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How to Remove Wallpaper

by Ben Mizes | January 8, 2018


Wallpaper can be an excellent way to decorate and accessorize your home. It has more versatility than a simple paint coating and requires less maintenance if done properly.

Why Removing Wallpaper is Important

Unfortunately, wallpaper can lower the value of your home when you’re trying to sell. Most buyers will want to start with a blank slate when decorating their new home. This especially becomes relevant when it’s possible that wallpaper can cover up wall mold or damage to the drywall. Removing the wallpaper ensures that the buyer can do exactly what they want with the walls and that damage isn’t being obscured.

Removing wallpaper isn’t a complex procedure but can pose some difficulty. It can be quite time-consuming and, depending on the wallpaper setup, could require some stronger intervention through the use of chemicals or special equipment.

Things to do before removing wallpaper:
– Make sure that you turn off the electricity to the room in question
– Remove covers that might interfere with removal or might get damaged.
– Cover your floor to prevent water and chemical damage.
– Make sure to protect anything that can be damaged by liquid (such as electrical outlets).

After you have done these tasks, it’s time to get busy. The process to remove all the wallpaper can take a long time but should not cost very much in actual dollars. It is something you can outsource to a professional but is absolutely more than doable by yourself or with a friend.

Check for Strippable Wallpaper Prior to Removal

Many wallpapers are ‘strippable’. If these are properly installed, it makes removal an exceptionally easy task. Pry up an edge with a suitable tool (like a utility knife) and try giving it a soft tug. Make sure that you do this at an angle and with proper support so that you don’t accidentally tear the paper.

If it glides off the wall easily, your job becomes easy. Do this with all the wallpaper and make sure you check for any residue on the walls afterwards. Adhesive residue, even small spots, can tamper with any future painting or wallpaper installations.

Keep in mind that this is the fairy tale method. There are wallpapers that aren’t strippable or, if they are, weren’t installed correctly. It is possible, even likely, that the paper will come off in chunks or large globs of residue that stay behind. A strippable wallpaper will make your life easier but you should still expect some time-consuming manual labor.

Remove Wallpaper by Soaking the Walls

This will be the go-to method for most people. Depending on the type of wallpaper, soaking the walls may be slightly more complicated. For example, if your wallpaper is ‘washable’, you will need to use a serrated scraper to ‘score’ the paper before soaking so that the water can effectively penetrate and counteract the adhesive that tethers the paper to the wall.

Get a bucket, fill it with warm water and liquid detergent, and get to work. If you’re having issues with the water not ‘sticking’ to the wall, you can add some cellulose paste to the bucket. Leave this water on the wallpaper for at least five minutes before going at it with a scraper. It should come off easily and also allow you to tackle the tricky adhesive beneath.

There are some people who paint over wallpaper. That does add an element of trickiness to soaking as the paint can prevent you from loosening the paper underneath. If this is the case, you will need protective goggles and gloves as you tackle the soaking with an additional chemical stripper that you can get from paint and hardware stores.

Remove Wallpaper by Steaming (Option of Last Resort)

Using a steamer is a tried and true option when nothing else works. This is often considered the ‘last resort’. Steamers can be costly to rent or purchase, they can be dangerous, and they pose a mold risk. If you hold the steam pad for too long on a piece of wallpaper, it can even damage the drywall beneath it. This is an obvious problem and it’s why nobody will recommend starting out with a steamer. It’s extremely effective but is less user-friendly to someone doing this without a professional.

Steamers are an excellent choice if soaking fails or if the wall has several layers of wallpaper that have been attached to the wall for a very long time. It will save you several hours of work and it makes sure the job gets done.

When using a steamer for removing wallpaper, you have to make sure that you keep the moisture level in mind. They let off a large amount of moisture and humidity that can exacerbate or cause mold. Open a window or use a fan to ventilate the air out of the room to keep things safe. This also rings true for personal safety. Steamers are extremely hot. Wear protective gear to prevent burning your skin and face.

Lastly, you will need to determine the best amount of time to keep the pad on the wall to prevent damage while still loosening the adhesive and paper. The company you rent from may have documentation for this but trial and error may be your ultimate choice. Start short and move up in duration until you find the goldilocks zone. When you think you have it figured out, do a section of the wall, stop, and then scrape it off. Check the wall carefully for any signs of softening or damage. If everything looks good, you know the general margin for error for the rest of the room.

Be Proactive and Save Money When Selling Your Home

It is far more likely that potential buyers will want wallpaper removed than it is that they’ll want the paper to stay. Be proactive and remove the wallpaper before you start fielding offers. This will guarantee that you know the condition of the walls themselves and helps avoid attempts at gaining concessions on the asking price.

Removing your wallpaper will help you sell your home. Why not take advantage of more help? Clever has real estate agents in hundreds of cities across the nation that are professional, reliable, and will list your home for a flat fee of $3,000 if your home is less than $350,000, or 1% if the home is worth more.

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