Debby Allmon on removing wallpaper

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Last updated on January 1, 1970

Debby Allmon answers a Kansas City Star’s reader question about removing wallpaper. Read all about it.

Q. We have a house that was built in the ’60s. Most of the rooms and hall have one or more layers of decades-old wallpaper. One bedroom has bedroom walls painted over the wallpaper.  We are considering updating and would like to remove all of the wallpaper and paint the walls. Is it possible to remove the wallpaper and clean the walls so the paint will look great?  Is there an easy “right way” to remove wallpaper?

A. Yes, sometimes it is possible to remove the wallpaper and clean the walls and be ready for paint. However, usually there is wall repair that needs to be done after the paper is removed.

Wall repair is drywall or plaster patching of imperfections in the wall so that the paint will look great.  Wallpaper comes off with varying degrees of difficulty. I would recommend that you find a loose corner of wallpaper and pull it.  If it comes up easily, you are in luck, and the paper might remove with little effort and minimal wall damage.

If it is difficult to remove even a corner of the paper, your task may be more daunting. You will need to use a solution that will penetrate the paper and soften the adhesive underneath.

Apply the solution per the manufacturer’s specifications, then pierce the surface of the wallpaper (you can find perforation tools and wallpaper removal solution at the hardware store).  Piercing the paper allows the solution to get behind the paper. Now you can begin to pull the wallpaper away with a wallboard knife. Make sure to completely remove all of the backing paper as well.

Rinse the adhesive residue from the wall with the remover solution. Finally, rinse the entire wall with clean water and let everything dry completely. Once the wall is dry, you should lightly sand the wall and apply a sealer.

At this point there may be some wall repair necessary to make the walls smooth before painting. This is certainly a messy project.  You asked if there was an easy way to remove the wallpaper. The easiest way I know is to call a professional.