Get the best finish for walls before hanging wallpaper or painting
Lining your walls with lining paper before you hang wallpaper is key to a smooth finish for your walls or ceiling. Lining paper can help to:
- disguise small imperfections in the surface of walls
- add another layer of insulation to your room
- prevent wallpaper shrinking when it’s hung on the wall, avoiding gaps between the lengths of paper
- reduce the likelihood of stains and marks on the wall showing through your wallpaper or fresh coat of paint
- offer a barrier against penetrating damp and mould
- protect flammable surfaces in the event of a fire (look for 'class zero' fire-rated lining papers)
In this guide we’ll explain how to;
- mark a guideline for the first piece of lining paper
- measure and cut lining paper
- apply adhesive directly to lining paper (we’re using paste the paper lining paper)
- hang lining paper horizontally on walls
- hang lining paper on ceilings
How to choose lining paper
When shopping for lining paper there are a number of things to consider, to get the most suitable type of lining paper for your project.
Key variations in types of lining paper are:
- Grade – the thickness of the lining paper
- Application – the method of hanging, with different ways to apply the adhesive
Lining paper is available in different thicknesses, known as grades. The grades range from 800 (thinnest) to 2000 (thickest).
The grade you choose will depend on the condition of the walls. A thin lining or low-grade paper can be used to cover hairline cracks in the wall’s plastering. If the wall is in a bad condition, a thicker 2000 grade lining paper will be required to help cover pitting and more noticeable plastering imperfections.
If you’re not sure which grade to use, we recommend the 1400 option as it is thick enough to cover imperfections and block staining.
Our lining paper range includes standard lining paper that you apply adhesive to, or paste the wall lining paper. Paste the wall can be easier to hang as you apply the adhesive to the wall rather than the paper, so you don’t have heavy folded paper to hang. For paste the wall lining paper, we recommend using a paint roller to apply the adhesive to the wall.
For this project we’re using paste the paper lining paper, which means that you apply the adhesive to the lining paper before hanging.
The adhesive required also varies depending on whether you’re hanging paste the paper of paste the wall lining paper.
The width of lining paper can vary between 500 and 1000millimetres (mm). With wider lining paper you may need to buy fewer rolls, but it could also be more cumbersome to hang.
How to calculate how much lining paper is needed
If your rolls of lining paper are the same size as a standard wallpaper roll (between 530 and 560mm wide and 10m in length). Use our calculator to see how many rolls of lining paper you need.
If your chosen lining paper is a different size (length or width), you’ll need to do some basic calculations to work out how many rolls you need.
Either way, first measure the areas that will be lined in metres, making a note of the length and height of each wall. Then measure any large obstacles that won’t be covered, like doors and windows - as these areas will be subtracted.
To manually work out the number of rolls required, use this simple calculation:
Step 1: Calculate the length of lining paper needed for one wall.
Divide the height of the wall (WH) by the width of the roll of lining paper (LPW) to get the length of lining paper needed for the wall (LPL).
WH / LPW = LPL
e.g. 2.4m / 0.56m = 4.3m (rounded up)
Step 2: Calculate the amount needed for all walls.
Multiply this figure by the perimeter (P) of the room to get the total length of lining paper for the room (LPT).
LPL x P = LPT
e.g. 4.3m x 15m = 64.5m
Step 3: Calculate the area of each door and window.
Multiply the door width (DW) by the door height (DH) to get the area of the door (DA). Multiply the window width (WW) by the window height (WH) to get the area of the window (WA).
Do this for all doors and windows.
DW x DH = DA
e.g. Door 1 is 2.05m x 0.9m = 1.85m Door 2 is 2.05m x 0.9m = 1.85m
WW x WH = WA
e.g. Window 1 is 1.5m x 1m = 1.5m
Step 4: Calculate the total area of all doors and windows.
Add together the areas for all doors and windows to get the total area (TA).
DA + WA = TA
e.g. 1.85m + 1.85m + 1.5m = 5.2m
Step 5: Calculate the total area excluding doors and windows.
Subtract the total from Step 4 from the total in Step 2 to get the total length of lining paper needed for the room (T), excluding the windows and doors.
LPT - TA = T
e.g. 64.5m - 5.2m = 59.3m
Step 6: Add 10% extra for trimming.
Multiply the total from Step 5 by 1.1, which will add 10% to allow for excess that you will hang and trim off (E).
T x 1.1 = E
e.g. 59.3m x 1.1 = 65.23m
Step 7: Calculate the total number of rolls needed.
Divide the total from Step 6 by the length of the roll (L) and round up to give you the total number of rolls required (TR).
E / L = TR
e.g. 65.23m / 20m = 3.26 (round up to 4 rolls)
You will need
- Lining paper
- Wallpaper adhesive - also known as wallpaper paste
- Flexible filler - if required to fill any gaps
- 80 grit sandpaper - also known as medium sandpaper – to fill in any gaps, if required
- Sanding block
- Small nail - if using a chalk line on a ceiling
- Dust sheets - either cloth or polythene dust sheets are usable for this task, although polythene can be slippery when used over hard flooring
- Step ladder or work platform
- Wallpaper smoother
- Wallpaper pasting brush
- Pasting brush - not required if using paste the wall lining paper
- Roller and tray - can be used to apply paste the wall adhesive directly to walls or ceilings
- Tape measure
- Wallpaper scissors
- Large sponge
- Seam roller
- Chalk line - if hanging lining paper on a ceiling
- Claw hammer - if hanging lining paper on a ceiling (for chalk line nails)
- Filling knife - if required
- Utility knife
- Long rule
- Wallpaper cutting guide
Before you begin
There can be a few preparatory steps before starting your lining paper project to help prepare the room for decorating.
If your walls are freshly plastered, using wall sealer (also known as wall size) will seal the wall, stopping it from absorbing the wallpaper adhesive. This helps the paper adhere to the wall and reduces the chance that the lining paper will shrink. Apply to the wall using a pasting brush or paint roller before you hang your lining paper. Follow the product instructions for guidance on how long you should wait after application before hanging the lining paper.
Before you hang the lining paper, we recommend removing any existing layers of wallpaper. Our guide to removing wallpaper will walk you through the steps to stripping your walls back to get a blank canvas ready for lining.
Before you get started with hanging the lining paper, clear your room of furniture. This will make it easy to move around without obstacles getting in the way and avoids mess or damage from the paste.
Our guide on preparing walls for painting contains steps for clearing the room, cleaning and repairing walls and covering light sockets and fixings. These steps also apply for preparing a room before hanging lining paper.
Always ensure that the surface is clean and dry.
If you are hanging lining paper on the ceilings and walls of your room, we recommend lining the ceiling first and then the walls after. This gives a neater finish around the edges. Jump to the 'How to hang lining paper on a ceiling' before returning to the walls sections.
- Keep adhesives and scissors out of reach of children
- Always ensure good ventilation during application and drying of wallpaper pastes/adhesives
- Don’t turn on the electricity if paste drips onto an electrical fitting. Wait for it to dry out and, if necessary, seek help from a qualified electrician
- If wallpapering a ceiling, we advise having a helper to support as you will be working at height.
How to plan a lining paper project
There are two options for the direction that you hang the lining paper:
1. Horizontally – we recommend this if you are going to hang wallpaper over the top of the lining paper. This way the seams will not fall in the same place, avoiding visible bumps in the wallpaper. Hanging the lining paper horizontally is known as cross-lining.
2. Vertically – best if you are putting lining paper on to paint it as it is easier smoothing lining paper down the wall.
If you do want to hang the lining paper vertically and wallpaper over the top. Start from the place where you are going to hang the first length of wallpaper and hang a half-width of lining paper. Continue with full widths across the rest of the wall. This is okay if the two papers are the same width, but be aware that lining papers are available in different widths. We recommend planning so that two lots of seams do not fall in the same place.
For the best results, we recommend:
- Measuring your wall and doing some calculations. By doing these calculations you can avoid being left with a very thin strip of lining paper to hang at the base of the wall.
- Marking a straight horizontal line on the wall, so you can hang the lining paper straight, overlapping and trimming off any excess. If you hang lining paper flush against the ceiling you can be left with gaps as walls are rarely perfectly straight.
These calculations are optional but recommended to make your task easier and for a smooth finish. If you’d rather not do these calculations, skip to the next section called ‘How to measure and cut lining paper’.
To work out your horizontal start point at the top of the wall, mark a small line 60mm shorter than the width of your lining paper from the ceiling. For example, if your lining paper has a width of 540mm, mark the line approximately 480mm down onto the wall. This will be your provisional starting point, but we’ll check in Step 2 if this is suitable.
Measure the width of your paper down the wall from your pencil line (multiples of 540mm for this example). The last section should not be less than 60mm from the top of the skirting. If it is, move the mark of your initial line up or down to create a wide enough start. And end the strip of paper with enough overlap to work at the top and bottom of the walls.
Once you have established the measurement at the top of the wall, move along the wall and repeat the measurement at regular points and mark with a pencil.
Use a long spirit level to draw a level horizontal guideline between the marks. Draw the line across the wall and onto any adjoining walls that are to be lined.
How to measure and cut lining paper
With the start guide marked, next you need to know how long to cut your pieces of lining paper. These steps guide you through measuring and cutting your lining paper to the right length.
Measure the wall width in millimetres (mm) from the edge of the wall across to the other side using a tape measure. Add 100mm to that measurement to allow for the lining paper to go around the corners onto the adjacent walls (50mm on each side). The excess will be trimmed off later.
Roll the lining paper onto the pasting table. Transfer the wall measurement onto the lining paper. Make a crease in the paper at the measurement to make it easier to cut with wallpaper scissors or a trimming wheel. Cut enough lengths to line one wall at a time.
How to apply adhesive to lining paper
Now you’re ready to apply the adhesive. For this project, we’re using a ready-mixed wallpaper adhesive or you can use an adhesive that you mix yourself. Always read the manufacturer’s instructions and be careful not to over-dilute the solution.
Before you start apply adhesive, remember to put on some overalls.
Roll the first cut length out onto the pasting table. Apply the adhesive to the back of the lining paper with a pasting brush.
To avoid getting adhesive onto the front face of the lining paper or on the pasting table, position the lining paper face down. Make sure you have one long edge flush against the edge of the pasting table. Apply the adhesive in the centre of the sheet and brush it out towards the edge that’s lined-up with the edge of the table.
When the first half is done, line up the opposite edge of the paper with the other side of the paste table and paste outwards from the centre again.
Fold the paper into a concertina fold as you go (loosely folded over onto itself, you can then carry on pasting the rest of the length). 40cm concertina overlaps are a good, manageable size.
Allow the adhesive to soak into the paper for as long as the manufacturer recommends on the adhesive instructions. The paper needs time to expand before it is hung. This process is known as soaking and it helps to prevent bubbles appearing as the paper continues to expand on the wall.
In the meantime, paste more lengths of lining paper. If there is adhesive on the pasting table, wipe it down with a damp sponge after every cut length is pasted. This is so you don't get adhesive onto the front of the lining paper.
How to hang the first length of lining paper
Now you have your measured and cut lengths of lining paper and applied the adhesive, you’re ready to hang the first length.
From the top of your start guideline, smooth the first section of lining paper onto the wall, allowing for the 50mm overlaps onto the adjacent wall. You will also have excess lining paper that overlaps onto the ceiling – how much depends on your calculations based on the wall size. These overlaps will be trimmed off.
Open up the folds one at a time and smooth the paper down with a wallpaper smoother to remove any bubbles or creases. Work out from the centre of each section to each edge.
You’ll be left with another 50mm excess of paper on the opposite wall.
Use a seam roller to make sure the edges are firmly stuck down and add more adhesive if necessary.
Use the wallpaper smoother to push the lining paper into the internal wall joins to create a crease. Make an angled cut in the paper to help avoid bubbles or tears as you push it into the corners.
Peel back the paper and cut along the crease with wallpaper scissors. The key is not to overlap the paper in the corners as this will form a ridge which will show through when the wallpaper is hung over the top. Instead, when cut, the two lengths of lining paper will butt up neatly together in the corner. Cut the excess paper off at either end.
Repeat the method at the wall/ceiling junction and cut to fit.
Top tip: Keep scissors clean
Occasionally dip your wallpaper scissors into a jar of clean, warm water.
This stops them getting clogged up with a build-up of wallpaper adhesive.
How to hang the remaining lengths of lining paper
Take another length of pasted lining paper.
When you hang it, line up the top edge so it is flush with the bottom edge of the lining paper above it and smooth it down. Then, slide the edges apart by about 1mm. This will prevent the lining paper join from buckling and becoming visible as it expands when the wallpaper is hung on top. Crease and trim the ends as before and repeat the process for the rest of the wall.
When you reach obstacles like doors, windows, a plug socket or you need to tackle external corners. See How to hang wallpaper for more detailed step-by-step instructions as the principles and techniques are very similar.
As with the ceiling junction, use the back of scissors to make a cutting crease between the wall and skirting board. Peel back the paper and cut along the crease with wallpaper scissors.
Alternatively, use a wallpaper cutting guide to cut the bottom of the lining paper. Hold the guide against the skirting board tucking the paper into the crease of the guide, trim off the excess paper with a sharp utility knife.
Allow at least 24 hours (or longer if the room is cold or damp) for the paste to dry before you paint over or hang wallpaper over the top. If you paint or wallpaper before the paste has dried, the lining paper may come off the wall or blister.
Top tip: Filling the gaps
There may be noticeable gaps between the strips of lining paper after it has been hung and the paste has dried. If so, use a flexible filler and a filling knife to fill the gap. If necessary, allow the filler to dry out fully before sanding flat with an 80 grit (or medium grade) sandpaper and a sanding block.
If any lining paper has overlapped after the paste has dried, carefully remove the excess paper with a sharp utility knife and long metal rule.
How to hang lining paper on a ceiling
As with walls, it is important to get the first length of paper straight. Ceiling/ wall junctions are not usually true enough to use as a guide. These steps will outline how to hang lining paper on your ceiling using a chalk line as a guide to hanging it straight.
Before you start
It’s important to consider the options before choosing the direction to hang the lining paper on a ceiling.
If the lining paper on a ceiling is to be painted - start papering along a wall that is at right angles to the window wall (as per image). This way, if the joins overlap slightly they will not cast shadows.
If the room has windows on two walls - you may not be able to avoid some shadows. So hang the paper across the narrowest part of the ceiling, as this will be the easiest option.
If the ceiling lining paper is to be wallpapered over - hang the lining paper so it runs parallel with the window. This will mean that the wallpaper will be hung at right angles to the lining paper and the window wall.
Once you’ve chosen the direction, you need to work out your start point.
For example, if your chosen lining paper has a width of 540mm, mark a small line approximately 480mm from the wall onto the ceiling. Make sure to measure 25mm in from the adjacent wall so that you have room to hammer in the nail for the chalk line.
This will be your provisional starting point but before we can confirm that we need to check that the last length of paper will not end up being too thin. The excess paper will be trimmed off later, but an overlap onto the walls accommodates for our ‘not so square’ ceilings.
Check this by measuring the width of the paper across the ceiling (e.g. 540mm widths for this example). The last section should not be less than 60mm wide. If it is, move the mark of your initial line to create a decent start. And end strip of paper with enough overlap to work with at opposite ends.
With the start point adjusted, hammer a small nail half way into the mark. Hammer another nail onto the opposite side, again 25mm from the edge of the wall and the same distance out.
Attach a chalk line between the two nails. With the help of a step ladder or platform, pull and release the line to snap onto the ceiling to create a straight guideline for the first length of lining paper.
Take down the chalk line and carefully remove the nails with a claw hammer.
Measure along the line (from the wall junction to wall junction) and add 100mm.
Cut a length of lining paper to this length. The 100mm will be overlapped by 50mm on each wall and trimmed off when hung.
For more detail on how to measure, cut and paste the paper see the sections above. This will also give you tips on folding pasted paper so that it is easier to handle when papering.
With some help from a friend, position the edge of the first length of the pasted paper against the chalk line. Smooth the other edge into the ceiling/ wall junction to give an overlap onto the wall.
Brush out the bubbles with a paper hanging brush or wallpaper smoother, and then run a wallpaper smoother along the ceiling/ wall junction to make a sharp crease. Gently pull back the paper and cut along the crease. Brush the trimmed edge back into place, applying extra paste at the edges if needed.
Butt the next length of paper against the first. Run a seam roller lightly along the joins. Continue this process along the ceiling, scoring and cutting the excess at the ends as you go.
When papering around a pendant light, turn off the power at the mains or isolate the circuit you are working on (switching off at the wall is not enough).
Unscrew the cover and paper up to and over the base. With scissors, puncture the paper at the centre of the fitting and make a series of snips outwards, being careful not to cut beyond the fitting. Then trim away the flaps of paper, cutting just inside the rim of the base. Wipe away any adhesive. Only when the paste is completely dry, replace the cover and then turn the power back on.
After allowing the paste to dry, your room is ready for a new top layer of wallpaper or coat of paint.
Our guides on How to hang wallpaper or paint a wall or ceiling will walk you through the next steps in order to get a professional and smooth finish on walls.