Installing Peel and Stick Wallpaper

Does peel and stick wallpaper really work? Actually, it does.

Hello everyone, David Cook from D’franco Painting & Wallpaper, coming at you! One of the more popular things to do in homes lately is installing peel and stick wallpaper. But with these installations, we get a question that we have to answer… Does peel and stick wallpaper really work? As with our other posts, we will give you some basic information as we know it from a wallpaper installer’s perspective.

My goal today is to give some basics: What peel and stick wallpaper is, will it ruin your walls, and what tools you will need to start a peel and stick wallpaper job.

What is peel and stick wallpaper?

Traditionally, wallpaper has always needed adhesive to be applied to the wallpaper or wall before installing.  There have been improvements to the wallpaper that allow for the wallpaper adhesive to be applied directly to the wall then just putting the wallpaper direct to the wall and no pre-pasting! The latest wallpaper innovation, I say that with a wince- as this wallpaper is similar to materials used from sign companies and made into wallpaper. (don’t quote me on that as that is a very generalized statement- but gives you a better context of what we are using)

peel and stick wallpaper
peel and stick wallpaper separated from its backing paper

Peel and stick wallpaper is a printed paper, or vinyl product that has had adhesive applied to the back side of the wallpaper. It also has a backing which is a layer of a covering or lining that lays on the adhesive to protect the adhesive until it is time to use it. The backing in most cases, is like wax paper in that it sticks to the wallpaper adhesive kind of like a post it note would stick to your desk, but leaves no residue and does not affect the adhesive itself.

Will peel and stick wallpaper damage or ruin walls?

This is a loaded question. Why? Because there are several factors that play a role into the answer of this question:

  • What condition are your walls in?
    • How old are they?
    • Are they brand new?
    • Do your walls have a lot of repairs to them?
    • When was the last time they were painted?
  • What type of peel and stick wallpaper do you have?
    • There are different levels of “tac” or how sticky the adhesive is. The more tacky the adhesive the more likely the damage can happen when trying to remove the stick and peel wallpaper.
  • Where was the peel and stick wallpaper purchased from?
    • Did you buy the cheapest one you could find? Then beware, because this is a case of you get what you pay for.
    • Was it purchased from China? Some of the products from there are just down right awful with no quality control.
    • Does the company you bought from install the products? They will have experience in how it works, installation tricks, advice etc. Here is a related article on buying murals (very similar to what to look for)

As with preparing walls for traditional wallpaper, this type of wallpaper needs to have their walls prepared properly also.

One new updated issue that peel and stick wallpaper has is sticking to NO VOC paint. This is also an issue with sign/automotive type graphics as well. I do not know why. I just know that if you read the instructions, many of them will have a clause about VOC paint. We avoid it by just re-priming the walls with Guardz wall sealer. This also allows us to pole sand the wall smooth for a better wallpaper surface.

What tools will you need?

These are some basic tools. The peel and stick wallpaper you choose may have their own list of tools you will need.

peel and stick wallpaper tools - wallpaper installation chicago
Basic peel and stick wallpaper tools
  1. Tape Measure
  2. Level or laser level
  3. Smoothing tool with a soft edge cover
  4. Razor blade or snap off razor blade knife
  5. Scissors
  6. Trim cutting guide

How does this kind of wallpaper really work?

As you have seen above, you peel the backing away from the paper and stick it to your wall. It is that simple in theory. But you can have some issues that will get you in trouble:

  • If your walls have drywall repairs, the self stick will show every single mark your wall has had or has.
  • As long as you are installing on one wall, you will not have to worry about how crooked your inside or outside edges are, which make wrapping wallpaper around a corner a nightmare.
  • Work slow. You will be fine! Like I tell our guys, “Slow is steady and steady is fast.”
  • As you apply the peel and stick, IF you have to move it, be slow and careful. If you pull too hard, you can stretch the wallpaper, making it very hard to get back to the wall properly.
  • If you imagine working with thick saran wrap with glue on it, you will have an idea of what you need to get mentally prepared for… it sticks to damn near everything except where you want it to. (Not really 100% true but I thought that it was a funny way to describe it!)

Not ready to tackle this yourself?

I don’t blame you. These can be nice but they can also be a nightmare. Stay tuned for other articles on peel and stick wallpaper. I write these once a week when I am not doing estimates, training, installing or some of the other tasks as a business owner. If you need some help, let us know!


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