Thursday, November 5, 2009

Problems with Paint Over Wallpaper


After looking at many houses, we finally purchased one that offered the space, amenities and price we wanted. The problem? Half the rooms have painted wallpaper, which I suspect was recently done to facilitate the sale of the house. It looks fine now, with only a couple of loose corners showing. But how long before the finish begins to deteriorate or loosen? Can we paint again without causing deterioration of the underlying paper? And finally, do you have any tips for successfully removing the painted paper and retaining a paintable finish on the drywall? Thanks.

Thanks for the question! Unfortunately, many people cut the same corner and paint over wallpaper. As long as the wallpaper is not peeling excessively, you should be fine. You can glue down the loose edges with wallpaper paste to prevent further peeling. The problem comes when you are trying to paint those walls again! Many times, the moisture from the fresh paint will cause the wallpaper to release or bubble in spots. Just how much is anybody’s guess!

I asked my friend and fellow NARI member Sid Lehrbaum of Surface Service (816) 361-5063, who specializes in wallpaper removal, what his experience has been. According to him, the best and safest course of action is to remove the wallpaper completely. It’s difficult but not impossible. I would highly recommend hiring a contractor who does nothing but wallpaper removal. Usually you can do it yourself by using hot water with a chemical wallpaper remover. The wallpaper may come off in layers, just be sure to keep all of the surfaces damp. It can be a lot of work, do be patient and let the chemicals do the work!

If the walls look ok and the seams aren’t very visible, you may be able to seal and paint the walls without removing the wallpaper. To do this, it’s important to use an oil-base primer sealer such as Kwal Paint’s “Cancel” Primer. Kilz works as well but is substantially thinner. Since this is an oil-based product, you will want to work in a well ventilated area and consider using a respirator. You may still experience some bubbling when applying the primer. If that happens, cut out the loose area and skim it over with drywall joint compound once the primer is dry (usually an hour or so). After you seal all the walls you are cleared for painting!

I hope this helps!

If you have any questions about this or any other Painting, Siding or Window topic, send me a message and I'll do my best to get you a quick, accurate answer. Thanks for reading!

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