10 Tips on How to Paint Over Wallpaper

by THAT Painter Lady

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Painting over wallpaper tips and advice from THAT Painter Lady(s) Debra Conrad and Tawn Gale.

Why would you put paper on your walls when paint has so many options?

Do you want to start a new theme in a room and think wallpaper is a good starting place?

Do you just love to strip wallpaper or do you paper over wallpaper?

What do you do if you can’t get the wallpaper off the wall without damaging the wall?

Would you love to know how to Paint over Wallpaper?

Before you get in to How to Paint over Wallpaper… let’s make sure you know the downside of this little operation.

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Paint is liquid and when liquid is added to wallpaper, the paper might just come off the wall. It may come down in sheets or just bubble up in some interesting places. If your wallpaper is stuck, I mean really stuck and it’s going to be damaging to the wall to take it down, then you may want to paint.

So you have made the leap to paint and now you want to know just the facts about how to paint over wallpaper.

  1. Make sure the surface is in good condition. Take a small putty knife or blunt kitchen knife and go along every seam and the ceiling and base cuts and see if you can lift even the tiniest little bit. Any tears or lifting needs to be glued down. If you have wallpaper paste this will work, I have also used white glue. Use a pin to prick any air bubbles and try to get the glue in and stuck down. Go over the entire wall with you hands, you will feel even the slightest imperfection that the eye will gloss over… Until you paint it that is. Some of the tiny tears or imperfections can be sanded with a light hand giving a smooth transition from paper to wall.
  2. Paint a small area of the paper to see if it will hold. Wait until it is fully dry and test to see if the paper is really still stuck to the wall. Try this in several areas including the seam area. If the wallpaper starts to fall off the wall, you have no choice but to strip. If it comes of in just a few areas, tear it off and you can repair those areas in the next few steps.
  3. Clean the walls. I know what you are thinking… Yuck, washing walls. But, if the paper has been up awhile you need to get off dust, fingerprints, food and any soap or glue residue. Start with the cleanest possible surface for good results.
  4. Remove all the switchplate and outlet covers. Cover all the exposed areas with painters tape to protect you from a shocking experience. You should think about turning off the power to these walls before painting. Just to be safe.
  5. Spackle… Every joint and every repair. I have used caulk to seal the bottom and top cut edges to give a clean finish. You may need to repair those impossible tears with joint compound more than once. Dampen all the imperfections to prime the area before appling spackle or joint compound. Let all this dry… I mean dry. Then sand it smooth. Trust me, you do not want to skip this step. After all is sanded, wipe – wipe and wipe again. No dust remember?
  6. Now you must prime. All the big box stores carry good primers. You may need two coats if the paper had a dark print or the print bleeds. Get the primer tinted – It’s free and will cut down the coats of top coat you will need to apply. Wait 24 hours for the primer to dry. Wet wallpaper takes longer to dry.
  7. If anything bubbles up overnight, slit it open and repair with glue. Make sure to clean the surface and let that dry also.
  8. Here comes the tricky part… by now you will see the texture of your wallpaper. If it’s smooth, then nothing is stopping you from getting your color on. If it has texture, and it’s a problem (ugly) then one option is to faux paint the wall. This is simple and will give you a professional looking wall instead of a messy painted wallpaper wall. Faux painting is easy to learn and fast to accomplish. Faux finishes cover up a lot of problems.
  9. Tape off all the areas that are not to be painted. Including the ceiling and adjoining walls. Protect your floors and furniture, paint has a way of migrating to some very unusual places.
  10. After you have all the walls looking perfect…now comes the cherry on top. Those outlet and switchplate covers need to be customized. Nothing says amateur more than white covers on a great custom colored wall.  Sand, prime and paint your covers.  Let dry 24 hours and then seal with a clear coat or two.  Let dry again and install.
Beautiful walls and the background to a room.  Never let those cute wallpaper samples fool you.  It’s much easier to change the theme of a room if you haven’t committed yourself to a theme wallpaper. If you want themes, learn to paint or stencil on your walls.  These can be painted over in a snap!

Have fun and Lets Go Get Our Paint On!

If you decide that Stripping The Wallpaper is a better idea… :)  This little steamer is a sure bet.  I love it!

Wagner Power Products 282018 1-Gallon Wallpaper Steamer
Wagner Wallpaper Steamer

AND, don’t forget this tool for perforating the wallpaper so the steam get in there good!

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Barbara February 1, 2007 at 9:16 am

We are experiencing huge problems with removing the wallpaper in this 30 year old house. I’ve done 2 rooms and both now have ugly places all over the walls. The paint looks acceptable but not great. The walls really needed to be resurfaced, but it is just not in the budget. I’m just not sure I’m up to tackling the rest of the house, but the wallpaper is the satin type. Will paint stick to this?

THAT Painter Lady February 1, 2007 at 1:07 pm

Yes, paint will stick to anything ;)

With a little prep, you shouldn’t have a
problem. I would suggest you use an
oil based primer. This should prep the
surface with a good “grip” to your slick
surface.

Hey, Lets go Paint!
Debra

Janis Couey July 30, 2008 at 10:28 am

Your tips are very much appreciated. I have a couple of questions for you.

We are getting ready to redo our kitchen and were wondering if you have to use the oil based primer or will another primer work -when painting over the wallpaper? Our wallpaper is smooth, but I wouldn’t call it slick.
What brand and type of primer should I use?

We did our master bath last year and discovered then that the builder had placed the wallpaper directly over the sheetrock without priming – so you guessed it, it wouldn’ come off. It did tear behind the mirror when we took it down, so that had to be repaired. We were advised to use the oil based primer and it was so thin and such a mess! It went everywhere and we still have a few spots that we can’t get off the tub and shower surround that we didn’t have covered well enough. We also added texture to the paint so it wouldn’t just be flat and to make sure the seams didn’t show – it’s okay, but I would not recommend it to anyone.

When we get the kitchen wallpaper primed, we would like to do some drywall texture before we paint and glaze. Have you had any experience in putting drywall texture on this type of wall? I’m trying to achieve kind of a Tuscan/Old world look.

Thanks so much for you input.

THAT Painter Lady August 6, 2008 at 9:08 pm

Hi…

Yes you can use a water based primer. I love the Kilz brand and it seems to work great on slick surfaces. But it’s thin as well. The idea of the primer isn’t so much the coverage.. it’s the sealer and stain blocking.

Then you go over that with paint to cover up the wallpaper pattern.

I have a question for you though… If you strip this wallpaper, you will have the Tuscan Old World texture already started…. I’m just saying…

:) Debra THAT Painter Lady

Charity January 6, 2009 at 7:48 am

QUESTION!! need your help.
We painted over a wallpaper trim in our bathroom thinking it would hide it but it sticks out like a sore thumb.
Should we try to scrape it off with a razor blade after wetting it with a sponge?????
HELP!!
Thanks.

THAT Painter Lady January 6, 2009 at 11:52 am

I posted the answer to your question on the Forum. Hope it helps!

Elizabeth S. November 23, 2009 at 2:06 pm

I live in a modular home (double wide), I would like to paint over the walls which are plaster with vinyl like wall paper that has a slight texture. What type of paint / primer would stick to this? I wonder about painting the kitchen cabinets, naturaly they are pressed wood with a slick finish, how would these need to be prepped for painting? Thanks for any info. you can offer.

THAT Painter Lady November 25, 2009 at 8:44 am

Hello Elizabeth, You can paint over vinyl wallpaper, but you will have to make sure the seams are properly prepped. You will need to glue them down so that the moisture from the paint does not get underneath and causing pealing. You may also want to use a little putty over the seams, sand, and then prime. The entire surface will need to be primed with a heavy duty primer sealer. You can ask at your local paint supply store to see what they carry and what they would suggest.

As far as the cabinets, you will need to clean them thoroughly first, then scuff the surface with sand paper. You would then prime and paint. The hard part will be the prepping.

DEBRA

Ann February 22, 2010 at 9:18 am

We recently purchased a home with a light cream print wallpaper in the two story entry hall and dining room. The paper was probably installed 22 years ago soon after the home was built in 1986. The paper was professionally installed, is in excellent condition and has tight seams etc.

I removed similiar paper in the bedroom. I used a steamer and it came off completely but it took a lot of time. There was a good primer coat underneath the paper.

I contacted a professional painter for an estimate on wallpaper removal and painting. Because the paper was in such good condition he offered the alternative of prepping and painting over the wallpaper. This would save some money and we will only be in the house for 4 more years.

I have always heard horror stories of homeowners painting over paper and that it should only be done as a last resort.

Do you have any recommendations? Could there be any problems when we sell?

Thanks, Ann

THAT Painter Lady February 22, 2010 at 11:52 am

Ann….

Yes… you will hear comments all over the place about painting over wallpaper and why it’s a bad idea.

I have my own opinions and they are usually different than other professional house painters.

The obvious reason is that wallpaper is much harder to remove after it’s been painted.

And… you must test the paper to make sure it will stay adhered to the wall after it’s been covered with
a liquid (primer and paint are liquids :)

All that aside…. I have stripped wallpaper and it’s a pain in the behind… and I had damage to the wall
from all my “scraping”… which means the wallpaper was really well adhered and I should have just painted over it.

I have never (I am not a real estate agent lol) heard of a home not selling because the wallpaper was painted. In my
experience you probably won’t even be able to tell the wallpaper is under the primer/paint.

Good Luck and let me know which you end up choosing.

Debra

Gail March 25, 2010 at 1:59 pm

I just removed wallpaper that I had previously put on about 15 years ago. I used a primer before putting on the wallpaper but some places the top layer of paper of the sheetrock came off off. I wanted to texture over and used a light joint compound to give my walls an old plastered look. However there are spots that have bubbled. Can I just use a heavier coat of joint compound over those spots to hide them? I am going for a random plastered look and most of the wall looks great but there are a few obvious spots that show bubbles.

THAT Painter Lady March 26, 2010 at 1:12 am

I’m pretty sure (from your description) that it’s the primer that caused the problem. You might need to get down to the
primer level and scuff it a bit to get the joint compound to stick.

ks April 24, 2010 at 3:09 am

hi I am planning a diy on a 30 year old house which has wallpaper mostly painted before. There are wardrobes still with the original wallpaper. I have been advised to cut out loose wallpaper ( mostly on corners), apply joint compound and then ( I must) use OIL based primer on the both surfaces ( painted and unpainted) first before I finally repaint with water base coat to prevent the wallpaper coming off or bubble. I am relief to read your suggestion above that a water based primer can also be used. I am reluctant on using oil based because of the odour.

Momma D. July 27, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Hey ya’ll. I just painted over navy-blue printed wallpaper in my kitchen. When I put up the wallpaper 13 years ago, I intended it to stay and boy did it! I ended up priming over the wallpaper with oil-based primer. Let it dry for 36 hours and then I painted it almost white (very light blue) with latex paint. It looks beautiful! Foolishly, I decided to strip the wallpaper in the master bath before painting in there. I’ve been on one 4X10′ wall for the last eight hours using gel wallpaper remover after using a wallpaper tiger. I then rented a steamer which is only taking off the vinyl layer. I still have to put gel on the backing and scrape. When I finish this wall, I’m painting the rest of the mess. However, wainscoating at least four feet up is beginning to be a viable alternative. Lots of luck and make sure it’s stuck!

Interior Staging March 25, 2011 at 9:29 am

Hi! Just finished stripping 30 year old wallpaper off the wall that was laid directly on sheetrock. You guessed it, I have little pieces stuck to fresh sheetrock mud, and when I try to remove them the top layer of sheetrock paper comes with it! Would you suggest just spackling over those areas (along with those where I got a little out of hand with the scraper)? Going to paint and color wash, then stencil, so some inperfections will add character, I think….what do you?

THAT Painter Lady March 31, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Oh my…you aren’t going to like this…you need to spackle. Yeah, I know. Darn it!! ;) Lol!! Trust me…I feel your pain. Been there. Done that. It looked horrible! Thank goodness it was in my parents tiny little vacation cottage they only used for a few months out of the year. But every time I went to visit and saw that bathroom, I just cringed. It looked just awful. The only good news is…they remodeled and took that bathroom completely out so that horrible faux finish is gone. The faux finish was FABULOUS…but those gouges and “imperfections” just ruined the whole thing.

So, don’t do what I did and take the easy route. Roll your sleeves up and do it right. Spackle, sand, clean, prime and then paint your glorious faux finish and stencil!! And send us some pictures (before & after) of your wonderful project!

Have fun!
Tawn

Mayn September 19, 2011 at 12:51 pm

WOW….I wish I had read this before my wife and I really made a mess of part of our kitchen wall. EVERYBODY told me “you can’t paint over wallpaper”. The house is 35 yrs old and there’s no primer on the drywall so you can imagine the issues we had. I’ve been spackling and sanding and spackling and sanding. Just glad i read this before i went any further. I assume I’m going to have to clean extensively where i used the chemical solvent….and the fabric softener….and the vinegar and everything else I tried to use to remove it. Oh and sand where i used the Paper Tiger. Thank you for the great information, hopefully this project can move forward now.

Ken March 7, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Check other sites about using only oil based or shellac to do your priming. If you use a water based paint it will lift the paper and cause bubbles. Again your first coat of any paint on wallpaper must not be water based.

kel March 9, 2012 at 3:15 pm

Hi, the wall paper in the house is in very good condition and it has a texture I like. It has a small pattern but I don’t like the color. Can I paint over the wall paper while keeping the effect on the wall paper showing?

thanks you for your help

THAT Painter Lady March 11, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Sure you can! The texture will still show but any pattern on the paper (little flowers…weird color) will get covered up.

THAT Painter Lady March 11, 2012 at 8:34 pm

Hi Ken -
Weird…I’ve painted over probably 8 different rooms that had wallpaper on them…(4 in the house I’m in now) with water based paints and never had a problem. The problem comes when you try to paint over wallpaper that isn’t tightly attached to the wall. THAT’s when you have issues. :)

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