Removing Old Wallpaper

Have you looked at your wallpaper lately? As with many do-it-yourself projects, the success of professional hung wallpaper depends largely on how well you do your "prep" work. Taking the time that's necessary to prepare the walls for wallpaper - making sure they're clean, smooth and free of old wallpaper and adhesive will help make the process go quickly and smoothly.

Removing old wallpaper is a tedious, time consuming job, but it is not hard to do and is highly recommended. For removing most wallpapers, you'll need a 4 or 6-inch putty knife, bucket and sponges, a ladder to reach high places, towels, a bed sheet, and a wallpaper steamer. We can advise you on the proper operating procedures and answer any of your questions.

Begin by placing a bed sheet on the floor where you'll be working and place rolled towels against the wall - to collect moisture that runs down the wall caused by the wallpaper steamer. This will prevent glue from getting on your floor and furniture.

How you remove the old wallpaper depends on the kind of paper that's on your wall. Strippable paper is the easiest to remove, since you can pull both vinyl coating and backing off the wall in one easy step. Peelable paper, and other wall coverings, requires steaming the adhesive with a wall steamer, then peeling it off the wall. Only when the paste is liquefied by the steamer can you peel the paper off the wall.

If your old wallpaper is foil or vinyl, you'll have to create "openings" so moisture applied to the surface by your steamer can soak through to the adhesive. We provide wall perforators that punch holes in the wallpaper.

An additional prep would include applying a liquid enzyme and water solution to the wallpaper to help break down the wallpaper adhesive; if you do, ventilate the room well and wear gloves and eye protection.

Once the prep work is done and you have the necessary equipment, removing the wallpaper is easy. Using a wallpaper steamer, address one wall at a time, or only as much wall surface as you can keep warmly moist and work on before it dries. Reapply steamer application several times. The wallpaper should be moistened thoroughly and the glued liquefied before it's ready to peel, a process that can take up to 15 minutes.

Work down from the top of the wall using the steamer to liquefy the glue. Scrape off the wallpaper with a broad knife; be careful not to chip or dig into the wall surface. If the paper doesn't peel off easily, steam it again. Let the steam do the work!

For multiple layers, it's best to tackle one layer at a time. If you find any non-porous layers (foil or vinyl), be sure to use the wall perforator before steaming the wall.

Because old adhesive may show through a newer light-colored wallpaper, it's best to remove any remaining old adhesive or glue spots by additional steam applications or sanding.

Once all the old wall paper is removed, repair any cracks, holes or other wall damage and make the surface as smooth as possible. Then wash the wall from the bottom up with a solution of trisodium phosphate or ammonia and water. Allow the wall to dry thoroughly and apply a primer-sealer. Now you're ready to hang the wallpaper.