How to Remove Wallpaper

How to Remove Wallpaper

Removing old wallpaper to make way for a fresh coat of paint is a great way to give your entire home a whole new look, but where do you even start? Before contacting a professional paint contractor in the Boulder, Lafayette, or Lakewood areas, you can tackle the job yourself by following this handy guide.

Decide on Your Preferred Removal Method

There's more than one good way to remove wallpaper, which means you'll need to decide for yourself which method seems best for your project.

Dry-stripping is one of the easiest removal processes because you need few tools. Basically, the only tool you'll have to purchase is a putty knife to help loosen the wallpaper's edges, but this method only works if the wall was thoroughly sealed before the wallpaper was applied.

Soaking and scraping is the messiest method, but you're less likely to damage the drywall underneath. You will need more tools, however, including some wallpaper removal solvent, a paint roller or spray bottle, and a paper scraper or razor scraper.

Steaming away wallpaper is the most effective method for stubborn paper, but it is a major project. You'll still need a scraper of some sort in addition to a wallpaper steamer (which you can rent), plus some protective gear like rubber gloves, safety glasses, and a long-sleeve shirt.

Identify Your Wall Type

Before stripping any wallpaper, you first need to know the type of walls from which you'll be removing the wallpaper. Different types of walls react differently to wallpaper scraping tools, and some are more easily damaged than others.

Plaster walls are typically found in homes more than 50 years old. Since these walls consist of wood lath nailed to wood-framed walls that are then covered in multiple coats of plaster, they're more solid than drywall and therefore can take more abuse, but they can also soften if exposed to excessive steam. If your home does have plaster walls, they'll sound dull when you knock on them.

Drywall is more than likely the type of walls you'll be dealing with. This is a chalk-like substance covered by a lightweight cardboard and makes a hollow sound when you knock on it. Drywall is also more delicate than plaster walls, meaning that scraping tools can also scrape and damage your drywall during a wallpaper removal. If the drywall wasn't properly sealed before the wallpaper application, it could easily become damaged with a technique like dry-stripping.

Prepare for the Wallpaper Removal

Before starting any work on the walls, remove every picture frame, knickknack, and nail so you're working with a clean surface. You'll also need to remove any furniture near the walls and cover any remaining furniture in the room with plastic or sheets.

In order to prevent messy scraps from damaging your floors, place old towels or sheets along the baseboards so that they cover the trim completely, then place plastic drop cloths over the towels, taping them firmly to the baseboards. This creates a nice catch-all for all that wallpaper debris, making for an easier cleanup in addition to protecting your home's finishes.

You'll also want to prep your wallpaper removal equipment. The tools you need will vary depending on your preferred removal process.

Dry-Stripping Method

Dry Stripping Method

Image via Flickr by DaveBleasdale

To remove wallpaper via the dry-stripping method, loosen each strip of wallpaper at the corners with a putty knife. Once that's done, slowly peel back the paper at a 10- to 15-degree angle. Take care not to pull the paper straight back, as doing so can damage the wall underneath, especially if it's drywall.

Continue peeling back the wallpaper and its backing. If the backing doesn't come off as easily as the decorative top layer, try wetting the wallpaper and scraping it off with a tool. As a last resort, you'll need to steam it in order to remove every trace.

Once you've removed the wallpaper, wash the walls in a wallpaper removal solvent using a large sponge. This removes any adhesive residue and leaves your walls ready for fresh wallpaper or paint.

Soaking and Scraping Method

If you opt to soak and scrape the wallpaper away, start by using a wallpaper scoring tool over the entire surface of the wallpaper. This will cover the paper in tiny perforations. Once that's finished, soak the wallpaper surface with a removal solution, preferably with a spray bottle or paint roller. Take care not to wet an area larger than you can remove in about 15 minutes.

Using a wallpaper razor, scrape off the wallpaper and peel away larger sections once they've softened. When every trace of wallpaper has been removed, wipe the walls with a wallpaper removal solution and rinse them thoroughly.

Steaming Method

Steaming Method

Image via Flickr by Muffet

Steaming off wallpaper is similar to the soaking and scraping method. Begin by perforating the wallpaper's surface with a scoring tool. Using the rented commercial steamer, place the steamer pad directly on the wallpaper surface and hold it there, giving the steam plenty of time to penetrate the perforations you created and soften the adhesive.

When the wallpaper has loosened, use a paper scraper to remove it, but avoid touching it with your hands as it will be hot. You may need to keep reapplying steam on stubborn areas until every last trace has been scraped away. In general, the steam method works better on plaster walls than drywall.

Dealing with Wallpaper Removal Mistakes

If your walls were not properly primed to receive wallpaper, you could be faced with extensive wall damage after removal, even if you followed every step correctly. With drywall, entire chunks and strips of Sheetrock could come off, leaving an unsightly mess behind. While a headache to deal with, you can easily address this issue by repairing the drywall using a lightweight joint compound applied with a drywall knife in a crisscross pattern. Just be sure to let each patch dry completely before applying additional coats of compound.

Congratulations! Your walls are now freshly stripped and ready to receive a new finish. To ensure your walls get the right kind of treatment from the start, rely on Collegiate Painters for quality hand painting that lasts.

Featured image via Flickr by hodgers

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