Removing wallpaper is one of those pit falls of home remodeling that most people would like to avoid at all costs. Unfortunately, it’s an all too common necessity when you buy a new home and discover that you can’t possibly live with the old owner’s decorating tastes. It’s almost always better to remove wallpaper than to cover it or paint it. How to remove wallpaper depends on the type of wallpaper that was used, and the type of wall it’s covering.
There is such a thing as strippable wallpaper. Strippable wallpaper is designed to be easily removed without the use of tools or solutions. You can determine if your wallpaper is strippable by trying to pull it down. Start at one of the upper corners and try to pull the wallpaper off the wall slowly. If it pulls easily without breaking, it’s your lucky day. You can remove strippable wallpaper by slowly pulling it off in a uniform way. Be sure to keep the plane of the paper parallel to the wall and not pulled out towards you for best results.
If you weren’t lucky enough to discover strippable wallpaper, you will require a little more effort to get your wallpaper down. The process for how to remove wallpaper is much more time consuming when it is not strippable. The first step is to move the furniture away from the walls and put down drop cloths. The glue on the backing of the wallpaper will need to be moistened to get the wallpaper down. Unfortunately, some wallpaper is designed to be water resistant (washable), and won’t readily absorb liquid. In this case, you will need to puncture or score the wallpaper so that you can soak the glue. This can be done with a utility knife, but the easiest way is with a special scoring tool for wallpaper available at most hardware stores. This tool fits in the palm of your hand and has spiky wheels on the underside that make tiny holes in the wallpaper.
You can either use a soapy solution of water and household soap to moisten the glue, a warm water and vinegar solution or a chemical wallpaper removal solution. Some chemical solutions are noxious, so check to see if you need a mask, gloves and goggles to work with the one you choose. Whichever solution you choose, apply it to the wallpaper with a spray bottle or a bucket and sponge. Allow it to soak into the glue for about 30 minutes.
When the glue is softened, try to peel off the wallpaper. It may come off with just your hand, but more likely than not, you are going to have to use a putty knife or wallpaper scraper to get it all. Be careful scrapping, and don’t apply too much pressure or you could cause a lot of damage to your walls. You may have to spray some more solution onto the wallpaper as you go if you encounter some tricky pieces that are stuck tight. Continue to peel, spray and scrape until you get all of the wallpaper off.
If you start to remove one layer of wallpaper and discover another layer of wallpaper, you’re looking at twice the work. The bad news is that you need to remove one layer at a time or you risk damaging the walls underneath. Hopefully, there won’t be even more layers under those, or you will have to remove those separately as well.
Once you get all the wallpaper off, you need to remove any remaining glue from the walls that was left behind. To do this, use a solution of tri sodium phosphate (TSP) and warm water. That should remove all of the glue. Let the walls dry completely (it may take several days) before moving on to the next step. You will also have to repair any damage to the walls caused by the removal process. The scraper will occasionally pull off some bits of drywall or poke small holes in the wall, but those can be easily fixed with some spackle. All you have to do is apply the spackle over the hole, let it dry, and sand it down. You can also apply a primer coat on top of it if you like. You’re now all set to paint or apply another wallpaper better suited to your decorating tastes.