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January 13, 2021

How to Paint Over Wallpaper: Everything You Need to Know

How to Paint Over Wallpaper: Everything You Need to Know
How to Paint Over Wallpaper

Wallpaper has long been used to hide imperfections, show off unique patterns or textures, or simply add flair to any space. Today, wallpaper is utilized to add dimension and create a unique, inviting environment in various home styles.

As personal tastes and design trends change, you may find yourself wanting to give your wallpapered rooms an upgrade. For the best results, you should opt to remove the wallpaper before painting whenever possible.

We’ve compiled some tips and tricks to help you navigate whether you should remove your wallpaper first or if you can paint over your wallpaper directly.

When Should I Paint Over Wallpaper?

It’s not always ideal to remove wallpaper before applying a fresh coat of paint. Consider the following downsides to removing the wallpaper first:

  • You aren’t a homeowner yet: Renters should think twice before choosing to put in time and effort into a space that is only temporarily theirs. Tearing off the wallpaper would be a painstaking task, but you can still make a change by painting directly on top of the wallpaper. As long as you have the landlord’s permission, you can paint over the wallpaper for a fresh, new look.
  • The walls are already damaged: Depending on what your original walls are made of, it may do more harm than good to the first strip away the wallpaper. Doing so may damage the structure of the wall and leave behind a gluey residue. You can start by testing a small portion of the wallpaper to see the wall’s condition behind it.
  • You don’t want to put in the time or effort: Maybe you’re renovating a space that isn’t your forever home, or maybe you simply don’t want to put in the backbreaking effort and time associated with first removing the wallpaper before painting. This is also a reasonable approach if you are under a time crunch.
  • You like the texture, but not the wallpaper itself: With so many incredible wallpaper choices on the market, if you like the wallpaper’s texture but not its color, painting over it allows you the best of both worlds.

What to Consider Before Painting Over Wallpaper

Here are some final considerations about painting over wallpaper to keep in mind.

It’s a Short-Term Solution

If you know that you’ll take the wallpaper down eventually anyway, you may want to consider doing it now. Painted wallpaper is possible to take down, but it may be even more difficult. Don’t create additional work for yourself in the future if your long-term goal is to remove the wallpaper anyway.

The Wallpaper’s Condition

We’re all for saving as much time and money as possible, but what if the wallpaper itself is extremely old? Peeling or chipped wallpaper can create even more work for you during the preparation stage. Be mindful that old wallpaper can bubble and create an uneven surface for painting.

It May Be Hiding Damage

The wallpaper creates a facade over your walls, and you may not know the actual condition of your walls behind the wallpaper. Some problems, such as excess moisture or mold formation, are easily concealed by wallpaper.

The Type of Wallpaper

Different wallpapers require a unique painting approach to be successful. Two of the most common wallpaper types are vinyl wallpaper and already painted wallpaper, but can you paint over them?

Can I Paint Over Vinyl Wallpaper?

Painting over vinyl wallpaper is tricky, but it can be done with the right tools and paint. You’ll want to use an oil-based primer, as paints with a water base have a higher chance of loosening the paper from the wall.

Depending on how the oil-based primer dries, you may want to add a second coat to be safe. From there, you can use water-based paint to apply a fresh coat.

Can I Paint Over Painted Wallpaper?

It is possible to paint over already painted wallpaper, but make sure that you are careful in the process of doing so. Start by finding an edge in the existing wallpaper and peel away a thin strip on one side of the seam.

Doing this will allow you to see behind the wallpaper to see if it can withstand another layer of paint. Gently pull on the wallpaper to make sure it won’t easily remove from the wall.

After this small test, replace the missing wallpaper with a joint compound and let it dry completely before sanding it dry.

You’ll need to use an oil-based primer over these bulkier joints to ensure the new paint won’t seep behind and cause damage. If you are anxious that another layer of paint will result in damage, you can prime your entire wall.

From there, you will be ready to apply the paint as usual.

What Tools Do I Need?

Pain Wallpaper Tools

Before you’re ready to paint over your wallpaper, you’ll want to ensure you have the right tools for the job. Grab these supplies from your local home improvement store.

  • Two paintbrushes, one smaller to reach the smaller angles and edges, and one larger to cover areas that a roller cannot
  • Paint roller
  • Paint extender to reach difficult spots
  • Joint compound to hide any visible joints between wallpaper sheets
  • Caulk and caulking gun to cover any trim or ceiling creases
  • Sandpaper to smooth the joint compound
  • Drop cloths
  • Painter’s tape
  • Oil-based primer
  • Oil-based paint, but water-based paint is also usable
  • Wallpaper glue in case you need to smooth any bubbles or imperfections

Finally, if you are going to be doing the painting yourself, make sure to wear an old t-shirt that can get ruined.

How to Paint Over Wallpaper

Step #1: Clean Your Walls

Clean the Wallpaper Walls Painting

Start by lightly dampening a cloth and gently wipe the walls to remove dust and grime that prevent the primer from sticking well.

Ensure that there is plenty of time for this water to dry, as excess moisture increases your chances of causing damage to the wall.

Step #2: Fix Any Damages

Fix Damages Wallpaper Painting

If you notice any edges that are peeling while you’re priming the wall, make sure to address those before you begin painting. If possible, try using a wallpaper seam adhesive to reattach any pieces that have become loose over time.

You can also use a putty knife to cut away small, loose pieces of wallpaper and fill them in with spackle.

Some wallpaper has a texture that will remain visible through the paint. If this is the case with your room, you can sand down the entire wall before priming it.

Step #3: Use Tape to Cover the Molding & Trim

Use Tape for Wallpaper Painting

Let’s face it; painting can be a messy job, and you’ll want to take the right precautions to protect your moldings, baseboards, etc. Use painter’s tape to keep your trim, wainscot, baseboards, or molding free from damage.

Step #4: Use an Oil-Based Primer

Primer for Wallpaper Painting

Regardless of the base of your topcoat, whether it is water or oil, you’ll want to use an oil-based primer. This lessens the primer’s chance of soaking into the wallpaper and causing it to detach from the wall.

Use one of your angled paintbrushes to reach the edges and more intricate areas, and use your roller to cover larger wall areas with primer. Give your primer plenty of time to dry before starting to paint it.

Step #5: Paint, Paint, Paint

Paint Wallpaper

Now that you’ve put in the work to prepare and prime your wallpapered wall, it’s time to paint it as you would any other surface. You can typically expect to use at least two coats of paint to finish this project, especially if your wallpaper is patterned.

Allow plenty of time for the first coat to dry before starting the second coat.

Let Our Professionals Help You Out

With so much time and physical energy going into painting over wallpaper, the thought of completing this task on your own may give you pause. If you’d rather invest in a professional painting service to ensure the job is done right the first time, don’t hesitate to call our team.

At Oahu Pro Painters, we cater to all of your painting needs. Serving both businesses and residences on Oahu, our team is committed to providing you with professional results that will last.

We’re even happy to provide you with a free quote! Schedule a free estimate with us to get started.

Sign up for a free estimate online today, or call us at 808-468-5604

How to Paint Over Wallpaper: Everything You Need to Know
Written By:
Karl Van Zadnt

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