What to do when the patterns of individual strips of wallpaper do not align?

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It's not all that hard to hang patterned wallpaper; all you need is a bit of patience and skill. For detailed information as to the individual steps for cutting patterned wallpaper, please see our instructions: How to cut wallpaper correctly.

It's not just the correct cutting method that will guarantee accurate pattern transitions - pasting and soaking times also have a major effect on a consistent, perfect pattern transition. You can find more detailed instructions for various wallpaper materials (paper-based and non-woven).

But what can you do if the pattern doesn't align properly from one length to the next? This is particularly frustrating if you have already wallpapered one wall and don't seem to have made any mistakes. Surely, the cutting process went absolutely fine!? Or did it?

Let's tackle this issue, especially as here at "Wallpaper from the 70s", we continue to receive customers' requests for help in this matter and are often asked whether it might be the wallpaper itself or printing errors that cause the problem. Our definitive reply to this question is that in 99.99% of cases, that isn't the issue - sometimes the reasons are quite insignificant and, as a result, can easily be overlooked during the wallpapering process. That is why we have listed the most common problems and solutions for you below:

Pattern transitions are not aligned when measuring and cutting

The pattern transitions stubbornly refuse to play the game when you are measuring individual lengths? Or they seem fine until you've made the cuts? Check the rapport measurements and the offset as well as the overlaps you need to include in your measurements (see instructions). The underlying reasons are usually found quite swiftly. But if that isn't the case or you think it really IS the wallpaper itself, please contact us so we can clarify the situation - that's what we're here for! Together, we can discover reasons that you might not have thought of.

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Our tips for problem-free cutting:

  • In order to accurately align the pattern transitions of two lengths of wallpaper, you should ideally lay one previously cut length on the floor. Then put the roll of wallpaper next to it to measure and cut it in line with the pattern. Put numbers on the top of each length (on the back!) with a pencil so you don't get confused when you eventually hang them. You could also add further information to help you, e.g. "1 - left of middle window".
  • The first length is always the most important one. If you make mistakes when measuring and cutting the first length, it obviously has a detrimental effect on all the following lengths. You can find all the necessary information as to how to avoid these mistakes in the instruction article How to cut wallpaper correctly/Determine the start of the pattern
  • Do not compare apples with oranges. For instance, if you have put up one length and then decide to use just visual judgement to align the next (dry) length by holding it up against the first one, the pattern will definitely not fit. This is because, depending on the carrier/backing material, wallpaper will expand when paste is applied, and it will "shrink" again when it dries. This means that the method mentioned above will never work. Always align the lengths of wallpaper when dry as described above.

The cut length is fine - but the pattern transition "moved" after hanging

If the alignment is lost after hanging and drying, there could be a number of reasons:

  • Wrong wallpaper paste, different types and brands, old paste, opened boxes, mistakes when mixing (incorrect proportion of water and paste, soaking time)
  • Different soaking times for different lengths of wallpaper
  • Non-woven wallpaper: pasting the lengths of wallpaper instead of the wall
  • Drying too quickly, room too warm, draught, differences in the drying process of various lengths of wallpaper (cold room/hot room)

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How to avoid these mistakes:

  • Always use the correct paste according to requirements (please check the information on the wallpaper label) and purchase a sufficient amount (or one box more, to be on the safe side) of the same type and brand. Even if it is the same type of paste, there might be differences in terms of composition and adhesive strength, depending on the brand. These can have an unwelcome impact on your pattern transitions. Don't use old packages left over from your last wallpapering project just because you want to save time (or cannot be bothered to go to the shop). Don't use old open boxes or already mixed leftovers from another project. When mixing a new batch of paste, make sure method and soaking time are the same as with the last batch.
  • If you are using paper-based wallpaper, make sure the soaking times are exactly the same for each length to avoid different levels of stretching/expanding.
  • For non-woven wallpapers, always paste the wall and NOT the lengths - this is the only correct procedure for these types of wallpaper. Otherwise even the dimensionally stable non-woven paper can go through mechanical expansion, which will impact negatively on your pattern transitions. Once the paste is applied, the lengths are fairly heavy. While you put up the top part of the length, the lower part could stretch, which means that the alignment is lost. If you engage a professional for the job, please make sure that they do not use a pasting machine for your non-woven wallpaper. These otherwise handy tools apply the paste to the back of the wallpaper, and as you know by now, that is not advisable.
  • If you are using vinyl wallpaper and add dispersion adhesive to the wallpaper paste for added adhesive strength and durability, make sure to stick to the correct mixing ratio, especially when preparing a new batch of the mix.
  • Don't forget that all lengths should have the same drying conditions, i.e. avoid temperature fluctuations during the drying process. Example: You are putting two lengths up in one day, the room temperature is 25 degrees, but when you continue the next day, the temperature has dropped to 15 degrees. Your pattern transitions can also suffer if your wallpaper dries too quickly, for instance as a result of a draught in the room.

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Top Tip:

Once you have hung two lengths, take a half-hour break and then check the "progress" of your wallpaper to see if the alignment is still in place. If that is not the case, you should check the possible reasons listed above. If you have to re-hang one length, it's nowhere near as frustrating as if you find yourself having to do the entire wall again.

If you commission a painter/decorator for your project...

If you are not a DIY fan, you might you prefer to have professionals do the job as they will know exactly what to do. Nevertheless you shouldn't just relinquish responsibility - even experienced experts make mistakes. Our recommendation: Discuss the process with your painter/decorator and/or their staff and (if using non-woven wallpaper) point out that you do not want them to paste the wallpaper but the wall itself. Feel free to make it absolutely clear how important exact pattern transitions are for you. Remain available for questions and check up on progress. That way, problems can be spotted and solved early.

Important note regarding typographical discrepancies

As mentioned above, typographical differences which might impact the pattern transition are very rare. The main reason for this uncommon issue would be that wallpaper rolls come from different production units. Each wallpaper roll has a batch number. If the numbers are identical, all rolls come from the same production unit. Like all industries, wallpaper manufacturers are constantly improving the production process, which means that subsequent productions might have minor differences in terms of colour and print. Of course, this would have an impact on pattern transitions. When you order wallpapers from our shop, you will usually receive the requested number of rolls from the same production run with the same batch number.

Should you re-order at a later date, there is a chance that your order might contain rolls from a subsequent production unit as we are constantly and regularly stocking up as required. For re-orders, the most important factor is the batch number. Please make sure you mention the batch number (you'll find it on the label). We will then immediately let you know whether the manufacturer can provide re-order stock/rolls from the same production unit. We generally recommend this approach for all re-orders, as mixing rolls from different production units with minor typographical discrepancies leads to a less than perfect general look on your wall.

Our tip: Re-ordering rolls of a specific wallpaper always carries a certain risk as it cannot be guaranteed that the manufacturer still has stock from the same production unit. Our recommendation: Plan your requirements for a specific project as accurately as possible, and if you are unsure whether or not you might want to adorn yet another wall with your beautiful patterned wallpaper, try and make a decision before you order. We are more than happy to assist you if you get a bit stuck during the planning phase. Always use a yardstick to measure the room - don't just base your measurements on guesswork or visual judgement. Before ordering, make use of our on-line wallpaper calculator (directly above the "Add to Shopping Cart" button in each wallpaper description) to gauge how many wallpaper rolls you need. The result automatically includes a reserve in the event that problems occur during the wallpapering process.