How To Strip Wallpaper and Prepare Walls For Paint

Some people like wallpaper. It can really change the look of a room. I'm not a big fan of wallpaper. I prefer a freshly painted room. So if you're like me and you have a wallpapered room that you would like to change but you just keep putting it off, here is a step by step method.

I'm not an expert or even a professional. I'm just going to tell you what I have learned from my own experience. We bought a house some years ago and every room in the house was wallpapered. My wife and I decided it needed to be changed and got to work. The other thing you need to know is that removing wallpaper is no easy task and is very messy, but I'm sure you'll enjoy the results in the end.

Step 1 : Score The Wallpaper

Before you start to score make sure you are removing a paper wallpaper, some are vinyl. If this is the case, you may not need these instructions. For vinyl wall coverings try pulling up a corner. Once you have a corner started begin pulling. You can start at the top or the bottom, if you're lucky the vinyl will pull off in big sections. I'll tell you how to prepare your wall after you remove vinyl later.

Now back to scoring. The purpose of scoring is so that whatever method of removal you are using it penetrates and gets under the paper to loosen and dissolve the old glue. I will show you two methods of removal later.

There are two tools that I've used; a rotary scoring tool and your standard utility knife. I prefer the utility knife. A warning: with either tool make sure not to use too much pressure. You just want to score the paper and not damage the wall. We had a small dining area that had wallpaper over dry wall, I used the rotary tool and applied too much pressure and damaged the wall. I had to skim coat the entire wall with drywall compound. We ended up re-wallpapering this room.

How To Strip Wallpaper

Step 2A : Method 1 The Wallpaper Steamer

Whether you rent or buy a wallpaper steamer, before you start using a steamer you need to cover the floors with drop cloths. I recommend using the disposal paper drop cloths as you can roll them up and throw them away. I never use plastic drop cloths as they can be slippery and cause a fall.

Follow the instructions on the steamer to prepare it for use, I recommend wearing rubber gloves and long sleeves as you will be dealing with very hot water. I use my razor knife to score a large X about the size of the steamer pan, then when the steamer is ready I cover the X that I scored in the paper. Hold the steamer pan there until you see the paper begin to bubble. Use a 3" or 4" putty knife or a wide razor knife to begin scraping from where the X crosses. When you have cleared one area move to the next.

The Wallpaper Steamer

Step 2B : Method 2 Using Hot Water or a Chemical Solution

If you don't want to buy or rent a steamer you can use one of the following methods:

  • . Hot water and a sponge: again make sure to wear rubber gloves. After scoring, begin by sponging small areas with hot water and begin to scrap. (This method is labor intensive and will take you longer)
  • You can use a product called Dif. You can find this at your local hardware store, follow the instructions on the bottle.
  • This is a homemade solution that some friends gave me. Try mixing some hot water with liquid fabric softener. (Personally, I have never tried the fabric softener)

I have done this many times and have used both methods. I can't say that I would recommend one over the other. What I can say is, you have to use what works best for you and what you are comfortable with. I found that using a combination of both worked best for me.

It can be done with a heat gun as well, but I haven't tested it yet.

Step 3 : We're Not Finished Yet Now To Prepare The Wall For Paint

If you were lucky enough to have vinyl and it came off easily the wall will feel like a fine sandpaper. Now we need to sand this smooth and wash the walls before painting.

Now that all the paper is off the wall the wall should look something like the picture. After the walls dry use hot water to wash them. We need to remove all of the old glue residue left behind. Keep your scraping tools handy because there will still be bits and pieces of paper that will need scraped off.

You may need to repeat this step a couple of times just to make sure all of the residue is off the walls. Once you're sure all of the old glue and paper are off the walls, it's time to sand the walls, I always use a good vibrating sander.

A lot of times people wallpaper to cover up bad walls. If this is the case, you need to patch any cracks or gaps in the wall. I always use a vinyl patch or some dry wall compound. Sand the patch smooth and now you can apply a good primer coat of paint.

Now go pick your colors, Paint the wall and stand back to admire all of your hard work.

Give Me Your Opinion, What do You Prefer?

Do You Prefer Wallpaper or A Freshly Painted Room?

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David Hanley

I am a contractor. I love my job to the moon and back. I like to try new tools that can ease my work and satisfy my clients. I am not a blogger, am a DIY person who wants to help my fellow friends.