Renovating Walls & Stripping Wallpaper

This really doesn’t have much to do with hoarding per se. At some point, after the cleanup, you may be faced with soiled walls, which are covered in wallpaper. The removal of said wallpaper and prep for painting is one of the more fun filled tasks. Assuming you don’t farm it out.

Photography-Home Renovations-wallpaper removal-swittersb
Kind of the second stage as the wallpaper backing that seemed to remain after the wallpaper surface was scraped away. Oh that curly ribbon of paper seems so fulfilling, but adhesive residue remains behind too often. Ugh!

I am being sarcastic re the ‘fun’ part. Tedious, finger numbing at best but can be worse. We have a few suggestions discovered through trial/error/trial again. I am sure there are probably simple means to this end, but we didn’t discover them yet.

We have two large bedrooms and a 20+’ hallway which joins them. These areas were covered with quite gaudy and tired wallpaper. My wife had tried the steamer route, sponging the paper route and washing the surface down route. Let me explain.

The steamer route would seem to be a kick ass way of removing wallpaper. For us it wasn’t. It made a huge mess, and damaged moulding as the hot water unavoidably ran down the wall atop the varnished moulding. One the wall was steamed, it did not seem to afford any removal advantages the other methods didn’t provide. The steamer is heavy when full of water…takes 10+ minutes at least to get hot each time and you have to be careful where you set the scalding hot steaming pad. It is easy, if renting such a device to burn yourself on valve caps and scalding hot water if you don’t pay attention. We tried it and were not impressed.

The sponge hot water over the wallpaper and wait route, was ok. My wife found it did not really saturate the wallpaper surface enough, but did to some degree. You apply the water to the surface of the wallpaper and wait 3-5 minutes before attempting to scrape away the wallpaper with the sharp bladed tool.

In the end, the Use a Wet Rag and Glob it over the Wallpaper route, was the most efficient. All these methods cause water to run down the wall and to the moulding or floor. Care must be taken to wipe up as you go. I mess will ensue if you don’t.

The rag is wiped over the wallpaper, you wait about 3-5 minutes and then you take your sharp bladed tool and set to scrape the paper off the wall. Seems easy enough, but for us it wasn’t. The surface of the wallpaper comes away…but there is a backing that is stuck to the wall as well as the adhesive. A second effort has been necessary to wet down the backing…wait…and scrape away all the soggy paper backing. Often the adhesive does not come totally away with the backing. This soggy mess falls to the floor or you pick it away in strips and care should be taken to drop into something besides the hardwood floor or worse…carpeting.

The remaining adhesive it felt as a tacky, rough surface and that must be removed too. A very smooth surface is desired and for us, these multiple, finger/hand crunching exercises have been needed to get down to the final surface. Be careful of the angle of the scrape. Too shallow nothing happens. To angled and you are definitely going to gouge the surface of plaster…ouch! Changing razor blades often is critical to this effort. Wiping debris off the blade is important. And….don’t slice your fingers open….you will eventually so have toilet paper or paper towels nearby for dripping blood. 

razorbladescraper-Having the correct tools is an absolute necessity. You are not scraping paint or decals from a window. Your fingers will take a beating. The yellow type and the silver one (upper right) are typical and are ok as a last resort, but not for an extensive job.

Pay attention to cleaning any cuts to avoid infections. Keep the water and falling scrapings cleaned up. Have good lighting. Run your hands over the walls for rough residue and scrape them away. Use the wet rag & wait a few routine…then scrape the film off until smooth. Good luck!

We are headed back to do a final scrape down for any remaining adhesives. Sanding would make too much of a mess we feel. Repairs for divots/gouges may have to be made and those lightly sanded though. Fun!

I have to give my wife credit. She has been tenacious in this project. But she has paint samples in hand and a vision already. That helps.


7 thoughts on “Renovating Walls & Stripping Wallpaper

  1. annietiques

    This is one of the worst jobs faced by any homeowner!!! From your photos it appears that you had paper backed vinyl wallpaper………..UGH. There is a tool called a “Paper Tiger” that you run back and forth over the vinyl coating to cut tiny little holes all over the surface. If you saturate the vinyl paper with a solution of Fabric Softener and warm water it helps to dissolve the glue underneath. But there is no easy way to remove the glue other than washing and washing and washing. BUT you will be rewarded in a beautiful finish for your new paint!!!

    I find that Tylenol Arthritis formula helps with the pain!!!

    1. Oh my, I forgot to mention the Paper Tiger…we rented that when we rented the steamer. I am not sure it made much difference…with or without but we did try that at one point to. I think you are right about the vinyl part as the Paper Tiger had to really be torqued down on to penetrate that vinyl covering…thanks for additional input!

  2. Kathy

    I can sympathize… and offer our experiences. We bought a house with 14′ ceilings, and the living room and dining room walls were papered (as well as inside of cabinets and every other nook and cranny). I hated the paper and wanted it down, and intended to paint afterwards. It was a heavy, textured vinyl that pulled off easily in huge, long sheets. That was the easy part. What was left, however, was the adhesive. We had painting contractors come and take a look before submitting bids. One fellow said he could just paint over the adhesive. My research told me that it must be removed, or the paint will re-activate the adhesive. The most highly-recommended local painting contractor agreed that the adhesive had to be taken off. He proposed scraping it off. His crew of 4 men set to work with scaffolding, etc. to start the job. They scraped and scraped all morning, painted a sample area, and left for lunch. When they came back, the verdict was… not good.

    Even after careful scraping, there was somehow still enough adhesive left that you could see the beginnings of a sort of “alligator” texture to the drying paint. Supervisors were called in to consult, and what they decided had to be done was sand everything down, and re-mud the walls. Then apply oil-based primer and two coats of vinyl paint. It took 4 men an entire week to do our two rooms. There are still spots here and there where residual adhesive has caused the paint to show some texture. All in all, we’re happy with the results, but it took a long time and it was of course very messy with all the sanding. The primer smell kept me away from the house for a day as well. Good luck! My advice is to watch out and do a small test area of paint first.

    1. Excellent information..thank you. We did paint a sample area and after two coats you can see the problem spots…the remnants of adhesive. This weekend will be a remove as much adhesive residue as possible. Thanks!!!

  3. Tish

    I can help! We faced something similar in the house we purchased recently. Two relatively expensive things can help a lot:

    Wallwik Simple Strip:

    It will remove the paper, backing, and adhesive. We had both the vinyl paper kind you have, and also an older fabric based with wheat glue adhesive paper. We also had several layers piled one atop the other in some areas. This removed all of them. We have a big house and only needed one bottle. It was such a lifesaver (and hand-saver!!)

    If you’ve pulled up some of the paper off the drywall, you can seal it and prevent spackle/paint bubbling (after contact with the drywall) with this stuff: Gardz

    You put the Gardz on first then mud/primer over it.

    If for some reason you still have some glue on the wall, if you seal it in with the Gardz it will allow the paint to stick (the paint will stick to the Gardz).

    I had to pull down some really old corkboard that was glued to the wall with construction adhesive, and that pulled off a LOT of the paper on the drywall. The Gardz kept us from having to redo all the drywall in that room.

    Make no mistake, wallpaper removal is the pits. But that’s what’s helped us in removing the wallpaper in our house (and there was a lot!)

    Good luck!

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