Have you ever stared at a peeling corner of a wallpapered room and just had the urge to pull it? If so, you are not alone. What was once a popular trend has fallen to the wayside for more traditional paint colors and faux finish techniques. As a professional painter, one of the calls I dread most is a potential customer who wants to have their wallpaper removed. There is no quick way about it but I have learned a few tricks over the years.
2” Painters Tape
Buckets for Water
Auto Detail Sponges
Wallpaper Scraper/Putty Knives
Contractor Grade Garbage Bags
Wallpaper Steamer (Hopefully Not!)
- Prep the room
When removing wallpaper, it is important to cover all flooring/carpets and move any furniture to the center of the room.You will want to cover the floors with at least a 3 mil plastic and tape it securely around the base trim with blue painters tape.This process uses a lot of water and it can damage flooring if not properly covered. Remove all switch covers and set aside.
- Identify the Wallpaper
From vinyl to paper and fabric to flock, wallpaper comes in many forms.If you are lucky, the top layer will easily peel off exposing a paper or glue backing.No matter what the material is, the goal is to remove the top layer or at the very least score it so the water can penetrate through to the adhesive.I have found that if you cannot peel it off in large pieces with your fingers it is best to score it with a wallpaper scorer.Using a circular motion, this little device puts perforated holes throughout the wallpaper allowing the water to penetrate through and into the layer below.
- Saturate the Walls
Once you have removed the top layer or scored the wallpaper, fill a bucket with the hottest water you can stand and a couple caps full of fabric softener; the ratio should be about 3 to 1.I have tried everything under the sun and found that fabric softener has the same effects as the more expensive gels and chemicals with a much better smell.Begin from the top and start sponging the water on to the walls to saturate the backing.The most important part of this process is patience.Let the water do its job and soften the adhesive.
- Remove adhesive
The walls will let you know when they are ready to be scraped.If you start taking your putty knife to the walls and are really having to work at it, sponge some more water onto the walls and walk away.It can take up to 15 minutes for the water to loosen the adhesive.If after a few passes, you are still fighting every piece it is time for a wallpaper steamer.I have found with some of the older adhesives, it can be easier to rent a steamer.This is a great tool but it can soften the walls too much and you will easily damage them upon removing the wallpaper.Whatever method you decide, make sure ALL of the adhesive is off.Any adhesive left on will leave a textured surface once you paint.
- Clean Up
Once you have removed all of the adhesive, wipe down the walls with a rag and gather all of the plastic for removal.I tend to let the walls dry overnight before patching any divots or holes that appear after removal.
Again, the most important step is patience, removing wallpaper can be extremely tedious and make sure you are up for the task or it might be time to call a professional.