I’ve wanted grasscloth wallpaper for so long and I regret that I waited until now to hang it. The installation was much easier than I anticipated. It’s possible that my expectations were way off. By the time I was done I expected to: be crying, have my entire room ceilings to floors covered in wallpaper adhesive, be in the ER from an unfortunate razor slip, and have lopsided strips of wallpaper forever stuck on forever ugly walls. None of that happened! Instead, I had a mellow, pleasant morning that was low on stress and high on instant gratification. And, finally, the green 70’s floral wallpaper is purged from my dining room and house! It’s silly how long I lived with stuff I didn’t love. It feels good to be rid of the burden.I had ZERO wallpaper experience prior to this installation, so I spent a little time watching “how to” videos before I took on this project, which was extremely helpful and 100% recommended! This generic wallpaper video from This Old House was a great intro to wallpapering, though not all the techniques apply to grasscloth. And this was a great visual (though shaky) for the grasscloth process. I additionally found this and this article informative.
If you want to give this a go, here’s what I learned along the way:
PREP YOUR WALLS. Prime your walls with WALLPAPER PRIMER – not regular old paint primer. Read this post on primer for more info. Don’t hang wallpaper on painted walls or even just regular primed walls because the adhesive will make your water based paints and primers soggy, which means your sticking paper up on a very weak surface. Supposed bonus, wallpaper removal is “easy” when it is installed correctly over a correctly primed wall…I can’t speak from experience here, but that’s what they claim. Also, it will be helpful if this primer is tinted to a color that is similar to your wallpaper (or you can paint a tinted strip just where your seams will be). This significantly reduces seam contrast. Grasscloth, for sure, will have lovely visible seams, but a white wall peaking through those seams is probably not the look anyone is going for.
* I had an extenuating circumstance in this department so I hung my wallpaper directly over other wallpaper. This is almost never ever recommended so don’t do it, except with this set up: wallpaper previously applied directly to unprimed/unpainted plaster walls. Remember how confused I was by this discovery after spending days ripping off tiny pieces of wallpaper from my other dining room wall? Well, it turns out that pre early 1960’s, it was more common for homes to have bare plaster walls (not drywall!) and it was common to hang wallpaper directly on them with only a coating of sizing in-between the wall and the adhesive. Sizing made the thirsty plaster soak up less adhesive during wallpaper application. Apparently, it is almost unheard of to find bare, unpainted plaster wall these days since most newer homes are built with drywall and most older walls have been covered with layers of paint by now. But that’s what I’ve got under that last wall of wallpaper, so the general consensus (as far I could tell in internet research) is that wallpaper on bare plaster is incredibly bonded and nearly impossible to get off. It will cost countless hours and will likely damage your wall, so if your end goal is to apply more wallpaper, it’s possible to do that right on top of the old one. Otherwise, you are supposed to peel that old stuff off first (or prime over it) before you start.
PLAN IT OUT. Measure your wall width and your wallpaper width and find a good rhythm, whatever that may be. There will be prominent seams running down the wall so put them where you want them to be. Try to avoid an odd thin strip of paper at one end. Also, check if your walls and ceiling are level. Mine weren’t, so I decided to hang everything according to the crooked walls instead of level to avoid a tilted look. (Which you can always end up with anyways because the grass pieces aren’t always level on the paper!)
ALWAY MEASURE TWICE, CUT ONCE. This stuff ain’t cheap so don’t waste good paper on bad cuts! My baseboard-less walls are 97″ tall, so I cut each strip to about 96″ (for 1″ overhang at the ceiling and 1″ below the baseboard line). For the door, I roughly cut out the opening within a few inches. I cut with sharp scissors to avoid using blades on my dining room table. I cut as I went, but if inconsistencies in color variations will bother you (called paneling), consider “shading” your panels by cutting a few (or all), laying them out and organizing them in the least jarring way. You can see the strong difference between these 3 panels. It goes medium, light, dark – the middle is from a different roll. The instructions with my wallpaper said the colors will mellow out as it oxidizes. Depending on your room and aesthetic, it may make sense to plan this out to lessen the effect.
APPLY ADHESIVE. I bought generic wallpaper glue at Home Depot, after going to 2 other places that didn’t carry any. I was expecting something starchy, runny and messy, but it was exactly the color, consistency and smell of Elmer’s glue. Very easy to work with. The trick is to apply not too much and not too little. Not enough to soak your reeds or to have glue oozing out of seams, but more than a light coat. I tried rolling it on with a small foam roller for my first panel and it wasn’t enough, so I switched to brushing on the adhesive with a 4″ brush and it was perfect. Two things: 1. Make sure you cover the entire surface with the glue, especially the edges. 2. Keep your workspace clean so that you don’t gum up the front of your paper. Watch videos of professionals doing this so you can see their technique. It’s helpful!
BOOK THE PAPER. This just means gently fold the paper on itself (glue to glue) for a few minutes after you apply the adhesive but before you hang it. You can see the top portion below has been pasted and booked. I think the purpose is to loosen up the paper so it’s a bit more malleable and responsive and also to give the glue time to activate without drying it out, but I’m not 100% positive? I let mine sit for the amount of time it took to brush the entire strip, so only a few minutes. I had visions of me trying to carry a 8 foot sticky sheet of paper across the room to my wall by myself, but the “booking” solved that fear…you only unfold the top part while keeping the bottom folded to itself so that you can position the top corners without smearing 8 feet of glue down your wall.
HANG THE PAPER. Again, this seemed like an impossible one shot deal, but the reality is that you can move the paper around until it’s perfect. It is very easy to scoot pieces around and to even line up seams nicely. Start at the top and work your way down, pushing air bubbles out as you go. Grasscloth is extremely forgiving and sturdy and rigid, like a big piece of cardboard. I taped my ceilings and door frames while hanging to reduce paste mess. The paste easily wipes away if you get to it in a timely manner, I was just being extra cautious.
CREASE THE PAPER IN THE CORNERS. I imagined I would have to measure and cut before hanging, but after watching a few videos, it was clear that only amateurs do this. The way to hang grasscloth is to trim in place after sticking it on the wall. I’m glad I had the guts to give it a try, because it saved so much time and gave the best finish. The technique here is to use a plastic putty knife thing (I don’t know what else to call it, but a large plastic straight edge) to force the wallpaper into corners with a tight fold without tearing it, in anticipation of cutting.
TRIM THE PAPER IN PLACE. Fresh blades are the secret to clean lines. Buy a bunch of razor blades! I went through about 7 with just this wall, but probably should have changed them out even more. Cut along a straight edge/putty knife always. The ceiling was a tough one for me, but mostly because my ceiling is not straight and cutting through the grass pieces at an angle is very challenging.
MAKE THE SEAMS. I double-cut my first seam over the door (mainly because one of my edges was slightly damaged), which is fancy wallpaperer talk for overlapping two joining seams and then cutting through them both at the same time to get the tightest seam possible. That’s what the tape over the seam below is about. I think most professionals do this…here is a good video on double cutting if you are interested. It was a cool process, but it wasn’t necessary for my other seams. I got equally tight joints just by butting the edges together during hanging, which is how I seamed the last 3 panels.
The hardest part of this whole thing ended up being the paper decision! You may have rolled your eyes at my crazy wallpaper indecision. I rolled my eyes at me. After some wild ideas, I settled on a traditional textured brown grasscloth with pinkish undertones that matched the rock fireplace in the adjacent family room (below). It was a safe choice that I’m super happy with. I figured you can’t go wrong with a classic. Good quality, real grasscloth (NOT faux vinyl!!!) paper will always be beautiful. It’s pretty incredible how much better the whole space looks, even though the change in tone is so minimal. But I still wonder what a bright turquoise would look like, so maybe someone else could hang some and share pics?? Thanks.I’ll say it again: DO it! Thanks for reading!