Antique wallpapers may look beyond saving, but there are a number of ways to bring them back to life again. The reasons for restoring them are important--keeping original materials in the historic home, the owner's affection for their historic damaged wallpaper, or because the wallpaper was created by a famous designer and is valuable. It's important to use archival materials whenever possible when restoring antique wallpaper.
Things You'll Need
- Sponges, various sizes and types
- 1 gal distilled water
- 2 1/2 gal. plastic bucket,
- Paint scrapers, various sizes
- 1 qt. oil primer sealer
- 1 qt. plaster patch
- Japanese paper, as needed
- Scissors or paper cutter
- Utility knife
- Archival wallpaper adhesive (wheat or cellulose)
- Watercolors, various color tubes
- Brushes, various sizes, soft & stiff bristle
- 1 set pastels
How to Restore Antique Wallpaper Properly
Carefully study your antique wallpaper and look for areas that need restoration work. Typically this will include problems such as paper lifting, cracked plaster and wallpaper, or torn and missing paper and stains. Purchase materials that apply to the specific problems confronting your particular situation.
First, clean the wallpaper with a large damp sponge dipped in distilled water, being careful to not disturb areas that are cracking or torn open. Move the sponge gently across the wall, first diagonally in one direction, and then repeat diagonally in the other direction.
Scrap away any loose plaster and apply a coat of oil primer seal to seal these areas. Smooth on a skim coat of plaster patch to fill the holes from the scraped plaster. Apply a second coat of oil primer seal to create a sandwich effect. This will restore these areas to a smooth surface.
Plaster patch any cracks on the wall that have caused the wallpaper to crack apart. Cut the Japanese paper to overlap areas where the wallpaper is cracked. Apply the archival adhesive to the paper, place it on the wall, and smooth out the area that is being mended. The Japanese paper is very thin and when smoothed out, will be virtually invisible. Any small seams lines or white plaster areas that show at this point will be covered up during the painting restoration stage (See Step 7).
For pieces of loose wallpaper that are still intact, remove any plaster pieces from the back of them. Apply the adhesive to the backs of these pieces, press them against the wall and smooth the surface. Clean up any excess paste.
Touch up the smaller areas of the damaged wallpaper design with the watercolor paints. For larger sections where custom color paint will have to be ordered, consult with a painting expert to match the sheen of the wallpaper with the paint sheen, so there will be no shine where the restoration painting was done on the surface.
Hand paint colors back into large areas of the wallpaper that have become worn or faded. Apply the colors lightly, first with a small sponge filled with diluted paint followed by a larger sponge with less diluted paint. Be sure to paint over spots in the areas where the Japanese paper was applied (See Step 4).
Use a medium-sized sponge to soften any stains on the wallpaper by gently blotting these areas with thin layers of matching paint. In difficult water stain situations, add pastel colors over the top of the blotted surface.