Paperhanging tools

Plumb bob and line: for establishing a true vertical. Any small weight attached to a string will do.

Pasting brush: it’s thicker than a paint brush and about 150mm (6in) wide. A paint brush will do as a substitute.

Paperhanger’s scissors: for trimming on or off the wall. Long-bladed household scissors can be used instead.

Paperhanging brush: for smoothing paper onto walls and into angles. Use a sponge on washable and vinyl papers.

Seam roller: for ensuring good adhesion along seams (not used with embossed papers). A cloth-wrapped finger does almost as well.

Pasting table: for pasting lengths prior to hanging, it’s slightly wider than a standard roll width. Any table over about 1.8 metres (6ft) long can be used.

Stripping Old Wallpaper

Never hang new coverings over existing wallpaper – the old may lift and bring the new with it.

Ordinary wallpaper:
• use hot water with washing-up liquid or proprietary wallpaper stripper to soak the surface
• scrape off old paper in strips with broadbladed scraper, re-soaking stubborn areas; wash surface down to remove bits

Washable or painted wallpaper:
• always score surface coating with serrated scraper before soaking and scraping • for large areas a steam stripper (from hire shops) is a real time-saver

Vinyl wallcovering:
• lift corner of vinyl coating at skirting board level and peel away from backing paper by pulling steadily up and away
• then soak and scrape off backing paper


Room with a chimney breast: start at its centre and work outward to each end of the chimney wall, then on down the two side walls towards the door. Any loss of pattern will be least noticed in the short lengths hung over the door.

Room without a chimney breast: start at one corner of the room – ideally near the door – and work around continuously until you return to your starting point.

Papering walls

No other wall covering can quite so dramatically alter the look and feeling of a room as wallpaper. Correctly hung paper makes the walls sharp and fresh, and to achieve this finish there are important things to know.

bedroom wallpaper

Wallpapering isn’t so much an art, it’s more a matter of attention to detail. And perhaps the first mistake that’s made by many people is expecting too much of their walls. Rarely are walls perfectly flat, perfectly vertical an’d at right angles to each other. So the first and most crucial part of hanging wallpaper is to prepare the walls properly. Obviously you can’t change their basic character – if they’re not entirely flat or vertical, you’re stuck with them – but you can make sure that the surface is suitably prepared so that the new paper will stick. This means that any old wallpaper really should come off before you do anything else. Papering on top of old wall coverings won’t always lead to disaster, but it will quite often simply because the new adhesive will tend to loosen the old. The result will be bubbles at best and peeling at worst.


Always use the correct adhesive for the wallcovering and follow the manufacturers instructions for mixing. Using the wrong paste can result in the paper not sticking, mould growth or discoloration of the paper. A cellulose-based adhesive is used for all standard wallcoverings. There are two types, ordinary and heavy-duty which relates to the weight of the paper being hung. Heavy-duty pastes are for heavyweight wallcoverings. Certain brands of paste are suitable for all types of wallcoverings – less water being used for mixing when hanging heavy papers. Since vinyls and washable wallcoverings are impervious, mould could attack the paste unless it contains a fungicide. Fungicidal paste is also needed if the wall has previously been treated against mould or if there is any sign of damp. Some wallcoverings (like polyethylene foam, some hessians and foils) require a specially thick adhesive which is pasted onto the wall. Follow manufacturers’ instructions. Ready-pasted papers are exactly that and require no extra adhesive – although it’s useful to have a tube of latex glue handy for finishing off corners and joints which mightn’t have stuck. (The same applies to all washable wallpapers).

adhesive wallpaper

Glue size (a watered down adhesive) is brushed over the walls before papering to seal them and prevent the paste from soaking in to the wall. It also ensures all-over adhesion and makes sliding the paper into place easier. Although size can be bought, most wallpaper pastes will make size when mixed with the amount of water stated in the instructions.

If you buy a proprietary size and the wallcovering you are using needs an adhesive containing fungicide, make sure that the size you buy also contains a fungicide. Use an old brush to apply and a damp cloth to clean off any that runs on to paintwork. It can be difficult to remove after it has dried. Sizing can be done several days or an hour before. Where to begin The traditional rule is to start next to the window and work away from it, but that is really a hangover from the days when paper was’ overlapped and shadows showed up joins. Today, papers butt up, so light isn’t the problem. But as inaccuracies can occur with slight loss of pattern, you have to be able to make this as inconspicuous as possible.
In an average room, the corner nearest the door is the best starting point. Any loss of pattern will then end up behind you as you enter the room. In a room with a chimney breast, hang the first drop in the centre and work outwards from both sides of the drop. Problem areas in a house (recesses, arches, stairwells) are dealt with later in this chapter. Measuring and cutting Measure the height of the wall you want to paper using a steel tape measure and cut a piece of paper from the roll to this length, allowing an extra 50mm (2in) top and bottom for trimming. This allowance is needed for pattern matching, and to ensure a neat finish at skirting board and ceiling. Lay the first drop — that’s the name given to each length of paper -pattern side up on the table and unroll the paper from which the
second drop is to be cut next to it.

Move this along until the patterns match, then cut the second drop using the other end of the first as a guide. Subsequent lengths of paper are cut in exactly the same way, with each matching the drop that preceded it. Remember some wallpapers have patterns that are a straight match across the width, while others have what is called a drop pattern that rises as it- extends across the width. With drop match papers the second length will begin ha’f a pattern repeat further along the roll. Length 3 will match length 1, length 4 will match length 2 and so on. For things to run smoothly, you should establish a work routine when paper hanging. Cut all the wall drops first (so you only have to measure once) and cut bits for papering above windows and doors as you come to them. If you paste say 3 drops, the first will have had its required soaking time ( with medium weight paper) by the time the third is pasted and folded and is ready to be hung. With heavy papers paste, fold and soak 6 drops at a time as extra soaking time is needed.

Avoiding bubbles

The purpose behind soaking time (apart from making paper supple enough to handle) is to give it time to expand to its natural limit. On the width this can be 6mm-12mm (1/4in- 1/2in) and the average wall-size drop will gain 24mm (1 in) on the length – this explains why you have more to cut as waste than you started with. If you haven’t given paper the time it needs, it will expand on the walls – but its spread will be contained by adjoining drops and so you get bubbles in the central part. Soak medium weight papers for 3-4 minutes, heavy weights for about 10. Readypasted papers don’t need too long a soaking, but to ensure they get wet all over, roll drops loosely and press into water till they are completely covered.

Pasting and soaking

Position the paper with its top edge at the right-hand end of the table (or at the other end if you’re left handed). Paste it carefully to ensure that all parts, the edges especially, are well covered. Work from the centre outwards in herring-bone style using the width of the brush to cover the drop in sweeps, first to the nearest edge, then the other – excess paste here will go onto second drop, not the table. Cover two-thirds of the drop, then fold the top edge in so paste is to paste. Move the drop along the table and paste the remainder, folding bottom edge in paste to paste. Because the first folded part is longer than the other, this will remind you which is the top. Fold the drop up and put aside to soak while you paste the others.
This technique will give you a manageable parcel of paper to hang no matter what length the drop – but always remember to make the first fold longer – this is the one offered to the ceiling line. If in doubt mark the top edge lightly with a pencil cross.

Hanging pasted paper

Wallpaper must be hung absolutely vertical if it is to look right, so always work to a vertical line. Position your step ladder as close as possible to where you want to work, and climb it with the first length of paper under or over your arm: Open out the long fold and offer the top edge up, placing the pattern as you want it at the ceiling with waste above. Align the side edge of the drop with your vertical guide line, allowing the other side edge to turn onto the adjacent wall if starting at a corner. Smooth the paper onto the wall with the paperhanging brush, using the bristle ends to form a crease between wall and ceiling, and at corners. When brushing paper into place, always work up first then to the join, then to the side edge, then down.
This will remove trapped air. As soon as the paper is holding in place, work down the wall, brushing the rest of the drop in position, opening out the bottom fold when you reach it. Again use the bristle ends to form a good crease where paper meets the skirting board. The next step is to trim off the waste paper at the top and bottom. Run a lead pencil along the crease between the ceiling or skirting and the wall —the blades or points of scissors will make a line that’s too thick for accurate cutting. Gently peel paper away from the wall and cut carefully along the line with your scissors. Finally brush the paper back in place.

Hanging the second drop is done as the first except that you have to butt it up against the edge of the first length, matching the pattern across the two. The secret here is not to try and do it all in one go. Get the paper onto the wall at the right place at the ceiling join but just a little way away from the first length. Now press against the paper with the palms of your hands and slide it into place. Using well-soaked paper on a wall that’s been sized makes this easy, but if you’re using a thin wallpaper press gently as it could tear. Butt the paper up after pattern matching and brush into place.
When trimming waste from drops other than the first, cut from where the lengths butt to ensure even ceiling and skirting lines.

Hanging ready-pasted wallpaper

With these you won’t need pasting table, bucket and pasting brush but you will need a special light plastic trough made for the purpose. Put it below where the first drop is to be hung and fill with water – covering the floor with layers of newspaper will soak up accidental spillages. Don’t try to lift the trough; slide it along the floor as the work progresses.

Cut each drop so patterns are matching, then roll the first one loosely from the bottom up with the pattern inside. Place it in the trough and press it down so water can reach all the parts covered with paste. Leave for the required soaking time (check manufacturers’ instructions but, it’s usually between 30 seconds and 2 minutes), then pick the drop up by the two top corners and take it to the ceiling line. Press onto the wall using an absorbent sponge to mop up and push out air bubbles. Press firmly on the edges with the sponge or a seam roller, then trim waste.

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Tips for stripping paint


Wide bladed scraper: useful for scraping off large areas of old paint loosened with a blow-torch or chemical strippers. Triangular shavehook: useful for both flat surfaces and crevices. Take care not to gouge surface of wood.
Combination shavehook: because it has both straight and rounded blades, as well as a point, this is the most versatile scraper for awkward areas.

paint stripping door

Steel wool: especially useful for tricky corners. Use medium grade, (no-2) wool, and keep turning it inside out so alt the cutting surfaces of the steel are used.

• Silicon carbide abrasive papers are less likely to clog up than glasspaper. They can also be used wet or dry.


Where old paintwork is very thick, stripping may require repeated efforts.

• with a blow-torch, heat the paint until it. : bubbles up and scrape off as much as possible before softening and scraping the next layer when the wood is exposed and only stubborn bits of paint remain, use chemical stripper or sand by hand
• with chemical strippers, allow the first application to bubble up and then stipple on fresh stripper with a brush – working it well into the unstripped surface – before scraping off. If necessary repeat until the wood is fairly clean

• to remove stubborn bits, use wire wool and a small dab of stripper.

Stripping paint from wood


Wood has a natural beauty, but it’s often a beauty concealed by layers and layers of paint. Doors, window frames, even skirting boards and architraves can all become attractive features in themselves when stripped back to reveal the wood. Even if you prefer to repaint, using the right techniques to strip off the old will give the best possible surface on which to work.Most professional Painters and Decorators prefer to strip the paint off before painting woodworks.

Stripping wood of old paint or layers of ancient varnish isn’t the easiest of jobs. It’s usually only done because you’re after a natural finish, or because the painted surface has degenerated to such an extent that further coats of paint simply can’t produce a smooth finish. Either way, once wood has been stripped back to its natural state, it then has to be sealed again – to protect it from moisture which can cause cracking, warping and ultimately decay. Both varnishes and paints act as sealants, giving a durable finish. But which one you choose might depend on the wood itself – and you won’t know what that’s like until you’ve stripped it.

If you’re unsure of its quality, it’s advisable to strip a test area first. Some of the timber used in houses is of a grade that was never intended for a clear finish-large ugly knots, cracks, splits or even an unattractive grain are some of the signs. In cases like this it is probably better to treat the problems (eg, applying ‘knotting’ – a special liquid sealer – to make the knots tight and prevent them ‘bleeding’, filling cracks and splits to give a flush surface) and then paint to seal.

If you are set on having the wood on show and don’t want to paint it – because it wouldn’t fit in with a colour scheme or make the feature you want – you can give it a better appearance and extra protection with stain or coloured varnish.

Stripping with abrasives

For dry stripping there are several different kinds of powered sanders available, all of which use abrasive papers of some kind to strip the surface off wood. On large areas such as floors it is best to use a purpose-made power sander which you can hire. A drill with a sanding attachment, however, is useful for getting small areas smooth after paint has been removed by other methods.
One such attachment is a ‘disc sander’ and is quite tricky to use effectively without scoring the wood surface. Hold it at a slight angle to the wood and present only half the disc to the surface. Work in short bursts and keep the disc moving over the surface – if it stays too long in one place it can damage the wood. A ‘drum sander’ attachment has a belt of abrasive paper stuck round the edge of a cylinder of foam, and if used along the grain only is rather easier to handle than a disc sander.

Whichever type is chosen, a fine grade abrasive should be used for finishing stripped wood. Orbital sanders (which are also known as finishing sanders) usually come as self-powered tools – although attachments are available for some drills. These have a much milder action and as long as the spread of wood isn’t interrupted by mouldings they smooth well and are useful for rubbing down between coats. These sanders are rectangular and should be moved over the surface in line with the grain.

Make sure you choose the right type of sander, depending on the work in hand. For sanding by hand – hard work, but much better for finishing – there are many grades of glasspaper from the coarse to the very fine. On flat surfaces it’s best to wrap the paper round a small block of wood. As an alternative to glasspaper, there’s also steel wool, which is most useful when you’re trying to smooth down an intricate moulding.
Always sand backwards and forwards with the grain of the wood, not across it. Scratches across the grain will always be highlighted by a clear finish. To remove remaining bits of paint use medium grade sandpaper; for finishing, a fine grade is better. Renew the sandpaper frequently as the paint will clog the surface, although a useful tip is to try cleaning clogged paper with a wire brush. It’ll work once or twice, but after that the abrasive surface is usually lost.

Alternatively pull the sheet backwards and forwards, abrasive side uppermost, over a table edge to dislodge paint particles. A useful tool for cleaning paint from corners and mouldings is a hand scraper with replaceable blades. These ‘hook’ scrapers are also used for ‘smoothing’ and often need two-hands – they slightly raise the surface of a clear run of wood, giving an attractive finish under a clear seal. Use with the grain.

Heat stripping

Heat stripping is the quickest way to remove paint or varnish, but it needs a lot of expertise if you are to avoid charring the wood. So it is best reserved for stripping out of doors where a less-than-perfect surface will be less noticeable. A gas blow-torch or an electric blow torch is used along with metal scrapers to lift the finish off the wood while it’s still warm. Blowtorches with gas canister attachments are light to use and a flame spreader nozzle makes the job easier (it can be bought separately). Where there’s no glass, it’s a two-handed operation. Light the blow-torch and hold it a little way from the surface.

Move it back and forth, going nearer and withdrawing, till the paint starts to wrinkle and blister. Now begin to scrape – be careful where you point the flame at this stage or you may damage other surfaces. As soon as the paint is hard to move return the flame to the area. Wear gloves to save your hands from being burnt by the falling paint, and cover areas below where you are working with a sheet of non-flammable material to catch the scrapings. In awkward areas, especially overhead, you should wear protective goggles for safety’s sake.

Chemical stripping

Chemical strippers are probably the easiest way to strip wood. Available in liquid, gel and paste forms, their methods of application and removal vary, so always remember to read the manufacturer’s instructions before you begin. Though all of them will remove paint and varnish, if you are dealing with a large area of wood they can work out to be very expensive – they’re also very messy. Liquid and gel strippers, decanted if necessary into a more convenient-sized container (read the instructions as to whether it can be heavy gauge plastic or should be glass or metal), are stippled onto the surface with a brush and left till the paint bubbles work through only 1 layer of paint at a time so several applications can be necessary.

If stripping a chair or table, stand the legs in old paint cans or jam jars so that any stripper which runs down the legs can be recycled. Artists brushes rather than paint brushes are useful when applying these strippers to mouldings or beading in windows and No 2 steel wool is useful for removing it. After liquids or gels have been used, the surface must be cleaned down with white spirit or water (it depends on the stripper used) to remove any trace of chemical and must be left till completely dry before any stain or seal is applied.

Pastes are mostly water soluble and manufacturers stress important conditions for using them safely (eg, not in direct sun, in well ventilated rooms, the wearing of protective gloves, etc). Bought in tubs ready-mixed or in powder form to be made up. they are spread in thick (3-6mm) layers over the wood which must then be covered with strips of polythene (good way of using up plastic carrier bags) or a special ‘blanket’ (supplied with the tub) which adheres – when you press it – to the paste. They have to be left for between 2 and 8 hours after which the paste can be scrubbed off (with a firm brush) or washed down.

Frequent changes of water are needed; follow manufacturer’s advice about additives (eg, vinegar). Pastes are particularly effective with extraordinarily stubborn paint or varnish in very awkward places (eg. windows, bannisters etc); or where using a scraper might damage old wood. Some pastes are unsuitable for certain types of wood and can stain it – so read instructions carefully. Washing down should not be done, for example, with valuable furniture for this can raise the grain of the wood.


If the wood is discoloured once stripped (either from the stripper used or from some other source) you can try and achieve an overall colour with bleach – the household type, used diluted 1:3 with water to begin with and more concentrated if necessary, or better still a proprietary wood bleach. Clean the surface of the stripped wood with paint thinner and steel wool and leave for 15 minutes to dry. Cover areas you don’t want bleached with polythene, then brush bleach on generously. Work it into the wood with the grain using medium steel wool. Leave for 2-4 minutes, then wipe off with rags. Leave to dry (up to 5 hours) before sanding after which you can finish the surface as desired.

Painting Weatherboards and Galvanised iron


Weatherboards and timber cladding can be left in their natural state as long as you treat them with a wood preservative, and you can use wood stains to enhance or change their colour.
If you prefer a glossy finish, use a suitable external varnish such as an oil-resin varnish (marine varnish), rather than a one pack polyurethane varnish which can prove brittle and difficult to over-coat in future. If you wish to paint the wood you’ll have to apply one coat of wood primer, followed by an undercoat and two finishing coats of gloss.

Galvanised iron

Because it is waterproof, bituminous paint is best for galvanised roofs. In addition to the customary black it can be obtained in shades of red, green or brown to simulate or match tiles. These colours are more expensive than black and may have to be ordered specially from a builders’ merchant. Bitumen soon loses its gloss and its surface tends to craze under a hot sun. But that doesn’t matter as roofs are not usually visible.

Galvanised iron on vertical surfaces should be painted with gloss paint. When painting corrugated surfaces, give the high parts a preliminary touch-up with paint, leave it to dry and then paint the whole lot. If you apply paint all over in one go it will tend to flow from high to low parts, giving an uneven coating.

Painting windows and doors

Painting windows and doors

Windows and panelled doors are tricky areas to paint properly. For windows, start with the rebate on the frame, then paint the outside edge of the window. Do the putty next, followed by the glazing bars and the rails and stiles. Paint the frame last.

Sliding sash windows need to be painted in two stages. Pull down the top sash and paint the top rail of the inside sash and the sides as far as you can go. Do the runners at the top of the frame and a short way down the outer runner. Almost close the windows, then paint the bottom runners, and the remainder of the bottom sash to meet the other paint. Paint the whole of the top sash including the bottom edge and finally the window frame.

For doors, deal with the door frame first (the top, then the sides) so that any splashes can be wiped off an unpainted surface immediately. Then do the door itself. Don’t put too thick a coat on the inner edge of the door frame because although gloss paint dries fairly quicklv, it won’t oxidise (ie, thoroughly harden) for about a week.

So in that period, when you close the door, paint may ‘set-off from the frame onto the door, producing a vertical streak an inch or so from the door’s edge. A good idea to prevent this is to insert a thin strip of polythene sheeting round the door’s edge after the paint has become touch dry, and leave it until the paint has thoroughly hardened. If you want to apply two finishing coats, wait at least 12 hours but not more than a week between coats. There’s no need to sand down between coats because the solvent used in modern gloss paints is strong enough to dissolve the surface of the previous coat and so to ensure a firm bond between the two layers.

Exterior gloss paint


The coverage of a litre of gloss paint depends on several factors, including the smoothness of the surface and whether it is interrupted by edges and mouldings. Also, a lot depends on the painter’s technique. However, as a general guide, for a litre of paint:

• runny gloss covers 17m2 (180sq ft)
• non-drip gloss covers 13m2 (140sq ft).


It would be very difficult to calculate the area of every bit of wood and metal you wanted to paint. But you need to make a rough estimate so you’ll know how much paint to buy. The following examples are intended as a rough guide and they should give you an idea of how much paint you’ll need, assuming you’re using runny gloss and you give everything two coats of paint. If you’re using non-drip gloss you’ll have to buy about 25% more paint:

• a panelled front door will take 0.3 litre (1/2pint)
• a flush door will take about 0.5 litre (1/3 pint)

• a sash window, about 2×1 m (6ft 6in x 3ft 3in) with an ornate frame will take about 0.5 litre
• a modern picture window of the same size with a plain frame will take only 0.8 litre

• to find the area of a downpipe, simply measure round the pipe and multiply by the height, then add a little for clips and brackets. For two coats of paint, one litre will cover 18m (60ft) of 150mm (6in) diameter pipe and 27m (90ft) of 100mm (4in) pipe.

Masonry Paint


The spreading power of masonry paints varies according to the porosity and texture of the surface. Roughcast, for instance could take twice as much paint as smooth render. These spreading rates are usually given on the side of the paint tin but in general the coverage is:
• smooth surfaces – 6 to 1Om2 (65 to 110sq ft) per litre
• lightly textured surfaces – 4 to 6m2 (44 to 65sq ft) per litre
• pebbledash, roughcast and – 3 to 4m2 (33 to 44sq ft) per litre.


To estimate the area of a house wall, simply measure out its length and multiply by the eaves height. Only allow for window area if this is over one fifth of total wall area.

• if you don’t know the height, measure the length of the lowest whole section of a downpipe and multiply this by the number of sections making up the complete pipe drop
• for triangular areas, measure the base of the triangle, multiply by by the height and divide the answer by two.