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Should I Paint Over Wallpaper

If you’re sick of your wallpaper what’s the best way to refresh the look?

So, the question is, should I paint over wallpaper or remove it?

I could be neutral here, but 1) that’s just not my style and 2) I’m so opposed to painting over wallpaper I can’t even fake that it’s a good idea.


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Should I Paint Over Wallpaper

I’ve been hired to remove the wallpaper for people a number of times before I painted their walls and I hate it. I really do, but I think it’s important to remove the paper before you paint the walls. In the long run, you’ll be glad you did.

The problem with painting over wallpaper is that the seams show. You can prevent this by applying a skim coat of wallboard compound. Which, you’ll probably want to apply to the entire area because most wallpaper has texture. It’s not always evident but applies a nice even coat of paint and those bumps and stripes will really show up.

Then, get ready to work in oils. You’ll need to use an oil-based primer to seal the paper. Latex primers and paints will actually loosen the paper and cause bubbles since they’re water-based.

You may have vinyl wallpaper, which is more water-resistant but remember there are those seams and water-resistant doesn’t mean waterproof and you need to make sure your paint will stick and like we said, vinyl resists water, so water-based paints don’t adhere as well as oil.

And now, let’s fast forward to the future. Wallpaper is not permanent. And, if it begins to peel and separate, your lovely paint job goes with it. If that’s not bad enough, the wallpaper is now reinforced with paint so it’s much harder to remove from your walls.

Now, removing wallpaper isn’t always easy. I’ve written about basic removal (How to Remove Wallpaper) but there can be problems and I’ve run across them. The biggest problem I’ve found is the wallpaper peels away part of the drywall. This will require a skim coat of wallboard compound. This happens when the wallpaper is very old.

In my experience, if you have old wallpaper some of it will really have “become part of the wall” and you’re going to need extra time and moisture to remove it without pulling off part of the wall. It also happens if the walls were not properly treated before the wallpaper was applied. I’ve seen this in newer homes where the wallpaper was applied directly to the drywall.

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Should I Paint Over Wallpaper?

The lesson? Even though removing wallpaper can be difficult, removing it after you’ve painted over it (egad – imagine if you’ve painted over it more than once) will be even more work and trouble.

And, as a side note, the reason I’m writing this is, as I was repainting my kitchen recently I noticed, with horror, that my soffit had wallpaper under the paint.

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