Do It Yourself?
Peel and stick. What could be easier, right? That’s what one customer thought when she ordered three rolls of Tempaper “Bela Midnight” to adorn a feature wall in her apartment. After struggling with (and ruining in the process) two sheets of this self-adhesive wallcovering while trying to install it herself, she decided that it was a task better suited to a professional.
In much the same manner that the wallcovering industry promoted prepasted wallpaper as a do-it-yourself product (“Dip it in water, and put it on the wall!”), pressure-sensitive adhesive (PSA) wallcoverings are marketed as a consumer-installable commodity.
Not so fast.
While no pasting is required, most of the other steps required of a typical wallpaper installation still apply, that is if professional results are expected. For instance, a pasting table isn’t needed for actual pasting, but I used one anyway, along with a six-foot straightedge, for cutting sheets to length and for trimming the final piece to width before putting it on the wall.
Ditto for hand tools: a specialty smoother, a broad-knife, a razor cutter, a sharp set of shears, a laser level, and a seam roller all were put to use installing this material.
Even the wall preparation matters. While the walls don’t require a prep-coat in the form of sizing or wallcovering primer, as they would for regular wallpaper, the material doesn’t adhere well to ordinary flat paint. Unless the wall is already painted with an eggshell or semi-gloss finish, it would be advisable to apply a prep-coat anyway — such as Shieldz Clear or Vinyl Prep — as an undercoat before installing PSA wallcovering. Both of those products are less expensive than latex enamel paints, and they dry a lot quicker, typically in about an hour.
The Installation Process – A Tutorial
After sanding the wall smooth and dusting off the wall with a dry towel, we measured out from the right-hand corner of the wall a distance slightly less than the width of a sheet of the Tempaper. The material was 20-1/2″ wide, so we made a pencil mark at 20″ and set a laser-level plumb beam on it. (Or you could simply draw a pencil line using a four-foot bubble level.) Rather than start with the corner sheet, where a likely out-of-plumb corner might make the first piece difficult to set, it’s easier to start with the second sheet, which is free of obstacles. This “king sheet” is the most important sheet, since it determines the placement of all the other sheets. For this reason it’s important to check whether the ceiling line runs uphill. If it does, the successive sheets need to include enough extra material at the top to allow for the added height of the wall.
[Click on a photo to view the full-size version, then use your Back button (or right-click + back) to return to the page.]
At the table, a cut is made through the release paper about 6″ from the top of the sheet (photo 2). This is a tricky move which involves slipping the tip of a very good pair of scissors between the release paper and the back side of the wallcovering without cutting the material itself. The reason for making this cut will become clear in the next couple of steps, and it is the key to setting the sheet plumb, especially the all-important king sheet. If the king sheet is hung crooked, then all the other sheets will run crooked, as well.
At the wall, we’ve torn pieces of 2″ painters tape from a roll and stuck them to the wall on either side of where the sheet will be placed.
At this point the first sheet is brought to the wall, release paper still in place, and aligned with the plumb line. With the release paper still attached, it’s easy to move the sheet around on the wall. Once it’s plumb, and with the proper amount of extra material at the ceiling and baseboard, the sheet is taped in place using the pieces of painters tape.
The cut that was made at 6″ from the top of the sheet is actually about 5″ from the ceiling, allowing for extra material since the ceiling line isn’t perfectly level.
With the bulk of the sheet held plumb and level by the tape, the top 6″ of release paper is peeled away.
Using a felt-covered squeegee, the exposed 6″ of material is pressed into position using straight, full side-to-side sweeps, and working up toward the ceiling in increments of only a half-inch at a time. This is critical. Doing too much at once results in wrinkles which are difficult to remove once the material has creased. Slow and steady is the key, moving the smoother side to side, and sweeping only a new, half-inch row at a time.
Once the top 6″ has been set, the pieces of painters tape are removed. Since the top area is firmly affixed to the wall, even though it’s only a small area, the rest of the sheet will automatically run plumb as it is worked toward the floor. This is done by rolling up the sheet to the cut area, reaching underneath, and pulling off the remaining release paper while slowly sweeping the material onto the wall with the felt-covered smoother, again sweeping from edge to edge and moving down in very small increments.
Once the entire sheet has been set, the excess material at the top and bottom are trimmed off with a broad-knife and a razor cutter, as with regular wallpaper. I’ve yet to see the wall that was sufficiently plumb and level and true enough to precut sheets to fit exactly.
Second Verse, Same As The First
With the first sheet done, the next sheet is installed in the same fashion, except that instead of hanging next to a plumb line, the sheet is butted to the edge of the first sheet, taking care to carefully match the pattern. Again, it’s the same procedure: pre-cut the release paper, get pieces of painters tape ready to go, tape the sheet into place, peel & set the top working up to the ceiling, remove the painters tape, and then roll the sheet up from the bottom and peel and set the rest of the panel working down to the baseboard.
The right-hand piece next to the king sheet would be installed full-width, as it was a half-inch wider than the space it needed to fit into (which we set at 20″ in the beginning). The left end piece was a partial piece, only about 11″ wide, and it was pre-trimmed to a width a little larger than required, say 11–3/4″, and then the excess was trimmed off once the sheet was set in place.
Here are a couple of bonus photos.
These are PLS 180 laser levels, of which I can’t speak highly enough. They transformed the way we install wallpaper. Each one shoots a level beam, a plumb beam, or a combination of both. I used two so that I could leave one in place as the dedicated level line, to make sure the geometric pattern ran level from one corner to the other. The second laser level was moved from place to place, just to ensure that the pattern was staying plumb with each sheet. Even though the edge of the first sheet had been plumbed, there are always bellies and cavities with drywall construction that can throw the pattern off. Best to double-check for plumb as the job moves along, especially with a geometric pattern.
This curious guy darted under the bed and wouldn’t be seen when I first showed up for the job. By the time I was wrapping it up, he was a relaxed observer.
Thanks for viewing. If you found this site while searching for peel & stick instructions, I hope that this web page has answered any questions that you had about taking on a project like this yourself. It’s not impossible, but I would rate the difficulty of installing PSA wallcovering at a solid 8 out of 10 for someone who’s never installed wallcovering before. Fatheads are another story — they truly are peel-n-stick!
Here is a link to the Tempaper site: http://www.tempaperdesigns.com