How to Install Wallpaper Backsplash

Installing a wallpaper backsplash can add a beautiful, unique touch to your kitchen or bathroom. With some careful planning and preparation, you can create a stylish backsplash that is long-lasting and easy to maintain. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to properly install wallpaper as a backsplash in your home.

Choose the Right Wallpaper for a Backsplash

When selecting a wallpaper for a backsplash application, you’ll want to consider:

  • Moisture resistance – Since the backsplash will be installed behind a sink or stove where it will be exposed to moisture, choose a vinyl or paper wallpaper specifically designed for high-humidity areas. Avoid regular paper wallpapers.
  • Washability – Pick a scrubbable and stain-resistant wallpaper, so it will be easy to keep clean.
  • Size of pattern – Smaller scale patterns will be easiest to work with. Large patterns can be tricky to line up.
  • Sheen – Consider how the sheen (matte, satin, semi-gloss, etc.) will interact with your lighting. Glossier papers will be easier to wipe clean.
  • Adhesive – For backsplashes, always use a permanent, heavy-duty adhesive to prevent peeling or bubbling.
  • Quantity – Measure to determine how much wallpaper you will need to cover your backsplash area. Don’t forget to account for pattern matching and cutting allowance.

Prepare the Surface

Proper surface prep is crucial for successful wallpaper installation.

  • Make sure the surface is clean, dry, smooth, and free of grease. Fill any cracks or holes with spackle.
  • Sand glossy surfaces lightly to “rough up” and improve adhesion.
  • Prime walls before installing the wallpaper, especially if painting previously. Use an interior wallpaper primer or sealer.
  • For tile backsplashes, scuff the surface with sandpaper so the adhesive adheres well. Clean thoroughly after sanding.

Plan the Layout

  • Decide on your starting point based on the pattern size and shape. It often works best to start in a less visible corner.
  • Determine if you will need to cut any edges to fit your backsplash area cleanly. Plan ahead for straight cuts.
  • Make sure to match patterns from strip to strip. Plan the layout so seams fall between tiles or at grout lines.

Prepare the Wallpaper

  • Unroll the wallpaper and allow it to relax according to manufacturer directions, usually 10-20 minutes.
  • Using a sharp razor blade, straightedge or wallpaper trimmer, neatly trim off the factory edges. Cut wallpaper strips to your desired length.
  • Draw plumb lines on the surface as guides for your first strip. Use a level and pencil.

Apply Adhesive

  • Apply an even coat of heavy-duty wallpaper adhesive directly onto the backsplash surface using a paint roller or wide brush. Don’t get adhesive on the face of the wallpaper.
  • Fold book ends of the strips to keep edges clean and prevent sticking during application.
  • Allow adhesive to become tacky according to manufacturer’s directions before applying wallpaper. This is known as “open time”.

Install the Wallpaper

  • Hang your first strip, sliding it into position using a wallpaper smoother or plastic scraper. Move from the middle outwards to squeeze out air pockets. Use a level to keep the strip straight.
  • Use a razor blade to trim excess paper at ceilings, countertops or edges. Make straight cuts.
  • Apply the next strip directly beside the first, being careful to match the pattern precisely at the seam. Overlap edges slightly.
  • Use a seam roller to set the seam firmly. Roll the entire strip to smooth and adhere, eliminating bubbles or wrinkles.
  • Continue applying additional strips in this same manner until the backsplash is fully covered.
  • At corners or outlets, carefully cut the wallpaper to fit using an X-acto knife and metal ruler. Take your time here for best results.
  • When finished, wipe the entire surface with a clean, damp sponge to remove any adhesive residue.

Apply Wallpaper Finishing

  • Once the wallpaper is fully adhered, apply an acrylic wallpaper primer/sealer over the entire backsplash surface. This provides added protection from moisture damage.
  • Use a smoothing brush or mini roller, and apply according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  • Finally, consider applying a clear acrylic wallpaper top-coat to add a washable, water-resistant layer of protection. This is highly recommended for backsplashes.

With careful prep and installation, your new wallpaper backsplash will provide a beautiful focal point in your kitchen or bathroom for years to come! Be sure to properly clean and maintain it by wiping gently with a damp sponge or soft cloth. Avoid abrasive cleaners or scrubbing aggressively. Enjoy your stylish new backsplash!

Frequently Asked Questions About Installing a Wallpaper Backsplash

What type of wall surface works best for a wallpaper backsplash?

The best surfaces for adhering wallpaper are smooth drywall, plaster, concrete, wood paneling, or primed surfaces. Avoid heavily textured or porous surfaces.

Should I apply primer before installing wallpaper on a backsplash?

Priming provides a uniform, sealed surface that will improve adhesion. Use a high-quality acrylic primer made specifically for wallpaper.

What’s the best way to measure for the amount of wallpaper I’ll need?

Carefully measure the backsplash area’s dimensions. Add at least 6 inches on all sides to allow for trimming. Factor in pattern matching too.

How do I cut wallpaper cleanly on an uneven or textured surface?

Use a specialty wallpaper knife with a hooked blade. Keep the knife flat against the surface to cut precisely.

Should seams be vertical or horizontal on a backsplash?

Horizontal seams are easier to hide by lining them up with tile grout lines. Vertical seams work too. Avoid outside corners.

What if my backsplash area has an outlet that needs covering?

Carefully measure and cut the wallpaper with an X-acto knife around the outlet. Take your time for clean results.

How soon can I use my backsplash after installing wallpaper?

Allow all adhesive to dry completely, usually 24-48 hours. Avoid moisture until fully cured. Gently wipe clean with a damp sponge.


Installing wallpaper can completely transform the look of a backsplash while adding color, texture and interest to your space. With some careful surface preparation and layout planning, the project can easily be DIYed in a weekend. Use a heavy-duty adhesive and take precautions to protect the finished wallpaper from moisture damage. The end result will a stylish, unique focal point in your kitchen or bath. With a wallpaper backsplash, you can inexpensively change up the look whenever desired. Just use proper cleaning methods and care to ensure your new backsplash remains beautiful for many years.