Posts Tagged ‘removal’

Another Reason to Not Let the Contractor Prep the Walls for Paper

May 10, 2018


Folks, please do NOT let your contractor or painter “prep the walls for wallpaper.” They simply don’t know how to remove wallpaper properly, and they don’t know what is required to prepare the surface for the new paper. Do a Search here (upper right corner) for more examples.

In this case, “I know that he removed the old paper, because I saw piles of it on the floor,” said the homeowner. But this photo proves that he didn’t. Nor did he bother to remove the towel bar, because when it was removed later, you can see the old wallpaper still under it.

I put the original wallpaper up back in the ’90’s, so I know that, with my good primer underneath, with a bucket of warm water and a little time, that paper would have come off easily and left the wall in perfect condition for new paper.

Instead of properly removing the old paper, this contractor skim-floated over it. That’s the thick white stuff you see in the photo. After sanding the wall smooth (which he did OK in most of the room, but, as usual, did a less than stellar job in corners and around moldings and door trim), he should have removed dust from the walls with a damp sponge – but virtually no contractor bothers with this step.

Removing dust is crucial, because if dust is left on the wall, it may hold up OK under paint, but when wallpaper is applied on top of it, when the paste dries, the paper shrinks a tad and puts torque / tension on the wall. When the walls are dusty, there is the potential for the surfaces to delaminate (come apart), leaving you with seams that gap and curl back. These cannot be glued back down, because the surface underneath is unstable and provides nothing for the paste to adhere to.

So next the contractor primed the walls. There was no mention of what primer he used. But I can tell you that primers formulated for paint are not advisable under wallpaper. PVA-based primers are commonly used under paint; they are designed to keep the paint from flashing. But they are soft and don’t provide a stable surface for wallpaper.

Primers formulated for wallpaper are designed to 1.) adhere to the underlying surface, 2.) provide a “crystalized” surface that the wallpaper paste can bite into and grab ahold of, 3.) provide a surface with “slip,” which will ease installation of the new wallpaper, 4.) allow for easier removal of the wallpaper later, with minimal damage to the wall, and 5.) withstand the torque / tension created by the drying wallpaper.

Ask a contractor or painter if he knows any of the information in the paragraph above. You will receive a blank stare.

All more reasons to NOT let the contractor prep the walls for paint.

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Stripping Wallpaper – Unprimed Drywall: The Underlying Surface Makes A Difference

January 23, 2016

Digital Image

Digital Image


When stripping off old wallpaper, you never know what you will be getting into. Some people say, “It all came off so easily!” And others will spend days on one room, damage their Sheetrock, and endanger their marriage. 🙂

Several factors come into play, some being: the surface below the wallpaper, the type of wallpaper, the technique used by the person attempting to remove the wallpaper – and his patience level. 🙂

And it’s helpful to understand the process of how homes are put together.

Shot in a corner, under a window, and above a toilet with the cover removed, this photo illustrates the first factor. First of all, the previous installer did not prime the Sheetrock before hanging the paper, and that is a big no-no. A primer will make installation of the new wallpaper easier, help it cling to the wall better, and will protect the wall from damage when the paper is removed later.

But you are not just looking at unprimed drywall.

Above the toilet tank, the grey area is drywall. There are some darker grey areas where the drywall has absorbed water used in the removal process. Wallpaper will stick to bare drywall like its life was staked on it, and, depending on the type of wallpaper and the paste used, can be the Devil to get off. If you are lucky, the wallpaper will release from the drywall easily. But more likely, the wallpaper will stick tight, and will take careful persuasion from a stiff putty knife to scrape it off the wall. It’s very easy and common during this process to tear the top layer of the drywall, and that is very bad, because the inner layer will bubble when new wallpaper or latex paint is put on top of it, and you will also see a visible dent or bump or ridges under the new surface.

To the left of the toilet, in the corner, the white area is joint compound (“mud”). Joint compound is a smoothing agent (like plaster) and has many uses, the main one being to smooth over seams in sheets of drywall. But it is also used to cover nails or screws, patch holes, or to smooth out uneven or textured areas. When it has not been sealed or primed, it is dry and porous and thirsty, and will suck the paste right off the wallpaper. Meaning, that wallpaper will “kind of” adhere to this surface, but will release very easily. Sometimes, all it takes is a little water to reactivate the paste and then the wallpaper will come off easily and cleanly. Other times, the wallpaper will never really stick well at all, and will kind of hover over the mudded areas, and can sometimes even cause a bubble in the wallpaper.

At the top of the photo, under the window molding, you are looking at another white area. This is paint – overspray from when the painters sprayed enamel onto the woodwork. The good thing about paint is that it protects the drywall and will prevent tears when removing the wallpaper. Also, the wallpaper sticks to paint much better than it sticks to joint compound, but not as aggressively as it sticks to bare drywall. So, usually, all you need to do to remove the old wallpaper is soak the backing sufficiently and then use a stiff putty knife to scrape the backing away from the paint. If you are careful, there will be no damage to the drywall. The bad thing about enamel or any gloss-finish paint, is that, contrary to what I just said, wallpaper will not stick to it, because it is glossy and slick – kind of like Colorforms, so it will “kind of” stick, but when stressed by torque or humidity or other factors, can curl at the seams, or even give way entirely.

Bottom line: When hanging wallpaper, always use the proper primer. It will save you a lot of grief down the road.