Ideas From Ed: High-Tech Wallpaper Repair

Ed is a do-it-yourselfer who is happy to share some of his ideas and experiences in this monthly column.

This month:  High-tech wallpaper repair (as a last resort?)

Yes, I know, your dog didn’t mean to rip off and eat a chuck of the historic wallpaper in your living room, but sometimes “stuff” happens!  You’ll probably never find that pattern again, and even if you did, geez, all you need is a small piece, not a double-roll! So, what are you going to do?

Technology to the answer, sometimes!  It can be a blessing as well as a curse, but there are times when you can do today what could never have been done in the past.  I’ll bet you never thought about taking a picture of a wallpaper section with your best digital camera, and printing out a high-resolution photo/patch on your color printer!  Let’s see how this might work.  (BTW, I’m talking about a SMALL repair, not printing out enough to cover a wall!)

Here’s a section of damaged wallpaper.

Damaged Wallpaper

Find yourself an undamaged area close-by, if you can.  The paper nearest the damaged area is most likely to have the same level of sun-fade and wear.  Use your camera’s highest quality setting, and you might even try with and without flash and any other adjustments to get the best picture that you can.  Load the file/files onto your computer, and use any imaging software that you’re familiar with to make any modifications.  I use “Paint Shop Pro” which is a basic image editor that’s easy-to-learn but quite comprehensive.  Modifications might include brightening things up a bit as well as cropping the photo to include only enough to easily cover the area you’re interested in, plus a bit more.  By cropping the photo, you won’t be wasting a lot of printer ink by printing whole pages of pictures when all you need is a small section.  You might need to do some experimentation with your printer settings, too, to get the printout to be “actual size” and not something like “fit to page”.  Again, set the printer to the highest quality available when doing the final print.  Here’s a printout wide enough to span the damaged area.  I used a razor knife to cut out the print.  (Don’t worry about any odd shape to the picture or being too precise at this point.)

Patched Panel

Do a test overlay of your cutout, which is still bigger than the damaged area, on the wall.  If you have the size and color close enough to suit you, you’re good to go.  If not, go back to the imaging software and play around some more.  When you’re satisfied with your print, carefully tape it in place on the actual wall.  Use a low-adhesion painter’s type tape so that you don’t damage the real wallpaper when you remove it, and only use enough to hold the patch accurately in place for the next step.

Test Fit Piece

Using a razor knife, cut through both the paper printout and the original wallpaper, cutting a patch just large enough to cover the damage.  Try to make the edges line up with patterns if you can, to make the cut edges less visible.  If you’re cutting along lines, use a good straightedge.  If the pattern has curves and your hands are steady enough, you can cut on curves as well.  Do whatever you can to disguise things.  Then un-tape your paper, peel off the original wallpaper on the damaged area, and see how your paper patch fits and looks.  If the old paper is very thick, or there are multiple layers, you may need to use a heaver-weight paper for your printout, or maybe photo paper if you need a matte or glossier finish.  Ideally, your patch should be just thick enough to take the place of the original wallpaper.

New Wallpaper

I suggest using a glue stick to adhere the patch to the wall.  Certainly you don’t want to wet things or you’ll have a sopping mess.  Obviously this repair won’t have a lot of durability, so is best used where additional damage isn’t real likely.  Perfect?  Maybe not, but if you’re careful and get the colors close, it will certainly be better than what you started with!

Happy restoring!

Ed