Stripping Grasscloth Wallpaper

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image

Digital Image


This powder room in a newish townhome in the Galleria area of Houston was originally papered with a deep red, nubby-textured grasscloth wallpaper. It didn’t suit the taste of the new homeowners, so they had me strip it off and replace it with something lighter.

Often, grasscloth can be really hard to get off, because the grass fibers and the netting used to sew them to the backing separate from the backing and come off in tiny handfuls of fiberous messiness.

I was luckier today, because the top layer with the grass fibers and red ink came off the wall fairly easily, and in almost-intact 9′ strips. The paper backing was left on the wall (see 2nd photo). In some areas (see 3rd photo), bits of the red inked layer remained.

The next step was to remove the paper backing. All that’s needed is to use a sponge to soak the backing with warm water. Soak one section, move on and soak the next, then go back and resoak the first section, etc.

Water has a harder time penetrating the patches where the red inked layer was not removed. Soak it a little more, or use a putty knife to get under that layer and pull off the inked material.

Eventually, the moisture from the warm water will reactivate the paste. If you are lucky, you will be able to simply pull the paper backing away from the wall. But if not, all it takes is a little elbow grease and a stiff 3″ putty knife, to gently scrape the paper from the wall.

I was doubly lucky today, because whoever hung the original grasscloth did a good job, including the use of a good primer to seal the walls before he hung any wallpaper. His primer protected the walls, and all my water and tension as I soaked and pulled paper off the walls caused no damage to the subsurface.

All I had to do to prepare the walls for new wallpaper was to wash off old paste residue, and apply a primer, in this case Gardz by Zinsser.

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