Painting Over Wallpaper Borders

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What You'll Need
• Hairdryer• Spray mister• Plastic wallpaper scraper• Sandpaper• Primer• Good-quality paint• Paintbrushes• Roller• Joint compound or drywall mud• Fine-grit sanding block Protective clothing
Eye protection
Dust mask or respirator

Wallpaper borders can quickly become dated and old. You can refresh a room by removing the borders or painting over them. You can have a whole new room in six simple steps.

Assess the Border

In a child's room allpaper borders are often attached with weak adhesive because their interest changes, so you may be able to peel these off without any need to paint over them. Kitchen wallpaper borders, on the other hand, are usually well attached as the steam of the kitchen makes wall coverings work harder to stay looking good. The bathroom wallpaper presents the same challenge.

If you are not able to peel off the paper and the underlying glue, you need to do a little prep work before you paint it. Run your hand over the edge of the border and the wall, you will feel a small ridge. If you do not even out the surface where the border meets the wall you will see this ridge after you paint.

Try to Remove the Wallpaper

You will get the best finish if you remove the wallpaper border before you start to paint. The easiest method is to heat up the border using a hairdryer. The heat can loosen the adhesive and make the border easier to peel away. If this doesn’t work, moisten the surface lightly with a spray mister and scrape with a plastic wallpaper scraper to avoid damaging the walls.

Use a plastic scraper instead of a metal one to avoid structural wall damage. If this does not work, painting over the border is your next option.

Prepare the Surface

As with any painting job, you will get the best finish if you prepare the surface of the wall thoroughly. Gently remove any loose wallpaper by pulling at it gently with your fingers. Do not leave any torn off bits hanging off. Make sure that the surface of the wall around the border is flat and fill in any holes.

Apply Primer

Most decorating jobs require only one coat of good quality paint. However, when you are painting over wallpaper borders, make sure you apply a coat of primer. Apply it thinly and evenly at first, paying careful attention to problem areas. The best way to apply primer is with a roller for general coverage, and then a brush to target specific problem areas.

Leave the primer to dry overnight and inspect the coat carefully in the morning. Then, go through it once again to cover up any imperfections.

Pro Tip: Painting consultant Pam Estabrooke, of ProTect Painters, suggests, “Tint the primer to the final wall color. This provides greater coverage of the border design and cuts down on bleed through.”

Even Out the Wall

Now that you have sealed the paper with primer, even out the border and remove the hard edge or ridge. Load the edge of the plastic putty knife with small amounts of joint compound or drywall mud. Apply a gentle, thin coat of the mud to the lower edge of the border and wall. Continue around the room until all of the edge is covered. Allow it to thoroughly dry and then lightly sand it smooth.

Test the area with your hand again and re-mud and sand any areas that still have a ridge or rough spot. It is important to do this after priming, otherwise, the water in the drywall mud will activate the paper and glue, and can cause the border to bubble and turn loose from the wall.

Apply Paint

Once you are satisfied with your preparation, apply the paint to the wall. Be generous with your paint. Use the best quality paint that you can afford because cheap paint can be thin and does not provide sufficient coverage. For the best results, leave the wall to dry thoroughly and before giving it a final coat.

Now you have the power to rival any professional. It is time to paint over those wallpaper borders with reckless abandon.

Pam Estabrooke, district manager of ProTect Painters, contributed to this article.