Changing up the walls in a room is one of the most impactful and cost-effective DIY remodel projects you can do. But, when you have a room covered in wallpaper, it can seem like a daunting task. Depending on how long it has been there, how many layers there are, and how it was applied, removing wallpaper can be challenging. But, simply painting over it is rarely the best option, even though the idea may be tempting.
You might think that removing wallpaper is difficult and time-consuming --- and for some rooms, you might be right --- but there are things you can do to make the process much easier. Here are three tips on how to remove wallpaper easily. Just remember to give yourself enough time to get the project done. It is best to plan for at least a weekend, depending on how big the room is and how many layers of wallpaper you are dealing with.
First things first, you need to know what kind of walls you have in the room. The age of the home will usually determine if your walls are drywall or plaster. If your home is more than fifty years old, chances are you have plaster walls, which are more solid and will sound dull when you knock on them.
If you have a newer home, the walls are most likely drywall. When you knock on them, they will have a hollow sound, and they are more delicate than plaster. Drywall is a combination of lightweight cardboard and a chalk-like substance, so you need to be a bit more careful when removing wallpaper, so you don't damage it with a wallpaper scraping tool.
Also, do the prep work. Take everything off of the walls (including switch plates and outlet covers), remove all knick-knacks, and take out as much furniture as you can. Then, cover whatever is left, place old towels along the baseboards, and cover the towels with plastic drop cloths that you tape to the baseboards. This will save you from the headache of getting messy scraps on your floor.
You will not need to use a steamer to remove wallpaper. That method was popular 25 years ago, but it makes the process much longer, and the electric steamers can burn your hands. Instead, if you can't strip your wallpaper dry, a concentrated remover solution mixed with water will dissolve the adhesive backing and make it easy to take off.
Having the right tools is essential for a wallpaper removal project. The tools you will need include:
To make your remover solution, you will need a commercially-prepared solution like DIF by Zinsser and some hot water. Or, you can use liquid fabric softener and hot water. With a one to one ratio, mix the fabric softener and hot water in the spray bottle. And, be sure to do this in small batches, so the water stays as hot as possible.
You want to determine what the grain is, so you know whether to strip the wallpaper left to right or up and down. Test a small 3'x3' section of the wallpaper by lifting an edge to see how easily it comes off. If it doesn't come off easily, then spray your remover mixture on the test area and let it soak into the paper. It is possible you may need to apply it more than once.
Then, try to strip the wallpaper by hand. There will most likely be backing left, and you will need to scrape that off with a broad knife.
If the mixture isn't penetrating the wallpaper, use your scoring tool in a circular motion to make tiny punctures so the remover can saturate the wallpaper and backing. However, Bishop says that the scoring tool should be your last resort. If you don't use the right pressure, you could end up gouging your drywall.
As you are taking off the wallpaper in your test area, it is possible that you will find more layers underneath. And, to avoid risking wall damage, you will have to take them down one at a time.
Once you have removed all of the wallpaper and backing, spray the mixture onto the wall one more time so you can scrape off the missed spots. Finally, wipe down the wall with a wet sponge soaked in hot water and dish detergent (that is what the bucket is for) and towel dry.
Once you have removed the wallpaper from your test area, it will give you an idea of what kind of project you are looking at. You will know how many layers of wallpaper you have to remove, what kind of wall you are working on, and the exact method you will need to remove the wallpaper.
Now that you have this information start working on small sections in 15-minute increments. You do not want to saturate the entire wall. Instead, spray only as much as you can comfortably strip in 15 minutes. You will want the solution to soak the paper for a few minutes before you start removing the section, so while you are working on one section, go ahead and saturate the next section, so it can soak while you are working, and you won't have to wait.
Depending on the grain, you will either grab pieces of the wallpaper from a bottom corner and carefully pull upwards or left to right. To facilitate the removal, use a wide putty knife. And, continue to work on your small sections 15 minutes at a time until you have removed all of the wallpaper.
Are there other ways to remove wallpaper? Yes. You can use solvents or steam, but they are much more dangerous and will take a lot longer. Instead, follow these tips and you will be able to remove wallpaper easily, and before long, your walls will be ready for next weekend's painting project.