Decorating: Papering the Ceiling

In many homes, the ceiling is a big ‘let down’. A well-decorated ceiling provides something to look up to. You can paint or paper a ceiling. Textured finishes, panelling, polystyrene tiles or veneers are among alternatives. High ceilings can be brought into proportion with a room by means of an illuminated ceiling, which also provides a very even level of lighting.

Papering ceilings

To paper a ceiling satisfactorily, easy firm access is needed. This can be achieved by using two step ladders, linked by a long plank or scaffold board, 225mm wide, to provide a working platform.

Alternatively, adjustable trestles and suitable planks can be hired. The aim is to be able to cover the width of the room on each length, without stepping down. If properly adjusted, the platform should bring the head height to within 150mm of the ceiling.


The ceiling surface should be prepared before papering to ensure that the surface is clean and grease free. Any cracks should be filled with a proprietary filler and smoothed down when dry.

The ceiling can be papered with a plain lining paper or a decorative embossed, or woodgrain paper which will give texture and disguise any minor irregularities in the surface.


Paper is normally hung parallel, with and away from, the main window of a room. This means that the butt-joints at each edge are in shadow and will be less obvious. Careful appraisal of the length and width of the room should indicate the best way to hang the paper for least wastage. A room 33m x 4.2m long will only allow two lengths to a 10m roll of paper leaving excessive wastage. Here, ignore the window as a guide line and paper along the length of the room.

It is essential to have a true right-angled guide line to work to. Using a pencil and a piece of chalked string measure one paper width, 560mm out from the corner, and make a pencil mark. Hold one end of the chalked string at this point. Mark the opposite end in the same way and ‘twang’ the string between the two points. The resulting chalk mark will indicate the working guide line.

Preparation of paper

Measure and cut the paper, allowing a 50mm-75mm overlap, for trimming, at each end. At this stage, cut the number of lengths that will be needed for the entire ceiling.

Start to paste the first length and fold one end over in a 300mm pleat. At the folded end, fold over a 600mm pleat and then turn back the first 300mm pleat. Continue to paste and fold in this manner until the last 600mm of paper remains. Turn this paper back 300mm to join the concertina folds.

Use a batten or a short roll of paper to support the folded paper when lifting it into position. Lay the first length of paper facing the window; subsequent lengths should face in towards the room.

Keeping the chalk line on the left side, lay the paper in the direction of movement along the platform. Unroll the first fold and position it.

Holding the concertina section close to the ceiling, brush out the first fold into final position. Move along the platform, unfolding and brushing out the paper as work progresses.

Laying each section must be completed in one continuous sequence. A commercial device for holding the folded section of paper consists of a spring-loaded pole topped with a wooden platform to hold the paper.

When the angle between ceiling and wall is reached, press the paper in firmly and score with the scissors. Gently peel the paper back and trim, leaving 6mm overlap, which is pressed back on to position on the wall.

Mark the ceiling out for the next lengths which are applied in the same way;

Fix ceiling-board with plasterboard nails in staggered formation to stop cracking take care to see that the edges are accurately butted and do not overlap. Work from alternate sides of the room.

When negotiating light fittings, use a similar technique as for light switches. Locate the centre of the light fitting. Make two cuts, one in the direction the paper is being laid, the other at right angles to it. Press back the flaps, score and trim, then press the paper back into position.

Frieze areas, the sections between picture rails and ceilings, are normally prepared to match the ceiling paper. Count the number of widths across the ceiling.

Measure the depth of the frieze area and add 50mm. Cut the same number of frieze pieces as widths across the ceiling. Paste and fold each section, matching the ceiling paper at the right-hand corner. Hang each piece of paper and trim the excess.

10. November 2011 by admin
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