Should I Paint Over or Remove Wallpaper?

It’s time to update your home. Do you remove old wallpaper?

For many homeowners, this is still a debate. On the one hand there are many homes from decades ago that are just getting updates, so they are covered in wallpaper galore. For newer homes, the trend has re-emerged with new fashion and Top Interior Designers are finding new ways to bring warmth and luxury to spaces with invigorate wallpaper designs.

So, you need to decide what course you are going to take. Some wallpaper is not easy to paint over. The resulting look can leave your home looking shabby and undone. Then again… there are horror stories associated with removing wallpaper. You remove one layer only to realize your room will be 1 square inch larger in the end because there are 14 layers of wallpaper there from generations.

 Is this your home?

Is this your home?


Expect the worst

As mentioned above, removing wallpaper can be a frightening and time-consuming adventure. Particularly in old homes, there is no way of knowing what lies beneath that final layer. It could be miles of cracked plaster. If you make the decision to remove the wallpaper, realize you may be in for more than you originally had planned for.

Wallpaper removal entails dealing with adhesives, some of which can be very challenging. When the wallpaper was applied, the type of adhesive used will determine how difficult it will be to remove. You should be prepared to spend a significant amount of time peeling it off before you get to the bare wall. If you’ve planned a day for wallpaper in your mind, then add 4 more.

After you have removed all the wallpaper, you may find that the wall has damage that must be repaired (as mentioned above in older homes) or drywall that may need to be replaced or re-jointed. Realizing these things ahead of time can help alleviate the headache that you could get if you were not expecting any difficulties. Planning for the things that could go wrong may save you time and money. You might even decide when you get there that a back up plan must now ensue rather than the original.

Should I Paint Over or Remove Wallpaper?

Painting over your wallpaper

You don’t necessarily need to remove wallpaper to change the look of your room. Depending on the type of wallpaper, you could paint over it and may decide that is what’s best for your budget and time. In many cases, it’s recommended to remove the wallpaper first.. but you don’t always have to.

There are advantages to painting over the wallpaper.

  • It is easier to paint the wallpaper than to remove it - clearly. All those hours spent removing the wallpaper and prepping the wall for painting are yours to spend in a more enjoyable way when you decide to paint it instead.

  • Another advantage of painting over the wallpaper is that you will not run the risk of damaging your walls; and if anything is underneath all that wallpaper that you do not want to deal with, it remains undisturbed until another time.

Even though it is easier to paint over it, unfortunately not all wallpaper lends itself to being painted. Some wallpaper has texture and many of these textured wallpapers also have patterns. If you are okay with a textured pattern showing through the paint then have at it, but our guess is that you’re not looking for a partially textured, possibly furry, low-lighted wall. You’ll likely need to remove it.

Also keep in mind that in addition to the texture, the seams where panels of wallpaper meet may show through the paint as well. This could make your paint job look less than professional (think 70’s shag party house). The other thing that you need to be aware of is peeling wallpaper. Because you are applying paint to the wallpaper, the moisture may cause the adhesive to lose its tackiness. If this happens the wallpaper will come off the wall. You could have corners or entire sheets doing their own thing in no time.

Troubleshooting your wallpaper project

If you have crossed your T’s and dotted your I’s, you can paint over wallpaper without running into problems. Preparation, like any project, is key. The first thing you will want to do in is make sure that the wallpaper is not peeling. Any seams or corners that have loose wallpaper will need to be addressed. Use a strong adhesive to glue these areas back onto the wall. Let the adhesive dry thoroughly before painting any areas.

The next thing you need to do is make sure the wall is clean. You can vacuum the wall to remove all the dust particles from it. If the wallpaper is uncoated you can use wallpaper dough to knead out stains and residue that is on the wall. Coated wallpaper, on the other hand, can be easily cleaned with a damp sponge and a little dishwashing detergent. Be careful around the seams. You don’t want to get any moisture in these areas.

After you have cleaned the wall, paint a small test area. This serves two purposes. You will be able to see how the wallpaper accepts the paint. The test area will also allow you to find out how many coats of primer and paint will be needed to achieve the look you want. Happy painting and good luck!


Looking to Hire a Pro?

If you have a wallpaper dilemma or if you would like to paint your home this winter season, talk to our team at Elite Finisher. Our painting pros can help you find the best colors to refresh your exterior and aspects of your home. Contact us today for a free quote.