11 Tips for Removing Wallpaper

I've removed a lot of wallpaper in my lifetime, and I admit, it's not a job I look forward to. (Even pros don't much care for the job of getting rid of wallpaper - which is, I think, why they charge so much to do it!) But sometimes the wallpaper in your home just has to go. Here are my best tips for making it as easy as possible.

1. Get the right tools. Forget the salesmen who say you need a steamer or a heat gun or even store bought wallpaper remover. Instead, grab a paint scraper (I use this one) and a spray bottle. Simple!

2. Always begin by protecting the floor. Lay an old towel on the floor directly below where you'll be working. Removing wallpaper is a soggy process, and the towel will soak up the water that might otherwise damage your floors. (And if your bathroom is gutted, be sure you cover up any drainage holes - like the hole for the toilet - with cardboard. You do not want wallpaper falling into your pipes and clogging them up! Not that I've ever done that. Ahem.)

3. Using just your hands, remove any and all loose wallpaper. If you don't have an obviously loose place to start, try a seam. (P.S. If you're the type of gal who gets manicures, this may not be the home improvement job for you.)

4. Don't use a scorer to put holes in the wallpaper. It's just way too easy to ruin the wall behind the wallpaper - and you don't want to replace your drywall, do you? Nope, I didn't think so.

5. Fill the spray bottle with hot tap water. Some websites recommend adding fabric softener, too, but this makes the wallpaper awfully slippery - and I don't find it works any better than just plain old tap water. Spray water on a section of wallpaper, wetting the edges or seams.

6. Use your fingers to pull off more wallpaper. Typically, wallpaper has a grain and will pull off in larger sections if you find it. For example, the wallpaper might be easiest to pull off top to bottom or right to left. Every wallpaper is different, so you have to experiment.  But if you find the wallpaper is coming off a centimeter at a time, you haven't yet found the grain!

7. Repeat the spraying and pulling...over and over and over and over again. Periodically, spray water on the gluey paper backing that's left behind. Gently use a paint scraper to remove it, moving the scraper either top to bottom or bottom to top. Often, once you start peeling off the paper backing with the scraper, you can remove large strips with your hands. Hallelujah!

8. When all the wallpaper is removed, let things dry. Then wash the walls with TSP cleaner, which is available anywhere paint is sold. The exception to this is if you're lucky enough to discover some homeowner before you didn't put anything between the wallpaper and the drywall. (Insert pasted on smile here.) In that case, you definitely don't want to wash it down - unless you really do prefer to put up brand new drywall. Instead, let the wall fully dry, then lightly sand it.

9. You never know what you'll find beneath wallpaper. Often you'll find more wallpaper...often many layers. If you're fortunate, you'll find already painted and textured walls beneath. Or you might find drywall...which could be in great condition, or not. (One person I know found huge holes in her drywall that somebody just wallpapered over.) Or, you may find a combination of all these things. That's what I discovered recently:

10. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT put new wallpaper back on the wall. Seriously. Just. Don't. Do. It. Some day someone will want to remove that wallpaper, and they will think sinful thoughts about you throughout the entire job.

11. Removing wallpaper isn't hard, but it is tedious. Which brings me to the most important point of this post: If the wallpaper is well secured to the wall (i.e., there are no loose sections), do NOT remove it! Instead, just paint over the darn stuff.

The end.

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