We recently bought a 50-year-old house but donít like its wallpapered walls.
The departing owner told us the wallpaper was glued directly to the sheetrock. Apparently it's a single layer, installed about
40+ years ago (probably commercially available wallpaper).
My wife discussed this with a neighbor who had chosen to remove her wallpaper years ago. She discovered the situation
I described because, according to her, pieces of the underlying sheetrock peeled off right along with the wallpaper.
What should we do? Should we use the best available tools and chemicals and give it a
shot, or just paint right over the old wallpaper so as not to damage the sheetrock.
If you believe painting over the wallpaper is the
best option, how should I prepare the surface to get the best results? Should I use some surface preparation (primer)? —Thanks for your help.
It sounds like you've got quite a project! First check to
see how bad the walls really are. If they are in bad shape, then
consider installing new wallboard over the existing. The reason
I suggest this is because most likely the walls are lath and plaster,
which is a real mess to tear into. It is possible, though, that
you have rock plaster. I'm just questioning whether or not you have
traditional 4x8 wallboard underneath the wallpaper. However, before
installing new wallboard, you will have to do some prep work. Be
sure to fix any protruding areas on the wall, and be aware that
all the electrical switches and outlets will need attention. You
can install mud rings over the outlet boxes or purchase longer screws
for the outlets and switches in order to extend them to the depth
of the new wallboard.
If the walls are OK, then you need to decide whether you want to
apply new wallpaper or paint. At this point, and, of course, depending
on the texture of the wallpaper, your decision will dictate your
next move. The quick and easy way out (and if the paper is tight)
is to prime the walls with a good oil base primer, which will prepare
the surface for either wallpaper or paint. However, professionally
speaking, I find it best to remove the paper for the best overall
final result. Start by going to a seam, outlet, or inconspicuous
corner (behind a door) and try to peel off the existing wallpaper
with a 1" putty knife to see how difficult it is to remove. If it
removes easily, then you will have an easy go at it; if not, plan
to spend a few hours.
The best way to attack this project is with a bucket or garden
sprayer and lots of warm water—after you turn off the breaker
to the room you plan to work in. I found that using TSP (trisodium
phosphate) in the water works great. Be sure to check to see if
you can use such a product in your community. It should be available
at your local paint store or home center if it has not been banned.
Be sure to wear rubber gloves. If TSP is not available, use a chemical
wallpaper remover or wetting agent. Apply to the surface by spraying
or with a sponge. Let the water soak in for about 30 minutes. Test
the wallpaper by scraping it with your thumbnail. When it seems
ready, use a 2 1/2- or 3-inch putty knife and, at a 30-degree angle,
start peeling the paper from the bottom up. The secret is to use
plenty of water. You should be able to grab the loosened strip with
your other hand and pull steadily upward. If the paper won't absorb
water, you will need to scratch the surface with coarse (50- or
60-grit) sandpaper to allow the water to get behind the paper.
There are some products by Wm. Zinsser & Co., Inc., I would like
to recommend. Zinsser's Shieldz White Wallcovering Primer adheres
to wallpaper in good condition and is a perfect base for either
new wallpaper or paint. It's high-hiding and can be tinted by retailers
to match the color of the finish paint—this will help save
some time in the long run. It was designed for exactly this kind
of situation—if you can't decide whether to paper or paint
in a certain room. If the paper on the wall has any type of metallic
ink in it, then you would want to use their B-I-N Paint Primer-Sealer
instead, as the shellac resin in this product will seal off and
block this out so it doesn't show through when repainting. B-I-N
will bond to the old wallpaper and create a sound, stable surface
If the wallboard facing paper becomes damaged, their new product,
GARDZ, is a drywall sealer specifically designed to seal torn, damaged
drywall and prepare the surface to accept any type of skim-coat
repair. The manufacturer tells me this product eliminates those
annoying paper bubbles and blisters that occur if you try to apply
skim coat directly over torn facing paper. Moreover, you can apply
GARDZ to the skim coat when dry and it will serve as a primer for
either paint or wallpaper. I should point out also that they make
a wallpaper stripper in a gel called DIF GEL, which can be applied
by brush or roller. Zinsser also offers a good paper scraper with
a unique non-razor, edge-hardened steel blade to prevent wall damage.
Check out their web site at www.zinsser.com.
Remember to just take your time—and good luck. Let me know
how it turns out!
1999 & 2006 LAF/C.R.S., Inc. All rights reserved.
Question answered by Leon A. Frechette.
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