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Stripping Wallpaper

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 193 Projects

Newer vinyl wallpaper is designed to be “strippable,” which means it can be removed by hand. All you have to do is find a loose edge and pull upward. Some other wallpapers leave a layer of paper that can be scraped off easily when it’s dampened with water. Still others can be removed only with a fair amount of time and effort. If wallpaper is hung over unsealed drywall, it’s virtually impossible to remove it without destroying the drywall. You may be able to paint or hang new wallpaper directly over the old, but you have to make sure the surface is smooth and prime it with an alkyd drywall primer. The only way to find out what’s lurking beneath your wallpaper is to grab an edge and pull!

How to Strip or Remove Wallpaper

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    If there are no loose corners, use a putty knife to pry one loose and pull. If the paper comes off easily, you’re home free. Just keep pulling until it’s all off the walls.

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    According to the manufacturer’s directions, dilute wallpaper remover in water. Wash the walls, working from the top toward the bottom of the walls. Rinse the walls with clear water and let them dry completely.

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    If the wallpaper doesn’t pull off easily, it’s time to bring in the big guns. Cover the floor with drop cloths, and then dilute wallpaper remover in a bucket of water, following the manufacturer’s directions.

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    Run a perforating tool over the surface of the wallpaper. (It creates holes that let the remover solution penetrate the surface to loosen the adhesive.)

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    Use a pressure sprayer to apply the remover solution. Let the solution soak into the covering, according to the manufacturer’s directions. 

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    Scrape away loosened wallpaper with a wide drywall knife. Be careful not to damage the wall behind the paper, and make sure you remove any backing paper or other layers.

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    Rinse adhesive residue from the wall with remover solution. Rinse with clear water and let the walls dry.

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    TIP: To check the cleaned wall for remaining adhesive, holes, or other flaws, illuminate the wall from the side, using a bright light. Inspect the walls carefully, making sure they are completely clean and repaired before painting or hanging new wallcoverings.


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