Measuring the wall you intend to cover with wallpaper is a crucial first step when wallpapering.
Measuring the wall you intend to cover with wallpaper is a crucial first step when wallpapering. Auremar /

Expert advice on how to estimate the amount of wallpaper you need, including how to account for repeat length of patterns, measure the wall, account for borders, and more.

When buying wallpaper, it’s important to be sure that you get enough to finish the job but, because wallpaper can be expensive, you don’t want to buy so much that you waste money. It’s important to buy wallpaper in one batch to minimize color variation that can occur from one lot to the next. Estimating wallpaper amounts needed accurately calls for calculating the area to be covered and allowing for waste.

Once you have made your purchase, store the rolls horizontally rather than upright to avoid damaging the edges.

Measuring Repeat Length

The “repeat length” of wallpaper is the measurement between repeating elements in the wallpaper pattern. Patterns can either be a straight match, where the repeating elements are level with each other, or a drop match, where they are staggered. You can usually find the repeat length printed on the wallpaper though it’s always a good idea to measure it yourself to double-check it.

The repeat length will help you determine a roll’s usable area. The shorter the repeat length, the larger usable square footage a roll will yield. Use the following as a guide:

0 to 6 inches = 25 square feet

7 to 12 inches = 22 square feet

13 to 18 inches = 20 square feet

19 to 23 inches = 18 square feet

To determine how many rolls you’ll need, divide the combined square footage of the walls to be covered by the usable yield. Round up to the next even number as rolls are sold in pairs.

Measuring the Walls

To determine the wall area to be papered, measure the walls from floor to ceiling, then corner to corner, rounding to the nearest foot or half foot. Don’t include baseboards or moldings in your height measurement. Multiply the width and height to determine the total square footage, then add 15 percent to account for waste. Last, subtract the square footage of large windows or doors from the total square footage.

Borders & Multiple Papers

Use the same formula to find the covered area of separate spaces if you’re working around a chair rail. If you’re using a border, divide the length you’ll need by 3, since most borders are sold in 5-yard pieces. Add a little extra for borders around windows or doors so you have enough to miter the corners (cutting the paper at a 45-degree angle).

Featured Resource: Find a Pre-Screened Local Wallpaper Pro

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About Don Vandervort
An avid builder and remodeler, Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years, as Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort