painting over wallpaper

Should Old Wallpaper Be Removed Before Painting?

It’s one thing to move into a home with a paint job you dislike and decide you want to give it a fresh coat to really transform the space. It’s another to find yourself facing a home covered in decade’s old wallpaper you’d rather live without. Removing wallpaper isn’t a fun process, and it might be tempting to try and simply paint over it. But that could end up being a big mistake.

The Drawbacks of Painting Over Wallpaper

The biggest problem with attempting to paint over wallpaper is that patterns on your wall are much harder to hide than you might think. Even after choosing dark colors and applying multiple layers, you might find the original design still peaking through the paint, which defeats the purpose of repainting it in the first place.

The other issue is that wallpaper is affected by moisture. During the painting process, the wallpaper can end up absorbing moisture from the paint and start to peel off, ruining your hard work.

Is Painting Over Wallpaper Ever an Option?

If the pattern is relatively neutral and the paper is in good condition, it may be possible to paint over it without any negative consequences. Additionally, depending on the age of the house, removing the wallpaper could end up doing more harm than good, damaging the integrity of your walls in the process. This is especially true in cases where the wallpaper was not applied properly, causing it to become permanently adhered to the wall.

In fact, you could end up facing a host of complications. Particularly stubborn remnants of wallpaper could remain stuck, leaving you with an uneven surface to work with. Certain chemical solutions could take care of such problems, but any residue left behind by those chemicals could discolor paint applied afterward.

Considering the condition of the wallpaper and your level of comfort in removing it, you might determine that painting over the existing wallpaper is the best choice. In that case, you will have to properly prepare the surface of the wallpaper before painting to ensure the highest chances of success.

Painting Over Wallpaper

1. Give Yourself a Smooth Surface

Any minor nicks or dents should be spackled and sanded to give you as smooth a surface as possible. Imperfections will be very visible once a solid coat of paint is applied, so it’s best to address the issue before painting.

2. Wash the Wallpaper

Washing the wall with water and ammonia can ensure that all dust and particulates have been removed. This helps the primer and paint to attach to the wall properly. If the wallpaper is uncoated, then stick to simply vacuuming or dusting to avoid adding in harmful moisture.

3. Secure Any Loose Sections

Ideally, there should be no loose sections or rough patches, but if you notice any, you should make sure you properly adhere to the sections back onto the wall. If you’re particularly concerned, you can add a layer of caulking at the top and bottom of the wallpaper, sealing the edges and reducing the risk of peeling.

4. Apply a Primer

Primer is critical to the success of the project. An oil-based primer effectively seals the paper and protects it from absorbing moisture. This, in turn, further reduces any chances of peeling. A primer is also helpful in ensuring you don’t need an excessive number of coats.

5. Paint

Once the primer is done, you can go ahead and add your paint!

How to Go About Removing Wallpaper

While it’s certainly possible to paint over wallpaper, removing it altogether is a far better solution in the long run. It gives you the best surface to work with and helps you avoid any issues with unwanted patterns or texture from the wallpaper. You also don’t have to worry about potential peeling and bubbling of the wallpaper under the paint. However, stripping wallpaper can be a difficult process.

1. Assess the Wallpaper

You can’t get started with the removal process if you don’t know what you’re dealing with. You could have merely one layer of easily strippable wallpaper, or you could discover you have years and years’ worth of wallpaper layers caked onto your wall. If you can find a place that naturally reveals the composition of what’s covering your walls, you can easily determine what you’re dealing with. Underneath your outlet covers is a good spot to start. Alternatively, you might have to simply start peeling a very small section of the wall to find out what’s underneath.

Note: newer wallpapers are designed to be strippable. If this is the case, then you’re in luck. If the wallpaper comes off easily, then you can simply grab a corner and pull until the strip of wallpaper peels away. Occasionally you might find spots that are a little more resistant than others. Those can be loosened with a razor knife.

2. Soak the Wallpaper With Water

As mentioned, when wallpaper absorbs moisture, it is prone to peeling. While an undesirable effect when trying to paint over it, this behavior is extremely helpful when it comes to the stripping process. Hot water is the most important ingredient, although there are a number of things you could add to the water to make it even more effective for particularly stubborn sections. People have used everything from liquid detergent, fabric softener, and vinegar to soften the wallpaper adhesive. There are also chemical stripper concentrates available.

If the wallpaper is coated and waterproof, you’ll need to score it first to ensure the water is absorbed. Avoid being too rough with this step to prevent causing permanent damage to the walls. Simply using a sheet of coarse sandpaper on the wallpaper’s surface can be enough.

3. Scrape the Wallpaper Away

After the wallpaper has been soaking for a bit, you should be able to remove it with a little gentle scraping. Smaller scrapers are ideal as they allow you to apply constant pressure as you go. Make sure you work in sections, going back to the soaking step as needed.

Unfortunately, you might still run into some challenges in the process. If you’re still having trouble removing your wallpaper after trying the above steps, then it’s time to call in a professional to take a look. Not only does PaintPro offer a number of interior painting services, but we also have a skilled team with ample experience in wallpaper removal. We can help make sure your walls remain intact while getting rid of any unnecessary layers of wallpaper and repaint your home to give it a fresh new look. If you need trusted Austin painters, contact us to get started today!