Questions and Answers Concerning Wallpaper Removal

Wallpaper Techniques- Wallpaper Application - Wallpaper Removal

Q. I am updating my daughter's nursery and I would like to take off the border I currently have on the walls. Is there any way to remove the border without damaging the paint underneath? The border is water-based.

A. Remove it as you would any type of wallpaper, be gentle and maybe it won't affect the paint underneath. But be prepared to repaint if needed.

Q. All I really want to do is paint, but I have at least two layers of painted wallpaper and then plaster underneath. What is the best way to remove the painted wallpaper? Will DIF work on that? Then what would be the best way to repair the plaster?

A. Removing painted over wallpaper is difficult and sometimes impossible to do. Cut out any loose areas and level walls with wallboard compound. Cut back loose seams and fill. Fill all seams. Sand smooth. Seal walls with oil-based primer (not water-based). This will seal in all stains and provide a smooth surface for painting. If you want to undertake the daunting task of removing the wallpaper, then you are going to need the wallpaper removal chemicals and a steam wallpaper remover. To get through the paint to soften the adhesive, you will need to pierce the wallpaper. You can buy Paper Tigers at the paint/paper store. If there are many layers of paint, this gadget may not be able to pierce the paint and paper. Chemical strippers when mixed with hot water and sprayed on walls tend to dissolve wallpaper paste and lift paper. Some can be toxic and damage other surfaces and are not good for your skin. Steam wallpaper strippers may lift more than the paper, thus causing damage to wall and requiring wall repair. Sometimes homeowners find that wallpaper was installed without 'sizing' and/or applied directly to drywall (no plaster) and greater wallpaper removal nightmares are discovered.

Q. We just bought a doublewide mobile home and the previous owner put wallpaper over the vinyl wallboard. We removed the wallpaper and there is a large amount of paste still left on the walls. It appears that the paste has adhered to the vinyl wallboard and cannot be removed. We have tried many things to remove it and just wont budge without damaging the wallboard. Is there any way at all to paint over the existing wallpaper paste? Will an oil-based primer do the trick?

A. Go buy the gel DIF not the liquid (it is a wallpaper remover). Mix it half and half with hot water. Put it in a paint tray and roll it on like you are painting. Let it sit 15 minutes then do it again. Do this two or three times then try to wipe it off with a rag. It should melt right off. If not, roll it on again. Let the DIF and water do the work, not you. If all glue comes off well, don't forget to wipe the walls well with clean water once or twice to remove Dif and glue residue before painting or leaving as is. If for some reason this does not work, wipe the walls with paint thinner, mineral spirits or naphtha.

Q. I'm trying to remove a wallpaper border that has apparently been pasted directly onto drywall with border cement. My understanding is that this polymer-based cement should only be used to adhere the border onto wallpaper. However, in this case, the previous owner used the cement to stick the border on the wall itself. DIF does not work on this, or a warm vinegar and water solution.A steamer does not loosen this cement off, either. Any suggestions how to get this border off without damaging my walls?

A. Try putting a heat gun to it and scraping with a stiff putty knife. Not a sure cure, but it does work sometimes. You might end up having to smooth the bottom edge of it with joint compound, priming over it, and painting to make it 'go away.' Remnants of the border cement will remain.

Q. Can I or how do I paint over my wallpaper?

A. The best route is to use proper wallpaper stripping techniques first. This will tell you if the wallpaper can be stripped successfully or not. Sometimes painting over wallpaper is preferred. Where wallpaper is adhered to unprepared drywall, this can be the only way to go.

Before deciding to paint over wallpaper, you should always attempt to strip the existing paper first. If after a valid, dedicated attempt at paper removal, it either causes wall damage or just refuses to come off, then you may take the steps for painting. This decision should not be taken lightly! Wallpaper stripping over a properly prepared surface is actually easy to do. Stripping paint over wallpaper can be the worst-case scenario and will cause you or the future homeowner problems.

Preparation is the key to painting over wallpaper. Remove any loose paper areas first. Then apply joint compound to any nail holes, seam areas or other damaged spots. Sand these areas smooth after proper curing time. The more time you spend filling holes, patching, smoothing and sanding, the better your result will be. Once you are finished your prep, close your eyes and rub your hand over the entire wall surface. Your hand will tell you where the errors are better than your eye. Without valiant efforts at preparation, it will look just like you painted over wallpaper. Then apply a good quality primer/sealer over the entire surface. Now your wall is one hundred percent ready for paint or additional wallpaper.

Q. We need to do major bathroom work in both of our upstairs bathrooms. They both are papered with non-plastic type wallpaper. Since they have been on since the house was built, about 25 years ago, can I paper over them? The paper is very well attached to the walls, with no peeling, etc. My fear is that to remove it would possibly damage the walls underneath, requiring replacement. And that is a larger job than I would like to do at the present time.

A. Do Not Paper Over Wallpaper!

As time consuming and tedious as it may seem, you must remove the old paper. Repair the walls and then use a "sizer," which stabilizes any new application. You should always use additional wallpaper paste applied with a roller. The sizer allows you to remove paper in the future, gives additional application time and stops stretching of current wallpaper when you are hanging. The cheaper the paper, the harder to hang and the more that eventually shows through from beneath.

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Wallpaper Techniques- Wallpaper Application - Wallpaper Removal