How to Paint Over Wallpaper so that Nobody will Notice!

The painting community is a tough one – we know that painting over wallpaper can be sacrilege to some. But if you’re looking for an easier way to get your room back in shape, consider painting over that old and ugly eyesore! We have painted over it, it works fine and it’s a sensible solution to a seemingly big problem. If you are hiring professional painters to do this, it might even save you some money. Having said that, before getting your paint brush out, make sure you try every wallpaper removal method available.

When You Should Paint Over Wallpaper

If you can’t strip the wallpaper, no matter how hard you try. You used every possible stripping solution from the paint store; even the one with the wetting agents and enzymes. Nothing seems to work, not even the fabric softener trick that everyone in social media is talkin about. A steamer and hot water will work eventually but you risk damaging the drywall. This happens more often than not, especially if the installer did not prime the walls with the appropriate primer. Be carefull stripping wallpaper in a new home. Builders’ installers have been known to install it right over drywall primer and even worse right on the unfinished drywall.

In some older homes you can see and feel the failing plaster, right under the multiple layers of paint and wallcoverings. The wallpaper is actually what’s keeping the plaster from crumbling. Be careful before renoving very old wallpaper, You don’t want ro remove this mess, unless you are prepared to start a major renovation.

Maybe You Don’t Want to Invest the Time and Effort Required

Consider painting over this wallpaper
Removing this wallpaper may be very dificult

Wallpaper removal is a difficult and frustrating job that most people dread doing. It takes a lot of time and effort with no guarantee of what you’ll find after you remove the wallpaper. This is a messy and time-consuming process and many people don’t have the patience to do it right. Sure, you can hire contractors but most of them will bill you for time & materials. It is not unheard of for a wallpaper removal job to take weeks and that can be a very expensive project.

A Few Words About Paintable Wallpaper

Paintable wallpaper, also known as Anaglypta is a wallcovering that comes in a variety of designs. It is made from a thick, pulp-like material, textured to create a raised pattern. This versatile material can be painted over in any color, making it an elegant option for home decor. It is often used as an accent wall, but you can also use it on a ceilings for an ultra dramatic look.

This multi-layered wallcovering is a perfect cover over imperfect substrates. It works really well over bad plaster and damaged drywall. Not only it hides multiple imperfections, but it utilizes its texture and elegant style to divert our attention.”Anaglypta is one of the best known and oldest wallpaper brands, now in its 132nd year. The brand is synonymous with paintable wallpaper and remains, in our view, the definitive collection offering a very wide range of designs.” (From their website)

Everyone has different reasons for painting over wallpaper. Whatever your reason is, you can still do a professional job just by following these basic preparation steps.

Inspect the Surface for Damage and Fix it

To us painters, nothing looks worse than a badly prepared surface that has brand new paint on it. Old wallcoverings require some delicate prep work before any primer or paint is applied on them.

Wash and Clean Carefully

You should never paint over dirty surfaces and wallpaper is a surface that accumulates a lot of dirt and dust. When is the last time you saw anybody washing and dusting a wallpapered wall?

Use a dump wash cloth or sponge, by being careful not to wet the surfaces excessively. If water penetrates the surface, you run the risk of reactivating the adhesive and ungluing some of the seams. If you see any stubborn stains, don’t scrub too much, you don’t want to damage the surface at this point. The alkyd primer should cover any hideous stains anyway.

Inspect Every Inch of the Surface

Inspection of ugly wallpaper
Inspection shows us that this ugly wallpaper is actually in good condition.

Now that everything is clean and dry, take your time inspecting every inch of the wallpaper. Do you see any small tears? Are there any dents on the wall? Did you notice any bubbles when you were washing? Is anything coming unglued? Pay close attention to the top edge along the ceiling and the bottom edge along the baseboards. Are the seams adhering well? If you are dealing with new drywall, take note of any popped screws that need to be driven back in. Whatever is hidden in the textured look of the wallpaper will be noticeable through the new paint. Pay close attention to what might be hiding behind commercial vinyl wallcoverings.

Repair – Glue and Patch

Use a sharp knife and cut out the bubbled areas and any loose paper. Prime these spots with alkyd primer and patch carefully to make them invisible. Spot-prime again after sanding. Glue any loose edges with a strong adhesive, as well as the seams if they are coming unglued. After the glue is dry, patch and “skim” over the seams with drywall compound, to make them invisible after painting. Re-inspect the surface after priming and rework any visible repairs. Spot-prime again and at this point you should be ready for the primer!

Priming Over the Wallpaper

Before painting, you need to prime first and you can’t just use any primer. When you use a water based primer, you run the risk of over wetting the surface and reactivating the adhesive under the wallcovering. When the painter dries, the glue will eventually become an unsightly bubble. An unsealed paper surface can absorb the water based primer and come unglued from the wall. 

The best primer for that purpose is an alkyd based primer that does not react with water based adhesives. Oil based primers will seal the surface and prepare it to accept any water based paint. We have been using Benjamin Moore’s Fresh Start All-Purpose Oil Based Primer and it never let us down.
Note of caution about alkyd primers; they are solvent based and not so pleasant to work with. Open the windows for ventilation and better yet, wear a respirator mask.

Paint over wallpaper
Can you even tell there is wallpaper under the paint?

What Paints to Use Over Wallpaper

After priming over the wallpaper, any paint is fine to use, but keep the following in mind:

How good does the surface look after all the prep and priming? Can you see a difference in texture between the patched areas and the rest of the wall? If there is a visible difference in texture, work on the patches a little more, sand and spot-prime them.

If you still see difference in texture, stay away from glossy paints. Flat sheen will hide the imperfections. There are some durable washable paints in the market that will work great! Two of our favourites are Sherwin Williams Duration and Benjamin Moore’s Aura. They do have a slight sheen but they are mostly flat and hide imperfections well.

Not all wallcoverings look good with paint. Grasscloths absorb the primer and paint unevenly, and you are not able to patch on them without seeing a difference in texture. Heavy vinyls with fabric backing, usually found in commercial hallways, should be removed. Fortunately most of the industrial wallcoverings are not difficult to strip.

Let’s Go Ahead and Do it

So if you’re considering painting over your wallpaper, we encourage you to go ahead and do it! It is an aceptable solution to a problem that can seem daunting at first. And if you’re hiring professional painters to do the job, it will save you time and money. Give us a call today for a free quote and proposal – we would be happy to help get your project started!

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