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Wall Paper Hanging

Wallpaper Hanging

( Originally Published 1902 )



Next to painting, the most important decorative work that can be done within the house is wallpaper hanging, and a knowledge of the mode of doing this will often prove of great advantage to the amateur artisan, especially if he be a man of slender means.

Besides the American there are two other wallpapers used in paper-hanging, one being of English and the other of French manu facture. The French paper-hangings are perhaps prettier, more artistic, and produce a better effect than American or Englishmade papers, but they are much more expensive. They may be distinguished from English papers by their narrow width, the English papers being 22 inches wide and the French and American papers only 20 inches. Again, a piece of English paper is 12 yards long, and a piece of French paper about 9 1/2 yards, the former covering 7 square yards, or 63 feet superficial, and the latter 4 3/4 square yards, or 41 square feet. Speaking approximately, therefore, where two pieces of English paper are required, three of French will be wanted at the very least, and in practice this will not be found to be enough.

The American paper is in more common use now, and for quality and artistic effect equals that of foreign make. It comes in rolls of two pieces each, or 16 yards, a piece being considered 8 yards long. The width is 20 inches over all or 18 inches net. A piece then will cover 36 square feet of surface. On looking at a piece of wall-paper it will be found that the pattern does not come quite out to the edges, so that it must be remembered, in measuring a room for paper, that 18 inches is the absolute net width of the pattern (American); the actual roll of paper itself is wider than this. To measure a room, one method is to measure the circumference, making allowance for doors and windows, and, having ascertained the number of feet, multiply this by the height of the room and divide by the number of square feet in a piece of paper. For the ceiling multiply the length of the room by breadth, which will give area, and divide as before. If a room has offsets these may be measured separately. Thus, taking the room to be 18 ft. by 15 ft., and allowing 11 ft. for doors and windows, and taking the height of the room to be 9 ft., between skirting-board and cornice we have:

18ft. + 18ft. + 15ft. + 15ft. (length of 4 sides of room) --- 11ft. (allowance for door and windows) X 9ft. (height between ceiling and skirting) / 36 (No. of square feet in piece of paper).

Or 66 - 11 X 9 / 36, or 55 X 9 / 36 = 14 pieces, or 13 and a fraction, which requires of course 14 full pieces, or 7 rolls, for the sides. The ceiling would be 18 X 15 / 36 = 7 1/2 or 8 pieces.

Small Patterns Most Satisfactory.

The most satisfactory kind of pattern is a small geometrical one, consisting of some simple form, a leaf or flower, conventionally treated. For staircases, passages, etc., papers in imitation of wood or marble are most commonly used, and these can be preserved from much casual injury by varnishing. Marble papers are usually hung in large blocks, the lines of demarcation, horizontal and vertical, being traced, with the aid of a straight edge, in black or brown. For sitting-rooms satin papers, or papers with a glossy surface, are generally used. Papers in which gold is introduced are expensive if they are worth anything at all. In cheap gilt papers, the gold, which is most likely Dutch metal, soon tarnishes and changes as time goes on from a dull copper-red to black. It is good taste to have the ceiling paper light in color and with a subdued figure to harmonize with the sides.

Preliminary Work for Paper Hanging.

If the wall be new it will require sizing before the paper is put on, though this is by no means done as a rule. If the wall has to be re-papered, it must be stripped of the old paper, or should be stripped, as new papers are too frequently hung upon old papers ; a procedure which is certainly not cleanly, and is in. many cases prejudicial to health, because the dampness caused by putting up the new paper often detaches the old paper from the surface of the wall, and oftentimes, if the paste used in hanging the old paper has been bad, a fungus is generated, which spreads over the wall in dark patches of a brown or greenish color.

In re-papering a room after any one stricken down with some infectious disorder, such as scarlet or typhus fever, on no account should the old paper be left on the walls, but it should be carefully stripped and the walls washed, and the ceiling coated with limewash, after the old coating has been taken off with clean water. As soon as this is done, the walls may be sized and the process of re-papering may be proceeded with.

Size is a kind of weak glue, made from the clippings of parchment, glove-leather, fish-skin, and similar substances, by boiling them down in water. When cold it resem bles jelly. It is sold by all oil and color dealers.

The wall being sized, it is necessary to determine what tools are absolutely necessary for the paper-hanger's work. These may be summed lip as a pair of boards connected by hinges, or, if preferred, simply grooved and tongued together, or even joined by dowels or pins. The amateur need not provide himself with a pair of boards and trestles merely for the sake of papering a single room ; a kitchen table, if long enough, or even a dining table suitably protected, will answer every purpose. The boards are portable, and, therefore, useful to the regular paper-hanger, who may not find any suitable table at the house to which he is going. They are also of greater length than most tables, which is obviously an advantage. Whether the amateur is provided with boards or not, he must of necessity have a pair of good-sized scissors ; a pail to hold his paste, whether of wood or iron it matters not, so long as it is clean ; and a paste brush, something similar to that used for whitewashing, but smaller.

Paste for Paper Hanging.

Good paste for paper-hanging is made of old flour, mixed to a milk-like consistency with water. When put in the sauce pan to boil, a little size or glue may be added, which will increase its tenacity. A little alum may also be added to paste, in order to cause it to spread more freely; this ingredient has the property of keeping paste sweet and wholesome, and it is generally used in the thicker kinds of paste, such as shoemakers' paste, partly for this purpose. The paste when boiled should be of the thickness of ordinary gruel, and must be laid on the paper smoothly and equally with backward and forward strokes of the brush. Care should be taken not to load the brush with too much paste at one time, lest the paper should be rendered too damp. It will sometimes happen that through an over-abundance of paste a little is pressed out at the edges when the cloth is used to dab the paper against the wall. Any paste that makes its appearance should be removec by means of a sponge dipped in clean water, but the amateur must be careful to avoid smearing the colors of the paper. The colors will often be started in a slight degree by the influence of the damp paste, and if the surface be smeared the only thing that can be done is to paste a piece of fresh paper over the smear, which, if left as it is, will prove a continual eyesore.

Where to Begin to Hang Paper.

Where to make a commencement in hanging a room with paper will be a bit of a puzzle to the amateur paper-hanger. The rule is that the edges of the paper when hung shall be towards the window; that is to say, that if there be a window in the room the paper must be hung from either side of the window round the room, the junction being finally effected in some corner of the room or some recess, where the mismatching of the pattern would not be so apparent.

When it has been ascertained by actual measurement bow much paper is required for hanging on each side of the commencement, wherever it may be, whether on each side of the window or from the middle line over a mantel-shelf, proceed to cut the paper. The usual way is to unroll the paper for a yard or two, cut the edge on one side, roll up the paper just cut, lightly and loosely, and continue unrolling, cutting, and rolling up by a y ard or two at a time till the other end of the roll is reached. Some will then cut the other edge, proceed, ing in the same way until the paper is rolled as it was before the cutting commenced, having the topmost piece at the outer end. It is important to remember that whichever side is cut close to the pattern, the opposite side must not be cut closer than from 1/4 in. to 1/2 in. of the pattern. The edge that is not cut close need not, in point of fact, be cut at all; tile chief object in cutting it is to leave as small an extent of overlapping as possible where the strips are joined together. The best paper-hangers, who can set the paper to a line, trim close on both sides and do not overlap, but set to the edge.

Cutting Paper into Lengths.

When the edges are cut the next step is to cut the paper into lengths suitable to the height of the room, and this, whether the overplus at top and bottom be much or little, must be done in such a manner that when the second strip is -pasted up by the side of the first the pattern will join neatly and exactly, leaving as few traces as possible, if it leave any, of the line of junction. The " match" is shown by certain marks on the edge of the paper, and if it be found that a considerable length of paper be left either at top or bottom, or at both, it will be better and more convenient for the amateur in carrying out the operation of hanging each slip to cut off the surplus paper, leaving no more than an inch or two at top and bottom beyond the length between skirting and cornice. Cut the paper straight across, which can be easily done by aid of the pattern, and cut as many lengths as will suffice for one or two sides of the room to begin with, Lay the lengths thus cut face downwards on the pasting-board, letting the edge of each strip as it is laid down project a little beyond the edge of that which is immediately below it, in which the uppermost strip is the last strip laid down. This prevents the paste from getting under the edges of the piece below when the piece above is being pasted.

Attaching to the Wall.

As many strips as may be required having been laid one on top of another on the board, the first strip may be pasted, but a little judgment must be used as to the time that may be allowed to elapse before the paper is attached to the wail. If the paper be cheap, and therefore thin and unsubstantial, it must be hung up as quickly as possible after the paste is put on ; but if it be a stout, good paper, some two or three minutes may elapse between pasting and hanging; and a thick paper may be left even twice as long, to allow the damp to penetrate the paper and render it more easy of manipulation and less liable to be crushed or broken. For easier manipulation it is better to loop up the lower end of the paper, the paste causing the paper to adhere slightly where one part comes in contact with another. Then fold back the top, and putting the hands, which should be perfectly clean and free from paste, under this fold, attach the paper to the wall, bringing the top upwards with the hands to meet the cornice. Care should be taken beforehand to make a guide line on the wall, or to see that the woodwork round the window is perfectly upright, and this will assist the amateur in fixing the first strip truly perpendicular. After attaching it lightly to the wall, the plumb-line may be applied to see that all is true and vertical, and if all is right release the fold, and, after letting the paper hang straight down, lift it away from the wall, except for about six or eight inches below the cornice, and then let the strip fall, when it will gently float down into its place.

The next step is to press the paper against the surface of the wall in every part, and for this purpose the amateur must be provided with some clean soft cloths. First of all, the paper must be pressed down the middle from top to bottom with firm but gentle pressure, avoiding all rubbing, which may have the effect of starting the color and smearing and spoiling the paper. Then press from the centre outwards on both sides in a downward direction. The paper in some cases will lay smooth and fiat against the wall, but if the paper be cheap and thin there will in all probability be many wrinkles all over the surface. Do not attempt to press these flat. The paper has stretched under the influence of the moisture of the paste, and as it dries it will contract again and lay as flat as possible all over the wall to which it is attached. Lastly, draw the scissors over the paper just below the cornice and just above the skirting-board, making a crease. Then pull the paper gently from the wall as far as may be necessary, cutting off the edges along the mark or crease made by the scissors, and restore the ends to their places, dabbing them lightly as before with the cloth, which should be so doubled up as to form a large, loose pad.

The second strip may now be put up in the same way. Here, however, the chief anxiety will be to match the pattern neatly, for if the first strip be put up perpendicularly the other strips will be perpendicular as a matter of course. Nevertheless it will be as well for the amateur to test his work occasionally by the plumb-line, to make sure that it is not getting out of the perpendicular.

It may be that the amateur will not be successful in his first effort, and then all that can be done is to sacrifice the strip of paper, pull it down, and try again. As in everything else, practice is necessary to enable a man to do this work well and quickly.

It will be advisable, then, for any beginner to try his 'prentice hand in an attic or some small room of no great consequence, in order to give him some idea of the way in which paper must be handled and attached to the wall. He will soon gain confidence in himself, and find no great difficulty in papering other rooms where it will be absolutely necessary that the work be neatly and accurately done.

Borders should be neat in design, and match the paper in this respect and in color, or if the colors do not harmonize they should be in agreeable contrast. A cable pattern generally looks well, or the Grecian rectangular pattern, known as the Greek key pattern. The representation of a simple molding is often very effective, and when the paper is plain in character and geometrical in pattern a floral border is admissible. It must be remembered, however, that a border, however good it may be, tends to detract from the apparent height of the room, and therefore is not so well calculated for a low room as for a high room, to which the horizontal lines of the border impart an appearance of breadth and space.



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