Removing Wallpaper – Get It Done “Ask The Handyman” THE St Louis Handyman

How do I remove wallpaper from my dining room walls?  I have decided I would rather have them painted.


Updating your home by removing wallpaper can make a dramatic difference.  In general, removing wallpaper is easy, but it is tedious, messy, and does take time.

If your walls were sized before the wallpaper was hung, the job may go a lot easier.  You’ll know as soon as you begin pulling it off.  It will likely come off in one sheet, just as it was hung.  If the walls were not sized, you may only get small, one or two inch pieces coming off.

To start with, get lots of plastic or drop clothes to cover the floor.  Once you get into removing the glue from the walls and wetting the walls down, it really gets messy!

Next, take a garden sprayer and fill it with hot water – as hot as you can get it.  Add a small amount of fabric softener, or you can purchase specialized wallpaper removal solution.  Then, you’re going to score the walls with a special tool.  A tiger wallpaper scorer will create the smallest of holes in the wallpaper, allowing the water from the sprayer to get behind the wallpaper and release the glue.  After you have scored a wall, then begin spraying the wall with the hot water.  Start at the top and by the time you get to the bottom, some of the water from the top will have run down, so don’t spray quite as much at the bottom just yet.

Wait for about 10 minutes.  During this time, you can start scoring another wall.  After 10 minutes, spray the wall again in the same way.  The trick to removing the paper is to have it wet.   Wait 5 more minutes, then spray it again – for a total of three soakings.  At this point, you’re ready to start removing the paper.  Using a 4” putty knife or scraper, or you can buy a paper removal tool with a blade.  Begin by gently trying to remove the paper.  It’s easiest to start at a seam.  Be sure not to put too much pressure into the wall, or you’ll damage the paper of the drywall, which will cause you slightly more work later.

This is the point where a good music selection or a book on tape can come in handy.  Continue all around the room until all the paper is off.   Then, you need to go back and get all of the glue off.  This is a repeat process of spraying the walls and scraping the glue until it is all removed.

Next, you’ll need to wash the walls, because there will still be glue residue.  Washing the walls can be done with a sponge and hot sudsy water.

At this point, you’re done with the removal.  However, if you scraped off any of the drywall paper, you will need to skim coat the walls with joint compound, commonly called mud.  Please see our column in the July 5 Lifestyle section of the Post Dispatch for instructions on skim coating.  After skim coating, you will be ready to prime and then, finally, paint the walls.

Some people like to use a steamer to get the paper off instead of spraying the walls.  A steamer can usually be rented from a paint store, or can be purchased as well.  Both methods are doing the same thing – getting the paper wet, releasing the glue, and letting you remove the paper.

Once you have painted the room, you won’t believe the difference.  It is a lot of work, but you will be proud of your accomplishments!

Get It Done

THE St Louis Handyman

Get It Done THE St Louis Handyman “Skim Coating Walls”



When removing wallpaper, many times the paper lining of the drywall can come off in spots which will leave indentations in your wall.  If you painted right over it, the indentations would be quite noticeable.  However, there is an easy way to fix this, and it doesn’t require a great deal of experience.

The product that you’ll need is joint compound, or commonly called “mud”.  It is available at any hardware or paint store.  I recommend buying it pre-mixed, as opposed to mixing it yourself.  You’ll also need a drywall knife which comes in several different sizes (4” up to 12” wide), along with a mud pan, and later, a sanding sponge.

With your walls being dry, first put a drop cloth or plastic down on the floor.  Then take the joint compound and put some into the mud tray.  Get some mud onto the knife and spread it over the indentations in the wall.  Use a thin coat, just enough to fill in these areas.  You don’t want to fill up areas outside of the indentations, so use the knife to scrape off any excess.   You should only have the mud in the holes or indentations.

The mud will need to dry before it can be sanded, so give this about 24 hours.  Then, lightly sand over the area with the sanding sponge.  Take your time, as it is best to not sand enough rather than sand it down too much (or you’ll have to apply another coat of mud!).  Once you think you’ve sanded the area properly, run your hand over it to see if you can feel any edges.  If so, sand these down as well.  After you’ve sanded everything, you may want to dampen a soft cloth and very lightly wipe off the dust on the wall.  This is the process of skim coating, whether it is a small indentation or several all along the wall.

Your next step is to apply a primer/sealer.  A primer looks like paint, is applied the same way as paint, but it seals the wall.  This is a necessary step before painting.  Otherwise, the paint you apply may not hold up properly.  The primer can be purchased at any hardware or paint store.   It can be tinted to match your paint color, which is recommended if you’re prepping a large area.

It is usually best to apply the primer with a roller.   This way the texture of the roller will match with the rest of the wall.  If you were to use a brush, you would likely see brush marks on the wall, where there weren’t any before.  After the primer has dried (about 90 minutes), touch up the area with your wall paint.  Again, using a roller will give a better look.

That’s it – you’ve done it!!  Now, instead of sitting back and admiring your work, go around the house and find all the other nicks in your drywall (this process also works with plaster), and really get things looking great!

Get It Done
THE St Louis Handyman