If it's time to swap your dated wall-covering for something fresh and on-trend (we can't get enough of mid-century modern patterns and art deco motifs), the first thing you'll want to do is forget all of the horror stories you've heard about how difficult the removal process is.
Wall-covering installation expert George Kovacs, of New York-based , has been in the painting and wallpapering business since he was 15 and says the process of stripping wallpaper is pretty simple. “If the paper hanger used the right primer, the wallpaper should come up very easily.” If they didn’t properly hang the paper, that's when you can run into problems, says Kovacs, who has handled some of the world's finest wallpapers, and is a go-to expert for interior design mavens and pro architects.
Whether or not your wallpaper was thoughtfully installed, these simple steps will leave your walls stripped and ready for something new in no time. Might we suggest...more wallpaper?
Before you set about removing wallpaper, it's important to protect the other surfaces in the room from the water and soap you'll employ to remove the wallpaper. Be sure to use painter's tape to completely cover trim and moulding, and recommends laying a drop cloth across the floor to protect the finish.
Painter's Tape, Home Depot, $9.42
In some cases, your old wallpaper might already be starting to pull free of the walls. You can start the process by trying to remove the wallpaper by hand without water. "Using a taping knife — the same thing you use for patching walls — find the edge and try to scrape it off," Kovacs say
Taping Knife, Amazon, $6.88
Eventually, you'll run out of paper you can peel by hand or with the knife. When that happens, you'll need to spray the wall. Kovacs recommends spraying the paper with warm water to help separate it from the wall. Any generic spray bottle will do, but a vacuum sprayer might speed up the process. In tough cases, a steamer will be your best bet. Cover the floors with plastic or a drop cloth, and generously spritz the entire wall.
Wallpaper Hand Sprayer, Chapin, $17.99
After letting the water soak in for a few minutes, you can start to scrape off the paper. Use the same taping knife, gently strip the wallpaper, either left-to-right or up-and-down, depending on what feels easiest. If you're still having trouble, you might need to spray the wall several times.
Be careful not scratch the wall underneath, it could cause problems later on. If you find another layer of wallpaper, finish the first layer and then move on to the second — you can only remove one layer at a time without causing damage.
Flexible Joint Knife, Hyde Tools, $13.22
Once all the paper is gone, it is time to wash the wall so you can remove any excess primer or paste. Kovacs recommends dampening a sponge with water and going over the wall several times. Believe it or not, this is the most important step in the entire process.
“It doesn’t matter how good you took off the paper, if you don’t wash off the old paste you are going to have problems when you try to paint or re-wallpaper,” he says.
Pack of Sponges, M-D Building Products, $4.86
Even tiny specks of paste can derail your next wall treatment. According to the , "If you don’t get it all off, when you paint the wall, the paint will eventually flake and crackle. Wallpaper that’s applied over it will bubble or fail to stick properly."
To combat the problem, apply gel stripper to any lingering patches of paste, then scrape it free of the wall to make sure the plaster is smooth as can be.
Gel Stripper, Amazon, $9.65
Once you've done all the hard work of removing your faded wallpaper, you finally get to enjoy your reward: picking out a gorgeous new wallpaper. Keep things simple with a coat of paint, or revamp the space with a creative, inspired wallpaper pattern.
Tivoli Wallpaper, Anthropologie, $198