Perhaps your home needs decorating after all these years of looking at the same old magnolia paint. Why not forget emulsion paint this time and try wallpapering a room? There are many styles, colours and patterns, and with a bit of care, the paper will brighten up every room.
The average cost to wallpaper a room in the UK works out at around £150/day for labour, plus the cost of whatever wallpaper you buy. As an overview, labour costs are:
- Small room – £100-£150.
- Mid-sized room – £150-£230.
- Large room – £230-£300.
Add to this, wallpaper prices, ranging from £5-£60 per roll, or more. Each wallpaper roll covers about 2m width of the wall, with a standard ceiling height of 2.4m. So for an average, medium-sized room of 25m2, you need around 6 or 7 rolls (including wastage).
However, some factors vary the cost, and you must consider those when planning the job. We’ll look at these in more detail during this article.
Between the 1970s and 2010s, painting became very popular as home decoration in the UK. But recently, wallpapering a room has made more of a comeback and is now very popular indeed.
But, before we move on, let’s quickly look at an overview of the reasons why someone might want to wallpaper their rooms.
- Gives a welcome change from monotonous magnolia emulsion paint.
- Disguises poor quality and ageing plaster.
- Has a longer lifespan than paint.
- Paper textures are warmer than paint.
- There are many modern designs, colours and textures available.
So you see, wallpapering has come a long way from the dull patterns you saw in your grandma’s living room. And hopefully, after reading this article, you’ll decide to try it out.
Note: For a full overview, we’ve also compiled a complete painting and decorating price list.
How much does it cost to wallpaper a room?*
The table below compares different sized rooms along with the estimated costs of wallpapering and stripping the room.
|Wallpapering job||Material cost||Labour cost||Total cost|
|10m2 – hang wallpaper||£80||£100||£180|
|20m2 – hang wallpaper||£100||£150||£250|
|30m2 – hang wallpaper||£130||£230||£360|
|50m2 – hang wallpaper||£160||£300||£460|
|10m2 – strip & hang wallpaper||£80||£150||£230|
|20m2 – strip & hang wallpaper||£100||£300||£400|
|30m2 – strip & hang wallpaper||£130||£400||£530|
|50m2 – strip & hang wallpaper||£160||£450||£610|
*We compiled the figures above using various online resources. They are estimated values, assume the walls are in good condition and need no remedial work. You should use these values to start your own research, followed by a quotation from a tradesman using the form on this page.
It’s very unusual for a decorator to work with an assistant; there isn’t any need. So, for one decorator working alone, you can expect to pay about £150 per day in labour charges. Furthermore, a small room typically takes up to six hours to paper, while a mid-sized room takes between one and two days. Finally, a large room takes a minimum of two days to paper.
Sometimes, you might want to produce a feature wall. This is when you wallpaper one wall and paint the other three. In this case, the wallpaper is often an expensive brand, so it will take longer to hang and require more skill from the decorator. These days there are quite a few available expensive, textured wallpaper materials:
If you choose one of these high-class papers, expect to pay between £200 and £600 per day. But for one feature wall, it’ll be more like £120 to £250, plus the cost of painting the other three walls.
The cost of wallpapering a hall, stairs, and landing is not easy to calculate as you have multiple walls meeting at different angles with higher than average drops. It’s even more complicated if the paper has a pattern to be matched. Furthermore, you need scaffolding to fit into the stairwell as well. So if this area needs papering, get a quote from a professional.
Wallpaper Stripping Costs
Many people prefer to hang new wallpaper over existing. This practice might save money in the short term, but eventually, you’ll have to remove all the paper, and if you have many layers, it takes a long time. Don’t even consider rushing this job. You must remove every trace of old paper and dried paste from the wall and repair holes. Wash everything with sugar soap solution to remove grease and any remaining paper. Finally, roughen the plaster with coarse sandpaper. If you don’t go through this sequence, you’ll see every irregularity through the new paper, and you’ll ruin the job.
Remove old paper with a steamer and scraper. Steamers don’t cost much to buy (about £25-£45), or you can hire them for a few pounds per day. Moreover, you can easily find scrapers for a few pounds at any hardware shop.
Assuming you don’t have to repair the plaster, it doesn’t take much longer to remove the paper from a small room of 20m2, mid-sized 30m2 or a large one of 50m2. So expect to take between 1 and 1.5 days for each size room with a wallpaper removal cost of between £150 and £200.
How To Wallpaper a Room
Wallpapering a room requires a knack. But, once you’ve got it, the task is relatively straightforward, unless you’re wallpapering a ceiling, in which case leave it to a professional.
Depending on how old and in what condition the walls are, you might need to hang a layer of lining paper first. This paper holds together an inferior quality plaster and provides a stable surface for the more expensive top paper. Remember that all wallpaper needs a smooth, clean and stable surface to give a good quality finish.
If your paper has a pattern that needs matching with adjoining drops, then the task can be very tricky, especially in the corners. So, if you aren’t sure what to do, hire a professional. Mismatched patterned wallpaper looks terrible and is a waste of expensive paper and your time.
One more thing before we continue, all professional decorators hang wallpaper according to the method they have developed over years of practice. They measure, cut, paste, hang and trim paper in ways that work for them. So, if the following method is different to your professional’s method, just let them get on with it without comment. The decorator is a professional and has spent many years learning the trade.
Let’s assume that you’ve removed the old paper, cleaned the paste from the wall and repaired its plaster so that the surface is smooth and ready for repapering. Then what?
You need the following equipment:
- A wallpapering table.
- Wallpaper paste.
- Large pair of scissors.
- Long spirit level (at least 1m long) or plumbline.
- A pencil.
- A steel retracting tape measure.
Start in a corner, and measure 25-50mm less than the width of a roll away from the corner. Using the plumbline or spirit level, draw a vertical line from the ceiling to the skirting board.
2. Paste the paper
Measure the distance from the top of the skirting board to ceiling level and add 100mm. This measurement is the length of each wallpaper drop you’ll cut from the roll. However, if the ceiling or floor is not perfectly level, you should measure this distance after every two drops to make sure it isn’t varying too much.
Unroll the paper on the table with the face surface against the table. Cut the paper to the required length. You might find it convenient to cut more than one drop at a time, but check that the length doesn’t change too much.
Using the wallpapering brush, coat the rear face of the paper with paste, ensuring you cover every part, especially the edges.
3. Hanging a wallpaper drop
To make it easier to carry the wallpaper drop from the table, you can loosely fold the pasted surfaces together. But, wait about 10 minutes before trying to hang the paper on the wall. The waiting time allows the paste to bond with the paper and become tacky. Then, it sticks to the wall easier.
Holding the top edge, press the paper against the wall allowing about 50mm overlap onto the ceiling. Line up the long edge of the paper against the pencil line.
Using a sponge or another wallpaper brush, smooth the paper from top to bottom, making sure the edge stays on the line. Take your time to ensure there aren’t any air bubbles or paste lumps trapped under the paper. If you find an air bubble that you can’t get rid of, take a pin and pierce the paper to allow the air to escape. Then, smooth the paper, so it’s in contact with the wall.
Gently smooth the paper from the vertical line towards the corner. When you reach the corner, press the wallpaper into the corner using a sponge or wallpaper brush. Then, smooth it onto the adjoining wall. Similarly, press the paper into the corner with the ceiling and with the skirting board. When you turn a corner, you must cut the paper to allow the paper to fold without tearing.
Don’t worry too much if the damp paper tears at the edge; it’s easily repaired. You can replace the torn paper in its correct position and smooth it into place. One more thing, remove excess paste from the ceiling, paper and skirting boards with a damp sponge before it dries, and regularly rinse the sponge to keep it clean.
4. Cutting the paper to fit
Run the back of the scissors along the paper in the corner to make a crease. Gently peel the paper away from the ceiling corner, take the scissors and carefully cut the paper along the crease. Then, smooth the paper once again against the ceiling corner. The paper’s cut edge should then fit along the ceiling contours.
Do the same with the paper on the skirting board, so you have a cut edge following this contour. Smooth it into place.
You now have the first wallpaper drop in place.
Repeat the same procedure for the next few wallpaper drops. While you’re hanging the drops, ensure that the paper remains vertical. And, if necessary, measure and draw another vertical line allowing for the entire paper width.
When you reach the other corner, allow the paper to fold in the corner and smooth it onto the adjoining wall by about 50-100mm. Moreover, you might have to cut the long edge to give the required overlap.
Next, you start on the next adjoining wall and hang the first drop, so the edge fits into the corner with no overlap. If the corner isn’t vertical and the paper doesn’t fit without overlap, then use the scissors to cut the long edge to the corner’s profile.
You use the same method if the room has external corners too. Always fold the first drop around the corner and cut the next piece, so its long edge finishes at the corner.
Continue around the remainder of the room, paying particular attention to the corners. Let’s look at those in more detail.
What’s happening at the corner?
You’ll notice that at each vertical corner, one drop continues around the corner onto the adjoining wall, while the subsequent drop finishes at the wall without overlap.
There’s a reason for this.
As the paper dries, it sometimes shrinks and pulls away from the corner. If you didn’t have an overlap, then you’d have an exposed length of wall in the corner.
Remember, for neatness, always hide the overlapped paper underneath the adjoining drop, both at internal and external corners.
Doors and windows
Hanging wallpaper around doors and windows might look complicated, but it’s easier than you think. Just notice where the internal and external corners are and use the same method for corners described previously.
How to use pre-pasted paper
If you’ve tried using paper and paste, and you end up with paste everywhere except on the paper, try pre-pasted paper.
This type has the paste already applied to the back surface, just like a postage stamp. All you need to do is apply water to the surface to activate the adhesive.
Painting the paper
Although you won’t apply paint to colourful, patterned wallpaper, there are specific wallpaper types used to cover an inferior quality wall. Let’s look at the commonest types:
- Woodchip – this has tiny randomly spaced bumps (known as woodchips) incorporated within the paper. Different grades have varying numbers of chips.
- Lining paper – You can use this paper as a first layer before hanging a thin patterned paper on top. Alternatively, you can use it to hide lousy plaster and paint over the top.
- Anaglypta – this paper has an embossed pattern pressed into the surface. There are many different standard patterns, so make sure you buy the correct one to match what’s already in place. After hanging, paint the surface.
But, how soon after hanging can I paint?
Manufacturers recommend waiting at least 36 hours before painting. Therefore, the paste has time to dry and fully adhere to the wall. If you don’t wait long enough, you might risk stretching the paper and causing bubbles to appear.
Wallpapering vs Painting
Many people think that painting outperforms wallpapering. Although painting can be a cost-effective alternative to papering, it doesn’t always look good when you’ve painted every wall. Furthermore, many people think that wallpapering needs specialist skills to do it properly.
On the contrary, wallpapering has many advantages compared to painting:
- Depending on the condition of your wall, it’s easy to cover minor cracks and blemishes with paper.
- If your wall is in very poor condition, wallpapering is much cheaper than re-plastering.
- Wallpapering is simple to do, and the paper is relatively cheap to buy.
- Wallpaper can last up to three times as long as emulsion paint.
- You can buy wallpaper in many modern textures and designs. Add this to the wide range of colours, and you have a covering that adds more warmth and depth to your wall than paint.
- Paint fades quicker than wallpaper and won’t hide marks caused by wear and tear from furniture and general household use.
- Although wallpapering can be expensive to cover an entire room with a high-quality product, you can break up a large expanse of paint by wallpapering a feature wall.
Do you wallpaper towards or away from a window?
Always work away from the window, so the edges don’t cause a shadow if they overlap.
Where do you start when wallpapering a room?
If you have large patterned paper, try to start in the middle of a wall, balancing the pattern on each side towards the corners and work towards the corners. Otherwise, work from a corner as already explained.
Which wall is best for a feature wall?
The feature wall should be the wall that is the focus of the room. For example, if you have a chimney breast, use that. Alternatively, if you have a large widescreen television fitted to the wall, use that one instead. If you’re in the bedroom, then use the wall behind the headboard. The idea is to use the wall that naturally draws the eye. If you choose otherwise and have two focal points, the eye won’t rest, and the brain will feel uneasy.
Is it easier to paste the wall when wallpapering?
Yes, there’s usually less mess, and it’s easier to hang the paper. However, you should use ‘Paste-the-Wall’ rather than ‘Paste-the-Paper’ paper. The essential difference between these two types is the method of activating the adhesive. So, follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using this method. Furthermore, only paste a section of the wall at a time, allowing a few centimetres overlap. If you try to paste the entire wall before starting, the adhesive will dry before you get there.
Is pasted or Unpasted wallpaper easier?
Definitely, pre-pasted paper is easier to use. If you’ve never hung wallpaper before or always make a mess when you do, try this type. On the other hand, if you’re a professional or find paper pasting easy, then, by all means, stick with pasting the paper.
Pre-pasted wallpaper already has adhesive bonded to the back surface. So all it needs is to be wiped with a wet sponge to activate the adhesive (follow the manufacturer’s instructions).
How can I make my wallpaper stay straight?
Always follow the vertical pencil lines and regularly check that the paper is still vertical.
Butt join each paper drop with the adjacent one. And, don’t overlap except in the corners.
When you cut a profile along the short edge, such as against the ceiling or skirting board, run the back of the scissors along the corner to crease the paper. The crease gives you a cutting guide.
If you fancy having a go and enjoy tasks like this, wallpapering isn’t very difficult. However, if you’re useless at DIY or haven’t the time, then the cost to wallpaper a room by a professional is very reasonable. Moreover, you have the added advantage that a decorator will work professionally and do a good job of papering your room.
Complete the form on this page, and you’ll receive up to three quotes from professional decorators who know what they’re doing.