links here

That Staircase is the Hardest Job of all

Talking about paperhanging By Ray Lewhite

Decorating a Staircase is probably the most difficult job in the house to undertake. In the average room it is usually only necessary to go up about three treads of a pair of steps to reach the highest point that has to be papered. The staircase, however, calls for those who do not fear height. Scaffolding must be adequate to ensure confidence and safety for the one undertaking the paperhanging. Proper scaffold boards must be used - odd lengths of old timber are not good enough. Naturally staircases vary in height and shape, so I will endeavour to show various methods of erecting a platform to enable work to be done with reasonable security.

Decorating a Staircase

First the modern semi-detached type: In Fig.1, a fairly tall pair of steps or ladder is placed against the wall over the head of the stairs. A board is run from it to another pair or a ladder. If, due to the turn (winders) of the stairs, the full width of the bottom of the steps cannot rest securely on one tread, you can reverse the steps, the narrow part resting on the tread with the feet against the wall (Fig.2).If you have a window on the staircase, it may be more convenient to use the sill on which to place a board. However, remember to put enough packing beneath it to protect the paintwork on the sill from possible damage (see Fig3). The other end of the board will rest on the top landing, but a certain amount of levelling up may be required. A short board is then placed from the steps at the head of the stairs to the board already fixed in position from the sill to the landing. I hope the sketches will clarify these instructions.

Having finally erected a scaffold enabling you to work reasonably comfortably, it is now time to measure and hang the first length of paper, which is normally the longest as marked in Fig.1. It is better to cut one length at a time and hang it before cutting the next, as each piece is a different length. Therefore, if the first piece is pasted and hung, you will have a guide to matching the next piece and so making sure the correct length is cut off each time. Should you be papering one of the older types of staircases (see Fig.4) it may be more convenient to start from the opposite end. Care must be taken to avoid the banister rail being in such a position that it comes in the middle of a length of paper. Whenever I have to paper such a staircase, I measure with a roll of paper the widths I require for this particular wall, commencing from the banister rail. Should I find for example, I require four and a half widths I start in the corner with half a width, so that when I reach the banister rail I have very little cutting at the edge of the paper to make an easy and perfect fit. Another awkward staircase is the one that is situated between the front and back rooms, with walls both sides of the staircase (see Fig.5). The starting place for this is over the head of the stair.

Decorating a Staircase

Find the centre and hang the first length to one side of the centre line. The width of the staircase is rarely more than 3ft. which means the first length hung will turn the angle several inches. Do not try to hang this length at its full width, but rather measure from the centre line to the corner and cut it off at that width. After hanging this piece, the strip that was cut off is then hung into the angle and matched to the pieces from which it was cut. Continue to hang along this side wall of the stairs until completed. The ladder must now be moved and placed onto the first length of paper hung. This must not be done until the paper is dry or damage may be caused when the ladder is placed onto it. The tops of the ladder should be covered with cloth to lessen the chance of damage. The hanging of this side is done in the same way as for the other side. When the walls are completed, the pattern on each wall of the staircase will correspond with one another. To ensure hanging the first length of paper upright, it is wise to use a plumb bob and line. First, find the width of the paper and measure that distance out from the angle and mark it. Place the plumb line on this mark and allow it to hang down. When it is hanging steady, mark the wall at intervals immediately behind it. Better still, chalk the line first and when in position, get someone to hold one end taut whilst you hold the other end, Pluck the twine and a clean vertical line will be marked on the wall. By keeping the edge of the paper to this line a perfectly upright length of paper should now be hung.

The lengths of wallpaper on staircase walls are considerably longer than those required for the average room, therefore it is advisable to slightly alter the method of folding after pasting these long lengths. After pasting the first section make a 2ft. fold or thereabouts, and continue folding in pleats until the bottom end of the length is pasted. This should then be turned up about 3ft. in order to keep it clear of the stringing (skirting) of the stairs (Fig.6). Take up the folded length, which should be conveniently folded to carry over the arm, and get into position on your steps or board. Open up the first fold only, keeping the remaining folds lying over the left arm whilst the right hand arranges the top part into the position already marked on the wall (see Fig.7). After correctly fixing this part, continue to let out one fold at a time, until only the large bottom fold is left. Trim away the waste at the picture rail and complete the upper section of this length before getting down and finishing the bottom section.
My reason for allowing the paper to lie over the arm is to check the paper from stretching. It must be remembered that the weight of the paper when pasted, if allowed to hang in one long length, would cause it to stretch and mis-matching would occur when shorter and less heavier lengths are hung alongside. Also it is difficult to manipulate these long lengths. As the lengths get shorter, you may revert to top and bottom folds only, as made when papering rooms.

Decorating a Staircase

The slopes of the staircase and sometimes ceilings make it difficult to arrive at the quantity of wallpaper required. Should the ceiling slope at the same angle as the staircase, measurement must be made at the highest and lowest point of one width of wallpaper (Fig.8). Each length will be the same all the way up the staircase, bearing in mind to allow for a certain amount of waste according to the pattern. Measuring for a staircase is illustrated in Fig.1, where each length gets shorter, can be obtained by getting the measurements of the longest and shortest lengths required, adding the total together and dividing by two. Multiply this total by the number of lengths required from the shortest to the longest, including the two first measured. Example:Longest length eighteen feet add shortest length nine feet = 27 feet divided by two = thirteen and a half feet including these two lengths, six lengths are required, so thirteen and a half feet x by six = eighty one feet. This gives an approximate quantity of two and a half rolls required.

Go Back to Home Page

Special Paint Finishes.