Wallpaper Stripping: Pro Tips for Removing Wallpaper & Paste to Prep for Quality Painting

“Stripping wallpaper can be messy and preparing the walls for painting can be tricky if it’s not done correctly. CraftPro has performed many wallpaper removal and painting jobs in and around Morristown, NJ and we know how to execute a quality paint job over previously wallpapered surfaces.”

Some people consider wallpaper a thing of the past – an out-dated way to design a room. This isn’t always the case: we’ve actually seen some very elegant wallpaper designs. But for most homeowners of older houses here in Morris County, NJ the wallpaper is old, out-dated and peeling. So it has to be removed. A number of times I have been called in to take over a job for a homeowner who began the wallpaper removal process only to find that it was too difficult and not an ideal DIY job. A smart homeowner knows his or her limits, and hiring a professional contractor to deal with the stripping of ugly, failing wallpaper is a smart thing to do because there is much more to wallpaper removal and wall preparation for painting than meets the eye.My name is Richard D’Angelo, CraftPro’s founding owner and operator. I’m a hands-on owner and I am at every job site every day doing the most important work myself. Sometimes all the work, because my number one priority is for you to be thrilled with our work and your new home improvement. I am going to demonstrate how important proper wallpaper removal and thorough wallpaper paste blocking and sealing is crucial to achieving a long-lasting, durable and beautiful paint job.

Removing the Wallpaper

Depending on how old the wallpaper is, removing can range from very easy to extremely difficult. If there are multiple layers of wallpaper sometimes it’s best (cheaper, even) to demolish the walls and start over. But if the wallpaper simply peels away and leaves the tissue-like sub-layer then the job won’t be that difficult. In almost any case, you’ll need to score the paper using a hand-tool specifically designed for this. The tool will perforate the wallpaper and allow it to be completely soaked. That brings us to the next step. Professional painting contractors take different approaches to removing the wallpaper, and I’ve tried them all. A lot of times just warm water and soap will do the trick. For more stubborn wallpaper there are products that contain an enzyme that is specifically designed to break down wallpaper paste and help separate it from the wall. These products come in many forms: gels, sprays and – my personal favorite – a concentrate that you simply add to warm water. The best way of soaking the walls is to use a pressurized backpack sprayer. This piece of equipment allows you to move throughout the room and spray the perforated wallpaper. Be sure to lay down towels, newspapers or a combination of absorbent materials around the perimeter of the room. The solution will be dirty as it runs down the wall and you don’t want it soaking into carpets or pooling on wooden floors. This can cause damage to the ceilings below if the water gets beneath the floors. If you have gaps in your basemolding then tape them off thoroughly. Once your wallpaper is good and soaked, start at a seam or corner and begin peeling. You’ll likely have to spray the solution more than once, and you’ll probably have to use a scraper on many areas. You will inevitably cause some minor damage to the drywall, so get your spackling tools and material ready.

Sealing & Blocking Wallpaper Paste

The absolute most critical part of wallpaper stripping and removal in order to prepare for a durable paint job is to remove the wallpaper paste and seal/block it thoroughly. Wallpaper paste/glue can hide in pores of the substrate, and even if it appears like you got it all: you can count on there being some left over. The paste will eat through almost any water- or latex-based coating, with one exception. While we don’t officially endorse any brands or products, Zinsser makes a primer product called “Gardz” that is specifically indicated for previously wallpapered surfaces. It is as thin as water, looks milky in the can, but goes on completely clear. It creates an impermeable seal, blocking any residual wallpaper paste/glue from coming to the surface and ruining your paint. If it is in our customer’s budget we like to use the following process. First we apply one coat of Gardz (it isn’t very expensive, and it’s also good to use because it’s indicated for drywall areas where the paper was torn, which happens when scraping wallpaper) and then we spackle wall damage and apply a thin skim-coat of joint compound. After applying a second coat of Gardz over the sanded spackle, we use a high quality oil-based primer. The Gardz is clear so it doesn’t help with color coverage, and it’s a good idea to add another coat of a primer that will reinforce the sealing of the wallpaper glue. Oil-based primers are easily sanded – especially oil-based enamel primers – so after we apply two coats we sand the walls with very fine sandpaper in order to achieve a glass-smooth finish.…

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