I was a general contractor for years before joining the real estate industry. I’ve removed HUNDREDS of rooms of wallpaper, and I’m here to help those do-it-yourselfers out there get rid of the wallpaper, and keep their sanity.
First thing’s first, here’s what you’ll need to have on hand in preparation:
- Pump sprayer
- Wide broad knife
- Screwdriver (flat and Phillips just in case)
- Masking tape
- Plastic drop cloth
- Wash cloth
- Trash bags
- Plastic baggies (optional)
First, remove all drapery, art, and additional items from the room. It should be as bare as possible.
Next, remove all switch plates and outlet covers from the walls.
*Here’s a great tip! As you remove hardware, nails, outlet covers, etc. put them in plastic baggies so you don’t lose anything… you can even use several and label the different bags with a sharpie.
Now, you’ll want to try to remove the top layer of wallpaper. Sometimes it comes off easily, in large sheets. Sometimes it won’t come off at all, and sometimes it will peel off in smaller strips… if you are lucky enough to get large sheets to peel off, FANTASTIC! Peel away until there is no more top layer left, and toss everything into a trash bag.
If your top layer does not come off easily, try peeling in different directions, depending on the fiber and type of paper, sometimes you’ll get lucky peeling from left to right, top to bottom, or vice-versa. You might need to use a flat head screwdriver or broad knife to get the peeling started. It helps to start with a seam or at the very top or bottom of the wall.
Now that your top layer is off, we’ll prepare for the messy part – removing the backing and glue.
Take masking tape and cover all electrical outlets and light switches tightly, so there are no gaps in the tape, and the edges are sealed to the wall very well.
Lay out your plastic drop cloth and tape this to the base board (or as close to it as you can get). Cover as much of your floor as possible.
*Here’s another tip… sometimes clean-up can be messy and HEAVY! Try to tape several different sections to the baseboard rather than one large piece. That way, when it’s time to clean up, you’ll have several smaller, more manageable (and lighter) piles to put into the trash bag(s).
Fill your sprayer up with hot water from the faucet (or bathtub if your sink is not large enough to accommodate your sprayer) make sure you only fill to the FULL LINE.
Pump your sprayer up with the handle, and starting from the top of the wall down, fully saturate the wallpaper backing. (Usually, it will turn a darker color and you’ll know it’s been completely soaked). Sometimes you need to soak the wallpaper with a few passes of the sprayer, to really get it soaked through.
*If you have wood trim, make sure you wipe with a dry cloth right after spraying to avoid any water marks left behind!
You’ll want the paper to soak for at least 15 minutes, but not so long that it’s dried out by the time you scrape or peel the backing off. (You’ll get a good idea once you get started and try peeling)
If you see the backing bubbling – PERFECT this means the water is doing it’s job and it will likely come off fairly easily.
Just like the top layer, start at a seam or bubble, preferably top or bottom, and try to peel it off in sheets. If this doesn’t work right away, you can take your broad knife, and gently scrape in strips, the soaked backing. Be careful not to hold the knife at an angle that damages the wall with the corners.
Proceed with these steps, keeping the paper moistened throughout, until all the wallpaper is off and the backing has been removed. After the backing is removed, take a wet washcloth and wipe away any smaller pieces of remaining backing and wallpaper glue. Now, you can peel off the tape from the outlets and wipe them with a dry cloth.
Clean up your sections of plastic drop cloths, wipe away any residual water, and VOILA!
Note: Sometimes (especially if the walls were not primed before the wallpaper was installed) the wallpaper will not absorb the water, or the water will also penetrate the dry wall and you will be forced into other methods of removal, including dry-scraping. I would recommend that if this is the case, you contact a professional for advice on how to proceed so you don’t damage your walls. There are scoring tools out there, but I do not recommend their use. They can damage the drywall beneath, causing MORE water to get in, and when the wallpaper is peeled, the top layer of drywall can peel off with it, causing more harm than good.
Stay tuned for what to do AFTER the wallpaper to prepare for new paint!
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