DIY: Wallpaper stripping (advice needed)

What with 2 inches of ice on the ground, I decided to start on my guest bedroom’s walls. Currently, there is some fantastically horrible flower-print wallpaper on the wall that’s roughly 35 years old. So I started in a corner, and it came off pretty easily. But…

Another layer of paper. Even more flowery, more pink and even more horrible. So I find a seam of Layer 2 and peel. Well, sorta peel. It’s coming off MUCH less easily. 3-4" square chunks at a time. Delightful. And not only that, but there’s ANOTHER layer of paper underneath. My house is 90 years old - I’m guessing that paper is at least 60 years old. It’s seemingly adhered with some primitive form of superglue to the plaster walls.

So…after I peel Layer 1, should I just paint over all this? I can get Layer 2 off after a ton of work, but I really don’t see Layer 3 coming down without major renovation. My walls are plaster, so I’m not in danger of ripping out chunks of drywall - but it’d be good to hear stories of “I painted over my wallpaper 5 years ago and you can’t tell the difference.”

Any voices of experience out there?

Steam is the answer. You’re going to want a steamer and do it the proper way. Especially with a plaster wall.

Of course if you’ve got foil back paper you’re hosed, nuke it from orbit it’s the only way…

Yes, either steam it, or rent a pump sprayer and use stripping medium. We did the latter on our house, but that wallpaper was all 35 years old maximum.

Sorry - steamer, scrappers and lots of elbow grease are in your future. Then you’ll have to repair any chips or scrapes in the plaster before painting. You absolutely can tell, particularly since there’s no way to evenly leave one layer of wallpaper on while removing the others.

I thought I could get away with painting over wallpaper, and it worked for a couple of years, but lately it’s starting to peal away. I see taking it down and repainting soon.

Get a tiger and some remover.

Another one chiming in with “steamer, scrapers, elbow grease” with a side order of “tiger” and “remover” for the particularly stubborn spots.

Damn. Well, I have remover and a scraper, and I thought I had a tiger (turns out it was just a scraper with a tiger handle). I can rent a steamer, right?

What’s the best way to do this?

Layer 1: Peeling + time
Layer 2: Peeling + tiger/remover.
Layer 3: Steamer + cursing?

I’m quite familiar with filling in holes and things - I did the dining room last year. It just had one beautiful layer of wallpaper that went down like a $5 hooker. Still left a lot of glue residue, so everything had to be sanded and skim-coated. It was a big job, but fun - and the results are fantastic.

  1. Steam
  2. Peel
  3. Discover stubborn spots
  4. Apply remover and tiger
  5. Peel
  6. repeat from 1

For a steamer…I bought a cheap clothes steamer at my local Target. If I had to do it again, I’d get one with a longer hose…and maybe a bigger water compartment.

steam alone if it’s a paper product. If it has a water repelling layer then you will need to poke millions of holes in it with a tiger tool so the steam can get to the glue backing. You may find that the glue stays behind which means washing the residue off with tri-sodium phosphate.

Steam is just a faster way to squirt water on a water-soluble glue and that’s your goal (to moisten the glue with water).

Peeling wallpaper is fun. Find several friends who share my attitude, rent a steamer, and have a party. Be ready to forgive if chunks of plaster come out.

I used watered down fabric softener in a spray bottle. Worked fine. Sprayed a ton, soaked the paper then scraped it off.

You do smell the fabric softener for days after though. Just the cheap stuff from the dollar store.

If I ever had to remove wallpaper from an entire room again, I will definitely rent a steamer. And buy at least a quarter-ounce of weed on the way home from the Rent-All, because I will need to be stoned to avoid having some sort of psychotic break and stalking the previous owners of this house brandishing a scraper covered in that hideous amalgam of paper scraps, glue, and DIF gel, and crying to heavens for the blood of all wallpaper enthusiasts.

People will encourage you to use some sort of wallpaper remover product – I mentioned DIF gel – with a “tiger” and scraper. My experience has been that works fine for one layer of wallpaper that was applied in the last 20 years or so. But if you have an older home and no knowledge of how many layers are hidden underneath* or if the initial layer of wallpaper was applied directly to wallboard or plaster (not over paint), for the love of your sanity, just rent the steamer.

*There were FOUR layers of paper in our kitchen. That first layer had to have been applied in the late fifties, with, as the OP said, some sort of cement which has since been outlawed in all First World countries.

I still need to remove the paper in the master bath. When I removed the paper in the guest bath, I ended up with a cracked rib from contorting to scrape the walls around the toilet.

Wallpaper. It’s what Satan uses to decorate Hell.

I’ve never had much success with DIF gel at all. I have nearly a full bottle that never seemed to work and my kitchen wallpaper was only about 15 years old. I eventually turned to the steamer + scraper + paper tiger.

Then used a solution of white vinegar with hot water and a lot of scrubby sponges to clean all the glue off the walls. I’ve heard that Dawn + hot water also makes a nice glue cleaning solution.

Friends don’t let friends put up wallpaper.

Whatever you do, do NOT paint over it. Please. Have some mercy on the next person who lives there and who might want to change things around. If I moved in after you and wanted to paint, but discovered that some numbnuts had painted over the wallpaper, I’d be cursing your name for the rest of your days. Please don’t do it. Take the time to do the job right and prepare the walls for paint properly.

This. +10

Can you use a steamer with drywall? We found that just spraying the solvent on the walls eventually soaked it to the point that it was impossible not to gouge with the scraper.

I did and found that the steam loosened the wallpaper enough so that I didn’t really have to scrape much, just enough to lift up a corner that I could grab and peel off. Wipe glue with white vinegar, steam another section, repeat. Just keep an eye on the angle of the scraper to the wall; if you keep it flatter than you think you need to, you stand less chance of gouging big holes in the drywall.

I still pulled chunks of the drywall paper off with the wallpaper in some places. So the next step is to get familiar with joint compound and learn how to use it to fill in the gouges. It’s rather easy.

Instead of steam, we used boiling hot water that we put into el-cheapo spray bottles that we got from the local dollar store (an empty windex bottle or the like would work just as well). Spray on, let sit for a couple of minutes, and scrape. Much cheaper than renting or buying some kind of steamer, and worked pretty well. Our house is older though and has plaster instead of drywall.