How can I create a large hanging wallpaper mural in my apartment?
November 30, 2017 6:37 PM   Subscribe

I would like to obtain a 4'x8' piece of plywood (or hardboard or plexiglass or something), wallpaper it, and hang it horizontally on my wall. How do I do this?

The answer may well be to just hire a handyperson who has (a) a truck big enough to get the board to me and (b) expertise on the best way to tackle this... but before I pull that trigger I'd really love to hear how the hivemind would do this (French cleats? Eye bolts? Magic?)

I've searched online everywhere I can think of, but the "make a wallpaper mural" suggestions always seem to involve smaller panels and/or foamboard, which I don't think will be stiff or sturdy enough for my long-term hopes for this project. Meanwhile I'm not 100% confident that I can get a full-sized board up to my unit, so I may need to do two 4'x4' panels instead, which sure makes the wallpapering trickier, but here I am. FWIW the paper I plan to use comes on an 11 yard roll that is 20.5 inches wide with a vertical repeat of 30 inches. In the ideal scenario the whole piece would project an inch or two into the room. I'm not concerned about big holes in the wall if needed.

If you have even the slightest idea of how I should be thinking about this, I'd be so grateful. I'll even post instructions and pics of the finished project!*

*she says, hopefully
posted by argonauta to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Since you want it to project out from the wall a little, my instinct would be to use a cleat. It's easy and it works. Why make it harder?
posted by kevinbelt at 6:56 PM on November 30, 2017

Are you committed to the 4' x 8' dimension, or is that just because that's the usual size for plywood?

I ask because if you can go a little smaller (say, 36" x 80") you could buy a hollow core door and use it. You can buy them without the hole drilled for the lockset.

A hollow core door would stay flat. I would be very concerned about a piece of plywood or anything else along that line staying flat.

Just a thought.
posted by BillMcMurdo at 6:57 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

I think you can get a roll of quite sturdy paper and paper over it. I have paper that was used in a roll of carpet or something; it's at least 4' wide and 8' long. It could be held up with binder clips and command hooks, which are supposed to leave no trace. It won't be rigid, but should lie flat hung on a wall. Art supply or office supply stores would be my starting place, not least because I enjoy both.
posted by theora55 at 7:00 PM on November 30, 2017

smaller panels and/or foamboard, which I don't think will be stiff or sturdy enough for my long-term hopes for this project.

If you got hold of four 8' lengths of 1"x1" pine moulding and cut two of them in half, you could glue them on the back of an 8'x4' piece of foamboard to form a stiffening frame into which you could also screw eyelets that would easily be sturdy enough to support a hanging wire.
posted by flabdablet at 7:06 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

An 1/8 in sheet of ply is not all that heavy, bends a bit and can be tied to a car roof with padding if needed but home depot rents trucks by the hour so pick a low traffic time of day.

Before that learn how to find studs, the 2x4 boards inside the wall that hold up the sheet rock. A couple attachments directly into the studs will hold up a panel just fine.

Measure everything twice, remember the rule "measure twice, cut once" I measure at least three time but actually fiver or six times.

Totally doable, wacky and impractical but totally doable!
posted by sammyo at 7:12 PM on November 30, 2017

Rigid foam insulation, the blue high density stuff, is super firm and incredibly sturdy.

I work in construction, and we pour concrete slabs supported by foam all the time. It comes in 4'x8' panels of various thicknesses (starting around 1/2", but I'd recommend 1") depending on how much of a 3D effect you want. There are a number of methods you can use to attach it to your wall, let me know if you choose to go that route--but yes, French cleats are the best solution for any kind of decorative panels.
posted by halogen at 7:21 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

You might consider mounting the paper on a heavy canvas drop cloth which you can easily and inexpensively get at a home improvement retailer. You could cut the canvas drop cloth to a custom size and mount it with grommets to the wall or suspend with hooks. The canvas should accept the wall paper with wheat paste or acrylic gel medium. This substrate would reduce the cost and allow for much easier and more versatile mounting options.

Another alternative substrate would be a vinyl sheet which is what billboards are made of these days. Most modern billboards are dot printed on a flexible vinyl sheet, rolled up and mounted on an existing display rather than have workers stand on site a paint at the billboard site. Vinyl would accept acrylic gel medium as a binder.

If it has to be a wood panel, I would choose a birch plywood at least a quarter inch thick. You can also get those at Home Depot and the staff there can mill it and perhaps deliver it to your house.

I hope this is helpful information.
posted by effluvia at 7:27 PM on November 30, 2017

Just want to make you aware of Fathead, should that be able to fit your needs. (The Custom section most likely.)
posted by falsedmitri at 7:39 PM on November 30, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm working with a piece of blue high density rigid foam insulation right now and the surface is definitely not totally level. I don't think it would give you the results you want. And plywood is definitely going to warp on you within a couple of months. There's a product that sign makers use that is basically very thin corrugated plastic sandwiched between micro-thin sheets of aluminum. The generic name is aluminum composite material and the brand name I'm familiar with is Dibond (but there are many others). No doubt there are similar products using other materials for the exterior (paper maybe?). Because the core is plastic, it won't warp and it will be WAY lighter than plywood.
posted by HotToddy at 8:52 PM on November 30, 2017 [3 favorites]

Assuming you're flexible re size, I'm seconding using hollow core doors. You could even buy a set of bifold closet doors, e.g., 4 doors 12" wide, which would be easy to move. I bought 4 such door at the local Habitat ReStore recently (making shelves) - perfect condition, total cost was $10.
posted by she's not there at 11:19 PM on November 30, 2017

I have done this with pictures on plywood and yes it warps.
posted by aetg at 4:49 AM on December 1, 2017

Gatorboard is often used in this size for photographs. A large professional photolab should have it in stock and can advise on mounting.
posted by Sophont at 9:45 AM on December 1, 2017

(Love the stuff.)

Specialty plywood shops also carry gatorboard.
posted by sebastienbailard at 10:38 AM on December 1, 2017

If you live in an older place with plaster walls it can be pretty tricky to locate studs. How high is your ceiling? And do you want this to go floor to ceiling?

If the paper is 20.5 inches wide why not get something cut to that width and hang two or three of them? Or more?

Once you've got it all figured out maybe you should hire a local handyperson to pick up the materials and hang them for you.
posted by mareli at 11:28 AM on December 1, 2017

just throwing another idea out there: I did something similar back in the day where I bought one of those 'cheesy' beach sunset wallpaper murals. A hobby store mounted it on foamcore board for me and then I cut it up into 1'x2' sections (with a 1' emtpy spacer around each panel) . I hung the sections up on my wall with command strips (the velcro ones are the best). It basically looked like a huge grid with negative space between the panels (you could see the wall).

I think it came out really well. I moved the mural to at least 3 separate apartments (which is one of the reasons I did it that way)
posted by kookywon at 11:36 AM on December 1, 2017

Definitely go with one of the lightweight options (foam insulation, Gatorboard, etc) so you can use Command strips and not bother with studs and cleats and handymen and whatever. I love Command strips, the big ones are meant to hold up to 10-15 lbs of framed artwork and I've got a giant whiteboard, basically a 30" x 50" piece of masonite, hung up with no problems.

I came in to suggest rigid foam insulation as well. If you wrap the paper around the board and secure it at the edges (instead of gluing the whole sheet directly to the face of the board), it won't matter that the surface isn't perfectly smooth. You could also try laminating the foam with smooth cardstock or a thin piece of plastic first, to even out the surface.

You might be able to use canvas stretcher bars to make some sort of frame to attach the paper to but at 4' x 8' you'll need heavy-duty bars and/or braces.
posted by yeahlikethat at 12:45 PM on December 1, 2017

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