Wallpaper? Plaster coating? WWYD?


Old 03-25-06, 03:51 PM
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: St Clair Shores, MI
Posts: 5
Wallpaper? Plaster coating? WWYD?

Our "new" house has awful looking walls in the den and dining room.

We first noticed cracking in the top layer of paint. After seeing that, we started tapping around and 90% of the walls sounded "clicky". When tapping, you couldn't see the paint indent/move, but it sounded like it wasn't adhering to the wall. Then after removing what felt like 239857235 layers of cigarette stains, we saw what looked like wallpaper seems. We assumed it was a layer of wallpaper somewhere underneath the layers of paint that had the adhesive finally fail.

Since I can't paint until it gets a bit warmer here, I wanted to get more of the stains off until I could just strip the whole thing and paint. So after a few more cleanings, more details became visible - including the fact that while the seams were verticle, they ranged from 4" to 24" wide.

I wanted to know what I was going to be dealing with, so I took off a chunk of paint from the hallway. I wasn't willing to do more because I'm sure some layers likely have lead. The thick paint layers came up easily because something had separated - but we're not sure what. It looks like someone had stuck tape to a cardboard box and ripped it off.

Here's the cracking in the top layer of paint

Here's the wall

Here's the back of one of the chips that came off

Does this look like some sort of drywall covering or is it some type of wallpaper? Could it have been some sort of paper on top of wallpaper before they painted it? Whatever is still attached to the wall is still firmly in place.

Can I just put up primer and paint on top of whatever it is on the wall once all of the unadhered paint layers are off?

Any advice is appreciated!
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Old 03-26-06, 06:39 AM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: PA
Posts: 334

The best idea I have is to take that chip off of the blanket, grab a hot chocolate, climb under the blanket, and have a nap, watch a movie, etc. You will forget about that chip in no time!... Darn, now that the movie is over I guess we need to get back to it.

It is difficult to tell how large that area is, but here is my take on it. It look as though someone wall papered over wall paper, and didn't prep the walls properly when they did it. After that, someone painted the surface many times, which loosened the bond between the last layer of wall paper and the first. (if you look at the seam in the "the wall" picture you can see a seam in the middle that isn't a drywall seam; and the pattern that shows through looks like the original wall paper. To the left of the obvious seam, you can see the seem from the second layer of paper covered by many layers of paint (which is what probably caused the second layer to lift from the "original" paper.)

The "torn cardboard" look that you have appears to be the backing of the last wallpaper layer, and the "clicking that you get when touching the walls is most likely the space created by the second wallpaper coming away from the first.

The edges that are shown in your pictures looks loose, and if you put a drywall knife at the edge and run it along the wall, I imagine you would peel off a lot more. If you moisten the first layer with a damp sponge, you will be able to get an idea what it would take to remove the first layer of paper after the second was removed.

The paint cracking was most likely caused by the wrong paint being used without the proper prep, and marksr will probably be able to give better advice on that than I can.

I think that a question you need to answer is "How much work am I willing to invest into these rooms", as the scope of work changes drastically depending on your answer.

Here are my OPINIONS, starting from the easiest to the hardest.

1. Glue down the rough/loose edges of that chipped area using construction adhesive, and coat the area using easy-sand. If the back wall paper bubbles when you do it (and it may), cut out the bubbles and coat again using easy-sand. Skim the areas that have paint cracks with joint compound, prime the room with primer sealer (I like Zinser 123, but there are many that would work). Paint.

2. Scrape off as much of the second layer of wallpaper that you can, then attack the first layer. The paint on the second layer isn't going to allow moisture to loosen the first, so the 2nd should be scraped as much as possible first. Then skim the walls with regular mud if it is drywall (easy sand would work even better), cut out the areas that bubble, skim with easy-sand, then regular mud, prime and paint. If plaster, patch as required with joint compound / easy sand

3. Remove the trim from the room and re-sheetrock with 1/4 or 3/8 inch drywall, finish as usual, and prime/paint.

(I think #2 and 3 are almost a tie if the walls are drywall and you hate doing it. If they are plaster #2 is easier, If they are drywall, I would do #3 over 2 because I'm a drywall kind of guy and despise wallpaper hanging, stripping, etc... (I finally agreed, to my wife's insisting upon it, that I would paper the upper half of a 3-1/2x5 powder room if it would make me a member in good standing in the "Marriage Continuation Program". Other than that-I don't do wallpaper)

(If you are trying to hide from me, just go to the wallpaper forum!)

4. If you start scraping for #2, (and the walls are drywall) and get massively damaged (more than skimming can fix), rent a dumpster, remove the sheetrock and re-drywall the room, or sheath over it as stated in #3.

#1 may last 10 days to 10 years, the others should last quite some time.

I hope this helps.


Last edited by MudSlinger; 03-26-06 at 04:52 PM.
Old 03-26-06, 03:09 PM
andy2's Avatar
Join Date: Jul 2005
Location: Ottawa
Posts: 36

How old is your "new" home? That stuff reminds me of a type of fiber board that I saw in my Mother's cottage quite a number of years ago. It may be easier to put 5/8" drywall over it.
If you are really ambitious, remove the stuff. If you do go the distance -- upgrade (if necessary) the electrical.
My thoughts.


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