After removing wallpaper from seven walls in our home, I have learned a few tricks to successful wallpaper removal. It’s not as hard as you think, but be warned it can most definitely be time consuming.
The intensity of the job will depend on a few factors. Were your walls primed before you papered your walls? How many layers of paper need to come off? What kind of wallpaper are you removing? These all factor into the level of difficulty you will experience, but for most people this is not a hard job, given you have the proper tools.
When I removed wallpaper from my kitchen years ago, I used a paper scorer which is a tool with sharp teeth that dig into your paper without going deep enough to damage drywall. It allows hot water or a special paste dissolver to penetrate the wallpaper. I used this along with a sponge and a bucket of hot water, but I wasn’t happy with this method because it took me forever to remove my wallpaper.
Instead, I had fantastic results using a wallpaper steamer. We purchased a Wagner 705 Wallpaper Steamer at Lowe’s for around $50, and it was one of the best investments I have ever made. The steamer came with two attachments, one small and one large, and it really made a huge difference for me.
The steamer took about 20 minutes to heat up, so I filled the base with very hot tap water, which reduced my wait time significantly. There is some prep work needed, and I recommend buying some cotton drop cloths to protect the bottom of your sheet rock and floor. I found that the steamer allowed a fair amount of water to run down my walls. If you don’t want to buy drop cloths, you could use old sheets or towels, anything that can absorb the water.
I used my special tool to score my walls, and then I used the steamer to loosen the paste. The key for me was to be patient and take my time. I applied the steamer to my paper for about 15 seconds, then I gently pulled it the loose wallpaper down. I kept the steamer flat against the paper, and moved it down as I pulled the paper down. When using this method, I was able to remove large sheets of paper.
At times there were small stubborn areas that didn’t want to come off, and this is when I used my putty knife to help scrape it off the drywall. The smaller attachment for the Wagner Wallpaper Steamer allowed me to get into smaller, tighter areas, and when using the small attachment the steam seemed more intense.
When the paper was removed from my walls, I used a damp sponge and wiped them down to remove any excess paste and residue. Leaving this on walls could affect the way paint and texture adhere to the walls, so I feel it is best to remove it all if possible.
The paper that we had in our dining room was a vinyl paper, and it was harder to remove because it seemed to have a bit of stretch to it. At least this paper was applied to walls that were primed before hand, which made a big difference in my ability to remove the paper without damaging my drywall. When I removed paper from my bedroom, those walls had not been primed first, and I actually did tear some of my drywall which then needed to be repaired before painting.
If you find very stubborn paper that is really stuck on, you can buy a special product that you paint onto your paper, and it can seep through the holes made by your scorer to dissolve the paste. I never had to use this kind of paste dissolver.
Be aware than when trying to remove wallpaper borders that have been pasted onto painted walls, using the steamer can damage the paint below. When I used my steamer on my borders, it was so hot that the paint below my border actually bubbled up, now those areas need to be repainted.
All in all, the job of removing wallpaper is not really hard, as much as it is tedious, time consuming and hard on the back. Be sure you have a sturdy step ladder to get the paper at the top of your walls. Having the proper tools make all the difference, but I’d say the best tool I’ve ever used for removing wallpaper is a specially made wallpaper steamer.