Homeowners often grow tired of wallpaper patterns and want to change to painted walls. If the wallpaper is glued down well and not made of vinyl, you may be able to paint over it, but it is usually best to remove it.
Removing wallpaper is a job you can tackle yourself. For the average room, this job will take anywhere between a couple of hours to a couple of days and cost about $650, with most homeowners spending between $345 and $1,065.
The method you use should depend on the type of wall, the type of adhesive, and the size of the room. Here’s how to remove wallpaper.
Identify the Type of Wall Before Removing Wallpaper
The two most common types of walls in homes in the United States are plaster and drywall.
- Plaster—These walls are typically found in homes more than 50 years old. To identify a plaster wall, knock lightly. A plaster wall will feel very dense and produce no echo.
- Drywall—Drywall is more common in newer homes, but has been used for interior walls in older homes with exterior plaster walls. To identify drywall, knock lightly. Drywall will feel less dense and produce an echo.
Tools Needed to Remove Wallpaper
- Sponge—Sponges like the Golden Harvest wallpaper sponge from Home Depot are bigger and made specifically for removing wallpaper.
- Spray bottle or bucket—If you use a wallpaper solvent solution, you’ll apply this by spraying it directly onto the walls or wiping it on with a sponge and bucket.
- Wallpaper paste stripper—Chemical solutions may be necessary to apply to your wallpaper if it’s very old or was applied with particularly stubborn glue.
- Claw—This is a handheld tool with cutting blades that perforate the wallpaper before you begin stripping it.
- Putty knife / wallpaper scraper—These tools can help you get rid of those smaller, tougher wallpaper pieces that are hard to remove.
- Rubber gloves and protective eyewear—When handling chemical solutions or hot steamers, protect your hands and eyes from potential burns.
- Drop cloth—Lay out a drop cloth before you begin to keep floors clean and catch dripping solutions and stray wallpaper pieces.
- Soap and water—Keep a small bucket of soapy water nearby to rinse sponges and to clean the stripped wall of adhesive residue.
Prep Steps to Remove Wallpaper
- Remove all furniture from the room.
- Lay a drop cloth on the floor to prevent materials from ruining your baseboards and floor.
- Remove any electrical face plates, trim, switch covers, and decorations from the wall.
- Cover any outlets or switches with tape to protect them from liquids.
You can begin the removal process by simply pulling off what you can. Try to remove any strippable wallpaper with a putty knife. At a corner or seam, use the putty knife to lift up the face of the wallpaper and pull gently with your hands. If it comes off easily, keep pulling and try to get the rest of the wallpaper off with this method.
Follow these steps to get rid of wallpaper without the use of chemicals.
- Start off by scraping the wallpaper in a circular motion using a claw. This perforates the wallpaper and leaves holes for steam and liquids to pass through the loosened adhesive. Press lightly or you’ll puncture the drywall.
- After using the claw, press the steamer against the wallpaper to let heat and moisture pass through.
- Take your putty knife to the wall at an angle and begin peeling away the wallpaper.
- After you’ve taken down all of the paper, get rid of any residue by using a sponge to scrub the wall with soap and water.
- Remember to frequently rinse your sponge to get rid of glue residue.
Most solvents are caustic and contain a variety of chemicals. Use caution and protect your eyes and hands with protective gear.
- Mix the wallpaper paste stripper with hot water. You can use a spray bottle to spray the mixture onto the wallpaper or you can transfer the solution to the wall with a sponge.
- Before spraying the wall, score the wallpaper horizontally with a utility knife to allow the remover to penetrate behind the paper.
- Continue to add hot water to the solution throughout the removal process to keep the temperature warm.
- After putting the solution on the wallpaper, let it soak for a few minutes.
- After the remover has soaked for a few minutes, use a drywall knife to begin peeling off the paper.
- For extremely stubborn areas or if the top layer peels off without the backing, spray the wall again and peel off the backing. Repeat the process of spraying on the solvent, letting it soak in and scraping the wallpaper away.
How to Remove Stubborn Wallpaper Glue
After you’ve successfully removed the wallpaper from your walls, you may be left with a lot of residual glue. Here’s how to get rid of leftover wallpaper glue.
- Drop cloth
- Clean sponge
- Trisodium phosphate
- Gel stripper
- Hot water
- Putty knife or wallpaper scraper
- Prepare a bucket of hot water and a small amount of trisodium phosphate (TSP), a heavy duty cleaner typically found at any hardware store.
- Use a scrub pad or sponge and the solution to take any adhesive off the wall. Be careful not to oversaturate.
- Rinse off the scrub pad regularly to get rid of excess glue.
- For really tough glue, use a gel stripper like CitriStrip Gel. Let it sit on the residue for 15–20 minutes and then scrape off the glue with a putty knife.
- Scrub the wall with clean water after all of the residue is gone.
- Towel dry the wall.
DIY or Hire?
Removing wallpaper is a job you can do yourself.
- A job can take as little as two hours to complete, although for some projects it may take a couple of days
- Most homeowners spend between $345 and $1,065 on removing wallpaper
- If you already have the necessary tools to remove wallpaper, you can reduce the cost of the project
- A professional may charge you more to remove wallpaper than if you were to complete the job yourself
- Hiring a professional will save you time from completing the job by yourself (it’ll also save you money from having to purchase the necessary tools for wallpaper removal)
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