How To Paint Over Wallpaper

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Estimated Time: 
3 to 5 hours, depending on wall size

Wallpaper.
wallpaper1
n 1: Paper often colored and printed with designs and pasted to a wall as a decorative covering. n 2. A picture or design covering the background of a display screen.

So you've been living with wallpaper you've hated for ten years. But, you're finally going to DO something about it! Good for you!

Then you look around the room and see just how much wallpaper there is to remove. You've heard the rumors, the myths, the stories about how labor intensive removing wallpaper can be. Don't let that stop you, because we've got GREAT news: You may not need to remove it at all!

Painting over wallpaper is possible. In some cases, even the professionals will opt that over removing it. Good examples would be wallpaper that has been applied to plaster walls or over unprimed drywall.

Before getting started: Make sure the surface is in good condition and is smooth. To get the best results, check to make sure the wallpaper is securely attached to the wall and that all the seams are close together and firmly attached. If it's not, you can use a bit of wallpaper paste (also known as adhesive, glue or our favorite - "stuff that sticks wallpaper to the wall") to stick it in place.

Next, paint a test patch area to see if the wallpaper will hold - don't skip this step! If it dries and the wallpaper stays smooth, then you're ready to get started. If the wallpaper starts to break away, that could be an indication that the wallpaper is just too old and brittle. In this case, unless you're going for a really unique textured look, you're probably going to have to remove it.

Okay, are you ready? Great! Let's get started.

Step 1

Start by wiping down your walls thoroughly with a damp sponge - wallpaper paste dries clear and, like most glues, can cause problems for paint to stick to it. Besides removing old glue, you want to make sure the wallpaper is free of other dust and grime. BUT: Make sure the wallpaper is dry before taking the next steps!

Step 2

wallpaper step2 Go to the circuit breaker panel and turn off the power to the room you plan on working in. Hopefully, your circuit breakers are already labeled (so you know which breaker belongs to each room) to make this easy. If not, we suggest plugging in a clock radio or boom box and put the volume up high enough so that you can hear it from the breaker box and can tell when it shuts off. (It's a whole heck of a lot easier than going back and forth to check each time). Check all of the switches and plugs to be certain before proceeding, as some rooms are covered by more than one circuit breaker.

Step 3

wallpaper step3Using your flathead screwdriver, now remove all of the swith/outlet covers from all of the walls that you want to work. Once you've done this, cover or "mask" the outlets and the switches with blue painter's tape.

Jane Tip: Fom this point on, we suggest wearing latex or vinyl gloves and safety glasses. Getting wall dust in your contact lenses is no picnic!

Step 4

Go over the walls with your bare hands to feel for any surface imperfections that will become apparent once the wall is painted. Repair any dents or scratches with a surfacing compound such as Spackle. Let the spackle dry and lightly sand (using 220 grit paper) any areas that don't feel smooth. Remove any residual dust with a damp cloth before continuing.

Step 5

The last step of preparation is to tape any areas that lie next to the wallpapered area that might get paint on them (ceiling, baseboards, window trim, etc.). So, cover those areas with painter's blue masking tape. Place plastic or cloth drop cloths on the surrounding floors. If you can, try to attach the drop cloths to the tape on the baseboards, this should help keep paint off of the floor.

JANE TIP: Disposable plastic drop cloths are usually very inexpensive and easy to manipulate. They are available at any home improvement center.

Keep Forging Ahead! The prep is usually the "hard"part!

Step 6

Stir the primer and as long as you've already done your test patch (see "test patch" above), apply it to the walls. This will help the paint "stick" to the wallpaper.

Trick of the Trade:

When you buy your primer have it tinted to half the amount of the same pigment you are having them put in your paint. It's free and it will allow for faster coverage with the paint and fewer coats of it. Meaning, you'll save $$$!!!

Step 7

Before applying the paint, you'll want to be 100% certain that the primer is dry, so we find it best to wait 24 hours. Mainly because the wallpaper will absorb the primer and take longer to dry than if you were just painting directly onto the wall.

Step 8

 

Trick of the Trade:

Repair any minor blisters or bubbles that may have formed overnight by slitting them with a utility knife and then glue them to the wall with wallpaper paste. Allow it to dry and wipe off any excess with a damp sponge.

 

Step 9

Once all of your spot treatment areas are dry, if the coverage looks good, you're ready to paint!

Step 10

Make sure to stir the can of paint prior to applying it to the wall.

 

Jane Tip:

When buying the paint, consider that you may need an extra coat depending on the design in the wallpaper and the coverage of the paint. For help with painting, see our Painting 101 section.

 

Step 11

Give it 24 hours to dry, put back on the outlet and light switch covers and say "bye-bye wallpaper!"

Great job, Jane! You did it! Now pour yourself a glass of wine, (or beer or juice or water), put on a relaxing CD, and enjoy your new room!

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7 comments

15
Aug

My home is over 3000 sq ft and only 3 rooms are un-papered. This is going to be a lifesaver!!!
1
Jun

Think long and hard before you do this. Removing wallpaper is no fun but removing wallpaper that has been painted over is even worse! Our plaster walls were wallpapered over sometime in their 95 years. The wallpaper was then painted over, numerous times. At a certain point you can't paint over wallpaper anymore. In our house the layers of paint got too heavy and began to pull the wallpaper off the walls. It has been an absolute nightmare to remove the painted wallpaper. Painting the wallpaper may be a good short term solution but it creates more problems in the future for the next homeowners, no matter how many years later.
27
Jun

In the long run you will be happier if you remove the wallpaper. Patience is a virtue when it comes to wallpaper and especially in the removal process. Create art, be happy!
24
Jul

My husband and I are currently moving into a Double Wide Trailor house for the time being until we have the money to be able to afford a house, at this might I add, we are renting it. The Living room, Dining Room and the Master Bedroom are really bad, whoever did the wall paper had no clue what they were doing. There are 3 or 4 different kinds of Wall Paper and they are nothing like each other, They range from Navy & turquiose stripes to a bright floral pattern and then from a Ugly Green to A Bunch of Circles with all different types of Colors. I am at my wits end, because there is no way I can live in this house because of this and the Walls are Cardboard thin...My landlord has given us his approval, but with no suggestions what to do and how to do this. The wall paper is peeling away from the walls right now as we speak. If anyone else has any other suggestions, please feel free to let me know!
26
Dec

We rent out a mobile home that was our summer cottage for about 18 years. The walls were also papered. However, it isn't the walls taht are papered, it is paper covered wallboard. And a primer is an absolute must. I recommend Kilz but make sure you are painting when you can ventilate properly because the odor is noxious. We allowed the tenants to repaint in their chosen colors because they wanted to move in before we were ready to repaint. Although I really was not fond of the idea that these people painted one lavender bedroom, a turquoise living room and a pumpkin orange kitchen over wall covering that I actually liked, the job came out nicely. I bought the paint and Kilz was the brand we all agreed upon. It came from the local K-mart and was somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 per gallon. Later on, when these tenants moved out. We painted beige over their orange and lavendar in order to make the place seem bigger. It worked fine. You have to be careful about putting too many colors, or dark colors in a small space because it really makes it look tiny. And, yes, a single wide trailer is tiny but it can be made to look more spacious with a little attention to detail. I'd be concerned if the paper is peeling off the wallboard unless you have reason to believe that someone papered over the existing wallboard at some point. If that is the case, I'd take it off because they probably didn't paste it on there properly. If not, the peeling more likely means that the paper is separating from the wallboard which means it is wet and more than likely mildewed inside. If that is the case, you would probably need to replace the sections of wall that are damaged, which would probably be easier than painting or papering and it really isn't all that expensive. The wallboard is, as you mentioned, thin, and inexpensive. Another option might be bead board paneling. Mobile homes are actually a lot easier to repair than regular homes for the most part. Good luck with your project.
5
Mar

We started taking off the wall paper and the dry wall paper was coming off in many of the spots. So I mudded over that, when it dries I will then sand it down. I am going to try the Zinsser Primer Sealer Stain Killer, then use a light white wash of the mud, let it dry, then pant. At least that is the plan. I hope it works, we want to put our new kitchen cabnets up this week end. I will send pictures when done.
8
Jun

Great tips. Here's an interesting take on what all that wallpaper can reveal about your home. Interesting tidbits. http://www.oldhouseweb.com/stories/Detailed/10267.shtml