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Wallpaper Removal Mess!

Florence, MA(Zone 5a)

Wow, do I need help with this! I've wallpapered before, but never really had to remove wallpaper (not vinyl). I went to the hardware store & the guy recommended a kit. I scored the wall with the little roller tool, put on the goop to loosen the paper, and started scraping. Big mess. According to the kit directions the paper was suppose to come off in sheets - not! I spent about 8 hours today scraping and scraping - and I've not really made much progress. It will take me a year at this rate to finish the room! The top layer of paper is off, but the underneath stuff is just stubbornly sticking to the wall, and when I try to put a little pressure on it the scraper takes the top right off the wallboard underneath rather than down to the paintprimer layer.

So my question is - since I have the first layer of paper off could I just wait until the wall dries, sand it down, prime it and paint? Can I leave this layer of subpaper on the walls? Now I understand why so many people just paint right over the paper instead of removing it!

Please help me if you can...

Alice S.

Conroe, TX(Zone 9a)

Alice, this is a job I'm NOT looking forward to myself (my bathroom.)

I can tell you that when I ran into trouble getting wallpaper off my son's bedroom wall, I did just what you're suggesting - sanding down, priming, then painting over the subpaper. It doesn't look very good, I wish I had been more patient and tried to get the paper off.

I saw on TV not too long ago where they showed the top layer coming off, then said to just spray the next layer and really give it time to soak in (and they actually recommended not using the little roller tool), THEN try to pull the paper off. They did have some areas where the wall board got damaged, but they spackled, sanded, etc, and then the whole wall looked good.

I hope that works. Let me know what you end up doing, and how it comes out!

Florence, MA(Zone 5a)

Thanks, Maggie. I agree with the TV - that roller tool is the problem. It went thru the wallpaper and paint to allow the remover solution to get into the wallboard. I used it very lightly, but it was enough to cause a problem.

I was originally going to rent a steamer and let the clerk talk me out of that and into buying the kit instead. I removed wallpaper with my mom at her house years ago using a steamer - it was messy, but we didn't run into the problems I'm having now.

I'm planning on getting as much of the paper off as posible without ripping up the wallboard, then when it's dry I'll sand it down really good & apply at least 2 coats of primer, then the paint. It's the dining room and we have a lot of furniture in there so maybe the walls won't look so bad (she said, hopefully!)

San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

I have to go this route myself soon so if you come up with a magic solution to the problem let me know.
George in San Antonio

Conroe, TX(Zone 9a)

George, I guess I really need to just go ahead and get the wallpaper off my walls or I'll never get around to the painting part. I'll let you know how it goes.

Alice, I think if you are as thorough as you're talking about, especially applying two coats of primer, you'll probably be fine. One thing you might consider when it comes to the actual painting part, is doing some kind of special/faux technique. They tend to obscure any imperfections of the walls, while flat paint usually shows the imperfections. Let us know how you fare!

Florence, MA(Zone 5a)

Sanded the wall today and put the first coat of primer on. So far, so good. I put the primer on with a pad type applicator rather than a roller. I thought maybe a roller would "lift" the paper and maybe create bubbles under the primer or disturb the paper.

It looks pretty good. You can see a few gouges, but not as bad as I originally thought. Will sand and apply the second primer coat tomorrow after work.

Stay tuned!

Maggie - have you done special technique painting? I wouldn't know where to start!

Alice S.

Conroe, TX(Zone 9a)


No, I've never done special technique painting, but I've *seen* it done on TV a lot. That counts, doesn't it? :-)

Actually, I did try a special roller on my bedroom walls once, but could never get the corners to blend in with where the rollers had done their thing. I wich I had practiced it first, because maybe I could have figured out how to do the corners.

I saw something recently that looked pretty easy, and I'm going to try it first on some practice boards before using the technique on my bathroom walls. The thing is, pretty much all the techniques look pretty easy, but I think trying it out first on pieces of cardboard, or posterboard, or whatever, will take some of the fear out. If you don't like the way it comes out, just paint over it (on the practice board) and try it again until you have it down.

Florence, MA(Zone 5a)

Well, the removal project is done, after much blood, sweat & tears! Overall it came out pretty good with hardly any visible flaws. I put on 2 coats of primer, sanding between each coat, then 2 coats of paint - again, sanding between each coat.

I'm just so glad the room is done!

So here is a picture -

Thumbnail by AlicemayS
Conroe, TX(Zone 9a)



Boy, that turned out *great*, you can really tell you put a lot of work into it!

Okeechobee, FL(Zone 10a)

I second Maggie. Know you feel better! Grreat job.

Dallas, TX(Zone 8a)


That did turn out great! I just saw this and decided to chime in since I recently dealt with a similar problem.

Our house is old (1920s) and someone got REAL "texture happy" on the walls. No wallpaper, thank God, but heavy texturing (like you do with drywall compound) is just as bad I think! What we did was to scrape it as well as we could to knock off the high spots, then used an orbital hand sander to smooth it down. Which is about where you would have been after sanding off all that remover, loose paper, etc.

Our next step is something called "skim coating." It was a pain, but not near as bad as the drama people were going on and on about on some of the websites I was looking at. Anyway, I just took some regular drywall compound and slowly mixed water in until it was thin enough to GRADUALLY drop off my trowel but not so thin that it was runny. Kind of like cake frosting. Then I used that mixture to coat the walls- the same technique you use to hang drywall, but instead of just doing the joints I did the entire wall. I did it in 8 inches sections, left a space of about 6 inches, and did the next strip. After that dried, I did the spaces in the middle which slightly overlapped the first set. Hope that makes sense! After it was dry to the touch, I "sanded" it with a big wet sponge that was rung out just enough that water didn't run all over. In other words, not bone dry but not soaking wet. Rinse often and change the water when it gets nasty. After that set for about 24 hours, I just primed and painted. NO trace of the texture underneath. Skim coating is an extra step, but it's worth it in the end. I figure if I ever have to remove wallpaper, I will peel off what is loose and then just skim coat the wall. It doesn't take any more time than the steam method and you KNOW it will work. Not hit or miss the way wallpaper removal is!

Just my 2 cents, though I am too late for you!!!!


Florence, MA(Zone 5a)


Thank you for that post - the next room (and last thank goodness) that has wallpaper to remove is the kitchen - not looking forward to that!!

I'm not sure I'll start the project before gardening season because once the nice weather is here I'm outside the majority of the day, no time to even clean the house never mind remodel it - LOL.

I'd love to just paint over the kitchen paper, but it is paper backed vinyl and I'm concerned that the paint won't permeate the vinyl and when I have to scrub it the paint will come off in areas - now that would be a super mess!

So I will try the skim coating - wish me luck! My house is about 200 years old, so I need all the help I can get ....

Alice S.

Dallas, TX(Zone 8a)

It's a love hate relationship with these old houses huh? I'm with you- no more inside projects will be started until it gets cold and nasty again. I'd rather be outside. And lord knows I have enough major projects left on the outside to keep me busy as it is!

I agree- I would try to remove as much wallpaper as possible. But I would use a steamer and not the scoring tool or chemical removers. If you still have "nasties" and gouges, try skim coating.

Good luck!

Archer/Bronson, FL(Zone 8b)

I know I'm a little late for your first project Alice, but since you have another one in the near future, may I pipe in? I am a housepainter and on many occasions people require paper removal. Unfortunately, every job, every paper is different. Many times I see edges peeling and I think piece of cake. Those were the only parts that were easy ha!.

I own a steamer but don't use it all the time. It works good on long established, painted walls. The newer homes where the paper was put on at construction, they use poor primer which leads to a lot of drywall gouging.

Most vinyl comes off in good sized pieces, but don't score it. It's the kraft paper (backing) that is so difficult. If I don't use the steamer, I simply use hot water in a low pressure pump spray bottle. Spray the Kraft paper until saturated, wait a few minutes then use your 5" blade. If you're lucky it should come off. If not sit down and cry a few minutes, then try again. It will probably work this time.

If you want to paint over the paper in the kitchen (make sure it is secure), get a good quality "bonding" primer (usually oil based) and paint with that first off. Then you can see which seams need a skim coat of drywall mud. Do the skim coat, let dry, sand smooth, then use a regular latex primer over patched spots. Now you can paint your finish coat. Just make sure you allow overnight drying between each step. Too much moisture in too short a time will cause the paper to lift off the wall in spots.

If you see a bubble rise anywhere, do not touch, poke or scrape. It should settle back down after it's all dry and cured.

Stripping wallpaper and woodwork are THE worst part of my job.

Jamie, I have a drywall man I use here that would have charged me $250.00 to do what you did with that texturing. I usually sub out that kind of thing. He would only take a day to apply and come back for light touch up. You worked really hard, I'm impressed.

And George, there is no "miracle" and don't I wish there was.

Good luck all,

Florence, MA(Zone 5a)

Thank you Molly. If you lived closer I'd hire you to do this job! My plan once I get the paper off is to paint a wisteria vine on the walls in the hallway between the kitchen and living room, and then paint the kitchen in matching brown, green and a smoky dark purple. I know that might sound a little odd but I have the colors picked out and they look good together. If I ever get it done I'll post a picture.

Thanks for the help everyone, I really appreciate it!

Alice S.

Archer/Bronson, FL(Zone 8b)


Your decorating plan sounds great, I'm looking forward to seeing it. Thanks,


Okeechobee, FL(Zone 10a)

i can see your colors too, that vine sounds like nice plan. Waiting for pictures.

Gresham, OR(Zone 8a)

Hi there! Late to the page, but thought I'd offer my experience. I moved into a home that was built in 1991, and it had vinyl wallpaper in the kitchen. Had a HORRIBLE time with the removal of the paper. Same problems that you all mention. Vinyl comes off, leaves sub-paper, sub-paper comes off in tiny pieces, if at all, and takes the drywall with it.

Here is the bit of advice I have.

First, don't spend any money on the kits, or the wallpaper remover spray (like Dif...I think that is the brand name...) Just fill a spray bottle 1/3 with Ivory dish soap, and the rest of the way with water. Spray on, and let it sit for about 10 minutes, then peel paper off. You will still have the secondary paper, and you will have to tear it off, too. Do it like peeling a sunburn! Start at a corner or seam, and gently pull, trying to get as much paper to pull off at the same time. It really works!

You most likely will still have spots where small pieces of the dry wall come off too. I think it is just the nature of the beast... Spackle them as best you can...don't have to be a perfectionist. After it dries, sand until farily smooth...again, you don't have tobe a perfectionist. Finally, spray with wall texture (orange peal). You can pick up cans of the texture at any Home Depot or the like...

Now...paint! It worked for me in my kitchen.. will NEVER put up wallpaper in my house!


San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

thanks, I still have three more rooms to go before my house is wall paper free (YUK).

Moon Twp, PA(Zone 6a)

I agree, sucks to remove wallpaper! I ended up drywalling over the texture and wallpaper in din rm and liv rms. Painted over the wallpaper in the kitchen. Of course, need to redo the kitchen now! Won't happen till winter time, at the earliest! ~ Suzi :)

Topeka, KS(Zone 6a)

I, too, am late to the discussion but learned much from reading your posts. I hope by now your wallpaper nightmares are over!

I have a wall papered dining room that I need to deal with. The house was built in 1926 and somewhere down the line, thick "liner" paper was applied. There is one spot along a window frame where the liner has come loose, and it's thick as cardboard. I'm afraid to pull the liner off because I've read it was typically used to provide a smooth "finish" surface and I have no idea what condition the plaster might be in, underneath.

Has anyone run into this liner stuff? I'm thinking I have nothing to lose by trying to paint over it all (first, re-gluing that one loose spot). If that turns out badly, is there some way to judge what condition the plaster is in before pulling the liner off?

Archer/Bronson, FL(Zone 8b)


You are right, I'm sure there was a very good reason the liner paper was put up. I strongly suggest that you do not remove it. Get a quart of "vinyl on vinyl" paste and glue those loose places back down. Treat that liner like it was the original drywall. If you rip it off, you may well be creating a different kind of nightmare for yourself.

Liner paper, properly installed with good adhesion, was intended to be wallpapered or painted. You can even spackle on liner paper where needed. If the corners appear to be a bit rough or sloppy, you can run a bead of caulk down the corners and smooth it with your finger. You must be sure all paste is completely dry and each coat of paint is dry thoroughly before the next coat is put on.

I am a house painter so would be happy to offer any advice you may need.


San Antonio, TX(Zone 8b)

wallpaper sucks....two rooms to go. Yuck!

Topeka, KS(Zone 6a)

Thanks so much for the feedback, Molly. I appreciate the recommendation for the glue I should use to stick the loose liner back down. Also, you've described perfectly the "skippy" look of the liner in one of the corners in the dining room. Caulking the corner to smooth it out sounds like a great solution. I'll post photos when I get to painting in there. It's next in line after I finish the bathroom reno I'm working on now.


Archer/Bronson, FL(Zone 8b)

AB, you are quite welcome and please do post some before and afters if you can.


Georgetown, KY(Zone 6a)

Just saw your post and had to let you know that fabric softner works to take off wallpaper better than the store products and with the use of a plastic putty knife, or old dust pan or car window scraper, you can get most off without the gouges. Besides, no gloves are needed and it's non-toxic and smells good too. Also, if it's too hard to take down, you can do what we did in our last house and buy 1/4'' drywall and install it over. It doesn't take any longer than skim coating and you get extra insulation for sound as well as temps. We too use sponges to ''sand'' the mud, but if it's really dry, the scrubby side of kitchen sponges works better than plain ones, at least for us.Good luck with all your projects, I'm not able to do them much anymore, and I never thought I'd say this, but I miss them--one day you will to. Jackie

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