How to Measure a Room for Wallpaper

Written by laura reynolds
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One of the most anxious moments in home-decorating has got to be ordering wallpaper. Unlike paint, wallpaper is an expensive choice that is not easily modified. Since you can't be sure of getting the same dye lot if you have to order more paper, getting it right the first time is a must. This is one place where the motto "measure twice, order once" is really important. Learn to estimate and then measure a room correctly for wallpaper to spend your decorating dollars wisely.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Pencil and paper
  • Steel measuring tape or electronic measuring tape

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  1. 1

    Estimate your room in strips before beginning to measure. Walk around your room and measure how many 27-inch strips you would need to go around the room. Subtract strips for doors and half a strip for any windows. You'll know how many strips of 27-inch paper you'll need to do your room. If you are using some other width (wallpaper comes in widths up to 45 inches, but most widths for home decoration comes in 21.5- or 27-inch widths. Most 27-inch bolts contain about three 8-foot long strips, so divide by three. Multiply the number of bolts you get by two to get the equivalent number of single rolls. This will give you an approximate number of single rolls that you'll need. Always round up.

  2. 2

    Start measuring now that you have a basic idea of how many rolls you'll need. There are several calculators on the Web, or your local home or paint store may have an estimating program, but you'll still need accurate measurements. Use a good-quality, retractable steel tape measure or electronic measure for measuring. Stiff yardsticks are awkward and cloth tape measures stretch.

  3. 3

    Measure each wall separately. Measure the height and length and multiply to get the area. Divide square inches by 144 to convert to square feet. Subtract the square footage of doors, windows or built-in cabinetry that won't be wallpapered. Once you've done this for each wall, add the square footage together and divide by the number of square feet per each roll of paper you plan to use. Roll square footage is generally available in the pattern book. If it isn't, ask the salesperson or query the Web merchant.

  4. 4

    Allow for the drop. When a pattern reprints (as most must), the distance between the first part of the pattern and the last along an edge of the roll is called the "drop" or repeat. Since you have to match the paper as you hang each strip, you'll lose 2 to 3 usable running feet on each roll. If you're doing a small room with less than a 6-inch drop or a paper, like a stripe, that does not repeat, you need not add anything to your measurements. If your paper has a larger drop (19 to 21 inches is common), use the table linked below to figure how much extra paper you'll need.

  5. 5

    Compare your estimate with your measurements. They should be close. Always round up in favour of your estimate. You will need to round up to the next even number of rolls since almost all paper sold on the domestic market comes on double rolls, or bolts. If there's a big discrepancy, double-check your measurements and allowances for doors, windows and drop.

Tips and warnings

  • If you're using a Web merchant for your wallpaper, use one that offers an 800 number and consultants. There are lots of great wallpaper wholesalers who offer retail services on the Web. When in doubt, call first and ask for help. If you don't get it, find a Web merchant who provides the kind of service that your investment deserves.
  • When measuring height, whether for estimates or ordering, add 3 to 6 inches for trimming, depending on the age of your building. No ceiling is exactly the same height all the way around a room. and buildings settle, causing walls to skew slightly.

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