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If you’ve had enough of your old, outdated wallpaper, it can be tempting just to paint right over it. After all, we’ve all heard horror stories about wallpaper removal, ranging from drywall that crumbled as the paper was removed to homeowners who peeled away dozens of layers of paper only to find more underneath. According to most home improvement experts, as well as the National Guild of Professional Paperhangers, wallpaper should be removed before painting whenever possible, as you’ll experience better results and fewer problems down the road [source: NGPP].
Painting over wallpaper can look really bad. No, like, really, really bad. If you have long edges of wallpaper unrolling or air bubbles beneath the surface, you will be better off removing it completely. But if not, with a little wallpaper preparation and a few tricks, you can be left with a finished result that you’re happy with. Here are my best tips for you.
Once the walls have been glued, cleaned, washed and have air-dried, you should be set to begin testing paint. You might want to start in a hidden wallpapered area (for me, this was behind the fridge) to get a better sense of how the paint is going to look over the wallpaper and also to observe how many coats of primer and paint will be necessary.
For some people looking to replace their existing wallpaper with paint, stripping the paper simply may not be an option. They may find their walls are not in good enough shape, and that removing the paper causes more problems than it prevents. If you think this is the case in your home, you may be right. In this case, painting over wallpaper may be the best choice.
So how can you tell whether you should remove your paper or simply paint over it? There are a variety of factors to consider, from the condition and look of the wallpaper to your future plans for the space. To help you decide whether to paint over your paper or strip the walls, check out the tips and tricks in the next section.
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Vacuuming is widely recommended for all types of wallpaper. You’ll want to remove as much dust from the surface of the wallpaper before painting as possible. Check to see if your home has a coated wallpaper.
You can find out whether or not your wallpaper is coated by getting it lightly wet in a hidden area to check if the colors bleed or moisture is absorbed — if it’s absorbed or bleeds, it’s likely uncoated.
If your home has an uncoated wallpaper like grasscloth, wallpaper dough should be your go-to. Tips for using wallpaper dough: This product is sold at many home improvement and painting stores. I haven’t had the pleasure of testing it out, but have heard that it’s best for getting stains and residue off uncoated wallpapers.
As the outer side of the dough ball gets dirty, kneed it until the outer edge is once again fresh. Reuse to your heart’s desire. If your wallpaper is a coated texture, you can wash the wall with a damp sponge.
Tips for washing the wallpaper with a sponge: Use a damp (read: not drippy) sponge and dishwashing detergent that has grease-cutting power to clean the walls. Avoid wiping horizontally, because the sponge will be more likely to catch on any loose vertical seams.
Try with all your might to keep moisture from getting into the seams.
Many homeowners love the look of wallpaper. It covers wall imperfections, adds unique textures and patterns, and creates a finished wall surface that’s difficult to replicate with paint. Quality vinyl wallpaper that’s professionally installed can last up to 15 years with little maintenance [source: NGPP].
Damask Floral Geometric Stripe Plain/Texture Tile Plain/Textured
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The act of painting over wallpaper is — without a doubt — one of the most regularly proclaimed “no-nos” in home improvement. In many cases, I’d be right there with the majority, recommending that you remove the wallpaper for the sake of achieving the best possible painting finish. But here, this situation’s a little bit different, and if you’ve been thinking about simply painting over existing wallpaper, well, who am I to judge? Just maybe it’s the right course of action for you too.
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My kitchen, caught up in the ’50s, is the space that I committed to making over this year. Its textured wallpaper is decades old (possibly not ’50s, but certainly something that has faded with the age of the house). It’s not a decor choice that I would be thrilled to live with for years, yet I have a hard time pulling the trigger and removing it all prior to painting because my husband and I envision being able to remodel the space to suit our family. For us, painting over the wallpaper = a big, temporary cover-up.
Clean up loose corners and edges. If your wallpaper is as old as mine, you’re bound to find a corner here or a seam there that isn’t adhered as well as it should be. This shouldn’t be enough to deter you entirely, but should be handled carefully. I recommend using a strong adhesive to re-affix those pesky corners. Allow the adhesive to dry before you paint.
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For some people, wallpaper’s durability can be a problem. Designs and patterns chosen decades ago simply don’t work with a more modern decor. Homeowners who like to change the look of their home from time to time typically prefer paint, which is cheaper and easier to apply and can be changed up in a fraction of the time that wallpaper changes would take.
Clean the walls well. There are lots of general cleaning tips for keeping your wallpaper in prime condition.
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Removing wallpaper can be a big chore. Learn how to tell if your wallpaper can be painted over.