How to Install Wall Treatments


You have many options for covering your walls besides paint and wallpaper -- both of which require lots of repairs and preparation if your walls aren't already in perfect shape. Consider some of our creative ideas for wall treatments, especially if your walls would need lots of work before traditional paint and paper would work. In this article, you can learn how to cover walls with stucco, fabric, wood paneling, brick, or cork or mirror tiles. You can also learn how to install a wall safe.

We'll get you started in the next section by teaching you how to stucco a wall.

For more information on do-it-yourself home improvement projects, try the following links:

  • If your floors need work, you won't need to hire expensive specialists with our article on How to Repair Floors.
  • Learn how to create your own walls with our article on How to Drywall.
  • For instructions and tips on doing a good paint job, see our article on Painting Walls.

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How to Stucco a Wall

With a stiff brush or a metal comb, work stucco to the desired texture.
With a stiff brush or a metal comb, work stucco to the desired texture.

Road-map walls and ceilings can be impossible to repair, but they're very easy to disguise. Hide the cracks and give the room a new look with stucco paint.

Tools:

  • Bucket and sponge
  • Putty knife or paint scraper
  • Paint roller with loop-textured roller cover
  • Trowel
  • Stiff brush
  • Metal comb
  • Sponge, or sturdy cord for texturing
  • Utility knife
  • 3-inch paint roller
  • Stepladder

Materials:

  • Plastic dropcloths
  • Masking tape
  • Strong household detergent
  • Spackling compound
  • Textured or stucco paint
  • Piece of scrap plywood or hardboard
  • Liquid detergent

Time:

About 4 hours for a small room, plus additional preparation time as necessary

Preparing to Paint

Choose textured or stucco paint, depending on how badly cracked the walls and ceiling are. Lightly textured paints are mixed with sand and other small aggregates; they hide minor flaws but not major ones. Heavy stucco paints can be applied with a trowel or a roller; choose this type to cover really bad walls. Read the paint label carefully and buy generously; the worse the wall, the more paint you'll need. Sometimes stucco paint covers only about 25 square feet per gallon can.

Before starting to work, prepare the surfaces to be stuccoed. If you're stuccoing clean walls, with no large open cracks, leave the furniture in the room; if you're stuccoing the ceiling or the surfaces require preparation, move it out. Remove drapes, pictures, and rugs. Move any remaining furniture together in the middle of the room and cover it with plastic dropcloths; cover the floor with dropcloths and fasten them to the baseboards with masking tape. Protect light fixtures, woodwork, and faceplates with masking tape.

If the room is very dirty or greasy, clean the surfaces to be stuccoed with a solution of strong household detergent and hot water; rinse and let dry completely. Small cracks will be filled in by the paint. Fill large cracks and deep gouges with spackling compound, pressing it in firmly and smoothing it with a putty knife or paint scraper. Let the patched areas dry completely, at least 8 hours. If the spackling compound has shrunk or cracked, apply more compound to smooth the patched areas; let dry completely. No sanding is necessary.

Determining What Effect You Want

Spread lightly textured paint with a roller, using the type of roller cover recommended by the manufacturer. Spread thick stucco paint with a roller and a special loop-textured roller cover, or with a trowel. Before starting to paint, experiment with the paint on a piece of scrap plywood or hardboard until you know how to get the effect you want. Try using a roller for a uniform stippled effect, a trowel for a random texture, a stiff brush for a rough look.

The paint will start to set up as you work, depending on the humidity; in a heated room, this can take as little as 15 minutes. As you finish applying an area of paint, go back and texture it further to produce different effects. You can brush it into waves or curves with a stiff brush, or make random cross-hatching with a metal comb, or blob it with a sponge; for a bark texture, wind sturdy cord around a roller and roll up and down the already applied paint. In general, the thicker the paint you use, the coarser the texture you can produce and the worse damage you can cover.

Applying the Paint­

When you've decided on a texture and perfected your technique, apply paint to the surfaces to be stuccoed. Paint the ceiling first, again spreading paint in small areas and texturing it as you go; paint corners and edges first and then fill in the main area. To reach tight spots, cut a loop-textured roller cover in half and work with a 3-inch roller; or, if you're troweling the paint on, use a putty knife. Use the same technique to paint the walls, starting at a corner and working around the room, spreading and then texturing as you go.

Let the paint dry at least 8 hours, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Pick up the dropcloths and remove the masking tape after the stucco is dry. Clean up with water and liquid detergent.

Stucco is only one of the many options available to you to refurbish your walls. In the next section, you will learn how to cover a wall in fabric.

For more information on do-it-yourself home improvement projects, try the following links:

  • If your floors need work, you won't need to hire expensive specialists with our article on How to Repair Floors.
  • Learn how to create your own walls with our article on How to Drywall.
  • For instructions and tips on doing a good paint job, see our article on Painting Walls.

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How to Cover Walls With Fabric

Measure a panel's width from a corner, less 1/4 inch, and mark a plumb for the starting edge
Measure a panel's width from a corner, less 1/4 inch, and mark a plumb for the starting edge

Fabric is one wall covering that demands little in the way of patching; any reasonably smooth wall surface will do.

Tools:

  • Stepladder
  • Measuring rule
  • Pencil
  • Chalked plumb bob
  • Long table
  • Sharp scissors
  • Staple gun
  • Hammer

Materials:

  • Fabric
  • Paper
  • Straight pins
  • Heavy-duty staples
  • Household glue
  • Lightweight stiff cardboard
  • Cloth ribbon, braid, or narrow molding strips
  • Small finishing nails or brads

Time: about 1 day

Choosing and Buying the Fabric

Choose fabric as wide as possible. Figure the number of wall-height strips you'll need to cover the walls, and calculate yardage accordingly. If the fabric has a repeating pattern, it must be matched on adjacent panels, like wallpaper; add at least 2 yards to your total. If you want to edge the wall with ribbon at floor and ceiling, calculate footage and add at least 2 yards. Buy ribbon and fabric together.

Measuring and Cutting the Fabric

Start in the least prominent corner of the room -- behind the door, for example. Measure out along the ceiling from the corner a distance equal to the width of the material, less about 1/4 inch. Set the plumb bob at this point and snap a chalk line to mark the edge for the first panel of fabric. Measure the height of the room from floor to ceiling.

Roll out the fabric on a long table, face up. Cut the first panel of fabric as long as the height of the room, plus 2 inches. Unroll and cut the fabric to be used all around the room, matching it carefully to the pattern in the first panel.

To determine the exact length of each panel, measure the height of the wall where the panel will go and add 2 inches. Measure above and below windows and doors and cut fabric accordingly, being careful to match patterns on both short strips. Pin a numbered tag to each panel as you work to keep the panels in order around the room.

Hanging the First Panel of Fabric

Lift the first panel of fabric up into place against the wall at the marked corner. Turn the top end of the panel under 1 inch, holding it in place at both sides with your fingers. Stretch the panel of fabric smoothly along the top edge of the wall and adjust it so that the outside edge of the panel lies exactly along the chalk line on the wall.

Holding the fabric carefully to keep it lined up exactly with the chalk line, staple the turned-under top of the fabric to the wall. Space the staples about 1 inch apart, as close to the ceiling and as even as possible. If the fabric is very heavy or sags badly, apply household glue sparingly along the turned-under end; press into place until the glue sets.

Working from the top of the wall down, staple the corner side of the fabric to the wall, about 1/4 inch from the edge. Space the staples evenly, about 1 inch apart, and keep them straight up and down. Smooth the fabric carefully as you work to keep it lined up with the chalk line. Repeat to staple the other side of the fabric, setting staples 1/4 inch from the edge. At the bottom of the panel, fold the excess fabric under and staple it firmly and smoothly along the baseboard.

Hanging Additional Panels of Fabric

Before hanging more fabric, cut sheets of stiff lightweight cardboard into 1/2-inch-wide strips. You'll need enough cardboard to make a solid floor-to-ceiling strip at each seam in the wall. Cut the strips as uniformly as possible; their outlines will be noticeable under the completed fabric paneling.

To hang the second length of fabric, hold it against the first panel, face to face, with the wrong side of the fabric out. Leave 1 inch of fabric extra at the top of the panel. Line the edges of the panels up carefully. Set a few staples in the second panel, through the first panel and to the wall, about 1/2 inch in from the matched edges of the panels. These staples are just to tack the fabric into place; they are not a final seam.

Staple cardboard strips to hold the panel's edge; then pull the fabric over onto the wall. Staple cardboard strips to hold the panel's edge; then pull the fabric over onto the wall.
Staple cardboard strips to hold the panel's edge; then pull the fabric over onto the wall.

Staple 1/2-inch-wide strips of cardboard over the matched edges of the panels, lined up exactly with the edges. Attach the strips evenly to form a smooth, level edge, with no gaps and no overlaps; place the staples close together.

When the cardboard seam is securely stapled, pull the second length of fabric back over the cardboard strips to form a blind seam. Stretch the fabric smoothly out from the joint and staple it into place on the wall, working from the center of the panel up and down and placing staples about 1/4 inch in from the edge. At the top and bottom of the panel, turn the excess fabric under and staple the panel neatly at ceiling and baseboard. Use glue if necessary to keep the fabric from sagging.

Repeat the cardboard-strip technique to apply each new panel of fabric, stapling the cardboard to the wrong side of the panel and then folding the fabric around and into place. To work around windows and doors, cut the fabric with about 1 inch excess on all sides of the obstruction. Turn the excess fabric under and crease it into place with your fingers, smoothing it as you go. Use staples only at the stress points -- around windows and doors, at corners or seams -- if possible, attach the fabric with glue.

Finishing the Last Panel

When the last panel has been stapled into place, turn the edge of the first panel under the edge of the last and crease the seam with your fingers. Don't use staples on the final seam; glue the folded fabric down, holding it smoothly in place until the glue sets.

Covering the Staples at the Top and Bottom

To cover the staples in the fabric along the ceiling and the baseboard, glue a long piece of cloth ribbon or braid over the edge of the fabric, all around the room. Turn the ends under carefully so they don't ravel. Instead of ribbon, you can also tack narrow molding strips over the stapled fabric along the baseboard.

Paneling is a great option for walls that are too damaged to hold a new treatment. We'll cover this in the next section.

­For more information on do-it-yourself home improvement projects, try the following links:

  • If your floors need work, you won't need to hire expensive specialists with our article on How to Repair Floors.
  • Learn how to create your own walls with our article on How to Drywall.
  • For instructions and tips on doing a good paint job, see our article on Painting Walls.

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How to Panel a Room

On uneven or cracked walls, nail a grid of furring strips to the studs; shim low spots solidly.
On uneven or cracked walls, nail a grid of furring strips to the studs; shim low spots solidly.

Paneling a room with plywood or hardboard sheets is a great way to finish a basement or cover badly damaged walls. On smooth, level interior walls, install the paneling directly over the old wall; otherwise, provide a sound base with a framework of 1×2 or 1×3 furring strips. Do not install paneling directly on an unfinished stud wall. The panels are hard to handle, so you'll need an assistant.

Tools:

  • Measuring rule
  • Long straight board
  • Putty knife or paint scraper
  • Sanding block
  • Magnetic stud finder
  • Pencil
  • Chalked plumb line
  • Hammer
  • Staple gun
  • Small paintbrush
  • Two sawhorses
  • Two long 2 × 4's
  • Fine-toothed saber saw or circular saw, coping saw, and keyhole saw
  • Safety goggles
  • Scribing compass
  • Level
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Caulking gun
  • Padded wood block
  • Drill
  • Miter box
  • Fine-toothed backsaw for cutting molding
  • Nail set

Materials:

  • Plastic dropcloths
  • Spackling compound
  • Coarse-grit sandpaper
  • 1×2 or 1×3 furring strips
  • Shims
  • 8-penny common nails or steel masonry nails
  • Heavy polyethylene sheet plastic
  • Heavy-duty staples
  • Paint to match panels
  • Plywood or hardboard panels—the standard size is 4×8 feet, but if your ceilings are high, you can order 4×10 foot sheets
  • 2-penny or 4-penny finishing nails or colored nails provided by paneling manufacturer
  • Panel adhesive
  • Masking tape
  • Prefinished ceiling and baseboard moldings
  • Wood putty

Time: About 2 to 3 days

Measuring and Buying Paneling

Before buying wall paneling, calculate how many panels you'll need. Because the panels are a standard 4×8 feet -- or, for high ceilings, 4x10 -- you need to figure only in terms of width. Measure the total diameter of the room in feet and divide by 4; subtract 1/2 panel for each door and 1/4 panel for each window. The result is the number of panels you need. Ask the lumber dealer to calculate the amounts of furring strips, polyethylene sheet plastic, adhesive, and nails for you; buy a bundle of shims. Buy prefinished ceiling and baseboard molding by the foot, to match your paneling.

Preparing for Installing the Paneling

At least 48 hours before you start to work, move the panels into the room where they'll be installed. Lay several furring strips parallel on the floor and set the first panel flat on the strips; stack the rest of the panels the same way, with furring strips separating them. This is so they can adjust to the room's temperature and humidity.

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Make sure the walls of the room to be paneled are smooth and level. Remove baseboards and molding from walls. With your assistant, hold a long straight board horizontally against each wall surface; slide it up and down over the wall to identify high spots and depressions. Spread plastic dropcloths to protect the floor. Fill low spots in the walls with spackling compound, smoothed on with a putty knife or paint scraper; sand high spots level with coarse-grit sandpaper.

Installing Furring Strips: If the wall is very uneven or badly cracked, you must nail 1×2 or 1×3 furring strips up to give the paneling a solid base. Use a magnetic stud finder to locate the studs across each wall; mark these points. Snap a chalked plumb line from each marked point to mark the nailing lines for the furring strips.

Nail furring strips horizontally across each wall with 8-penny common nails, nailing into the marked studs. Place one strip at the ceiling and one along the floor; space strips 16 inches apart, center to center, between ceiling and floor. Wedge shims behind the strips at any low spots, and drive a nail through both furring strip and shim into the wall.

When all horizontal furring strips have been nailed up, cut vertical pieces to fit between the horizontals. Set vertical strips from floor to ceiling in each corner, nailing them along the chalked stud lines. Nail vertical furring strips the same way, floor to ceiling, at wall studs at every point where two wall panels will meet. Paint these verticals with any paint roughly the same color as the panels, so the furring strips won't show behind the finished wall.

Preparing Masonry Walls: Masonry walls must be specially treated. Attach furring strips horizontally with steel masonry nails: one strip at the floor, one at the ceiling, others at 16-inch intervals up the wall. Set vertical strips at the corners and at panel joints, shimming them out where necessary. Paint the joint-line strips and let dry. Then, before going any further, cover the walls with heavy polyethylene sheet plastic from floor to ceiling to protect the paneling from moisture. Staple the plastic carefully and evenly into place over the furring strips, making sure it's drawn smooth over the walls.

Final Preparation: Finally, before you start to panel, remove switch and outlet cover plates. Pull the boxes out from the wall to match the thickness of the paneling, being careful not to disturb the wiring.

Cutting the Paneling

With the walls prepared, stand the paneling up around the room so you can see how it looks. Arrange it to balance full and partial panels and to match wood grains, and number the backs of the panels; start at a corner. Restack the panels in order, with the first panel up.

To cut the first panel, measure the distance from floor to ceiling at several points along the first 4-foot span. The panels must be nailed into place with a 1/4-inch gap at both floor and ceiling, to allow for expansion of the wood. Mark the top of the panel to be trimmed, using the measured floor-to-ceiling distance and subtracting 1/2 inch for the gaps at top and bottom. Turn the panel face down over two sawhorses, with two long 2 × 4's under it to keep it from bending, and cut it to measure with a fine-toothed saber saw or circular saw. Wear safety goggles while you make the cut.

Scribing the Corners

The first panel must be scribed so that it fits exactly into the corner. Stand the panel upright in the corner and wedge shims under it to raise it 1/4 inch off the floor. Use a level to make sure it's exactly vertical.

There will probably be an uneven gap between the panel edge and the corner. With your assistant holding the panel in place in the corner, set a scribing compass at the top of the panel, point in the corner and pencil on the panel. Hold the compass steady and draw it down the corner, pressing firmly enough to mark a fine pencil line down the panel. Trim the panel carefully along this line with the saber saw or a fine-toothed coping saw.

Installing the Paneling

Install the panels with nails, adhesive, or a combination of the two, according to the manufacturer's recommendation. Heavy plywood panels should always be nailed up, and even lightweight panels should be nailed along the floor and the ceiling. The moldings used at floor and ceiling will cover these nails.

Installation with Nails: To install the panels with nails, use 2-penny finishing nails over furring strips, 4-penny finishing nails if you're setting the paneling right over the old wall; or use the colored nails provided by the paneling manufacturer. Set the first panel, with edge trimmed, carefully into place in the corner. Set the bottom of the panel on shims again to maintain the 1/4-inch gap at the floor, and make sure it's plumb.

Start nailing at the furring strip or on the stud line at the center of the corner edge. Drive a row of nails across the center of the panel at 12-inch intervals; use a nail set to sink the heads without damaging the paneling. Move up 16 inches to the next horizontal furring strip and repeat, working from the center of the panel up and out. Continue nailing up to the ceiling and then down to the floor, setting nails 12 inches apart along every horizontal furring strip, or on each marked stud line of a wall being covered directly. When the entire panel has been nailed down, drive nails every 6 inches around the edges, and remove the shims under the bottom edge.

Continue around the room, butting each new panel against the last one, measuring and trimming each panel as you go. Scribe each corner panel. To work around doors, windows, or outlets, use the protective paper sheets that come between the panels. Hold a sheet of paper against the wall, exactly where the panel will go, and have your assistant tape it firmly into place, top and bottom. Trace the outline of each obstruction with a pencil.

Untape the sheet and cut out the traced areas; lay the paper over the panel and trace the cutouts onto the panel. Cut out large openings with the saber saw or circular saw; drill small holes and use a coping saw or a keyhole saw to cut holes for switch plates.

Installation with Adhesive: To install the panels with adhesive, use the brand recommended by the panel manufacturer; apply the adhesive with a caulking gun. Start in the corner with the scribed and trimmed first panel. Run a solid bead of adhesive over all furring strips the panel will cover; if you're paneling over a solid wall, apply adhesive in a grid pattern. Set the panel into place in the corner, resting on shims to maintain the 1/4-inch gap at the floor. With the panel exactly positioned, drive a row of nails at 12-inch intervals across the top of the panel.

At this point, reread the instructions for the panel adhesive. Depending on the adhesive you're using, you may have to pull the panel away from the wall until the adhesive is tacky. If this is the case, pull the bottom of the panel out from the wall and prop it in place with a piece of scrap wood for the time specified by the manufacturer; then remove the prop and press the panel flat against the wall.

As soon as the panel is flat against the wall, set it permanently: using a padded wood block to protect the panel's surface, pound it firmly into place with a hammer. Go over the whole panel with the hammer and padded block. Finally, drive nails at 6-inch intervals all along the floor and ceiling edges of the panel, and remove the shims under the bottom edge.

When the first panel is pounded down and nailed into place, continue around the room, measuring and trimming as you go. Finish installing each panel before you go on to the next one.

Completing the Paneling

To complete the newly paneled room, fill all nail holes with wood putty. Finally, install prefinished ceiling and baseboard molding. Miter corners with a miter box and a fine-toothed backsaw, and nail the molding into place.

Few homes are made from brick these days, but that doesn't mean you can't bring that look to your house. In the next section, you will learn how to cover a wall with brick.

For more information on do-it-yourself home improvement projects, try the following links:

  • If your floors need work, you won't need to hire expensive specialists with our article on How to Repair Floors.
  • Learn how to create your own walls with our article on How to Drywall.
  • For instructions and tips on doing a good paint job, see our article on Painting Walls.

How to Cover a Wall With Brick

For each brick, use a 3/8-inch dowel to keep the joints even. Make sure each row is level.
For each brick, use a 3/8-inch dowel to keep the joints even. Make sure each row is level.

Brick walls inside don't have to be plastic; the real thing is just as easy. Use bricks cast thin for interior use, and set them into place with adhesive.

Tools:

  • Measuring rule
  • Bucket and sponge
  • Putty knife or paint scraper
  • Sanding block
  • Wall-cleaning sponge, or large paintbrush and broad-bladed scraper
  • 3/8-inch dowel rod
  • Line level
  • Chalk
  • Safety goggles
  • Cold chisel and hammer
  • Tile nippers
  • Coarse file
  • Notched trowel

Materials:

  • Graph paper
  • Strong household detergent
  • Plastic dropcloths
  • Spackling compound and fine-grit sandpaper, or wallpaper remover and wall sizing
  • Thin glue-on interior bricks
  • Adhesive and adhesive solvent as recommended by the brick manufacturer
  • Clean rags

Time: Several hours for a small wall, after wall surface is prepared

Buying the Bricks

Before buying the bricks, plot the wall on a piece of graph paper. Draw the brick layout to be used and count the number of bricks needed, if any, to go around corners. Interior face brick is sold in packages to cover 5 square feet; to calculate the number of packages you need, compute the square footage to be covered and divide by 5. Buy an extra package of brick and a few extra corner bricks to allow for wastage. Ask the dealer how much adhesive and adhesive solvent to buy.

Preparing the Wall

Prepare the wall before applying the bricks. If the wall is very dirty or greasy, wash it with a strong household detergent. Spread plastic dropcloths to protect the floor. Scrape painted surfaces and fill cracks and holes with spackling compound; let dry and sand smooth with fine-grit sandpaper. Remove all dust with a wall-cleaning sponge.

If the wall is papered, remove loose wallpaper; apply wallpaper remover with a large paintbrush, let it stand as directed by the manufacturer, and scrape carefully to remove all old paper. Go over the wall with clean water to remove all paste; let dry. Apply wall sizing to seal the wall, using one or two coats as directed by the manufacturer. Let dry completely.

Laying Out and Cutting Bricks

Use a 3/8-inch dowel rod to measure brick joints as you work. Use a line level to establish the bottom edge of the bricks along the floor; mark the line with chalk. Small gaps below the line can be filled in with brick adhesive. Set out two rows of bricks on the floor, 3/8 inch apart, so you can see how to place them on the wall. Arrange the bricks so that the bricks at the right end of each row will be the same size as those at the left end when they're cut to fit.

Wearing safety goggles, cut the end bricks to the correct size. Use a cold­ chisel and hammer to score both sides of each brick; then cover the brick with a rag and break it in two with a sharp hammer blow. Remove any pieces left along the broken edge with tile nippers; smooth the broken edge, if necessary, with a coarse file.

Applying the Bricks

When the layout has been checked and end bricks cut, spread an even layer of adhesive on the wall with a notched trowel. Start at either corner, along the chalked line that marks the bottom row of bricks; cover only about 3 square feet of wall surface at a time. To set each brick, dab adhesive across the back of the brick and press it firmly against the wall; twist the brick slightly as you set it in place. Use the dowel rod to establish and maintain the 3/8-inch joint width between bricks.

Continue across and up the wall, setting one row of bricks at a time and spacing them a constant 3/8 inch apart. As each row is completed, check it with the line level to make sure the row is straight. If you must turn a corner, use special corner bricks.

When all the bricks have been set, fill in any gaps at the edges of the wall with adhesive. Finally, smooth joints where necessary, using the dowel rod, and clean adhesive from the brick face with a rag soaked in adhesive solvent. Throw dropcloths and solvent-soaked rags away.

To give your home a really distinctive look, you might want to try mirror or cork tiles. We'll cover these treatments on the next page.

For more information on do-it-yourself home improvement projects, try the following links:

  • If your floors need work, you won't need to hire expensive specialists with our article on How to Repair Floors.
  • Learn how to create your own walls with our article on How to Drywall.
  • For instructions and tips on doing a good paint job, see our article on Painting Walls.

How to Install Mirror or Cork Wall Tiles

Mount each tile with tabs of wall-mount tape, at the corners and in the center.
Mount each tile with tabs of wall-mount tape, at the corners and in the center.

Cork tiles add warmth and make an instant bulletin board; mirror tiles make a small room bigger and are far less expensive than a plate-glass mirror. Both kinds of tile are easy ­to install.

Tools:

  • Measuring rule
  • Pencil
  • Level
  • Chalk line
  • Scissors
  • Chalk
  • Yardstick
  • Sharp utility knife, or heavy-duty scissors, or glass cutter
  • Safety goggles
  • Work gloves

Materials:

  • Graph paper
  • 3/22-inch-thick, distortion-free glass mirror tiles or cork squares
  • Heavy-duty double-stick wall-mount tape
  • Newspaper

Time: About 2 hours for an 8×10-foot area

Planning the Wall and Buying Materials

Buy mirror or cork tiles precut in 1-foot squares. Before you buy the tiles, measure the wall or door to be covered and sketch it on graph paper. Plan the pattern you want to use -- a simple block pattern is easiest, but you can also set the tiles in a diamond or other pattern. If you're tiling only part of a wall, you won't have to cut the tiles. If you're tiling the entire wall, plan your arrangement so that you have to cut as few tiles as possible at the edges of the wall.

Count the number of tiles you need; if you'll have to cut tiles, allow several extra for wastage. If the tiles don't come with mounting tape, buy heavy-duty double-stick wall-mount tape to put them up with.

Preparing the Wall for Tiles

Before tiling the wall, make sure it's clean and smooth. Remove any loose paint or wallpaper and smooth the wall surface as necessary.

Start setting tile at a bottom corner of the wall, or at the floor on one side of the area to be covered. Snap a chalk line down the wall at the corner and check it with a level to be sure it's plumb; adjust the line as necessary. If the corner is out of plumb, you're probably better off stopping the tiles short of the corner instead of cutting them to fit.

Installing the Tiles

To install the first row of tiles, start with the bottom or corner tile. If the tiles already have mounting tape on the reverse side, peel off the backing paper as you place each tile. If the tiles don't include mounting tape, cut five 11/2-inch pieces of heavy-duty double-stick wall-mount tape. Apply a piece of tape to each corner of the tile, parallel with the tile edge, and set the last piece in the middle of the tile. Align the side of the tile on the chalk line and press it firmly but gently into place. Work up the chalk line to set each tile in the first row; work vertically and butt the bottom of each tile against the top of the last one. Place tiles the same way all across the area to be covered, butting the edge of each tile against the tile edge of the last row.

Score mirror tiles with a glass cutter; snap back along the score to complete the break. Score mirror tiles with a glass cutter; snap back along the score to complete the break.
Score mirror tiles with a glass cutter; snap back along the score to complete the break.

Cutting Tiles

To cut cork tiles, measure and mark to the required width with chalk. Cut with a sharp utility knife and use a yardstick as a straightedge; if the tiles are thin, use a heavy-duty scissors. To cut mirror tiles, measure and mark to the required width. Spread newspaper to protect your work surface, and set the marked tiles face up on the paper. Wearing safety goggles, score each tile at the marked point with a glass cutter; hold the cutter vertically and cut along the yardstick as a straightedge. Wearing work gloves, turn the scored tile over and snap it sharply backward to break it at the scored line.

Finishing the Wall

Finally, when all tiles have been cut and set, go back over the tiles to make sure they're solidly in place. Press each tile gently but firmly at the corners and in the middle to bond the wall-mount tape completely to the wall and to the tile surfaces.

On our final page, you will learn how to install a wall safe.

For more information on do-it-yourself home improvement projects, try the following links:

  • If your floors need work, you won't need to hire expensive specialists with our article on How to Repair Floors.
  • Learn how to create your own walls with our article on How to Drywall.
  • For instructions and tips on doing a good paint job, see our article on Painting Walls.

How to Build a Wall Safe

Cut an opening between the studs; remove drywall for the safe's flanges. Add double headers at top and bottom.
Cut an opening between the studs; remove drywall for the safe's flanges. Add double headers at top and bottom.

A small wall safe in your home is a convenient way to protect valuables, and it's very easy to install.

Tools: ­

  • Pencil
  • Keyhole saw or saber saw
  • Measuring rule
  • Carpenters' square
  • Hammer
  • Caulking gun
  • Magnetic stud finder
  • Brace and bits
  • Putty knife
  • Butt chisel
  • Adjustable wrench

Materials:

  • Wall safe
  • 2×4's
  • 16-penny common nails
  • 1/2×2-inch lag screws
  • Spackling compound
  • Construction adhesive
  • Scrap drywall
  • Sandpaper
  • Finishing materials

Time: About 4 hours

Buying a Safe

Because burglars like to hit and run, the odds are against a burglar's opening a wall safe or removing it from the wall. At least as important, a home wall safe is a protection against fire; many home safes are constructed to withstand temperatures up to 2000 degrees Fahrenheit for 1 hour. Safes are available in a variety of styles and types. Buy the safe you need from a lock and safe company. Look in the telephone advertising pages for the listings.

Where to Install a Safe

The best location for a safe is in a wall that partitions off a closet area. The safe's depth may range from 6 to 10 inches or more; since it's installed between studs, back space is necessary to accommodate this depth. If wall space isn't available, the safe could be installed in a floor over a crawl space and covered with a trap door or throw rug. Choose a location out of the room's traffic pattern -- under a shelf in the pantry, for example, or in a kitchen base cabinet.

To install the safe in a wall, choose a site and locate two parallel wall studs with a magnetic stud finder; most wall studs are 16 inches apart. Draw a vertical line identifying each wall stud; the safe will rest between these studs. Measure the length of the safe, and draw lines between the stud lines to mark the top, bottom, and sides of the safe.

Cutting into the Wall

With a brace and a 1/2-inch bit, drill holes in the wall at opposite corners of the outline, inside the lines and just touching them. Make sure the holes are inside the stud; once you've exposed the stud, it can serve as your vertical sawing guide. Saw out the hole for the safe with a keyhole saw or a saber saw. Trim any miscutting with a butt chisel. Remove the drywall over the studs where the flanges of the safe will be connected to the studs.

If there's a finished wall on the opposite side of the wall, remove the wall sheathing from the safe area on this side. Transfer the dimensions of the wall safe onto this opposite wall, drill starting holes, and cut along the lines as above; make sure the hole on the opposite side lines up perfectly with the original hole. Do not cut out drywall for the safe's flanges.

Building the Headers

Measure and cut four 2 × 4's for headers to fit between the studs. Make double headers by nailing two 2 × 4's together with 16-penny common nails. Toenail these double headers to the wall studs, setting one just below and one just above where the safe will rest.

Installing the Safe

The safe is lag-screwed through the flanges to the studs. Position the safe in the hole, and have a helper hold it steady from the back while you pencil in the position of the lag screws on the studs. Remove the safe and drill pilot holes at the marked screw points with a 1/8-inch bit. Reinsert the safe, align it with the drilled holes, and have your helper hold it in place. Drive lag screws through the holes and into the studs with an adjustable wrench, and tighten them firmly.

When the safe is fastened into the wall, cover the flanges and the bolt heads with strips of scrap drywall; attach the drywall with construction adhesive. If necessary, cut tiny holes for the lag screw heads in the gypsum board. Fill all joints of the patches with spackling compound and let the wall dry. Then sand the surface smooth and finish the wall.

For more information on do-it-yourself home improvement projects, try the following links:

  • If your floors need work, you won't need to hire expensive specialists with our article on How to Repair Floors.
  • Learn how to create your own walls with our article on How to Drywall.
  • For instructions and tips on doing a good paint job, see our article on Painting Walls.