Anyone who has removed wallpaper knows that it is a horrible experience. The scraping is horrible enough, but after it is done, you are left with dirty damaged drywall. Then you learn that refinishing walls is harder than it looks on HGTV. After that you get to have fun priming and painting. I can’t tell you that there is secret to make wallpaper removal easy, but I will tell how professional painters do it. Here we go.
1. Gather all you materials. This is list of almost everything you need (there may be other items that I take for granted because I see this all the time. Please don’t send me hate mail if I forgot something).
- a steamer
- construction paper and plastic
- painters tape
- sponges and rags
- wallpaper removal gel or solution (optional)
- powder drywall joint compound, “mud” (45 minute)
- mud pans
- finishing knives
- paint brushes
- rollers, frames, pole
- sand paper and pole sander
- dust masks and eye protection
- alkyd or shellac based primer
2. Prepare your work area. Cover floors with the construction paper. Try and close off the area using the plastic. This is for keeping the dust contained. Remember to close any intake ducts or turn off HVAC. Take off switch plates, electrical outlet covers, and anything else that’s in way. This process is annoying, but you will be glad you did it at the end. It controls dust and makes clean up MUCH easier. Trust me.
3. Time to start removing the wallpaper. If you are using wallpaper scorers and gels, follow the manufacturers instructions. If you have a steamer, start steaming. I recommend using a scoring tool to make holes in the vinyl layer. This helps the heat and steam get through the paper for better release. This can go two ways; either the paper is going to comes off in nice big pieces or small ones. Pray for the first option. Use your scraper to get under the paper and GENTLY scrape the paper and adhesive from the wall. Try your best to avoid gouging holes in the wall. The more damage you do during the removal, the more difficult refinishing the wall is going to be. Keep a bucket of warm water and wipe off the wallpaper adhesive while its wet. This also will facilitate next steps.
4. By now you are ready for a break. Take a break, eat something, drink a beer and let the walls dry.
5. Refinish the walls. This can be tricky. Make sure you mix the drywall compound using the ratio on the bag. Only mix small amounts at a time. Using your finishing knives, apply a THIN layer of mud over the areas that have damage or are rough. The trick here is too use as little finishing compound as necessary to bury imperfections. Remember the more you put on, the more you are going to have to sand off to achieve a professional finish. Also, it is much easier to apply a thin 2nd layer coat having to sand down a even a 1/4 inch of excess. Putting too much joint compound is one of the most common rookie mistakes. After the mud dries (about 45 min depending on temperature and humidity), sand it down. I recommend 150-220 grit paper. Wear a dust mask and even goggles. It is going to be disgustingly dusty. That is why we made a barrier with plastic and closed intake vents in step 1. Drywall dusts really sucks. I’ve seen projects where people forget to turn on HVAC and the dust gets sucked up and blown through an entire house. Not cool.
After you have sanded the walls, refinish any areas that need more work. After everything is dry, take a damp rag or sponge and wipe all of the loose dust from the walls.
6. Take another break.
7. Now that you have smooth, clean walls you are going to prime everything that had wallpaper on it. I recommend using an alkyd or shellac based primer for this. Wallpaper adhesive is a water soluble, starch based product. Using a waterborne primer can sometimes reactivate the glue and cause problems for the paint. Alkyd and shellac based primers are going to have higher VOCs and typically have bad fumes. Get fans blowing and open windows because these are bad to breathe. Use a respirator if you have one. Keep kids away, too. They will have plenty of time to damage their brains in college. The good news is that these products do dry quickly so the fumes dissipate quickly.
8. You’re almost done. All that’s left is the easy part – painting. Everything should still be prepared from priming so painting is super easy. Choose your favorite paint and color and paint. If you are using a dark color, have the paint store tint your primer so that one coat of paint will cover adequately.