DIY Guide: How to Remove Wallpaper

Fun & Fabulous

DIY Guide: How to Remove Wallpaper

Removing old wallpaper is much easier than it may seem. With a little time and effort, you can toss out the old design and give your walls a fresh new coat of paint.

Removing wallpaper in any room of your house can seem like a daunting job, but it may be easier than you think. If you have a day or two and don’t mind putting in some hard work, you can easily get rid of the outdated design and have a clean slate, all for less than $50.

Fresh paint on the walls can give a room an entirely new feel and an updated look. Plus, if you’re looking to sell in the near future, buyers are more likely to go for a painted room in neutral colors or earth tones than one with wallpaper, so this is a good way to spend a little time now to save yourself the loss later on. Here’s how to remove wallpaper in three easy steps.

Step One: Remove the Wallpaper

The first step is to strip the wallpaper from the wall. Photo via Robin Zebrowski/Flickr.
The first step is to strip the wallpaper from the wall. Photo via Robin Zebrowski/Flickr.

There are a few methods to strip wallpaper, and every room is different. For each method the prep is the same: start by taking all the furniture out of the room, switching off the power to the room, and removing switchplates/outlet covers.

Cover the outlets with tape and the floor with a water resistant drop cloth (you can use tape to secure the drop cloth to the tops of the baseboards to protect those as well). After you’ve prepped the room and donned your glasses and gloves, you’ll want to try the first method (dry stripping), and only if that doesn’t work will you need to move on to one of the other methods.

Dry Stripping: Starting at a corner or seam of the wallpaper, use a broad putty knife or drywall knife to loosen a piece of wallpaper and try pulling it off at an angle. If the paper comes right up without leaving too much adhesive and without tearing the drywall, continue pulling until you’ve covered the entire room. If not, stop and move on to one of the other methods.

Solvent Stripping: If the paper won’t come right up, you can score the wallpaper using a scorer (but don’t press on it too hard or you’ll damage the material underneath), then apply a homemade or store-bought mixture to loosen the adhesive. Homemade mixtures include solutions of either hot water and fabric softener (one-to-one ratio) or hot water with a little white vinegar; mix in small batches to keep the water hot. Follow the instructions to prepare store-bought solutions. The solvents are applied to the wallpaper with a brush, a roller, or a sprayer, but be sure to wet only as much as you can strip in 15 minutes (usually a 3 foot wide floor-to-ceiling section). Once the solution has sufficiently set (about 15 minutes), use your knife to loosen a corner or a seam and pull or scrape the paper and adhesive off. Continue around the room.

Steam Stripping: For this method you’ll have to rent a wallpaper steamer (usually relatively cheap at your local hardware store) and give it some time to heat up (about half an hour). Once the steam plate is emitting steam, start at the ceiling and press the plate on a section of wall for 15-30 seconds. Once you’ve covered an entire 3 foot section (ceiling to floor), use your knife to loosen a corner or a seam and scrape the paper and adhesive off. Don’t try pulling the paper – at this point you’ve superheated the paper and glue and could burn yourself. Continue around the room.

Step 2: Repair the Wall

If the wall is damaged underneath the wallpaper, you will need to apply a skim coat and us a pull sander on the entire room. Photo via Baron Chandler/Flicker. (hyperlink to): https://www.flickr.com/photos/thebaron03/3048533059/in/album-72157609659854622/
If the wall is damaged underneath the wallpaper, you will need to apply a skim coat and us a pull sander on the entire room. Photo via Baron Chandler/Flicker.

After stripping the wallpaper, you’ll want to sponge either dish detergent or trisodium phosphate (TSP) mixed with water onto the walls to remove any last bits of adhesive, and then use clean water and a dry towel to rinse and dry the walls without ever soaking them. Once they’re clean, the amount of repair depends on the amount of damage – if there are just a few nicks (including damage from scoring a little too hard), you can spackle the damaged spots and then sand briefly (120-150 grit) once dry.

If the wallpaper has significantly damaged the walls (or they’re just in bad condition), you may have to apply a skim coat and use a pull sander (120-150 grit) on the entire room. After either method, use a damp sponge to remove any dust post-sanding.

Step 3: Paint

A fresh coat of paint will give the room a clean, modern look. Photo via wisercosts.com
A fresh coat of paint will give the room a clean, modern look. Photo via wisercosts.com

Once your walls are clean and dry, you’re finally ready to start painting! You can check out homeyou.com for some paint color inspiration. Be sure to put down another drop cloth and keep the room well-ventilated. The type of paint and color is up to you, but be sure to start with a primer and sand the walls once the primer is dry. Use a 2.5 inch angled brush to box in the painting area; cover the rest with a roller. You’ll probably need one to two coats, depending on the type of paint and color.

For an extra professional look, sand between each coat of paint as well – it’ll help you get that super smooth finish. Let dry, reinstall hardware, and turn the power back on to enjoy your refreshed new space!

About Ty Leisey
Ty Leisey is a writer for wisercosts, a site which connects homeowners looking for remodeling services to skilled contractors right in their neighborhood.

Note: This is a guest post; the views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Redfin.

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