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Question DetailsAsked on 1/1/2014

Should I have wallpaper removed or painted over?

Should I have wallpaper removed or painted over?

- average size bedroom
- inside 1920s home in beautiful condition
- half of the room's walls are lath and plaster, half are sheetrock
- in 1998 all layers of wallpaper/paint were removed, walls repaired, wallpaper applied
- the wallpaper was applied by a professional, still in perfect quality
- so we're certain there is only one layer of wallpaper
- there are two small wall cracks which have caused the paper to tear

- paint 3 walls
- apply new wallpaper on one wall

I was thinking painting over the walls would save money and time, and because I read that taking down the paper can sometimes cause problems. What would you recommend?

If you'd paint over the wallpaper, do you recommend an oil based primer for painting over wallpaper?
Any special paint?


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5 Answers


If it were my home I would remove the paper even if it meens hiring someone to do it. I think the finished product is way better, you will see the seams after painting. If you do paint over it I would recommend using an oil based primer first due to the fact that most wallpaper paste water based and the latex may lift the seams or cause bubbling. I just finish a kitchen for an interior decorators own home and she painted over the paper and I thought it looked terrible, of course I bit my tongue and did not say anything to her. Not only could you see the seams but the pattern showed through!


Answered 6 years ago by ContractorDon


As usual, I agree with Don - it just will not look as good. However, if part of the surface is plaster rather than drywall, you are guessing how good the underlying plaster job is - you might peel the wallpaper and find out you then need a skim coat done by a plasterer to give a good smooth surface to paint on.

If you do decide to leave the wallpaper on, there are special wallpaper prep coat paints for this purpose, which stick better and cover better than normal primer. As Don said - use an oil based one. The normal oil-based Kilz also works nicely - I would do 2 coats of any primer unless you are painting with a dark color, because one usually will not totally conceal the pattern. If the adhesive looks like rubber cement or contact cement rather than wallpaper paste,, I would use the Kilz - does a better job than any other primer I have seen at blocking bleed-through of stains and adhesives. If you do get ANY bleed-through on the first coat of primer, reprime at least that area. You can find more info at other sites by googling this search phrase - wallpaper priming paint

One thing I saw a professional, really top notch painter do in this case, was to carefully use a razor blade to trim off any wallpaper edges or tears that were sticking up AT ALL, then used regular drywall patching compound to fill in the resulting gap - one coat with regular drywall compound 4-6 inch blade, sanded well. Then at all this type repair spots and at all paper seams he applied a very thin mesh self-adhesive joint tape over the gap and seams of the paper, then a second and if necessary third coats of joint compound with a VERY flexible, wide joint finishing blade - one of the 10-12 inch ones. He wet wiped essentially all the compound off the wallpaper except for about 1/2 inch each side of the seam because it does not stick well to wallpaper. Basically he did it like a normal drywall joint job, but with much less overlap onto the wallpaper, which he roughened with fine sandpaper before putting on the tape. This gave a nice smooth surface to prime and then paint. The tape he used was from Sheerwin Williams - probably the FibaTape® Perfect Finish™ Ultra Thin Drywall Tape, which they show on their website.

I don't think I would try this with a wipe-off or glossy finish, and certainly not with a plastic finish or shelf paper type wallpaper - only with normal "paper" wallpapers.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


I had wall paper that was painted over when I purchased my house. It looked bad and was starting to crack. When I decided to paint over it, I purchased a wallpaper steamer from Lowe's. I want to say it was about $55, a scraper for $8, a wallpaper perferator, and a bottle of wallpaper glue release (i've heard you can use fabric softener but this stuff was like $2 bottle). I went over the wall paper with the perferator and then sprayed the glue release. After waiting about an hour, I started the steamer. The wall paper came off pretty fast after I had steamed it for about 10 seconds an area.

Answered 6 years ago by dwnuckols


Like dwnuckels said, the new handheld steamers make most wallpaper removal (except the contact cement type) MUCH easier than it used to be - be sure to ventilate the area (preferably with a fan in the room exhausting OUT a window) to prevent moisture buildup in the house and risking mold, keep the venitlation going well after work end to dry the drywall too, and remember you are going to have to do probably two or three washings of the wall to get the residual glue off. I was taught by an old-time pro painter how to do this - after first washing with TSP, run your hand over to feel any gummy or raised or sticky spots - spot reclean them down. Then, for final pass, after wall is dry, put on a pair of woven wool gloves or glove liners (I have seen some use latex gloves) - when you run them over the wall, they snag on any high spots, bumps of glue or gum, etc and you can feel them drag a bit on any area with roughness or residual glue. He would spritz that area with a spritz bottle (old windex pottle) with a one shot spray of diluted water soluble blue (so any stain covers easily) food coloring - one wall at a time he would do that, then before it could dry would go back and rescrub those bad spots with TSP and baking soda for water based glues - for contact cement you have to use a contact wallpaper solvent, which is commonly flammable, so ventilate well and be careful. Really stubborn areas he would use a rag slightly dampened with paint thinner (for water based glues) or laquer thinner (for contact cements). When using ANY type of flammable solvent, beware of fire danger, and wash out any rags and then lay outside to dry on something they will not harm like a woodpile - paper waste immediately put outside spread out to dry away from the house, then to garbage can for pickup only on garbage day, so they will not self-combust.

If you get a steamer do not go for one of those rinky dink clothing hand steamers you see on TV for removing wrinkles - about $20-30 - get a real name-brand tool company steamer like a Stanley or Wagner - the decent ones that actually put out a stream of steam, rather than just a drifting mist, cost from better part of $100 on up. Also good for cleaning spots/ground in dirt on car carpets, sticky spots on flooring (be careful not to melt finish), bathtub tile, etc. Do NOT use on glass - windows or mirrors, or finish paint jobs, especially cars - will craze or blister the paint due to the heat, and can crack glass because of the rapid temperature change. Saw a case where a housekeeper did that on a newly installed French imported gold-backed ceiling-height 20' wide mirror in a grand dining room - $20,000+ down the tube, and it had not been insured yet.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


Wallpaper should always be removed before repainting! If, it will come off. If done right it usually can be taken off. Painting over wallpaper devalues your home everytime!

Source: Riley's Wallpapering

Answered 5 years ago by MikeRiley

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