Removing Wallpaper to Create a Painted Wall Surface
By Larry Walton
“These stripes are not right,” declared the homeowner who was getting no argument from contractor Brian Monroe. Like many design concepts, he knew it was probably just “the thing” in its time, but now it was time for a change that did not include wallpaper. The update called for a skim coat and fresh paint.
You never really know how wallpaper is going to come off. It usually requires some testing to see what works. Some newer wallpapers are strippable, which means they are designed to be removed without water or chemicals. If it’s a true paper-face wallpaper, then water or a liquid wallpaper remover can soak in and release the glue.
Vinyl-face wallpapers, on the other hand, present a barrier to liquids. Since wallpaper remover can’t get to the glue, it is ineffective. Sanding or scoring is often recommended for getting the liquid through the protective surface of vinyl. Specialty tools are available for this job.
However, before you resort to sanding, scratching or punching through the vinyl, try peeling off the top layer of the wallpaper. That’s what Monroe did on this project. With the vinyl layer gone, water and wallpaper remover can easily penetrate the remaining paper backer and release the glue.
After removing the wallpaper, Monroe mixed up some drywall compound and used a drywall taping knife to apply a thin skim coat over the wall surface. A little primer and paint finished off the job and transformed the look of the walls into what the home-owner had envisioned.