Stripping Wallpaper

Digital Image

Digital Image

Here is a shot that shows all of the stages of stripping wallpaper.

First you see the striped wallpaper. This particular one is a paper-backed solid vinyl, which I find easier to remove than many others, or at least, ut causes less damage to the wall (usually).

The first step is to peel off this top layer. I use a stiff 3″ putty knife to get under the vinyl (without digging into the paper backing), and then pull off the vinyl. Usually, it will come off in large strips. But sometimes it breaks apart into little pieces, which take much longer to get off. In the photo, you can see both a large(ish) piece coming away from the wall, and jagged areas where I have been fighting spots that want to come off in tiny pieces.

Wallpapers made of different materials might peel off differently, but the concept and process are the same.

Once that top layer is off, you will be looking at the paper backing. In this photo, the backing is a light tan color.

The backing is then soaked with warm water and a sponge. Some people use chemicals or additives or even a steamer, but all I use is clean, hot water. The idea is to reactivate the paste, so it will release from the wall. Once the backing is wet, you can see it turn color, to a dark tan. With other types of paper, the backing might be white, or even difficult to see.

Once the backing is good and wet, the paste will loosen and, if you are lucky, it will pull away from the wall easily, as in the photo. In other instances, you might need to use that stiff 3″ putty knife to scrape it off the wall – gently, to avoid gouging onto the wall.

It’s really important that you not force the paper off the wall, or tear the Sheetrock in the process.

The underlying surface will have a lot to do with your success, too. If the previous installer primed the walls properly, or even if the builder applied a coat of cheap paint, you will have better results than if the paperhanger put the wallpaper directly onto the drywall.

The wall can then be wiped gently with the damp sponge to remove any paste residue.

Realize that this procedure will take a long time. You cannot expect to strip a whole room of wallpaper after dinner. Rushing, and trying to “force” the paper off the wall, along with not understanding the process, are major reasons for damage to the wall. Oh, and patience. You must exercise patience.

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