Paint Over Wallpaper

Proper preparation ensures smooth, consistent finish

Like most people who've ever tried to paint over wallpaper, you may be tempted to pick up a roller and start painting away. At first, you might think there's just not a lot that can go wrong as the walls seem very smooth to the touch.

Then you notice loose seams and other areas where paper is just not secured good enough.

OK ... Now What to do?

The first thing to do is to put the paint brush and roller down for now as there will plenty of time for finish work. Once you've accomplished that, you'll need to do the important stuff before you paint over wallpaper.

Simple prep work will determine whether the result you want will be good, or not so good. In a nutshell, you need to make sure that the existing wallpaper is tightly secured to the wall itself. Anything short of that, and you got a major fail.

Surface Preparation

Always make sure that any loose seams, or other loose areas are firmly glued back into place. Again, you want the paper to be firmly secured to the surface.

If the area where the paper is loose cannot be glued firmly back into place, then you'll need to cut it out altogether. Then, apply some spackling compound over the area where paper is absent, let dry, and then sand.

The result should be a seamless transition. (in other words, like it was never there to begin with). You might need to repeat this step if a little paper 'bubbling' occurs (when underneath paper layer is exposed to a wet substance such as drywall mud, spackling compound, etc.). A couple of applications should do it.

If there are bigger, wider places where paper is missing (no bigger than a few inches either way), smooth the edges out with some spackling compound, let dry for an hour or two, then sand (just like process stated above)

Note If the loose areas are too large or too numerous, or both, you might want to consider removing all of the wallpaper as it would be simply too large an area to work with correctly. This step will probably involve some light skim coating of drywall mud over areas where scratches and gouge marks happened during scraping off of paper.

Priming the Surface Area

Prime the entire wallspace with the correct type of coating. You could use an all-purpose primer, but in this type of scenario, I would use a high-hiding primer designed to do just that - hide and cover deep,dark colors and wallpaper.

If you desire, you can get the primer tinted to nearly the same color of the finish paint you're going to use to paint over wallpaper (get it tinted to about 75% strength of finish color).

In addition to blocking the colors and print on the original wallpaper, this step will provide a solid base upon which you apply the finish coat. A good high-quality primer also promotes excellent adhesion for the finish coat to stick to. In other words, your finish paint will roll on easily and smoothly.

Finish Process

You're almost to the last – and easy – part, which is the painting. But, you have one more small (but definitely important) task to do, and that is sand. All you need to do is lightly sand all around to remove any dried bits of whatever was left on the surface after priming.

It not only 'cleans' the surface, it also helps to further promote better finish coat adhesion. Use a fine grade (200 grit) of sandpaper here.

And now you're finally ready to pick up your paint brush and roller and start getting busy with your task to paint over wallpaper. Oh … and good luck!

... And to Those Who Like Condensed Lists ...

  • Repair all loose seams and other smaller areas on surface
  • Use spackling compound if gluing loose ends does not work
  • Prime walls with a high-hiding type coating to completely cover wallpaper
  • Skim Coat if necessary
  • Sand entire wallspace (or ceiling)
  • Apply final finish coat(s)

Additional questions you may have:

What Should I do After Removing Wallpaper?

Why Should I Sand Walls After Priming?

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