Wallpapering Before Or After
Wallpapering AFTER assembly is the preferred method and should always be done unless it's impossible because of inaccessibility afterwards. When you wallpaper after assembly, it prevents gaps from showing in your wallpaper where walls meet. Also wallpaper paste will make your structure even sturdier as it seeps into wall joints.
There are many reasons why you shouldn't wallpaper prior to assembly.
- It's confusing because you do not know which way walls will face once assembly is complete and this can cause you to apply the wrong prints to the wrong rooms.
- Your wallpaper borders might not line up because of slight height variations in the assembled walls.
- You will damage your wallpaper as tabs go into wallpapered slots and glue drips onto your walls.
- Wallpaper will interfere in the assembly process, as edges of walls go over other already wallpapered edges.
- It will be difficult to clamp your shell together with masking tape, without ruining your freshly applied wallpaper.
To be able to successfully wallpaper your dollhouse you need to have the right materials. You must choose the right wallpaper and the right wallpaper paste.
Types Of Wallpaper
You need a good quality paper. Miniature wallpaper sold at your miniature dealer is best. Miniature wallpaper already comes in the appropriate thickness, size and texture for a dollhouse. Mini Graphics is the brand I recommend because I have never had any problems using this wallpaper. It has worked well, even when using less ideal application methods.
Scrapbook paper is a good second alternative. Though it works best with smaller dollhouse scales, than one inch scale, it can still be used on small, one inch scale dollhouses successfully. Try to find large scrapbook paper pieces. Small ones will require a lot of patching. Too many patches will break your pattern and be visible.
Make sure you choose a sturdy, good quality scrapbook paper. Avoid glossy photo paper finishes or thin and soft papers. These types of papers can end up bubbling, tearing or creasing from the moisture in the wallpaper paste. Photo and/or glossy papers especially, have an almost waterproof surface that will make it extremely difficult for the wallpaper paste to dry thoroughly and adhere properly.
If the paper is too thick, like cardstock, you might have problems adhering it with wallpaper paste. The thicker the wallpaper, the more it will absorb moisture, making it buckle or crease while on the wall. It will also be difficult to get a thick card stock paper, to turn into and/or over wall corners.
Lastly, I do not recommend any paper printed from your computer, to be used as wallpaper, for any dollhouse scale larger than quarter inch scale. Not only is computer printed wallpaper expensive (printer ink is costly), it will not have clear and crisp designs or be the right size for a dollhouse wall, causing you to have to patch many areas. You will also have a lot of ink bleeding issues and tears or you will be forced to use card stock, which, as stated above, is not an ideal paper for wallpapering.
You should never use real life wallpaper on a dollhouse. This wallpaper will have out of scale prints and be too thick to use on small scales. Life size wallpaper can only be used on dollhouse ceilings. There are plenty of inexpensive life size wallpaper rolls, with slight texture, that are ideal for dollhouse ceilings and the rolls are large enough to cover the ceilings of a very large dollhouse.
Don't be limited to just wallpaper. Some people use fabric rather than paper. With all of the beautiful prints on fabrics to choose from, it's not a mystery as to why. The same rules apply to fabric as to paper. The only difference is the type of glue. Diluted tacky glue works best for fabric. You can dilute it yourself with water or buy it in a pre-diluted tub. You can also buy it in spray form.
A suggestion I received from a fellow miniaturist, is to use spray starch on your fabric wallpaper and this will adhere it to the dollhouse wall but still keep it removable for future redecoration.
Always test your adhesive on a small scrap of fabric first, as some fabrics are not colorfast and/or can stain or change color when wet. Always allow the test fabric to dry for 24 hours, just in case there is a delay in its reaction to the adhesive.
Shopping For Wallpaper
Be careful who you buy your wallpaper from. A lot of miniature dealers online are selling computer printed paper as wallpaper, leaving you with subpar prints and wrong sized sheets. The ideal sheet of wallpaper for a one inch scale dollhouse is no less than 11" x 17" or 12" x 18". Be wary of anything smaller than that. Make sure the retailer has the wallpaper sheet measurements on it's description. You do not need to pay for wallpaper and its shipping if it was printed from a computer. You can do that at home for free.
Quantity Of Wallpaper
The rule of thumb for how much wallpaper to use, is a standard sheet (11" x 17" or 12" x 18") per wall. 99% of the time, this means three sheets of wallpaper per room, since all dollhouse rooms have three sides. Some people skimp out on buying the required amount of sheets but I wouldn't recommend it. Remember that some rooms have bays, stairwells or gabled ceiling angles that will use up your wallpaper sheets very quickly. You don't want to run out of wallpaper in the middle of wallpapering. It's always best to have left over wallpaper than to run out of it. So unless the room is unusually small, three sheets is the ideal.
If you're using scrapbook paper, my rule of thumb is four to five sheets per room. Even large scrapbook paper sheets tend to be much smaller than real miniature wallpaper so, you want to make sure you have enough. Scrapbook paper, especially, has a tendency to show variable hues from different printing batches, so buying more later, is not recommended. If you buy scrapbook paper by the roll, then you won't have to buy extra.
Remember, when in doubt, measure. Measuring your rooms and how much wall space you have to cover will help you buy the exact amount of wallpaper you will need.
If you want to protect your wallpaper, spray it lightly with a matte sealant before applying it. When you apply your sealant, make sure you only apply it to the printed side, not the paste side that's going on the wall. The sealant is only to protect the ink of your printed side from rubbing off or bleeding during application. Sealing both sides will make your paper unable to absorb wallpaper paste, therefore making it unable to adhere to the wall.
Sealing your wallpaper will also allow you to use museum wax, to adhere paintings or wall clocks to your dollhouse walls without leaving a residue.
Always test your sealant on a small piece of wallpaper, to test for colorfastness, before spraying it on the entire sheet. Sealants will change the color hue of your wallpaper, so make sure you like the outcome before you commit to spraying the entire sheet.
Types Of Wallpaper Paste
I recommend only two types of glue for wallpaper, wallpaper mucilage (any brand) or Yes Paste. This is especially true, if you are not experienced in wallpapering dollhouses.
Mucilage is sold at your miniature dealer and can be of any brand, but you can also use the wallpaper mucilage at the hardware store used for life size wallpaper. Mucilage is perfect for thinner porous papers. These are your regular variety of scrapbook papers and Mini Graphics wallpaper. Mucilage is easily spreadable and should be applied with a foam brush.
Yes Paste is sold at most craft stores. I recommend Yes Paste especially for thicker, non porous papers because of its thick consistency. Non porous papers usually have a photo glossy finish or are heavy like card stock. These papers take a very long time to dry and this long drying time can cause wrinkles or buckling if a wetter paste is used. Yes Paste can be diluted with a bit of water but I haven't had a need to. Apply it with a paint brush because foam brushes are too fragile for such a thick paste.
Both the mucilage and the Yes Paste will allow you to slide your wallpaper into place once it's on the wall. They both dry clear, are acid-free and are specially made to not buckle, warp or wrinkle your paper.
A lot of people use other types of glue for wallpapering with successful results. From diluted tacky glue or contact cement, to spray glue or scrapbook paper paste (e.g., Mod Podge), all of these glues will adhere your wallpaper but I do not recommend them, especially for large dollhouses, since they make application more difficult. Each one of these products has its own quirks for application, which a new builder can easily find out about, with unfavorable results. These products should only be used by experienced builders, who are familiar with them.
Before you wallpaper your room, you must prime the walls. You can prime your walls with regular primer, latex paint or acrylic craft paint. Always prime with white or any light color paint. Priming will help seal the wood so it doesn't soak up your wallpaper paste, reduce the acid wood naturally releases with time and it also help in hiding dark wood blotches from showing through your wallpaper.
- Prime with flat paints only. Satin or glossy paints will not allow for your paper to adhere properly to the wall. You do not need more than one coat coverage when priming.
- Some people go through the trouble of sanding and spackling little cracks or grooves on walls before wallpapering but I've never had to do that. Miniature wallpaper is good quality, sturdy paper and once applied it smooths out any little nook or cranny in your wooden walls. The wallpaper paste also acts as a filler of rough spots and small gaps. Unless it's a very large gap, delaminated area or rough spot, there is no need to make any other preparations to your walls besides priming.
- Finish your ceilings before you wallpaper. This is true whether you plan on adding paper to your ceiling or painting it. It must be done BEFORE.
- If you plan on finishing the dollhouses original floors, you must finish them BEFORE you wallpaper. If you plan on using a floor covering like carpet, hardwood, tile, paper or vinyl, you have to apply it AFTER wallpapering.
- Wallpaper should always be applied before staircases, interior window and door trims, so do not install any interior components until wallpapering is finished.
- Cut all of your wallpaper first and dry fit it around the room you wish to cover, in order to make sure you have enough. You don't want to find out you're running short, after half the room is completed. Wallpaper dyes, even in identical patterns, vary during printing, so there can be differences between paper batches. It's best to buy all the wallpaper you need at one time to reduce the possibility of choosing from different printing batches.
For the sake of demonstration, let's pretend this clear box is a dollhouse room. 99% of dollhouse rooms will be square, with three walls and an open back, just like this box.
You must begin with the far front wall. Measure the height of the room by dry fitting a piece of wallpaper against a side wall, with the top edge flush with the ceiling and then crease the bottom against the floor edge with your fingertip. Cut the wallpaper on this crease.
Now dry fit that piece on the far front wall and cut it to the width of that wall, leaving about a half inch extra on each side. Make sure the paper is a good fit with the floor and ceiling. It doesn't have to be perfect, if you're planning on using baseboards or crown moulding, which you should use. A dollhouses interior will only have a finished look with the addition of interior trim.
Now the side walls. Get a piece of wallpaper, measure the height of the room in the same way you did the front wall piece and cut on the crease. Slide the paper all the way to the corner of the front wall, until it's flush with it, overlapping the half inch of the front wallpaper. Then crease the back edge and cut along that mark as well, so you have the right length.
Do the same for the opposite wall.
Once all the pieces are cut and ready to be put up, you can begin pasting them to the wall. Always paste the far front wall piece first.
Turn the paper over, print side down, on a flat surface. Make sure your surface is protected with a plastic covering, parchment or wax paper because this will be a messy process. Also have a small, moist towel handy. You will need it to wipe your fingers with before you pick up the wallpaper and apply it to the wall. You do not want to get wallpaper paste on the print side of your paper, especially if it is not sealed.
Brush paste all over the back of your wallpaper. Don't blob it, but be generous and cover every area. Pick up the paper and lay it on the front wall. Slide it into place and use your fingertips to push it into the room corners. Make sure the half inch overhangs, on the side walls, lay flat. If you took your time to measure out your pieces correctly, they should fit on the wall perfectly.
You can use the edge of a wood scrap, to gently push (don't slide up and down) your wallpaper into corners, so they are tight and defined. This will help you install your baseboard and crown moulding properly into corners. Don't use a sharp object to press your corners with because it can tear the wallpaper.
Don’t rush. Wallpaper paste does not dry on contact. You have plenty of time to position your paper. Use the wet towel to wipe your hands clean of glue, before you flatten out your wallpaper so you don't get glue on it. Always slide your wallpaper into place, do not lift it. Lifting can cause it to tear or wrinkle as the paste creates a suction effect between the paper and wall.
There is no need to apply paste to the wall as well as the wallpaper. You don't want to make the paper too wet. Applying paste to the wallpaper only, is good enough. You also don't want to apply glue to the wall, instead of the paper. If you do that, your paper will warp or bubble.
When applying wallpaper, no part of your wallpapers back should be dry of glue, not even the side wall overhangs. The back has to be COMPLETELY covered. Dry spots will cause bubbles, wrinkles or creases.
Check that all of the paper is flat on the wall and LEAVE IT. Don’t mess with it. Don’t rub it with a moist cloth or a credit card. If you covered the entire back of the paper with glue, laid it flat on the wall and are using the recommended glue, you will not have bubbles in your paper. If you rub it with a credit card or other sharp edge, you will stretch your paper and that will make it crease, wrinkle or buckle. It can also distort the pattern.
Your freshly laid paper will appear wet and buckley at first but leave it alone until its dry. As it dries, it will shrink and lay flat on your wall. If you point a fan at your dollhouse, the wallpaper will dry quicker.
After your wallpaper is completely dry, cut out doors and windows with a sharp X Acto/craft knife, through the interior of the dollhouse. Use a lamp to light the exterior and help you better see where the window and door openings are. Don't try to do this through your dollhouses exterior because you will end up tearing the wallpaper. Make sure whatever knife you use is sharp or you can tear or have jagged edges on your paper.
After you have cut out your openings from the interior side, you can use the craft knife on the exterior of the opening, to remove any jagged edges from it. Always work your craft knife from the inside edge of the opening, outwards so you don't tear your paper.
Dormers, Bays And Attics
You can read a tutorial on wallpapering tower rooms here.
Bays And Attics
It's easier to wallpaper attics and bay walls before the dollhouse is assembled. Wait to do this when the instructions for your dollhouse tell you it's time to install these pieces. Don’t get ahead of yourself. You will need to know what pieces fall into which room, so your wallpaper patterns match up.
Some bay walls cannot be wallpapered before installation because the dollhouse simply is not assembled in that way. For these cases, you will have to wallpaper your bay walls after installation.
The best way to do this is to first choose a heavily patterned wallpaper. Measure the amount of wallpaper you will need for your bay and cut it in half. Wallpaper the bottom half first and then the top half. Line up your pattern and butt both wallpaper pieces together as close as you can, making sure the top half edge overlaps the bottom so that it is invisible. Don't worry too much about this process, since windows will likely hide most of the bay wall's surface and heavily patterned papers patch very well.
Smaller dormers that are assembled away from the dollhouse, can be wallpapered after assembly but before you install them on the dollhouse. Always start with the sides and overlap all joints with the front wallpaper piece.
When working with very small wall areas or smaller dollhouse scales, you can certainly use tacky glue to apply your wallpaper instead of mucilage. This will allow the paper to sit flatter and more tightly against smaller areas.
If your dormer can not be pre-assembled in this way, you can still apply wallpaper using the same method while installed, through the window opening. Choose your wallpaper print based on the intricacy of your dormer. The more twists, turns and angles it has, the heavier your pattern should be.
Staircase walls always have to be wallpapered before the staircase is put in.
Leave room on the top and bottom of your walls if you have wallpaper with borders. If you push your wallpaper all the way to the top of your ceiling or the bottom of your floors, your crown moulding or baseboard trims will hide your wallpaper border prints. A 1/4" of an inch leeway from the ceiling and floors is a good starting point but this can vary depending on how thick your moulding trims are.
If your wallpaper has both a top and bottom border and your wall is not tall enough to accommodate them both, you will have to cut off the top border carefully. Notice in the bottom photos how I cut the top border at the print line, right where it begins.
Now take your wallpaper piece, without the top border, and measure it from the bottom floor edge to the ceiling. Crease along the ceiling to get the right height for the paper. This will preserve the bottom border. Cut along the top crease with scissors.
Apply your wallpaper to your walls and then apply your top border, along the ceilings edge, to recreate the original print. Because the top borders patched edge faces downward, it is virtually invisible. Use a glue stick or tacky glue to adhere your border. These thinner glues will allow the border to lay very flat against the original wallpaper.
Always begin this process from the top border and not the bottom. Cutting off the bottom border and then pasting it over your wallpaper will cause a patched edge that is facing upwards and highly visible.
Do not cut your wallpaper in half to try and get the right height through the middle. This will cause a very obvious patched seam running right through the middle of your walls and your middle pattern might not align properly.
Ceiling paper is usually sold by the sheet, from your miniatures dealer. It normally comes in two colors, white and off-white. This is a heavily, textured paper.
The sheets are pretty large and each one can cover the entire ceiling of a large dollhouse room. For tab and slot dollhouses, which generally have smaller rooms, one sheet can cover, approximately, two rooms or in some cases, the ceilings of an entire floor. They sell textured wallpaper, by the roll, for life scale houses at the hardware store and it is perfectly fine to use on your dollhouse ceilings. One roll is more than enough for a large dollhouse.
Think through finishing techniques before you begin. Notice how the room goes together and what areas might become a problem for the application of ceiling paper. For instance, usually ceiling paper is applied before wallpaper but if you have a room that has a staircase, this rule of thumb can change. You must install the staircase before you apply ceiling paper and you have to wallpaper your walls before you can install a staircase. So, in a room like this, you would need to wallpaper first, then apply the ceiling paper and lastly install the staircase. This does not apply to staircase openings. If the staircase fits into the staircase opening and will not rest on or cover the surrounding ceiling area, in any way, then it can be installed after the ceiling paper is in.
Because of its heavy texture, this paper does not patch well. Luckily, ceilings are usually square and lack the architectural complexities commonly found on walls. For this reason, it is generally easier to apply ceiling paper, than wallpaper. You just have to keep a couple of things in mind.
- The same that is true for wallpaper, applies to ceiling paper. You must prime your ceilings before application.
- Cut enough ceiling paper to cover the entire ceiling. The paper does not patch well, as stated above.
- Never apply ceiling paper before assembly. This can damage your ceiling paper or interfere with the assembly process. You must wait for the dollhouse to be completely assembled before application. This includes staircases.
- If the paper is going to be used in a room that will be inaccessible later, assemble as much as you can before applying the ceiling paper.
Ceiling paper is thick because of its heavy texture. Because of this, you do not need to use your expensive wallpaper paste to adhere it. This paper adheres very well with tacky glue. Just squeeze your tacky glue all over the back side of the paper. It does not have to be spread with a foam brush for evenness. As long as you apply the glue to the entire back side, especially along the edges, it will work fine.
Also, you do not need to slide ceiling paper around to acquire the perfect fit, so you really do not need a special glue for it.
It's best to turn your dollhouse upside down for this process.
If the room is square, all you need to do is lay the ceiling paper flat on your ceiling and then crease it along the wall edges. Then cut along the creases with scissors. Now you have a perfect replica of your ceiling transferred to the ceiling paper. Apply it to your ceiling using the glue suggestion above.
If the ceilings have twists and turns in them, you will need to make paper templates of it first. You can use any type of paper you want for this. Patch the paper together using masking tape to join the twists and turns of your ceiling. Then use the paper template as a guide for cutting your ceiling paper.
Apply the cut ceiling paper to the ceiling.
If you have a staircase opening, just cut it out using a craft knife, the same way you cut out window and door openings for wallpaper.
Always be sure you have access to a room after your dollhouse is assembled. Some rooms are impossible to reach after assembly (e.g., a stairwell, closet) and must be wallpapered before or during assembly. If a wall has to be wallpapered before it's put in, like the famous Beacon Hill Dollhouse stairwell, tower wall, measure where each floor meets the wall, so you know which room is which and what wallpaper pattern to use.
Dry fitting each part of your dollhouse BEFORE you glue it on is your best friend for wallpapering. That way you know if it's possible to wallpaper a room after assembly or if it has to be done before.
If you are electrifying your dollhouse using tape wire, I suggest you make templates of all your dollhouse walls before assembling the dollhouse. You can use very thin foam core, poster board or card stock paper to make your templates out of. You can make templates of your walls after the dollhouse is built as well but it's a little more difficult.
Plan your electrification very carefully because there are inaccessible areas on some dollhouses after they are built. I suggest you run your tape wire only through the areas that you can access easily, to avoid future problems and be able to apply the wallpaper easier.
Assemble your unfinished dollhouse shell and electrify it.
Wallpaper your foam core or card stock templates using double sided tape. Make sure you use a tape that can be used for scrapbooking or is safe for printed paper. If you decide to use glue, only use diluted tacky glue or a glue stick. You must use your glue sparingly because wallpaper will adhere very easily to your templates, since they are paper based. Do not use mucilage or any other heavy or wet glues. They will cause too much moisture to soak into your templates and wallpaper, causing warping and creasing, which will ruin them.
Glue your wallpapered templates to your dollhouse walls using any removable, non-permanent adhesive, such as museum wax, glue dots or tacky strips. This will allow you to access your electrical tape if any problems should occur, without tearing apart your dollhouse interior.
All of your interior components will have to be placed in your dollhouse with non-permanent adhesives. This includes but is not limited to staircases, door and window trims, baseboards and crown moulding. Basically any wall that has tape wire running on it, should not have permanent finishes on it, including your ceilings.
Patching wallpaper is something that you will have to do often, especially on awkwardly shaped rooms or because of some damage to the paper itself. When patching wallpaper, always match up your pattern as closely as possible. The wallpaper overlap edge should always face away from you and/or downwards, so that it's invisible.
Always keep a small piece of every wallpaper pattern that you use, in case you ever have to patch up a future problem. You can file them away in a folder for safe keeping. Many wallpaper prints do become discontinued, so it's always best to be safe than sorry.
When doing repairs always try to match your pattern as closely as possible and use a glue stick rather than mucilage to adhere your repair wallpaper piece.
Running Out Of Paper
If you realize that you will not have enough wallpaper to cover a room, and there is no way to order or find more of the same paper, you will have to print your own. This is why dry fitting your wallpaper to the entire room first is so important because it allows you to foresee this problem before the wallpaper is glued to your walls.
Take a piece of your wallpaper to an office supply store and have them print out a high, quality color copy of your paper. You can ask them to use legal size paper to have a larger piece. Tell them to not print it on cardstock but to use regular paper instead. The print out should be pretty close to, nearly identical to your original wallpaper but keep in mind that it will not be exact. The color hue will be slightly different.
Use your printed piece on side walls or bays, so you can hide the color hue difference. Side walls naturally have a different hue than other walls because of the way light falls into the dollhouse room. Bays also have this lighting difference, so these are the ideal areas to add a printed wallpaper piece to.
Sometimes there is a wallpaper print that matches your decor perfectly but is not user friendly. Glossy or photo paper wallpaper can be this kind. Like I mentioned above, this type of wallpaper will not adhere properly to your wall, since it does not dry well. The best way around this is to use double sided tape to adhere it rather than paste. Make sure that the double sided tape you use can be used for scrapbooking or is safe for printed papers.
Bubbling And Creasing
There have been cases where people have experienced bubbling of their wallpaper years after application. There are many reasons why this can happen but one of the main ones is humidity. A lot of wallpaper pastes will soak up the moisture in the air and dampen even after being dry for a long time. That is why storing your dollhouse properly is so important.
Humidity is the number one enemy of a dollhouse, even if it hasn't been finished yet. Humidity can not only ruin your wallpaper but your wood as well. If you have to store your dollhouse in a damp place like a basement or a storage facility, put a tub of Damprid near it or inside of it, to help reduce the moisture in the air. Read the instructions of how to use this product correctly, so you know when it needs to be replaced, how many you need to get, etc.
If you wallpaper has bubbled, you need to take a pin and prick the bubble or slit it with a sharp craft knife, add more paste inside the prick or split and then flatten with a credit card. A toothpick will allow you to get the glue into the small pricked area.
In the case where your wallpaper has creased, if you do not have a large enough piece of leftover wallpaper to cover the damage, there is no solution but to scrape it all off and start over. You can imagine how difficult this would be in a dollhouse with inaccessible areas. That is why prevention is better than cure, so keep your dollhouse dry.
Staining and Fading
Sometimes after some years, you may experience staining of your wallpaper. This is caused by the acid in wood and that is why proper wall priming is vital before wallpapering.
If you do not have a large enough piece of leftover wallpaper to cover the damage, the only way to fix it is to scrape the wallpaper off and start over. The best way to prevent it is by priming your walls and storing your dollhouse properly.
Keep your dollhouse away from direct sunlight, so never display it by a window. This will fade your wallpaper and if that happens removal is the only solution.