Credit: Bob Kast / Creators.com illustration

Dear James: I gave wallpapering my kitchen a try and just ended up with bubbles, separating edges and some actually peeling off!

What things should I do differently when redoing it all?

— Todd R.

Dear Todd: Applying wallpaper properly is a much more complex project than most people realize, and there is a learning curve. There are many steps and, as you have found, if they are not followed exactly, problems arise.

The issues have probably occurred during the installation and preparation processes, including relaxing time and choice of adhesive.

A bubbling problem is often caused by not letting the wallpaper relax long enough before applying it to the wall. Make sure you are allowing the adhesive to soak into the wallpaper.

If the wallpaper is hung on the wall too soon, it will continue to relax after it is installed. As it expands, the paper will bubble.

On the flip side, wallpaper can also be left to relax for too long before hanging it on the wall.

A delaminating problem will occur if the wallpaper has sat for too long after applying wet adhesive, no matter what quality level of paper or adhesive you are using. This can happen if the paper is too wet for too long.

Another possible culprit is the wallpaper adhesive. Sometimes certain types of wallpaper require specific adhesives.

Do not just select the most inexpensive adhesive and expect it to work. Any wallpaper store should be able to assist you in selecting the correct adhesive and appropriate relaxing time for your chosen wallpaper.

Living in a high-humidity area may also affect your wallpaper’s appearance. In certain types of very humid conditions, you need to use a high-quality, more expensive wallpaper.

Inexpensive wallpapers tend to have lesser-quality paper backing that will absorb the moisture from the air. This can often cause the paper to fall away from the wall or separate into layers.

Preparing the surface correctly will help eliminate many issues. Every wallpaper needs a reliable surface to stick to, otherwise you may have just wasted your time. Make sure you both primed and thoroughly cleaned the walls first.

There may be some areas of your walls that have drywall joint compound on them. If there are, make sure you clean each section with a 50% mixture of ammonia before you prime the walls.

Sizing your walls first will help establish an even wall surface so the adhesive can dry at the same rate. Sizing compounds are formulated to improve the binding power of the adhesive.

To save some money, you can make your own sizing by thinning down some adhesive. Mix it until it is the consistency of latex wall paint and apply it to the walls. Let it dry before hanging the wallpaper.

Back rolling is another important step in wallpapering. This process will take the curl out of the wallpaper.

It also allows you to inspect it before you hang it. Once the paper does not curl, it will lay flat and be much easier to hang.

James Dulley

James Dulley

James Dulley is a mechanical engineer, an avid Do-It-Yourselfer and a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators.com. Email your questions to him at Here’s How. The opinions expressed are his own.