How To … Measure for Wallpaper

Short and to the Point:

 -Find the square footage of the wall space to be papered, and round up to the nearest foot.

-Divide that number by 22, and round up to the nearest even number.

-That is the number of single rolls needed to paper the room.


 There are many elements to figuring how much wallpaper you will need to do your job.  If you are having a professional paper hanger install your paper, have him or her come to your house and measure first, before you purchase the paper.  If you are hanging the paper yourself, here are some tips to guide you, in the short and quick version:

 1.   Keep in mind that you will not be able to use every square foot of paper on the roll.  You must allow for losing a fair amount of paper to waste – matching the pattern, trimming at floor and ceiling and around windows, cutting out defects, and the occasional human error.  It’s good to have extra for repairs down the road, too.

 2.  Wallpaper is priced by the single roll, but comes packaged in double rolls.  Figure what you need based on single rolls, and order that number of single rolls.  You will be shipped double rolls.  If you order eight single rolls, you will receive four double rolls.

 3.  Whether it’s 20.5” wide or 27” wide, the standard single roll of wallpaper contains 28 square feet of paper.  However, the rule of thumb is that you plan for only 22 square feet.  For most patterns, this allows for sufficient waste, as explained above.

 4.  Pull out your old high school geometry and figure the square footage of the wall space you want to paper.  Measure and figure  in feet (not inches), and round up to the nearest foot. 

Length of the wall x height of the wall = the square footage of that wall

Do not include large windows, wall-to-wall mirrors, or doors.  However, for small windows, mirrors, and other small things like medicine cabinets, pretend that they are solid wall, and include them in the square footage of that wall.

I like to count how many feet around the room that are the same height.  For instance, how many feet of full-height wall, then how many feet above doors, then how many feet above vanities, etc.

Remember to round up to the nearest foot. 

 5.  For all these spaces, multiply length x height.  This gives you the square footage of various sections in the room.  Then add these figures together.   This gives you the total square footage for the entire area to be papered.

 6.  Divide that figure by 22 (NOT 28).  Round that up to the next highest even number.  This gives you the number of single rolls you will need to paper your room.   Because wallpaper is packaged in double rolls, you may be forced to buy an extra single roll.  This is a good thing.  It’s always best to have more paper than you think you will need.

IMPORTANT: Some brands use different terminology, and refer to a 56 square foot bolt as a single roll. In this case, adjust your math accordingly. Meaning, divide by 44 (NOT 56) to determine how many bolts you will need.

 Grasscloth and other wallcoverings that are 36” wide come in rolls that have a little more paper on them, about 36 square feet.  For these, the rule of thumb is to divide the square footage of the room by 30, to get the number of single rolls you will need.  Round up to the next even number, and that is the number of single rolls you will need to buy. This method will allow you to cover the walls with grasscloth – but not to place the seams in a pleasing manner.

 Another – better – way to figure for grasscloth is to count the number of 36” wide strips you will need in the room.  Whether the walls are 8’ high or 9’ high, you will only get two full length strips out of a double roll.  A double roll is 24’ long, but you cannot get three 8’ strips because you will lose a few inches at the top and bottom of the wall for trimming. This “strip count” method will allow you to “balance” the width of strips, center strips on the wall, and place the seams where they will be symmetrically pleasing.

 Note that these instructions are for MOST papers and MOST pattern repeats.  Long pattern repeats (over 20” or so), straight across matches, vaulted ceilings, and other factors create more complex measuring and figuring situations.  British papers are sized differently, and some high-end American papers are packaged in different sized rolls.  Best to consult a professional.

Ultimately, the strip count works best for ANY type or dimension of wallcovering. Too complicated to get into here, but read the notes above for measuring for grasscloth, and you will get the idea.

Or, best of all – have your professional paperhanger measure and determine how many rolls / bolts to buy.

Also of interest and importance:

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