How To Remove Wallpaper

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Estimated Time: 
3 to 5 hours, depending on wall size

Wallpaper.
wp1
n 1: Paper often colored and printed with designs and pasted to a wall as a decorative covering. n 2. A picture or design covering the background of a display screen.

Tips For Stripping: No Pole Necessary!
Removing old wallpaper

If this is your first time removing wall paper, then our first piece of advice to you is to have patience. This can be time consuming and very detail oriented, but it's definitely a do-able project.

 

JANE TIP:

If your intention is to paint the walls and you want a smooth look, removing your wall paper will ensure the best possible results. But, if it is in good condition, you may just want to re-paper or paint right over the old paper. Keep in mind that painting will seal the surface and make the wallpaper almost impossible to remove in the future. In addition, the painted surface will not look as smooth as it could if you paint over wallpaper and your efforts could be wasted.

 

In order to decide whether or not you need to do this project, take a good look at your current wall paper.

  • Is it pulling up at the edges?
  • Can you see bumps in it from the way the wall paper paste was applied?
  • And most importantly, think about how you would feel if you saw this same wall paper covered in someone else's home. Would you be able to tell? Would it look bad?
  • Be honest with yourself because remember, you're the one who's gonna have to live with it.

Take it from me, the small amount of time you may save now won't be worth every time you see it and say to yourself, "If only I would have taken the time to do it right". I promise you'll spend more time kicking yourself than you would have spent doing it right the first time. Take it from me, I learned the hard way!

Here are reasons why you should remove old wallpaper PRIOR to re-painting:

  • You suspect there may be more than a single layer of wallpaper on the surface.
  • The existing wallpaper has a vinyl, foil or plastic film. In this case, the wallpaper should be removed even if there is only one layer in good condition. Wallpaper adhesive will not adhere well to these surfaces.
  • You are planning to hang vinyl wallpaper. If the previous wallpaper is also vinyl, the glue between the two papers will not dry well. If the old wallpaper is not vinyl, the glue under it may get wet and start to mildew.
  • The existing wallpaper is grass cloth, burlap or cork.
  • You can hear crinkling sounds when running your hand over the surface of the wall. If you do, the wallpaper has buckled and it needs to be removed.

So it looks like you've made your decision. Roll up your sleeves and let's go!

Step 1

Go to the circuit breaker panel and turn off the power to the room you plan on working in. Hopefully they are already marked to make this easy. If not, we suggest plugging in a clock radio or boom box and putting it up high enough so that you can hear when it shuts off. (It's a whole heck of a lot easier than going back and forth to check each time.) Check all of the switches and plugs to be certain before proceeding.

Step 2

Using a flathead screwdriver, remove all of the switch and outlet covers from all of the walls that you want to work on. Once you've done this, cover the outlets and the switches with blue painter's tape.

Step 3

One very important step is to cover the floor with a plastic backed drop cloth to keep the floor dry. Removing wallpaper can make a mess! Then, apply a 12" baseboard masking (brown paper) and blue painter's tape to the baseboards.

 

Trick of the Trade:

For those of you who haven't seen this, you are in for a treat! It's a combination of 12" brown masking tape and blue painter's tape already put together. You can buy them separately but the money you save will be the difference in time you spend. Let the masking overlap onto the drop cloth to guarantee complete protection.

 

Step 4

The next step is to make lots of little holes in the wallpaper with a wallpaper scoring tool so that when you apply the solution it will penetrate. (You will be able to find something like this at almost any hardware store.) Apply just enough pressure to perforate the wallpaper without damaging the underlying wall.

Step 5

If you haven't put your protective eyewear on yet, now would be the time. Fill a spray bottle with wallpaper remover and apply to the entire wall. If you are doing a very large area you can use a garden sprayer to accomplish this. Trick of the Trade: Mix the remover with water that is as warm as you can stand. This will speed up the process. Tip: If you are sensitive to chemicals or if you are pregnant and are trying to get the baby's room ready, mix a cup of vinegar to one gallon of water instead of using a commercial wallpaper remover.

IMPORTANT: The first thing to know before you even start is, was the wall board primed before it was papered? The way to tell is if you pull off the paper and find what's revealed is kind of chaulky in substance, they didn't prime the wall. If you are removing wallpaper and the paper surface of your drywall comes up too, stop immediately. When this happens, it generally means that the drywall was not sealed with enough paint when the drywall was first installed. Glue down any loose pieces and seams that have separated. Fill in uneven areas with non-shrinking surfacing compound. Sand your repairs, then apply an oil-based sealer with an enamel undercoat. You will need to paint on top of the wallpaper, not remove it. You may also want to call a professional to get further advice specific to your home.

Step 6

After having waited 10-20 minutes, use a plastic scraper to lightly scrape the surface. TIP: Only use the entire length of the plastic scraper when working. It may seem like the corner will help to get things started but it may also make dents into the wall that you will have to fix later.

I told you it would be time consuming but I knew you could do it!

Now all you have to do is go over the wall several times with a sponge and fresh water to remove any glue residue. If you skip this step, it will change the bonding ability of the paint and cause it to peel - so do it! And after this project, I know you don't want to have to spend any extra time working on these walls!

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3 comments

14
Jun

I have removed wallpaper many times in various residences. My method is to sand it slightly to remove the washable surface. That makes it capable of absorbing water. Then I spray and area with hot water in which I put some vinegar. Let it sit just a bit to let it wet the back paper, not too long as it will dry fast. I then can just lift it off in big pieces. Has always worked for me.
31
Aug

Forget buying that expensive, horrible smelling wallpaper remover. We tried that and had horrible results, it didn't work, it stunk up the place and we ran the risk of damaging our walls. Then a gal at worked suggested this combination. Capfull of Downey liquid mixed with warm water. It worked amazingly! And the smell was MUCH more tolerable.
17
Oct

The wallpaper in my "new" house was the original paper put up 19 years ago. Yesterday, my teenage nephew helped me to score the paper then we sprayed it with a sprayer bottle (standard size you get @ the grocery store) filled with 1/4 Snuggle fabric softener, 1/4 Vinegar, & the rest water. Shake well. We sprayed the walls, using standard precautions for the carpet & tile floors, waited about 10 minutes & then peeled the paper off in large strips. Some stubborn areas required scraping. The previous owners had glued some areas to the wall which will require some minor repairs with spackle and Kilz. But overall, it went well & I hope this helps some one else to have a good de-wallpapering experience. Like "bearinked" wrote, the smell was far nicer. Good luck! Vision, patience, and knowing when to ask for help will make each of my projects successful as well as unique.