How To Hide That Hard-To-Remove Wallpaper

When you look online, you will find a TON of articles and videos about how to get rid of wallpaper. This video was published before and shows how to remove it. Some people recommend chemicals, others use vinegar or hot water, and some love using a steamer. What is noteworthy is that for every success story there is a tale of failure and frustration. Why?

The answer is simple: there are different kinds of wallpaper! Some are fairly thin, and come down as entire sheets faster than you can say “I love chocolate.” Others are made of thick, designer-type paper that will not come off no matter how much you soak, spray, or steam. This is what Melinda (featured in video above) and I ran into, and here is how we solved that problem.

We left the second layer of paper on the walls. We carefully inspected all the seams and corners to make sure they were in good shape. If you find any that are not, use some glue to make sure everything stays in place. Remove all nails, screws, and hooks you come across. Mask all surfaces you do not want paint on, and remove cover plates from light switches, electrical outlets, and so forth. Next, using a full-sized roller cover and paint tray, paint all wallpaper with an oil-based, fast-drying sealer. You will want to wear a suitable respirator and open doors and windows for ventilation, as the sealer vapor is toxic. Depending on the wallpaper and how much it absorbs the sealer, you may need to apply a second coat. You will love how this sealer will begin to hide that awful wall covering.

Next, find yourself an experienced drywall finisher. This person will apply drywall tape or mesh to all the seams, and then float these seams with drywall compound, known in the trades as ‘topping.’ In Melinda’s house, we asked the drywall finisher to ‘float’ (or ‘veneer’ or ‘skim coat’) all the walls. This means a thin layer of compound is applied onto the sealed surfaces.

TIP: If you have crown moulding or other trim that has a narrow profile, tell the drywall pro to feather the veneer along the moulding’s edges. If that is not done, the edge of the moulding’s profile will disappear and look strange.

After the skim coat dries, a vacuum sanding system is used to lightly sand it, leaving a beautifully smooth surface, ready to paint. Or, instead of the veneer, you can have the walls textured. This will be cheaper and a bit more forgiving if your walls contain a lot of irregularities.

TIP: Make sure a bright floodlight is used when the veneer is sanded. The light will make imperfections much easier to see. Use of a vacuum system is also important. This type of dust is very fine and will travel *everywhere*. Covering up any furnace vents is a good idea, too.

Now you will be ready to apply a regular, water-based drywall primer. An added benefit of this primer is that, once dry, it  allows a much better view of the quality of the drywall finishing work. Look at where the seams were taped. Hold a straight edge across the seams horizontally, and if there are noticeable bumps, ask the finisher to float out that area more. Simply use a pencil and mark the areas that need attention. The extra veneer and drywall primer will cover the pencil marks eventually.

In case you are wondering about the purpose of oil-based sealer, the reason is that the skim coat contains a lot of moisture. To prevent that moisture from weakening the wallpaper adhesive, you will want to apply a barrier between the paper and the veneer.

Do you know of better ways to deal with annoying wallpaper that won’t come off? Please let us know in the comment section!

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