Wallpaper Blows

Excuse my language, but that’s really how I feel about wallpaper. Or rather, old wallpaper. I swoon over the look of beautifully placed modern wallpaper, but after my little (err, big) bout with old wallpaper this weekend, I can confidently tell you that it really does stink. Here’s the scenario/before photo…

Our new master bedroom is covered in pink flowery wallpaper. It’s surely not the look we are going for, so my Mom and my Grandma and I set out to rid the room of flowers. We came armed with these items:

We scoured the wall (with the tool above), covered it with DIF gel, and then scrapped our little hearts out. The problem was, the wallpaper came off in tiny pieces. Like itty bitty pieces. After a half hour of scraping, we realized that this job was going to take a long, long time. We also uncovered what our contractor likes to call a “worst case scenario” wallpaper project. More than 50 years ago, the wallpaper was glued directly to the untextured sheet rock, leaving a really gross wall behind the really gross wallpaper. After nearly 2 hours of work (x3 people working) this was as far as we got. Tear!


We felt discouraged and frustrated. We stepped away from the wallpaper and drove straight to happy hour. It was how that kind of a project should end – with a stiff drink.

After taking a week to recover from this unscuccessful project, I did a little research, and we’ve decided to go a route that I would have never guessed….we are going to PAINT over the wallpaper. Can you believe it? We’ve ¬†checked withour contractor and a few other trusted sources, and this seemed to be our best option. So, we’ll load up on KILZ interior oil-based primer, and go to work.

Let’s hope this story has a happy ending, otherwise, things might get ugly. More to come from me on this project, but if you guys have any ¬†wallpaper tips for me, bring them on!



26 thoughts on “Wallpaper Blows

  1. HMC Said:

    If the seams aren’t bad, painting should be fine! If there are a few visible seams you can always try skim coating them – but that takes practice and patience too! Have you tried steaming the paper after scoring it? That’s another option that may work…

  2. Megan Clark Said:

    At our last place we inherited painted-over wallpaper, so guess what we did? Painted over it again! I actually came to be fond of the seams and things that showed through here and there. If you think of it as custom texture, that helps :) Ha, ha. If the seams do bother you, you could definitely skim coat…or maybe sand?

  3. Kara Said:

    I was going to ask my dad but I am pretty certain you can re-texture over the wallpaper and then paint? That looks like an utter NIGHTMARE. I helped my mom remove a border once and I wanted to bang my head on a wall. Such a crappy process.

  4. Jae Said:

    The previous owner of my house painted over wallpaper so I did too. Mostly it worked out fine, there are a few places in some rooms where the seams are visible and I tried to mud over them but did not sand well and made it worse. So, in other rooms I just painted without mudding the seams and it really isn’t very noticeable. Another option is: cover it all up with beadboard! :)

  5. Lacey Said:

    after stripping layer and layers of old wallpaper from a 1925 and a 1936 house, my very best advice is to rent a wallpaper steamer, it’s the only way you will get it all off. it will still take forever, lots of elbow grease, but worth it when you finally get down to the smooth wall. best of luck!

  6. katie Said:

    our kitchen was like that… all the walls and the ceiling! the ceiling was the worst. we did end up scraping the entire thing, and then had to skim coat over it because the scraping had damaged the walls so much. painting over it would have been easier :-)

  7. Jessica Said:

    I feel your pain, really I do. About a year ago I moved into the same condo that my parents lived in right after they got married (they rented it when they bought their house), and it still had the same wallpaper from 30 years ago. My boyfriend and I did all the research, thinking we could DEFINITELY remove the decades old flower motif. We were dead wrong. He was patient, I was much less so, and we (I) ended up ripping off most of the top paper layer of the drywall below. This was bad news, because we had to then use drywall compound and recoat the ENTIRE room. Thank goodness it was super tiny, but it was definitely a lesson learned. We just should’ve taken our cue from the other bathroom, where the wallpaper had already been painted over.

  8. Vickie Said:

    I bought my home in 1989 and was delighted to find it full of cute country wallpaper. Well, that lasted less than ten years. Wallpaper soon fell out of style. Unfortunately, It didn’t just fall off the walls. The biggest room hadn’t been primed before the wallpaper was applied. That room was a nightmare. We didn’t want to paint over the wallpaper. We got the wallpaper off along with some of the wall. We had to hire a guy to come re-plaster the wall. It was a big added cost, but well worth it.
    There is a guy named Brian Santos who is nicknamed the Wall Wizard. He has written a book and in it are some tips on removing wallpaper. I can’t remember the details of his solution, but I do know they helped. He added fabric softener to the spray solution. Also, put plastic sheeting over the wall after spraying to hold in the moisture. Then rolling the paper off onto a large diameter dowel or old broom handle. That makes it come off all in one strip instead of little shreds. You can find the book online or it might even be in your local library,
    Good luck with your project.

  9. kate Said:

    Ugh! I have taken off way too much wallpaper like that and man do I feel your pain! Wallpaper glued on directly to the unfinished/unpainted drywall was what led my husband and I to learn how to hang, mud, tape and texture drywall on our own. Yep, we got soo frustrated, we just ripped all of the drywall out. Painting is definitely the much quicker solution, but as other commenters have suggested, a little skim coat over the seams would probably be a good idea. We have one room now that’s painted wallpaper and the seams drive me crazy. Good luck!

  10. Jennifer I. Said:

    I second Katie and the skim coat, which is what we did in a house I grew up in. I grew up in an old house (100 years old) and we started taking down wallpaper (using a steamer) and it was a nightmare, 5 layers of wallpaper and even wallpaper on the ceiling. Even with modern prints I still think wallpaper, YIKES! Best of luck and I hope you come up with something.

    In our current house, we had a beadboard nightmare, I was trying to take off some nasty beadboard and realized it was glued to the wall. It actually ended up being easier to cut the sheet rock off and put new sheet rock on – maybe that’d be an option for you? New sheet rock? I think it was a few hundred dollars – definitely worth it for me since I had put holes in the walls and was in tears trying to take it off. I feel your frustration and can sympathize. Can’t wait to see how it turns out!

  11. Jennifer I. Said:

    I should add if Kyle could do it, it’d prob be even less than a few hundred for new sheet rock – that was having a contractor do it for us.

  12. Audra Said:

    Downy and warm water – but you’ve got seriously stubborn walls… I’d paint!

  13. Cami Said:

    I’ve always been a silent follower, but HAD to comment in this post because we just lived through this a few months ago. Our walls looked EXACTLY like yours under that gross 1960s wallpaper. In one room, we actually did remove it all. It tooks us 4 weeks of work and patience. The walls ended up so rough after it all, we skim coated everything anyway. For the rest of the rooms, we went the route of three coats of Killz over the paper and two coats of paint. We also skim coat the seems of the paper just so that they can’t be noticed. It’s work, but I promise no one will ever know. I was so mad about having to paint over wallpaper, but there really is not another option when it’s that glued to your sheetrock. So far, we’ve completed five rooms this way and people cannot believe it when they see it. You’ll get through it and it will be beautiful!

  14. Melinda Said:

    I’m so sorry – that is frustrating! this was the case in most of our first home and the only way is to seal it with killz oil based primer and paint on top. In some rooms we could see the seams, but it was better than trying to fix the drywall we damaged while trying to peel the paper off.

  15. Jenn Said:

    OH NO!!! Old wall paper is so hit or miss — clearly they were putting this paper up for the long haul :) . And, I can’t believe they wall papered to the sheet rock — ugh.

    I’m super curious to see how painting goes! At least you’ll have nice, smooth walls when you’re done :)

  16. Jenna Said:

    Oh bummer! I sprayed TSP over all my walls to remove some of the wall paper. Other places I just painted right over it. Let me know if you want to borrow the sprayer at TSP.

  17. jessica Said:

    Oh man, this is why I will forever hate wallpaper, modern or no. When I was 12 and my parents and I moved into the (ranch) house that they still live in today, I remember having to help take off old wallpaper. It. Was. Awful. I remember thinking I would NEVER put up wallpaper in my whole life, and I still feel that way. When we want something textured or fun, I stencil it. Stencil takes a little time, but I can’t bear the thought of ever taking down wallpaper again!

  18. Amanda Said:

    How frustrating!!! Like a few others have commented, all our walls were already paint over wallpaper, so we just went over that, and I agree that it does end up having an interesting texture. Hope it all works out for you!

  19. Emily @ Our Waldo Bungie Said:

    You should try WC Chomp – you can get it at any Home Depot or Lowes. We used another brand when we were removing the wallpaper from my mom’s kitchen and it was taking forever (like 11 hours on one wall!). Once we switched to the WC Chomp (which smells like citrus – not too bad actually!), things went much more quickly!

  20. Aaron Said:

    We went through this process in two of the bedrooms in our bungalow. We ended up soaking sponges in HOT water and drenching the walls (after putting plastic on the floors over the carpet we would tear out days later). Letting the warm water sink in seemed to be the best way. A friend said we should have rented a steamer and just let it sit in the room for hours…steaming up the whole place, but we’re gluttons for punishment, I guess. We did end up skim coating one room after all that, but we are wall paper free! Best of luck.

  21. Cass Said:

    I bought a house last year that hadn’t been decorated since the 1960s…as in, the wallpaper was totally fused to the plaster walls. I tried using a scorer and a wallpaper-dissolving solvent, but the scoring only ensured that the wallpaper came off in tiny bits rather than letting the solvent seep through the score marks to dissolve the glue. The only thing that worked was SOAKING the walls with the hottest water I could stand using one of those big yellow peanut-shaped sponges. And you have to work in small areas so the water stays hot enough to melt/dissolve the glue and not cool down before you can scrape it away. I used a 2″ metal scraper to do the scraping. I ended up having to do a lot of patching anyway as I occasionally got carried away by the scraping and gouged little holes in the wall. If I could have done it over again, I would have just taken down the plaster walls (wallpaper and all) and put up new drywall. I put up new walls in the bathroom and the difference between the old plaster walls and the new drywall is incredible–walking into my bathroom you would never guess the house was almost 100 years old. Best of luck whatever you do…!

  22. Lorilyn Said:

    OH sister you are preaching to the choir, I think there is a special place in hell reserved where people will be scrapping wall paper for all eternity. In our house dining room/family room someone had put up textured wall paper, then painted over it, so there was no way that stuff was coming up. We paid a couple hundred dollars to have someone come and re-mud the walls for us so we could get a fresh surface to work on.

  23. Meagan Said:

    I agree with Lacey! A wallpaper steamer is the way to go! You should be able to rent one for a day or two. It is so worth it! I took down three layers of wallpaper including one layer primed over on plaster walls. If you decide to go this route, watch your fingers and any helpers fingers. The steamer gets hot and so does the paper. When the company did away with the rental option and i had to try what you tried. Well, it was a horrible, no good, very bad day. Get yourself a commercial steamer. :)

  24. Katie Hull Said:

    On a positive note, your hardwood floors in the Master look AMAZING!

  25. Amy Said:

    We had the same issue in most rooms of our house. We sanded the seams and painted over it with no issue. There wasn’t even a need to skim coat it. Think of it as extra insulation.

  26. Amanda Said:

    We just bought a house in August…same thing! We have removed wallpaper before, but this was terrible. It had been applied straight to the drywall. We tried chemicals, scrapers, and the steamer. After destroying some of the wall, we decided to stop and paint over it instead. We skimmed all the seams and then primed. No one can tell!!


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