Can You Wallpaper Textured Walls?
It’s a question I’ve gotten from quite a few readers in the wake of all my wallpaper-related posts over the last year: “Can You Wallpaper Textured Walls?” My answer has always been “I don’t see why not!” but I never had textured walls of my own to experiment on and say for sure. Then we moved into this house that has ONLY textured walls; and when I reached out to a removable wallpaper company (that will remain nameless) for a partnership, they required the walls not only be cleaned and primed, but also smooth and texture-free. “Hmmm…maybe wallpaper won’t work on textured walls?” I thought. So I decided to experiment myself! The short and quick answer is “Yes, wallpaper does work on textured walls!” (thank goodness!!!). But I’m guessing you might want some more details than that, huh? Read on to find out what you need to know when attempting to wallpaper textured walls!
When we moved out of our last house and I successfully peeled away our renter-friendly wallpaper installation in about 5 minutes, I proclaimed wallpaper as my new go-to for covering up unsightly walls and adding personality to a room without the hassle of paint. I think I may have even said to myself: “I may never paint again!” But then we moved into this house with all textured walls, and I started to panic a bit. Here is a good shot of what ALL of our walls look like (Note – they are also all painted with eggshell-finish paint):
Before assuming wallpaper wouldn’t work or investing in paper that might not, I decided to play with a bunch of scraps I had on-hand from previous projects. What I saw with the small scraps encouraged me enough to give both peel-and-stick wallpaper and traditional wallpaper a try on our textured walls! Here’s what I found…
Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper on Textured Walls
Peel-and-stick wallpaper is big right now, and I have successfully used in on a number of occasions. Below is some from Target around our fireplace in our Kansas house. (Note – these were perfectly smooth, clean walls.)
Before committing full sheets of this somewhat-expensive paper to our textured walls, I did a quick test. Below are samples from Spoonflower (1), Target (2) and Walls Need Love (3). All three stuck to the walls without any issue, but there are a few things I’d like to point out. The Spoonflower wallpaper (1), while very expensive, is also VERY thick and textured. As such, you can neither see nor feel the wall texture underneath; I also think the dark blue color helps hide the wall imperfections. The Target (2) wallpaper is the thinnest and “flimsiest” of the group, yet it too stuck to the wall without any issue. If you look closely however, you can see the wall texture under the paper. The Walls Need Love (3) paper is in between the two. It has a slightly heavier weight than the Target paper, and I don’t feel like the texture under the paper is AS noticeable.
1 | 2 | 3
After leaving the paper samples up for a few weeks, I felt confident enough the paper would stick and stay on the textured walls, and therefore decided to do a full application of the Target rolls I’ve had in my stash for a while.
Wallpaper shown: Red and White Striped Wallpaper from Target
I’m not going to show the full closet today (you can now see it here), but below is the Target peel-and-stick wallpaper applied to the textured walls inside of the nursery closet. Having applied a lot of peel-and-stick paper to walls, drawers, etc over the years, I can say that it went up exactly as it does on any other surface. The seams match up fine, and I had absolutely no issue with it sticking or staying.
If you look veeeery closely below, you can tell that the wall under the paper is indeed textured. However, it is hardly noticeable from a “normal” distance; the paper honestly does a great job camouflaging the ugly walls underneath it!
After success in the nursery closet with Target’s peel-and-stick wallpaper, I have since wallpapered a feature wall in a bathroom in the same house using the same product…achieving the same awesome results!
Wallpaper shown: Target’s Celestial Peel and Stick Wallpaper
I also successfully wallpapered the backsplash in our same house!
Wallpaper shown: Hex Pattern
In conclusion, yes indeed, peel-and-stick wallpaper can work on textured walls. I will caution you, however, to ALWAYS test your walls and the specific paper you want to use before doing a complete installation (you can order swatches and samples from most wallpaper companies). Peel-and-stick wallpaper is expensive (and not the easiest thing to put up), so apply a sample to your walls and allow it to stay for a few days before investing your time and money!
Psssst – Interested in peel and stick papers but can’t handle the cost? See my tips for getting it cheap(er)!
Traditional Wallpaper on Textured Walls
Peel-and-stick papers do have their advantages, but when it comes down to overall cost and ease of installation, I actually prefer regular wallpaper. In our last home, I installed non-pasted, normal wallpaper to our non-textured walls with liquid starch. It worked out so brilliantly and came down so quickly that I knew I’d be doing it again!
Unfortunately, my initial experiments using non-pasted wallpaper scraps and the process I detail in THIS post didn’t turn out so well. Traditional wallpaper can be a bit heavy, and I was having a hard time getting the paper to “grab” to the wall with all the rivets, dents, and bumps. Not to be deterred however, I changed my methods just a bit and eventually got it to work! First, let me show you traditional wallpaper on the textured walls and then I’ll reveal how I did it if you want to try it yourself!
First, here is a scrap of traditional, non-pasted wallpaper applied to our textured walls with liquid starch. Straight on from the front, all looks fine and dandy! It’s smooth, it’s secure…
Wallpaper shown: wallpapered a feature wall in a bathroom
…and it’s still a totally temporary installation. Here is the paper coming off the textured walls in a single sheet, leaving no paper behind!
However, below is a shot that perfectly details some of the “issues” I encountered with the textured walls. As you can see, this wallpaper is fairly lightweight (compared to what I used last time); and as such, the texture really, really shows through the paper (especially on the reflective, metallic areas). Note also that the seam between two sheets of paper isn’t perfect.
Here is what I mean. Because of all the bumps, ridges, and grooves of the textured walls, getting the sheets of wallpaper to line up perfectly and make a seamless transition is pretty tough. In fact, near impossible.
Even with super precise measuring and lining up the pattern, there will inevitably be bumps and gaps you just can’t prevent.
I had a strong suspicion that the “problems” I was having was more due to the white, light-weight texture of the paper rather than the walls, so I experimented with some heavier, darker, more textured paper. Using some leftover grasscloth wallpaper (from THIS project), I experimented again; and this time, I had absolutely no issue with the wall showing through or matching up the seems (since the paper was thicker).
Oh – and that one installation tip I wanted to mention? When I installed the paper in my office back in Kansas, I applied the liquid starch to the wall and put the dry sheets of paper onto the wet wall, making it a very quick and easy installation. That same method didn’t work this time around. To get the paper to stick on the textured walls, I had to apply starch to BOTH the paper and the walls. It took a bit more time (and a bit more starch); but it eventually yielded the same renter-friendly results! Phew!
So in conclusion, I will say this. Yes, you can apply traditional, non-pasted wallpaper to textured walls. Thicker, darker papers will do a better job at concealing the texture of the wall underneath, and you will likely need more starch to get the job done. That said, the lighter-color and -weight paper still worked pretty well. In fact, I found that the minor “imperfections” mentioned above (texture showing through, slight bumps in the seams) weren’t a deal-breaker at all – in fact, look at how great it turned out!
You can see the full nursery reveal here!
I realize this post isn’t full of the prettiest pictures, but I do hope it helps out those of you who are loving the wallpaper trend but have been hesitant to give it a try because of your textured walls. I can’t emphasize enough that you should always, always, always test a sample of the paper you want to use on your walls before doing a full installation. But based on my few experiments using both peel-and-stick and traditional wallpaper+liquid starch, you should be able to enjoy the wallpaper trend in your home too!
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In general, wallpaper and wall murals cannot stick to tiles. Sometimes, SmartStick can successfully adhere to ceramic tiles. However, grout lines are likely to show through the peel-and-stick material.
One of the best ways to cover up outdated wood paneling is using wallpaper. Prep the wood paneled walls by thoroughly cleaning them and installing a liner paper. Once that’s completed, you can go on to install Eco Bella™, Vinyl – HD Texture, or Prepasted Wallpaper to wood.
Plywood & Hardboard
Raw plywood and hardboard are too porous of surfaces to stick wallpaper. But if you prime these two materials properly, any wallpaper material will stick to them. Just make sure to consult the material guidelines and check which paint or primer is needed for the wallpaper to stick.
For lightly textured walls, like orange peel and knock-down, we recommend our Eco Bella or Vinyl HD - Texture materials. If you have a heavily textured wall, uneven walls, or any other rough surface, we recommend the installation of a 'liner paper', followed by 2 coats of flat latex paint prior to installing a wall mural. A liner paper is simply blank wallpaper which covers irregularities in the wall surface allowing the wall mural to adhere securely to the textured wall.
Because of its smooth surface, plastic does not provide sufficient adhesion for wallpaper paste. If the plastic you wish to stick wallpaper to is rigid and flat, SmartStick peel-and-stick wallpaper is the best option.
Wall murals and wallpaper can stick to plaster, but it is dependent on how textured it is. If it has a light texture, Eco Bella and Vinyl HD – Texture are both good options. If the plaster is heavily textured and uneven, wallpaper will not properly stick to the wall. If you’re set on placing wallpaper on a plaster surface, you can try to smooth and even the walls using an orbital sander. Once you’ve sanded the entire surface and cleaned it, install a liner paper as a precaution. You can then install a wall mural or wallpaper.
If you’d rather not go through the hassle wallpapering a whole wall or entire wall, MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard) is a fantastic alternative. You can stick wallpaper to panels and hang them instead. Before installing a wall mural or wallpaper over MDF, you must prime it. This will allow the wallpaper to stick and prevent the MDF from absorbing the paste. After it has been primed, you can safely apply Eco Bella, Vinyl – HD Texture, or Prepasted Wallpaper to MDF.
If you want to add a design element to a window or glass surface, window film applications are a great choice. Besides versatile style, window films provide enhanced privacy, reduce glare, and help minimize energy bills. Three different films are available – clear, frosted, and opaque – giving you the option to customize the look to match your style needs.
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When applying new wallpapers, smooth plaster is the ideal surface. Unfortunately, not all homes provide such perfect conditions. Quite often, the keen DIY enthusiast or professional is faced with rough plaster in all its incarnations and graining degrees, which, alas, is completely unsuitable as a surface for wallpaper. The reasons are obvious, but we will explain them in more detail in this blog.
Whether wallpapering on rough plaster is at all possible depends on the structure and also the type of wallpaper. But fear not: there are solutions which will enable you to hang wallpaper even on rough plaster walls. This might require a bit of extra work and some additional cost for materials, but it will make your dream of a beautiful patterned or designer wallpaper come true!
Smooth v rough plaster/render
The term plaster or render stands for both the building material and the wall treatment, and depending on the type of plaster and the technique used, it can be smooth or grainy. Smooth rendering, usually consisting of gypsum, cement or synthetic resin, is the basis for many types of wall décor, e.g. paint, wallpaper or panelling. In addition, there are a number of decorative plaster types made from a variety of materials with differing levels of graininess. These are usually left completely untreated or just painted. They are generally referred to as stucco plaster or finishing coat/skim, whilst the smooth plaster is known as rendering. Textured or structured plaster are types of rough plaster which come in a large variety of sub-types and appearances.
Render mortar can be bought ready to mix or pre-mixed and comes as mineral plaster (gypsum, lime, cement, clay) and synthetic resin plaster in various grain types. The main difference between mineral plasters and synthetic resin plasters is water permeability. Unlike mineral plasters, synthetic resin plaster is not permeable, but very robust and highly elastic. Depending on individual composition as well as application technique, all render mortars can create a smooth or a rough surface.
Why rough plaster is not suitable for wallpapers
As we now know, a smooth, clean, stable and adhesive surface is required to apply wallpapers correctly and achieve damage-free and aesthetically pleasing results. Rough or structured plaster do not or only partially provide this precondition. As a consequence, wallpapers might be difficult to hang or could be damaged during the wallpapering process. Your beautiful, high quality wallpaper could be destroyed before the paste has dried!
Even if you succeed in applying the wallpaper without damaging it, the structure or grain of the plaster will become visible, severely impairing the overall look, plus it will make the wallpaper much more likely to develop holes or rips. Generally speaking: Wallpapering on rough plaster does not make sense - the surface needs to be smoothed out first.
But there is one exception to this rule: When dealing with a very fine structured plaster, thick PVC or vinyl wallpapers could potentially be used and might provide an acceptable solution. Of course, we are unable to give any guarantees, as every wall is different. Apart from the slightly rough surface and graininess, the base also needs to be intact, undamaged, suitable and clean - which means it might require pre-treatment. The solution: Use a specific surface preparation product which will smooth over small holes and make for a perfect adhesive base for vinyl wallpapers. Ensure you use the correct product for vinyl wallpapers.
How to wallpaper on walls with rough plaster
Let's proceed to the practical aspects: What do you do when you are dealing with a very rough plaster surface but have fallen in love with the perfect designer wallpaper and cannot wait to get it on your walls? There are two practical solutions:
- Adding a layer of smooth plaster
- Applying plasterboard cladding (either by glueing it on or by screwing onto slats)
You can probably envisage that both solutions require a certain amount of preparation in order to ensure a pleasing result. As with every other surface, the first step is to go through a check-list in order to decide on the next necessary steps. When it comes to rough plaster, these are the questions you should ask:
- a) What is the basic material? Lime plaster, lime-cement plaster, clay plaster, synthetic resin plaster, or other materials?
- b) Is the rough plaster still intact or is it crumbly or mouldy in places? Is it very sandy or dusty?
- c) Has the structured plaster been painted, and if so, what type of paint was used (open-pored or sealed)? Latex paints, for instance, are classed as sealing paints. Is the paint flaking or rubbing off?
Regarding a): As a layman, you won't be able to tell the basic plaster material. (Unless of course you plastered the walls yourself, in which case you are bound to know the type of plaster that was used. ;-) If you are unsure, it is best to ask an expert, e.g. a brickie, a plasterer or a painter/decorator. And don't shy away from the potential cost for their advisory service - after all, you are hoping for the perfect end result! At the same time, it will give you the opportunity to find out which smooth plaster can be applied wet with a trowel. Furthermore, you will be able to ask whether the old plaster will need to be pretreated (depending on its absorbency and other issues) in order to make sure the new plaster will actually adhere and stay in place. Similar rules apply for glueing plasterboard to the rough plaster. If, however, you plan to attach the plasterboard to slats, you don't have to worry about the state of the existing plaster.
Regarding b): Conduct a knocking/pressing test to find out whether the old rough plaster is still stable. Tap the plaster with your hand and press various areas with a fingernail or a pointed object. If bits of plaster come off or you can see an imprint, there is not sufficient stability to put a layer of smooth plaster on top. The old, damaged plaster will have to be removed first.
Always check damp areas and mould stains thoroughly. The reason for these issues must be investigated before re-plastering or putting up plasterboard. Make sure that the area is completely dry (and disinfected, if necessary) before re-plastering or putting up plasterboard.
If you move your hand over the wall and there is a lot of "sand" or dust dropping off, you will have to pre-treat the surface so that new wet plaster can stick to the wall. When mounting plasterboard that doesn't need to be glued on, you can skip this step.
Regarding c): Older layers of paint can be problematic when adding new smooth plaster. The old paint could also come through the new plaster (and consequently show on the new wallpaper, as soon as the newly plastered wall becomes damp again by applying wallpaper paste). Test the paint layer by rubbing it with a damp cloth to see if it comes off. To check for stability, apply a few strips of strong sticky tape and yank them off quickly. If you find remnants of paint on the sticky tape, the surface is not viable and needs to be removed or pre-treated.
Applying smooth plaster - best ask the experts!
Unless you are a passionate do-it-yourselfer who is au fait with plastering - either as a result of years of experience or a related professional background - you should always ask an expert to apply the new smooth plaster. Otherwise, check the surface as described above and find out which pre-treatments and smooth plaster materials are suitable. The new layer of smooth plaster should be strong enough to cover the rough structure underneath. Once it has dried completely, it needs to be finely sanded/polished before you can start your wallpapering project. As always, make sure the surface is adhesive; for very absorbent surfaces, you might have to apply deep primer first.
Attaching plasterboard to walls
You can buy ready-to-use plasterboard in any DIY shop, and they will also be happy to cut it for you (unless you are keen to do this yourself). There are two options for applying plasterboard: Gluing the plasterboard directly to the pre-treated wall, or screwing it onto a slats construction which is fixed to the rough plaster wall. Both variations can be handled by a seasoned DIYer, but please remember that the plasterboard grouting will have to be filled. Once this is done, the filler will have to be smoothed out to make sure there are no gaps between the grouting and the plasterboard and the surface is even. If you feel unsure about doing this yourself or are lacking experience, you should always consult your trusted drywall builder. Plasterboard walls require pre-treatment with deep primer as they are very absorbent.
Info: Lime plaster/render and clay plaster/render
Both these plaster types can produce a rough or a smooth finish. But they have special characteristics which can be negatively affected or rendered void by cladding or covering of any type. Both variations regulate pollutants and humidity in a room as they are highly breathable.
Lime render is one of the more sophisticated plaster materials, and using it requires a certain amount of experience and know-how. It is characterised by its exceptional climate-regulating qualities, it is breathable, mould-resistant and moisture-dispersing. Lime-cement render has the same features, but is easier to apply. Rough lime render walls cannot simply be covered in any smooth plaster, and might require pre-treatment for strongly absorbent surfaces.
According to the experts, clay plaster is not suitable for wallpapering. This breathable natural render has a humidity-regulating function and is permeable. This feature is affected or can even be rendered void if the clay plaster is covered with wallpaper or wall cladding of any sort. Technically, it isn't impossible to smooth out a structured clay render, but it is difficult and should only be attempted after consulting (or commissioning) an expert.
Important Information for tenants
At the end of this guide about rough versus smooth plaster, we would like to point out that tenants need to discuss any changes in the appearance of the walls (e.g. smoothing the rough plaster by various means as mentioned above, for instance applying new smooth render or attaching plasterboard to the walls) with the landlord or landlady first. Generally speaking, the landlord or landlady can refuse these changes if they might affect the basic structure of the building or lead to a potential decrease in rental income from future tenants. All changes that can easily be reversed before moving out are usually unproblematic and the landlord will give his approval.
When it comes to changing, removing, cladding or covering rough plaster, it should be contemplated if the original state of the wall can easily be recreated - or whether it might entail a costly and complicated procedure. In addition, we recommend to draw up a written agreement with the landlord which includes the conditions for the tenant in order to be on the safe side, should it come to a dispute.
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Stick wallpaper peel and plaster
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