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Applying Wallpaper to Wood – Everything You Need to Know

Applying wallpaper to walls or furniture can instantly upgrade the look of a room immensely but how do you properly apply wallpaper to wood and is it even possible with every kind of wood?

In this article, I will go over the process of applying wallpaper to wood, what type of wood will work and where you might have to do some touch up, and finally, common mistakes and how to fix or avoid them entirely.

Does Wallpaper Stick to Wood?

First of all, let´s answer the question many of you might have right off the bat. Is it even possible to properly stick wallpaper to wood?

Wallpaper can stick to wood but depending on the type of wood you might have to do some preparation. Generally, the smoother the wooden surface is the better the wallpaper will stick to it and the better the end result will look. Birch plywood works the best. More porous wood has to be primed first.

When applying wallpaper to wood it is very important that the surface is as even and as smooth as possible.

That is also the reason why birch wood works so well. It is naturally very smooth compared to most other types of wood.

If the wooden surface is not smooth or if it isn´t plain then you need to prepare the surface in order to properly apply any wallpaper to it.

This is done by applying some primer to the wooden surface. A primer will prepare the surface for a multitude of things like a paint application.

But primer will also even any surface and most primers are sandable so you can smoothen the surface by sanding it after the primer has dried.

I recommend using a general primer by Rust-Oleum. It is easy to apply and to work with and you can get it at your local hardware store or right here on Amazon.

So you can generally apply wallpaper to pretty much any wooden surface but you might have to prime it beforehand if it is too rough or uneven.

How to Apply Wallpaper to a Wooden Surface?

If you need to prepare the wooden surface because it is too rough then you need to do all three steps but if the surface is already smooth enough then you can simply skip the first two steps and instead apply the wallpaper directly right away.

1. Sand the Surface

The first and probably also most important part is sanding the surface properly.

If your wooden surface is already smooth enough then you can skip the sanding and the priming step and apply the wallpaper directly right away.

Even though most primers don´t need a sanded surface nowadays to properly adhere to the wood it is still recommended to sand the wooden surface anyway.

The reason being that you sometimes can´t tell how the wood was treated. And if the wood was sealed by some kind of varnish then you might have a hard time getting the primer to adhere to the wood properly.

So it is easier to simply sand the surface in order to rough it up. This will give the primer something to grip to.

You don´t need to sand the surface with a rough grit sandpaper. A medium rough grit (something like a 80 grit) is more than enough.

You can either sand the wooden surface by hand or with a machine but you have to sand it evenly for the best possible results.

After sanding you should wipe any dust away with a damp piece of cloth or a towel.

Let the wood dry for a few hours after cleaning it before you apply anything to it. Otherwise, the primer might not stick properly.

2. Apply the Primer

Next up you need to apply the primer.

You can apply it with a brush or with a roller. I personally would recommend using a roller in order to get a more evenly spread and smoother finish later on.

The primer is almost like applying paint. So if the first pass doesn´t cover everything right away then don´t thread and simply apply another layer.

Add as many layers as necessary until the Primer covered the wood fully.

Let the Primer dry completely (you can see that it has dried if no discoloration is present and when the primer is no longer cold when you touch it).

If the surface isn´t smooth enough after you applied the primer then simply sand the primer with fine-grit sandpaper (something like 100 grit or finer).

3. Glue the Wallpaper to the Wood

It doesn´t really matter if you want to glue wallpaper to your wooden wall or to your wooden furniture the process is pretty much the same.

There are two main kinds of wallpaper. Self-adhering and regular wallpaper.

If you are using self-adhering wallpaper then simply peel the layer on the backside of the wallpaper off and gently press the wallpaper on the wall from the bottom side first.

Make sure that the wallpaper is square with the wood surface and then use either a paintbrush or a plastic spatula to press the wallpaper down. Push any air bubbles out as you press the wallpaper down and slowly move your way upwards.

If you are using regular wallpaper then you will also need wallpaper glue in order to properly adhere the wallpaper to the wooden surface.

So either mix or simply open your glue according to the instructions.

Then apply a thin layer of the glue evenly to the wooden surface. From there the process is pretty much the same as before.

Start from the bottom by squaring up the wallpaper with the bottom side of your wooden surface and then gently press the wallpaper down with either a brush or a plastic spatula.

You can also use a soft piece of cloth to push the bubbles out. Just make sure to push them out before the glue drys.

Why Does My Wallpaper Not Stick to Wood

There can be multiple reasons for a bad adhesion when it comes to applying wallpaper to wood. I will go over the most common problems and how to solve them here.

You Didn´t Prepare the Wooden Surface Properly.

If you simply apply wallpaper to a wooden surface without preparing or sanding it first then you might end up with a badly adhering wallpaper in the end.

So make sure to either sand the surface before you apply the wallpaper if the wooden surface is smooth enough or sand and prime the wooden surface if it is not smooth enough.

You Mixed the Glue Wrong Or You Didn´t Apply Enough Glue

If you use glue that has to be mixed before applying it then make sure that you mix it properly according to the instructions or the glue might end up being too weak because you diluted it too much.

If you used a premixed glue the make sure that you apply the glue evenly and enough of it so that the wallpaper can actually stick to it properly.

You also have to push the wallpaper against the wooden surface with either a brush or a plastic spatula in order to make the wallpaper adhere properly.

The Wood Was Sealed With A Varnish

Most wooden surfaces are treated in one way or another. If your wooden surface was treated with wood varnish then chances are that this treatment is interfering with the glue of the wallpaper.

So make sure that you sanded the surface properly and if you want to make sure that the wallpaper sticks to the wooden surface then you should also apply a primer before glueing the wallpaper to the surface.

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