Wallpapering 5 - Removing Old Wallpaper Wallpapering 5 - Removing Old Wallpaper

Deteriorating Wallpaper

This can be one of the worst prepping problems. Usually you will not want to paint or paper over old wallpaper but will want to remove it instead. Often a home has several layers of old wallpaper that must be removed before painting or papering. If you do not plan to remove it, repair problem areas by re-gluing and working out any bubbles until it has a good smooth surface. If the areas are too bad, you will need to scrape away some of the paper and fill the area with compound and sand flush. Seal all old wallpaper with an oil based primer, especially if it is a colored pattern. There are chemical wetting agents available to help in wallpaper removal. There are also tools that puncture small holes in the surface to enable water to penetrate.


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Older wallpaper was not made to be easily removed like newer wallpaper. You will need a wallpaper steamer. This piece of equipment can be rented from a hardware, home center, or equipment rental yard. The steamer produces steam which dissolves the old glue and allows you to peel the paper from the wall. Actually, this sounds a lot easier than it really is. This can be quite a frustrating and time-consuming task. You will need to get all the wallpaper off. If it does not peel off easily, be prepared to spend whatever time is needed to remove all the paper and glue.

To allow the steam to penetrate behind the wallpaper, nonporous wallpaper such as vinyl must first be scored with a puncturing roller or rough sandpaper before steaming. The teeth of a handsaw will also work

When using the steamer, start at the top, and remove one strip of old wallpaper at a time. Working a broad knife behind the paper, work slowly downward allowing the steam to penetrate. After the wallpaper is removed, check the surface to see if there are any other wall conditions mentioned in Step under Painting above. Be sure all glue and paper has been removed.

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