How to Install Self Adhesive Contact Paper
Vinyl contact paper is simple to install and with a little care, wonderful-looking results are simple to achieve. For first-timers, we recommend you start with a non-obvious surface (either a small kitchen benchtop or low shelf for example) to understand the installation technique. Remember, the backing is your friend, do not remove it until you’re ready to stick it down.
Your first attempt may be difficult or you may stuff it up, but you can always peel it off and redo it. The process gets easier and neater every time you do it.
- Clean all surfaces with water and dishwashing detergent, or with metho (not on paint) to make sure there is no dust or oily film.
- Cut product to size with a few cm spare on every side
- Test fit and position product
- Peel back some of the backing paper and expose a small strip of adhesive and lightly press the material in place
- Remove the backing a little at a time
- Smooth the paper starting from the centre and sweeping outwards with the squeegee/smoother.
- If the alignment has moved, carefully lift and re-apply
- TIP – If you have difficulty positioning the film then you can spray the surface until wet (only for surfaces that water will not harm, not raw wood) with water or Windex which will make the film easier to move about. As you smooth it down squeegee out the water.
- A felt edged squeegee/smoother
- A spray bottle of water with a squirt of dishwashing liquid
- Low-tack masking tape
- Cutting knife
- Hair dryer or heat gun (usually optional but handy on a cold day to soften the vinyl and make the adhesive stickier)
Preparation is the first step to a good job – the goal is, to begin with a clean, flat surface. New cabinets should be thoroughly vacuumed, then gone over with a damp cloth. For older surfaces, remove any loose particles, dust, oil, wax or other contaminants by cleaning with a good but mild cleaner. Kitchen surfaces will have a thin layer of oils that must be cleaned off. Dishwashing liquid is best in my opinion.
Fit the new film on the shelf so it lays flat. (Unroll and place the new film pattern side-up in sunlight for an hour if needed to make them more pliable.) For a large surface, you may want to use low tack masking tape or small weight to hold the liner in place.
Expose a small strip of adhesive. Without disturbing the alignment, lift an edge of the film and peel back a small 12-25 mm strip of the backing and crease it back onto itself so the adhesive is exposed. Replace the lifted edge of the liner with the contact area down.
Check final alignment and then apply very light pressure with your thumb or finger over the section with exposed adhesive. If the alignment is right, use moderate pressure with the soft edge of the squeegee to gently smooth the contact area. Work only from the centre towards the edges. This will ensure any trapped air bubbles are expressed. If an air bubble is trapped, lift the edge of the liner and move the air bubble to the perimeter with the squeegee. If a bubble won’t come out easily it can be pricked with the tip of the cutting knife or a pin and the air rubbed out with the squeegee.
Remove the backing in small segments. The contact area should hold fast. Peel back the film to expose a new area of adhesive. Originating from the centre, use the squeegee to lay the liner flat using a side to side motion from the centre. Do not stretch the film. Overlap strokes and always work from an adhered section. Continue until all the backing is removed.
Gently push the firm edge of the squeegee into the corners and around the perimeter to ensure good adhesion. If an air bubble is trapped, you can use a sewing needle or pin to lance the bubble, then smooth that area with the squeegee towards the pinhole.
Repeat until complete. See my video on how to complete corners and edges neatly if required.
Then stand back to admire your handiwork, your awesome pattern choices, and how great your completed project looks!