Typical Kitchen Wallpapering Problems

By James Dulley

December 8, 2016 4 min read

Dear James: We decided to install wallpaper in our kitchen. It installed easily and looked great, but started coming loose in less than a year. Could it be from bad wallpaper or our application? — Sharyn K.

Dear Sharyn: If the problems occurred in only one small area, it may have been a bad roll of wallpaper. If it is happening in many spots and along many edges, the possibility of having gotten many bad rolls of wallpaper is not likely.

The salesmen and sales literature make hanging wallpaper sound like a simpler task than it actually is. It is extremely important to follow all the manufacturer's installation instructions to the most minute detail. The first time you hang wallpaper, don't expect it to look like a professional installation.

The kitchen is a particularly difficult room to wallpaper. Kitchens generally have varying levels of humidity. When cooking a large meal, tremendous amounts of moisture are given off into the air. Also, there may be a light film of grease on the walls from years of cooking. This can be difficult to clean off thoroughly before hanging the wallpaper.

A very common error many homeowners make is selecting the wallpaper they prefer and then buying the most inexpensive adhesive on sale. It may be excellent quality adhesive, but some types of wallpaper materials and finishes require specific types of adhesive. Read the wallpaper manufacturer's instructions carefully before buying the adhesive.

The bubbles under the wallpaper may have several causes which you should be able to avoid if and when you redo it. The most probable cause is not allowing the wallpaper to relax adequately before hanging it on the walls. The installation instructions usually indicate a specific time period to allow the wallpaper to rest between wetting it with adhesive and hanging it.

When the wallpaper first gets wet from the adhesive, it expands (relaxes) for several minutes. This is typical for most wallpaper materials. If you put it up on the wall too soon, it will continue to relax after you think you have it flat and taut. This continued expansion, even though slight, is enough to create bubbles.

Be sure not to let it relax for too long a time period. If the wallpaper rests in that very wet condition for too long, its layers may begin to delaminate. This will not be noticeable until the wallpaper is up for a long while and it is washed. The top layer may pull loose.

Improper surface preparation may also have contributed to your problems. It is important for the wallpaper to have a clean, smooth surface to adhere to. Kitchen walls need to be washed down thoroughly to remove any grease film. If you fixed any bad drywall joints, vacuum and wash off all drywall compound dust. An ammonia solution is a good final cleaner.

When the wall is clean and thoroughly dry, paint it with primer or sizing. Sizing is similar to a primer and it also seals the wall surface. This makes the adhesive dry more uniformly. It also makes it much easier to clean off the old adhesive if you choose to remove the wallpaper in the future.

Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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