The wallpaper business has been around a long time, but it's still more of an art than a science.

For the most part, people who follow the instructions (professionals and amateurs) get the paper on the wall. It really dresses up the place.

But, when things go wrong -- they really go wrong. Here's a true story from a reader:

Wallpaper was purchased for the kitchen, bathroom, front-door hallway and stair wall. The kitchen and bathroom wallpaper was relatively inexpensive and easy to apply.

The paper for the formal hall and stairway was fancy, expensive and difficult to apply. Because it was a big job and the expensive paper was described as "a little tricky" by the store, a professional hanger was hired to do the job. A set of instructions came with the expensive paper (as it does with all good wallpaper), but the details were a little sparse. There were no warnings, except the standard caveat in the wallpaper business that you check all wallpaper carefully to make sure the colors and designs match (sometimes the dye is a little different).

When you buy wallpaper, you should check "run" numbers. If the numbers are missing or are different, roll out each batch to make sure the colors and designs will match evenly. In this case, everything matched and the paperhanger started in.

One of the most important tasks in wallpapering is preparing the wall. If there isn't any existing paper for the new paper to adhere to, you must put some "sizing" glue on the wall or special "lining paper." Some 75 percent of all paperhanging problems come from walls that have not been properly prepared. a

In this particular job, the paperhanger tried out a test strip or two to see how it looked. The initial result was a mess of bubbles and wrinkles. The paperhanger waited a few hours (and did easier work in the bathroom and kitchen). Miraculously, after some smoothing the bubbles had all flatened out. The rest of the hall and stairway was tackled and more bubbles ensued. Most of them were smoothed out, but several noticeable wrinkles remained. The paperhanger tried to work them out. No luck.

Then, the classic professional (or dealer) versus manufacturer scene occurred. The paperhanger swore that the paper was defective or the instructions lacked specific information to avoid the bubbling.

The manufacturer's representative who was called by the dealer swore it must have been the paperhanger's fault. The consumer caught in the middle just swore. What to do?

This is a classic case for a small claims court (if your community has one). You try, with written (and copied) appeals to get the dealer and the paperhanger to fix the defective strips. If they don't, you get an accurate calculation (in writing) from another professional as to how much it will cost to right the wrong. Then, you sue the manufacturer for the amount. You don't need a lawyer. The manufacturer does. You spend only a few dollars filling fee.

To avoid all this, it's wise to know as much about wallpapering as possible.

Many community colleges give courses on the subject, and a number of dealers and paper companies give free seminars (ask local wallpaper dealers about it). You can also read "The Wall Book," written by Stanley Schuler and published by M. Evans and Co. It's for do-it-yourselfers and people who hire a paperhanger.