Although many might find wallpaper to be rather quaint, it does offer several advantages over paint which starts with its unique patterns and textures that paint cannot match.
Good wallpaper when properly installed can last up to 10 years or longer. Plus, it can cover imperfections on a wall and create a finish that transforms a room.
However, the downside is that wallpaper patterns tend to go out of style quickly, meaning that the room will suddenly look quite out of place when you add modern décor.
This is why many homeowners tend to stick with paint as it can be changed quickly compared to wallpaper.
Plus, paint is cheaper and easier to apply, so it is little wonder that many homeowners look at their outdated wallpaper and wonder if they can paint over it.
With all that said, dealing with wallpaper can be a tricky issue when you want to paint the room instead.
What follows are a few tips on how to decide to keep or remove the wallpaper, how to repair the walls damaged by removing wallpaper, and how to paint the walls once the wallpaper is removed.
But before we discuss all of that, first deal with one common question most of us have in mind…
Can You Paint Over Wallpaper?
The answer is yes, but it is not recommended. This is because the wallpaper will tend to flake or fall apart even under layers of paint.
A few other reasons are also fairly straightforward;
- Wallpaper may form bubbles as the adhesive loosens underneath
- The textures and patterns of the wallpaper may show through several coats of paint
- Most wallpapers has seams between each row which will tend to show even when under the paint.
So, it’s recommended that you strip away the wallpaper first before applying the fresh paint coat.
If not, all the time, money, and work you put into a paint job may be gone in a short time because of peeling wallpaper.
When Should You Paint Over Wallpaper?
Painting drywall offers a hard surface that paint can attach far longer than the wallpaper
However, if the drywall behind the wallpaper has issues, then removal may have problems from the start.
If repairing the issues with the drywall is too hard or expensive, you might consider painting over the stripped wallpaper.
There are a few other instances as well where you may want to paint over the wallpaper itself. These include…
You should start on a small section of wallpaper to see if removing it damages the drywall or plaster underneath.
Sometimes the wallpaper glue can be dissolved, but in other cases, the glue has seeped deep into the surface.
2. Small Space:
Stripping off old wallpaper in an open living room can be fairly easy as compared to the paper in a small bathroom or a kitchen.
Therefore, if you are planning to paint over wallpaper in a bathroom, kitchen, or store it’s good to sand down the paper a bit.
And then apply the paint over it without completely removing the paper.
3. Layers of Wallpaper:
If there are several layers of wallpaper, then removing it may not be a viable option.
The more layers (like brown paper under wallpaper), the more difficult it can be to remove.
If you find that you must paint over the wallpaper, then you’ll need to fix or repair any damaged sections first before applying new paint.
In general, when wallpaper is left in place, you can complete painting your walls much more easily and quickly.
And this is the reason, why DIY painters and homeowners tend to skip this hectic step while getting their walls painted.
How to Remove Wallpaper Before Painting?
If you decide to remove the wallpaper, it will not be easy.
However, in most cases, it can be done if you use the right chemicals to loosen the adhesive which bonds the wallpaper to the drywall.
Then you can remove the wallpaper that peels and scrub the rest of it away.
While time-consuming, it can be done easily at home assuming that it’s just one layer of wallpaper.
You can follow the steps below to remove the old wallpaper before painting:
STEP 1- Prepping:
Prepare your space by laying down a drop cloth on the floor.
And by removing the nearby curtains, switch plates, artwork, furniture, or any other items that can possibly get damaged.
STEP 2- Test the adhesion:
Start peeling the wallpaper from the corner or seam.
If it’s coming easily without tearing down the underlying drywall paper, just try to pull the entire wallpaper from the surface neatly.
STEP 3- Prepare the solution:
If you find wallpaper stuck and not coming out easily, you may need to prepare a solution for softening the wallpaper.
Preparing a mixture of hot water to fabric softeners (in ratio 1:1) should work pretty well.
STEP 4- Spray the solution over the wallpaper:
Now using your pump sprayer, you can spray the prepared solution evenly over the walls.
Make sure that the wallpaper gets saturated.
After 15-20 minutes when you see the wallpaper bubbling you should again try to remove the wallpaper.
If needed use a wide putty knife to scrape off the wallpaper easily.
If you find you have stubborn wallpaper that’s not easy to get off, you may also get a steamer (like Wagner Spraytech) that can be used to soften wallpaper adhesive for removal.
If you want you can use a steam iron (filled with water) or a heat gun to remove the wallpaper easily.
The heat produced from the iron will work to soften the paper and glue making it easy to get removed.
What is the Easiest Way to Remove Wallpaper Glue?
Personally, I have used Goo Gone to remove wallpaper glue and I can say it works pretty well.Goo Gone is basically a household cleaner that’s designed to remove the waxy or gummy substances (like adhesive glue, label residue, pine sap, etc) from various kinds of surfaces.
You can use it for wallpaper removal if it’s too sticky to get removed by water.
To check whether the glue has been removed completely, simply spray some water on the wall surface.
After soaking for a few minutes, run your hand over the wet surface. If the wall surface appears to be sticky it has glue leftover on it.
After getting the wallpaper and glue removed it’s good to plaster over it.
If you want you can make it easy by applying a thin skim coat on the drywall. This is a low-cost way to add smoothness and finish to the walls just like plaster.
Precautions when Removing Old Wallpaper and Glue
Its recommended NOT to use a sander to remove the wallpaper as it can damage the inside wall.
In most cases, using plain water can work to remove the old wallpaper from your walls.
If that does not work, you can use a bit of fabric softener in water and soak the wallpaper for a few minutes before trying to remove it.
Remember, in older homes, you may find several layers of wallpaper, which makes them more difficult to remove.
Plus, if the underlying layers of wallpaper have been painted, the challenges become even more difficult.
You may then have to call for professional assistance, especially if the drywall underneath has been damaged.
How to Fix Damaged Walls After Removing Wallpaper?
If you have removed the wallpaper and found the underlying wall itself is damaged, there are ways to fix it before you paint.
Here is a simple guide to help you remove the leftover wallpaper glue safely from drywall and plaster.
However, remember that there are no guarantees that all damage can be avoided, but you can start by using this process.
STEP 1: Create a Natural Dissolver
Mix one part of vinegar with four parts of water in a bucket. This will help to dissolve the glue that holds the wallpaper to the wall.
Apply the mixture to the surface and use a putty knife to start rubbing away the wallpaper glue.
STEP 2: Use Sponge or Cloth
After using the putty knife to scrape off the small pieces of wallpaper, cover the wall with the mixture using a sponge or cloth to get rid of any remaining glue.
Once completed, let it dry.
STEP 3: Fill Using Joint Compound
Once the wall is dry, use a joint compound to fill in the scratches, dents, and gouges in the drywall or plaster.
Do not worry about being neat, simply fill in the depressions and let them dry.
STEP 4: Cover with Drywall Compound
For major damage, use a drywall compound to cover larger areas of the wall itself.
If the damage is too great, you may have to replace the drywall itself.
Otherwise, fill in the areas and repair the damage and let the drywall compound dry.
STEP 5: Sand to Smooth
Now you can sand the dry compound until it is smooth.
This will help prepare the wall for painting.
How to Paint Your Walls after Removing Wallpaper?
Once the sanding is complete, you are ready for the final step before painting.
This means applying a mixture of TSP to the wall.
STEP 1: Protection
The first step is to protect the flooring with drop cloths.
Be sure to cover all areas that might get splashed with the TSP mixture, primer, or paint.
Next, get a good set of rubber gloves to protect your hands.
They will need protection from the chemicals and the heat of the water.
STEP 2: TSP
Now, mix 3 tablespoons of TSP per gallon of hot water.
This will prepare the wall properly for painting.
You will also need to have another bucket filled with warm water to act as a rinse.
This is because the TSP should not be allowed to stay on the wall once it has completed its job.
STEP 3: Sponge
Dip one sponge into the mixture and another sponge into the bucket of warm water.
Remember to squeeze out any excess water because that will run down the wall.
Use the stepladder tray to place the sponges as you work.
Be sure to keep the sponges separate, so you may want to use two different colors to tell them apart.
STEP 4: Scrub
Now, start at the top of the wall and scrub with the TSP mixture sponge and follow up with the warm water sponge for rinsing.
Scrub a small area to remove any remaining residue from the wallpaper glue.
The TSP is to ensure that all the glue is gone before you paint.
Only rinse once you have completed scrubbing with the TSP sponge on a specific area.
Remember to scrub a small section, then use the rinse sponge to cover the same area.
Let the area dry and move to the next.
You will need to change out your rinse water bucket every so often to keep it clean.
STEP 5: Dry
Once completed, allow at least 24 hours for the wall to dry.
This is when you should conduct an inspection to see if any repairs are needed.
STEP 6: Repair
If there are any other issues that need addressing, you can repair them now before you apply the primer.
Be sure to do a full inspection first before proceeding to the next step.
STEP 7: Sand
For sanding, you’ll need 120-grit sandpaper and a dust mask as you sand down any repairs that need to be made on the wall.
Protect the trim molding, ceiling, and edges with adjoining walls with blue painter’s tape first before you start to sand.
STEP 8: Primer
You are now ready to apply the primer to the wall.
Shop around for the best price first for the right product.
Be sure to choose the best primer (from brands such as Rust-Oleum, INSL-X, KILZ, and Zinsser) that provides ample protection after removing wallpaper.
Use a cut-in brush to apply the primer first on the edges where you have placed the painter’s tape.
Once completed, use a foam or a nap roller to fill in the rest of the wall. Apply a single coat of primer and let dry.
STEP 9: Paint
Now you are ready to apply the paint in a manner similar to how you applied the primer.
In most cases, a single coat of paint will do – thanks to the primer.
However, adding a second coat will not hurt as it provides even more protection to the wall.
Remember, if you are painting over wallpaper, make sure you use the best quality paint that can be painted over wallpaper.
Using oil-based spray paint is best to use in this case.
For the walls with wallpaper cleaned off, you can use either spray water-based or oil-based.
There are also wallpaper stencils for painting walls with patterns, stripes, flowers, and shapes. If you want, you can buy them at stores like Amazon to spray paint your walls much like wallpaper.
STEP 10: Dry and Inspect
Let it dry, and inspect it to see if you need to add another coat.
Well, now you have completed painting a wall that was once covered in wallpaper.
Enjoy the new looks in your room, and stay relaxed!
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Jack Luis is a semi-retired painter who loved painting his clients’ ideas on their walls.
He had worked as a painter for over a decade serving customers in areas such as Charleston, Mount Pleasant, Beaufort, and Georgetown, SC (South Carolina). Today in his free time, he likes to read and write about the newer techniques implemented in his profession. You may read more about him here or get in touch with him here.