Detailed directions for hanging a National Geographic World Map Mural, including materials, expense, preparation, mounting, and handling tricky roadblocks.
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How to Hang a National Geographic World Map Mural
I have wanted my own National Geographic World Map Mural ever since I first saw one, which was probably in the late 1980s. When I started planning how I was going to redesign my home office space earlier this year, I knew the time had come to make my dream come true. The world map murals I had seen in the past were the traditional political map with blue oceans and multi-colored nations of the world.
Imagine my joy when I discovered that the world map mural was now available in an earth-toned “antique look” style that would perfectly match my office walls and carpet!
Budget-minded man that I am (not really), my next step was to do some comparison shopping to find my best deal. Both the “Blue Ocean” and “Earth-Toned” world map murals retail at $99.95 plus $20.95 shipping & handling when ordered directly from the National Geographic Store. The best price I found, however, was $79.99 plus free expedited shipping from the Bella Terra Map Store on eBay. So, I ordered the map online and it was delivered as promised within two days (shopping links listed below).
Note: At the time of publication, the most recent version of the National Geographic World Map Mural is ©2013.
The mural is actually three latex-coated panels that are hung like wallpaper. I knew I would have to buy some wallpaper-hanging supplies, but I didn’t anticipate that they would cost almost as much as the mural. I spent $71.66 on supplies, so you might want to figure that into your budget.
I also did not anticipate having to make major substitutions on the recommended materials listed on the mounting instructions. I could not find the DURON® Tack-Prep™ Heavy Duty Latex Primer nor the clay-based heavy duty wall covering adhesive at Lowes nor Sherwin-Williams. In fact, the salesman at SW told me this type of adhesive is typically only available in 5-gallon buckets, unless purchased online. So, I opted for a gallon of clear wallpaper primer, hoping that any painting overages would not show, and a gallon of universal wallpaper paste.
Based on the published dimensions, I knew the mural was larger than the office wall where I planned to mount it. I also knew the wallpaper panels had 2-inch white borders around the world map frame. I did some pre-measuring calculations and determined that the framed part of the actual map would fit almost perfectly between the corner and door frame on my office wall. This meant that I would have to trim the wallpaper before mounting it on the wall.
Because I had read and re-read the mounting instructions, and studied the three individual mural panels, I knew there would be two 1-inch overlaps where the two side panels adjoined the center panel. I believed this overlap would allow two more inches and make the mural fit perfectly between the wall corner and the door jamb.
I used a 6 in. roller and disposable tray and rolled the wall with clear primer in about 5 minutes. The clear primer turned out to be amazing because it dries in about an hour, and you don’t have to worry about overages coloring the parts of your wall that will not be covered by the mural.
I knew I would need help mounting and aligning the mural panels, but I thought I could do the trimming of the 2-inch panel borders myself. I quickly realized that in order to get perfectly trimmed edges, I would need another pair of hands to hold my straight-edge. Since Jerry would be coming over later in the afternoon, I decided to wait until he arrived.
Note: My best friend in this project (other than Jerry) was my handy 4-foot plastic “yardstick” with built-in levels. One of my teacher colleagues bought it for me years ago at a flea market. I wish I had another one for the cabin. During this project, I used it for pre-measuring, leveling, and penciling-in dimensions on my wall space. And it came in super-handy as a straight-edge for trimming the panels with my generic X-ACTO knife.
An unfolded and laid-flat pizza box worked perfectly as a cushion between the panels and countertop. The straightedge cuts went quickly with only a few places that had to be touched up. Jerry trimmed out the details with a small pair of scissors, and it was time to put the paper on the wall.
Before we opened the gallon of paste, we did some last minute measuring and penciled the top hang line and center point.
We covered the office floor with a huge piece of cardboard, an old plastic mat, and an abundance of old sheets to protect the carpet. Then, as directed in the instructions, we laid the panel front-side down to apply the paste. Because the primer roller and tray had cleaned up so easily with warm water, we re-used them to apply the wallpaper paste.
I climbed up on a chair while Jerry handed me the top corners of the pasted center panel. I carefully aligned the Prime Meridian on the map panel with the intersection of our pre-penciled top straight edge and center point, and then, using the wide wallpaper brush and working from top to bottom, began to apply the panel to the wall. We had to apply a bit more paste to some of the edges, but taking care to smooth out all the bubbles, the center panel hung like a charm.
We repeated the pasting process on the left panel and began the tricky process of lining-up the 1-inch overlap. I worked aligning the top of the panel while Jerry worked the bottom, taking great care to perfectly overlap the tiny words and lines and images on the two panels before the paste dried. Okay, maybe not perfectly, but pretty darn good for a couple of amateur old guys.
Another concern became apparent at this time. Even with our careful pre-measuring and estimating, the trimmed panel was too wide to fit on the wall. But I was prepared to deal with it. Even if the mural was too big to fit perfectly on the wall, I still wanted it. I would either trim the edges further to make them fit or let the excess wrap around to the adjoining wall. We opted for the latter.
We decided to try another approach when mounting the third and final panel. We applied a 2-foot wide coating of paste to the back right side of the panel and left the left side dry, hoping that it would make the overlap alignment process easier. I guess it did. There was one point in the alignment process where the top of the panel detached and folded over on top of me, but we quickly put it back up. For the remaining unpasted right half of the panel, we ended up rolling the paste directly to the wall, instead.
Note: The mounting instructions said we would need to change our bucket of sponge water after hanging every panel. Apparently, we were not too messy with our paste. We barely even used the sponge.
As expected, we had to get creative with the right panel being too wide to fit in the remaining wall space by the door jamb. Again, we decided to let the mural rule the wall, and we wrapped it over and on the door jamb. I am sure experienced decorators and DIY-ers are hyperventilating at this point, but I have to say, I am totally cool with our choices.
The wrapped around and overlapping edges actually give the mural a bit of a 3-D effect, and taking a step back, the map looks so much better leaving the frame intact than it would if we had trimmed the sides to make it fit. We had to puncture the panel and trim around the wall light switch, but after the switch plates were reinstalled, the mural looked pretty darn good. Let’s face it, this is Howard’s home office, not the Biltmore House!
After the dust settled, there were a few items I was able to return to Lowes, giving me a $13.95 refund. So my total cost for the mural plus all mounting materials ended up being $137.70. Although I did not time the entire process, it was easily completed within 3-4 hours.
The best part is that now I have a HUGE current world map hanging on my office wall for dreaming, remembering, and of course planning our next trip on the backroads of our amazing planet . . . .
We welcome any questions from our readers about this project, and we would love to hear about any travel motif designs or decor you have used in your home or office in the Comments & Questions section below.
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