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Remove or Paint over wallpaper

I just bought an old house and it is all wallpapered.  Under the wallpaper is plaster and the wallpaper is peeling up in spots.  What is the best method to prep the wall for paint?

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Posted 2012-01-12T17:37:46+0000  by Erowyn22 Erowyn22

We used steam to remove wallpaper on plaster walls. We removed 5 layers of wallpaper, one of which had been painted. If you can remove the first couple of layers with a putty knive, that speeds of the process. Do not use a cutting wheel or blades when you get to the last couple of  layers of paper since you don't won't to damage the plaster.

Get yourself a good steamer and be patient. We also went back and steamed and wiped down the plaster to remove the wallpaper paste. We ended with very clean, ready to prime, plaster walls.

Posted 2012-01-12T17:52:36+0000  by pauli

First try to use wallpaper stripper with a 3-4 inch blade or like the other person said you can use a steamer.  Once you got off as much as you can, the goal being all of it, spray it down again and scrape off the paste residue, wipe it down and let it THOUROUGHLY dry. 


Of course you want to make any repairs before priming.  You want to make sure you use an oil-based primer to prepare your wall for paint.  If you cannot get all of the wallpaper off this is critical  that this type of primer is used.  You dont want to use a water based because it will over time reactivate the glue on the back of the paper and eventually THAT will start peeling off.  


Once you have this completed you will be ready for paint.  Just remember it will take a little longer for any oil based products to dry.  Just be patient, it will be beautiful when it is done.  Behr Paints have a wonderful line of primer for wallpaper, and then to go over it with the 2 in 1 paint!




Posted 2012-01-12T19:41:26+0000  by taterchip



Hi Erowyn22, this is Mike The Home Depot Answer Man


Do to the fact that the wallpaper is already pealing, I would remove the wall paper, wash the walls, prime and paint. You will be much happier with the result than trying to repair and paint over the wall paper.


We offer at The Home Depot a wallpaper remover kit from Zinsser. It includes wall paper remover liquid, a paper tiger wallpaper tool to pierce the face of the paper and a wall paper scraper.


If you’re removing wallpaper from a large area, try using a new clean garden sprayer. Fill the sprayer with hot water and add some liquid fabric softener. I am told this works very well at removing old wallpaper.


If that doesn’t do the job, try a wallpaper steamer. You can rent one at your local Home Depot.

Once the wallpaper is off, wash the walls with tri sodium phosphate (TSP) mixed with warm water to remove any remaining wallpaper paste. Rinse the cleaned walls with clear water to remove any traces of the TSP. 

Finally you need to repair any holes that your scraper made in the drywall. If there are just small holes, fill them with drywall mud or spackling compound and smooth them out.


 Let them dry overnight, sand the repair, apply a primer and you're ready to paint. Use good quality paint such as Behr Premium Plus, or Behr Premium Plus Ultra which already has a primer in the paint.

 Either one will give you a first class finish and a room you will be proud of.


I hope this answers your question









Posted 2012-01-12T19:49:48+0000  by Mike_HD_OC




Definitely remove the wallpaper if you are interested in a quality result. Wallpaper is far more easily removed from plaster than from drywall. Plaster is hard, slick and not overly porous. Your knife will slide over that surface without making major gouges. My favorite tool for removal is a 2 1/2 inch, flexible and angled blade spackle knife. The flexible blade will more easily work its was under the layers of paper. Also, the more you run it over the plaster, the sharper it gets. It will end up almost as sharp as a razor blade.


Your job will be made easier if those wallpapers are very old, as wallpapers were not plastic coated years ago. This lets the water or steam reach the paste more rapidly. Also, the paste of choice years ago was wheat paste. It is much easier to soften and remove than modern cellulose paste.


Steamers do work, albeit somewhat slowly, as 110volt steamers are not capable of generating large amounts of steam. Some of my fondest memories are of being in a room with a 40,000BTU propane fired steamer that held 10 gallons of water and sounded like a jet plane in the room with you! :) It also occurs to me how incredibly dangerous that gadget was! But it REALLY removed wallpaper!


HDanswerman has given you good advice. I generally followed his technique of using a pump garden sprayer with hot water. I used DIF to assist  with the removal. DIF definitely aids in removing the cellulose paste with which most wallpaper today is hung.


The biggest mistake most do-it-yourselfers make is getting impatient and trying to get the paper off before the paste is properly softened. Wallpaper removal takes LOTS of water and LOTS of patience.


You must take measures to protect the floor you are working over, especially wooden floors or carpeting. To this end, I would cut sheets of plastic into long , 4 foot wide strips and tape it to the baseboards with 2 inch masking tape. I would then roll the outer edge toward the wall  to form a trough in which to catch the water flowing down the wall. The water must be continually mopped up with a sponge. Also, make sure that the tape goes slightly up onto the wall. Large amounts of water working its way behind the baseboard can cause them to bow out.


You will also want to either kill the electrical circuits in the room you are working in  and  tape them shut top keep water out of them.

Posted 2012-01-13T03:56:38+0000  by ordjen

+1 Pauli, and welcome to the Community!


Erowyn22, welcome to you as well.  I also have an older home with all plaster walls.  Lots of these walls had wallpaper.  While definitions of slow are a relative thing, I cannot more strongly recommend a steamer as a small investment you will be glad to make.


Wallpaper Steamer.jpg


What you will find is that the steamer will loosen small sections of paper at a time.  Work across the wall from the top down.  As the paper comes free, a little more steam allows the plaster to be wiped down with a sponge to remove the last of the paste.  You won't have to deal with gallons of water flooding the floor.  In fact, when you get the paper stripped, the final wall wash with the cleaner of your choice will wet the floor more than the steaming did!


You now end up with a squeaky clean wall ready for a coat of primer.


I hope this helps,



P.S..  Hey ordjen, 40,000 BTU?  Wow that's a serious amount of energy!  There are lots of BBQ grills that don't have that much power.  I guess you can cook lunch while you are working on those walls.  :smileyhappy:


Posted 2012-01-13T15:12:14+0000  by Chris_HD_CHI




That steamer was quite a gadget. It was about 3 feet tall, the size of a short water heater. It had a bunsen burner type flame that was about an 1 1/2inch across. It literally sounded like a jet engine. It had several gallons of water in the uninsulated tank and it would boil off in about 1/2 hour. This was in the late 50's during my teen-age years. My painting contractor father would drag me kicking and screaming to work in un-air-conditioned apartment buildings in Chicago .Fortunately, virtually everything in Chicago was plaster in those days. Drywall was forbidden until farely recently.


The small electric units will work, just rather slowly. Speaking as a life-long contractor, time is money!  Even with steamers though,  wooden floors and carpet have to be protected . The plastic placed around under the work area makes a place for the paper to fall without getting paste and paper residue over everything. It then allows all the refuse to be rolled up right into an awaiting garbage bag. An ounce of prevention IS worth a pound of cure!


When using the sprayed water technique, I always caution to only spray down one wall at a time. If you get too far ahead, you cannot keep up with the removal. After the paper comes off, you want to immediately go after the paste which remains before it dries down. If you got too far ahead, you will have needlessly wet down the walls and will have to do it again.


The beauty of plaster is that you knew that the subsurface was hard and not overly porous. With drywall, you are not sure until you start removing the paper. If there was a good coat of sealer and paint on drywall, normally the paper would come down without too much problem. However, I occasionally would run across a situation where the "paperhanger" had hung right on the lousy builders paint or even on bare drywall without sealing it! A nightmare was the result!


In the early 70's, when I bought my first house, knowing that I would be hanging a lot of wallpaper eventually, I went through the whole house sealing the builders' wall paint and painting a coat of low sheen oil paint over it. Over the years, as I had to remove wallpaper I put up, I was ever so glad that I had treated those walls! The oil paint made a highly effective moisture barrier, protecting the drywall. The wallpaper would rapidly release and the paste would wipe off the wall with merely a sponge. NO scrubbing! Again, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!


Indeed, wall paper manufacturers in those days always advised the paperhanger to seal the walls with a coat of flat oil paint. Still good advice. However, too many paperhangers  just throw the paper on the wall. Now- a- days, there are many water based sealers to rapidly seal the wall before hanging paper. A well sealed wall also makes the hanging of paper much easier because it allows the paperhanger to properly position his paper and work the seams without the paste being sucked into the wall.

Posted 2012-01-13T20:36:02+0000  by ordjen

Hey ordjen, that old steamer sounds a lot like a giant turkey fryer with a hose!


When Erowyn22 mentioned all plaster walls, I just had to jump in and vote for using a steamer.  Yes, they may be a little slower in removing the wallpaper, but you get a lot of clean-up done during the process that otherwise needs attention later.  For drywall, you are so right that it's the prep done before that paper was hung that matters.


You are also right that for contractors time is money.  For homeowners though, time is often not the first priority.  Usually it's money first and time is "whatever it takes".  While some my want the fastest method, and others may want the cheapest or easiest, we do try and lead folks toward the best end-quality results.  From your posts I see that you do as well.


BTW, as a life-long contractor, your input is seriously valued here on the Community.  We are glad to have you join the forum.  Keep us updated on your projects and please feel free to continue helping others.




Posted 2012-01-13T21:03:30+0000  by Chris_HD_CHI

I can't say enough good things about the Tiger Paw removal tool.  It it easy to use and speeds things up.  It pokes little holes into the paper that allows the steam to penetrate faster and deeper.  My Mom and I used it with great results and a little steamer unit.  Paw it, steam and give it time to work.  You get into a rhythm.  There were 5-6 layers of paper in most of the rooms.  We went down to the plaster.  If you have kids, they could do the lower parts of the walls with the Tiger Paw. 

Posted 2012-04-14T04:20:12+0000  by Seasider

Can you texture paint over existing wallpaper?

Posted 2012-04-20T18:45:28+0000  by bakingqueen2008

Hey bakingqueen2008.


Can you paint over wallpaper?  Sure you can.  Do you want to do this?  Maybe...but only if you have no other choice.


As a general rule for long term project happiness I find it best to remove wallpaper and then prime and paint the walls.

The main reason for this is that the final paint job is only as good as what is under it.  Wallpaper has a tendency to lift up or separate at seams.  This would ruin a perfectly good paint job that could otherwise last decades if applied to a sound wall.  What you will find if you read through forum threads on this topic is to absolutely get rid of the wallpaper.  There are a number of ways to do this.  That is what this thread is all about.


OK, so what happens if you really want to paint over the wallpaper?


Here are some tips from PaintPro on how to give yourself a chance for success:


  1. Prime over the existing “stubborn wallpaper” with an oil based primer. Wallpaper glue is water soluble – so any paint or primer that is water based will re-activate the glue and cause the paper to blister and curl.
  2. Patch any visible seams with drywall compound and sand smooth when dry.
  3. Prime any sanded patches before applying paint.
  4. Caulk all places where the paper ends (around doors, windows, trim and ceiling).
  5. Paint with two coats of any type paint. The walls are sealed and will not react to any water based product.

Notice that you will have primed twice before you paint, and with an OIL based primer.  Once the wall is properly prepped and primed, you can use any painting technique you choose. 


I hope this helps,




Posted 2012-04-20T18:58:10+0000  by Chris_HD_CHI
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