sealing The Wall With Gardz
The first step in our DIY drywall repair process was to apply a layer of Gardz Problem Surface Sealer. Gardz is a water-based acrylic sealer meant for exactly this sort of situation: repair of a porous surface prior to wallpapering (or painting, or some other wallcovering). Gardz is a milky white before applying, and dries relatively clear, though you can generally see where you’ve applied it. We used both a roller brush and a regular paintbrush for different areas.
In a few places, applying Gardz caused bubbling. In these spots, we cut away the bubbles with a box cutter and re-applied Gardz.
Main Takeaway From Applying Gardz:
Really try to make sure you cover the entire surface well. Use two coats if needed. Gardz is intended to waterproof and seal the surface; if you miss spots, you will find out when you move on to the next step and the wall bubbles.
We found this out the hard way! It’s still totally fixable, though: it just added some time.
Evening Out an Uneven Wall
After the wall was sealed with Gardz, the surface remained extremely uneven. To make the wall surface even and smooth, we used a technique called skim coating, with Drywall Joint Compound. In a 10 gallon bucket, we diluted Joint Compound with water and mixed with a paddle mixer until the mixture was roughly the consistency of pancake batter.
To skim coat the wall, we used a squeegee trowel to apply a very light layer of the Joint Compound mixture over the problem spots in the wall and allowed it to dry. After the first coat was dry, we applied another thin layer over the entire wall and allowed that to dry. At this stage, we had a few spots that bubbled up due to being inadequately sealed against moisture. To fix this, we cut away the joint compound mixture in that area, reapply Gardz to seal, and restart the skim coat process in that area.
After the second coat dried, we applied a third coat over the entire surface. Then we assessed the wall for any visible changes in surface and spot-skimmed a couple areas to get the entire wall even. Once the entire wall was dry, we sanded it very lightly with a fine-grit sandpaper.
Final Stages of Repair
After lightly sanding the evened-out wall, we wiped it down with a damp rag to remove sandpaper dust and grit. After it was dry, we applied a single coat of primer to the entire wall to firm up the wall for wallpapering.
A perk of this stage of DIY drywall repair: at this point, the wall already looked so much better than when we began!
Wallpapering with Pre-Pasted Wallpaper
Why Pre-Pasted Wallpaper?
We chose pre-pasted wallpaper because a cursory Google search suggested that it would be a good fit for us as first-timers, for a few reasons. Where traditional wallpaper requires that paste be rolled onto the paper before application, pre-pasted wallpaper comes with a paste already applied, which just needs to be activated with water. Pre-pasted wallpaper is also more forgiving than peel and stick wallpaper: the paste on pre-pasted allows for it to be manipulated and moved during application, so that the wallpaper can be correctly aligned. Peel and stick wallpaper is notoriously difficult to move once is is stuck to the wall. I’ve also read that pre-pasted wallpaper is easier to remove down the road. Though I don’t currently have any plans to remove this wallpaper, it is reassuring to think that it may be able to come down without necessitating another long repair process.
Preparing to Wallpaper
Getting the first piece of wallpaper straight on the wall will set you up for success with aligning the pattern. Begin by measuring the width of your wallpaper, then subtract two inches: This will be excess from this first sheet. Our wallpaper was 21 inches wide, so we measured 19 inches from the left edge of our wall in several different places and used a large level to mark a line with pencil (the “plumb line”). We then used the level to double check that all of our markings were even.
To cut our first length of wallpaper, one person stood on a ladder and held the top edge of our first roll up, allowing for about an inch of excess on top as well. The second person unrolled to roll down to the floor and cut.
Activating the Paste
To activate the paste on pre-pasted wallpaper, smoothly apply water over the back of the entire sheet. There are a few different ways to accomplish this. First, you can pour water into a paint tray and use a roller brush to smoothly brush on water. Second, you can fill a wider tray with water and drag the entire sheet of wallpaper through it (this option seems potentially risky to me, as over-soaked wallpaper is easier to rip).
We chose a third option: we taped a clean plastic tarp to our deck, laid the sheet of wallpaper out on it paste-side up, and used the mist setting on our hose to lightly spray the entire sheet. We found this to be very effective. However you choose to wet your pre-pasted wallpaper, avoid leaving large dry spots, as the paste in those areas will not activate and it may not stick evenly to the wall.
To finish activating the paste, you’ll need to “bookend” the wallpaper. Lift each edge of the sheet and fold it carefully over, so that the two ends meet in the middle. Repeat until the wallpaper is folded over on itself three or four times (see images). Allow the bookended wallpaper to sit for a few minutes.
Wallpapering the Actual Wall!
At last! If you’re wallpapering a small space, this could be a one-man job, but if you’re doing a full-length wall, two will be necessary. Apply the wallpaper to the wall beginning at the top. One the first sheet, you will need to align your wallpaper with the plumb line you’ve already drawn. For all future sheets, you will align the pattern with the previous sheet.
Wet wallpaper is heavy, and prone to ripping. We found it effective to have one person up on the ladder, applying the wallpaper to the top of the wall, while the second person supported the weight of the remaining wallpaper.
Once the wallpaper is initially tacked to the wall, it will cling to it, but you will notice that it feels super mushy. This wallpaper has a LOT of paste. To smooth out the wallpaper and remove air and extra glue, we used flexible bench scrapers from my kitchen, which I typically use for sourdough bread. Any straight-edge tool will likely work fine, but the small size and flexible nature of these worked well for us.
Working out all the air and glue from behind the wallpaper requires a little patience and persistence. Personally, I found it really satisfying! I recommend having a lot of paper towel on hand to catch extra glue. We also used a large sponge to smooth over the wallpaper when we thought we had gotten all the extra glue out.
To trim the excess wallpaper off the edges, use a large straightedge tool and a SHARP box cutter. I highly recommend having extra blades on hand. When the blade you are using begins getting dull, the wallpaper will begin ripping instead of cutting evenly.
The Rest of the Wall
Measure the second sheet of wallpaper by lining up the pattern against the first sheet of wallpaper. Repeat the process, activating the paste, tacking the paper to the wall, lining it up, and smoothing out extra glue and air. Trim off the extra, and repeat until your wall is covered!
Biggest Takeaways on Wallpaper
- Line up the wallpaper correctly when first applying it at the top of the wall. Smooth it out top down.
- Use a SUPER SHARP blade to trim, especially if working around counters, windows, etc. I cannot stress this enough.
- Many wallpaper patterns are actually very forgiving. Every so often, step back and take in your wall from across the room. Chances are good that even if you’ve made some minor mistakes, they’ll be invisible once you take a step back.
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What do you think: are you ready to tackle wallpaper? I’m already daydreaming about two more potential wallpaper projects in our house!
Check out our other beginner DIY home projects here.