How to Remove Painted Wallpaper in Several Simple Steps

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Decorating with wallpaper has gone through varying periods of popularity over the years, but right now the wallpaper trend is hotter than ever.   Wallpaper is making such a big comeback, we are seeing it vertical and horizontal surfaces, from subtle to completely outrageous prints, and tons of color.  It’s everywhere.   

It wasn’t long ago that the wallpaper industry lost more than half of its sales with the increasing popularity of modern and minimalist residential design that favored painted walls, larger windows, and/or paneling.   And off course, the quick and dirty solution to hide dated wallpaper was to add a layer of paint over the wallpaper! 

I’ve found that one thing I love about renovating old homes is observing how design opinions have evolved over time like the once wildly popular popcorn ceilings, laminate flooring, and wallpaper. If you have been following along, you know about the many new projects at #FlippinBrushy.  Today we want to take it back to the early demo phase of the flip, and less sexy (but high in demand) topic wallpaper removal.  The previous owner had painted over wallpaper, covering almost every wall in the house. 

Wallpaper removal can seem like a daunting task, but with the right approach and a little patience, it can be a manageable DIY project. Whether you’re preparing to paint or add new wallpaper to your own tastes, read on for tips and tricks on how to remove painted wallpaper.

Step 1: Gather Your Supplies

  1. Roman wallpaper scraper or similar perforation tool
  2. Wallpaper removal solution or homemade mixture (vinegar and water or fabric softener and water)
  3. Sponge or spray bottle
  4. Putty knife or scraper
  5. Drop cloths or plastic sheeting
  6. Bucket
  7. Towels
  8. Protective gear (gloves, goggles, and a mask)

Step 2: Prepare the Room

Prepare the room by removing any furniture, wall decorations, and switch plates. Cover the floors with drop cloths or plastic sheeting to protect them from water and debris. Additionally, ensure proper ventilation by opening windows or using fans to help dissipate any fumes from the removal solution.

Step 3: Test a Small Area

Before diving into the entire wall, it’s crucial to test a small section of the wallpaper. Use the wallpaper scorer to perforate the surface, then apply the removal solution or homemade mixture. Let it sit for a few minutes to soften the adhesive, then attempt to peel back the wallpaper. This test will help you determine the best approach for your specific wallpaper type.

Step 4: Score the Wallpaper

Use the wallpaper scorer or perforation tool to create small holes in the wallpaper. This process allows the removal solution to penetrate the adhesive, making it easier to remove.

Step 5: Apply the Removal Solution

Next, apply the removal solution to the wallpaper. I’ve read that you can actually make your own removal solution with vinegar and water or fabric softener and water, but I opted for the store bought version from Home Depot. You can use a sponge or spray bottle to saturate the surface thoroughly. Allow the solution to penetrate the wallpaper for the recommended amount of time specified on the product label.

Step 6: Remove the Wallpaper

Once the removal solution has had time to work its magic, use a putty knife or scraper to gently peel away the wallpaper. Start at a corner or seam and carefully work your way across the wall, applying steady pressure as you go. Be patient and take your time to avoid damaging the underlying wall surface.

Step 7: Clean Up Any Residue

After removing the wallpaper, you may encounter residual adhesive or backing on the wall. Use a sponge or towel dampened with warm water to wipe away any remaining residue. For stubborn areas, you can use a commercial adhesive remover or a mixture of warm water and vinegar.

Step 8: Rinse and Dry the Walls

Once you’ve removed all traces of wallpaper and adhesive, rinse the walls with clean water to remove any leftover residue. Use a clean towel to dry the walls thoroughly.

Step 9: Repair Any Damage

During the wallpaper removal process, you may encounter minor damage to the walls, such as small tears or dents. Before proceeding with any additional work, take the time to repair any damage using spackle or joint compound. Allow the repairs to dry completely before sanding smooth and priming the walls for paint or new wallpaper.

Removing wallpaper may require time and effort, but with the right approach and proper preparation, it can be a manageable DIY project. By following these step-by-step instructions and using the right tools and techniques, you can achieve professional-looking results and prepare your walls for a fresh new look. Remember to take your time, work carefully, and always prioritize safety throughout the process. With patience and perseverance, you’ll soon have smooth, wallpaper-free walls ready for whatever comes next in your home renovation journey.

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