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Why is My Wallpaper Bubbling? We've Got Some Ideas!

October 16, 2023

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why is my wallpaper bubbling

Wallpaper can add color, texture, and personality to your home's walls. But over time, you may begin noticing small air pockets forming under the surface, causing unsightly bubbles. 

So, why is my wallpaper bubbling? Wallpaper bubbles can appear for a variety of reasons, usually related to moisture, surface prep, or installation issues. 

While frustrating, wallpaper bubbles can often be fixed with some clever troubleshooting techniques. Read on to learn why your wallpaper is bubbling and how to smooth it out for long-lasting, decorative walls. With some diligent prep work, proper hanging techniques, and moisture control, you can have stylish, bubble-free wallpaper.

Moisture is the Main Culprit

If you've noticed those pesky little bubbles forming under your wallpaper, moisture is likely to blame. As humidity levels fluctuate, wallpaper can expand and contract, causing it to pull away from the wall in spots. This allows air to get trapped underneath, creating bubbles. Most homeowners prefer house painting for that very reason.

Sources of moisture that contribute to wallpaper bubbles:

  • Leaky pipes or exterior water damage
  • High indoor humidity
  • New drywall or plaster not being fully cured before wallpapering
  • Failures in the wallpaper adhesive

So, if it seems like your wallpaper bubbles overnight after a heavy rainstorm, moisture is probably the culprit. Time to grab a dehumidifier and crack a window!

Poor Surface Preparation is a Problem

Wallpaper hates any imperfections in the wall surface. If the wall underneath wasn't properly prepped before wallpapering, bubbles can form when the paper stretches over uneven spots.

Some common surface prep problems that lead to bubbles:

  • Dirt, grease, or soap residue on walls
  • Flaky paint
  • Uneven drywall seams or plaster repairs
  • Not removing old wallpaper entirely

Proper prep is crucial! Sand down any bumps, clean away all grime, and prime over repairs or fresh drywall. This gives wallpaper a smooth, consistent surface to adhere to.

Heavy-Handed Wallpapering is a Hassle

Sometimes, those bubbles are from your own wallpapering workmanship (no judgment). Here's how to prevent bubbles next time:

  • Don't stretch wallpaper too tightly over the walls as you hang it. Keep it smooth but not drum-tight.
  • Watch for creases or ripples as you work and smooth them out before moving on.
  • Use a plastic smoother to apply very even pressure across the surface when rolling or pressing.
  • Avoid overworking seams, as this can loosen the adhesive.

Take it slow and smooth to out bubbles as you go!

floral wallpaper

Time to Get Popping! How to Fix Wallpaper Bubbles

Okay, so you've got some bubbles. Before you tear it all down in frustration, try these fixes:

Pierce and patch

Use a pin or needle to poke a small hole in the bubble. Press gently on the wallpaper around it to expel the trapped air. Then, seal over the hole with a small bit of wallpaper cement or clear caulk.

Reactivate the adhesive

For loose edges or large areas of bubbles, you can try reactivating the wallpaper adhesive. Use a spray adhesive or damp sponge to moisten the underside of the wallpaper. Then, gently smooth the area with a roller, pressing the wallpaper back into place.

Replace loose seams

Carefully peel back loose seams and scrape off old adhesive. Apply new adhesive to the wall and redraw borders if needed. Smooth the wallpaper back down and wipe away excess glue. Press with a roller.

Wallpaper over it

If bubbles are widespread, it may be easier to just wallpaper over the existing layer. This adds weight to press down bubbles. But make sure the surface is flat first - no bumps!

When Prevention Fails, Change it Up

If battling recurring wallpaper bubbles, sometimes it's best to just change things up:

  • Switch to painted walls, which resist moisture and imperfections better.
  • Use removable wallpaper or wall decals that you can easily replace when issues arise.
  • Consider tile, wood panels, or other hard surface applications that won't bubble.

While frustrating, those pesky wallpaper bubbles don't have to ruin your decorative plans if you take the right approach. With some moisture control, surface prep, and careful hanging techniques, you can have long-lasting, bubble-free wallpaper that makes a stylish statement.

wallpaper in room

In Conclusion

Tracking down and addressing the root causes of moisture damage, surface flaws, and poor installation will help prevent future bubbles. For existing bubbles, pierce and patch small spots, reactivate adhesive on loose areas, and replace seams as needed. If bubbles persist, covering with new wallpaper or switching to painted or hard surfaces are good trouble-free options. With the right preparation and hanging technique, your wallpaper can stay tightly adhered and bubble-free for years. Don't let minor bubbling issues get in the way of decorating with stylish, unique wallpaper in your home.

About The Kansas City House Painters

The Kansas City House Painters are a professional painting company that has been operating in the metro area for many years. They specialize in interior and exterior residential painting but also offer commercial painting services. With their experience, quality equipment, and dedication to customer satisfaction, The team provides high-quality painting services to homeowners and businesses. Please get in touch with us today for a FREE estimate.



Will wallpaper bubbles go when dry?

Wallpaper bubbles will not typically go away when dry because the bubbles are caused by trapped air beneath the wallpaper surface, not excess moisture, so drying out the wallpaper will not make the bubbles disappear.

Will wallpaper dry flat?

Wallpaper will usually dry flat if it is hung properly without over-stretching or creasing and has a smooth, well-prepared surface underneath, allowing the adhesive to keep it tightly adhered when dry.

Why does wallpaper bubble after years?

Wallpaper can start bubbling after years due to shifts in temperature and humidity in the home that cause the paper to expand and contract over time, allowing air pockets to form. Old wallpaper may also bubble when the adhesive dries out and loses its grip, especially in areas exposed to moisture, like above a stove or shower.

How do you get air bubbles out of dry wallpaper?

To get air bubbles out of dry wallpaper, use a pin or needle to prick the bubbles and gently press around them to flatten and expel the trapped air, then seal the pricks with wallpaper cement or caulk. For large areas of bubbling, you can also try lifting the wallpaper edge and reactivating the adhesive by moistening the back before pressing the paper flat again.

How long does it take for wallpaper to dry?

Wallpaper adhesive typically dries and sets fully in 24-48 hours under normal indoor temperature and humidity levels, allowing the wallpaper to adhere tightly to the wall surface.

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