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A Five-Step Plan for Taking Off Wallpaper

The thought of taking off wallpaper can be scary, but planning for wallpaper removal can ease anxiety. Having a good plan for taking off wallpaper will simplify the task and ensure great results. Wallpaper removal is a job that any do-it-yourselfer can accomplish.

  1. Determine the kind of wall surface you have.

    Most walls are either plaster (harder, colder, and smoother) or drywall (sounds hollow). When in doubt, remove an outlet cover to see the exposed edges. Why does it matter? Drywall is more vulnerable to water damage; so, you can't get it too wet. And use care when you’re scraping because drywall gouges more easily than plaster.

  2. Figure out the type of wallpaper you’re removing.

    Some wallpapers (wallcoverings), such as foils or those coated with a vinyl or acrylic finish, aren’t porous. You'll need to perforate the entire surface so that the wallpaper remover can penetrate. Test for porosity by spraying a small area with hot water and wallpaper remover. If the paper absorbs the water immediately, you won't have to worry about it.

  3. Choose a wallpaper-removal technique.

    Depending on your situation, choose one of three wallpaper-removal approaches:

    • Dry-stripping. This is the easiest removal method. You just grab a corner of wallpaper and pull at an angle. If it works, just peel your way around the room.

    • Soaking and scraping. If all the wallpaper doesn’t peel off, you must saturate the wallpaper or the remaining backing with water and remover. When it is softened, just scrape it off. The process is moderately easy but messier than dry-stripping.

    • Steaming. If the wallpaper is too thick or old, or if it was painted over, you'll have to resort to using a steamer. The difficulty level comes from the need to hold the hotplate against the wall while scraping with the other hand.

  4. Plan for floor protection and cleanup.

    All wallpaper removal approaches are messy, so take the necessary precautions to protect floors. Almost all removal processes require you to saturate the wallpaper in order to break soften the adhesive seal, and there will be lots of moisture present.

    After the wallpaper is gone, the walls are usually still a mess. There will be bits of backing and glue still clinging to them. You'll need to wash them with more solvent or a nonphosphate cleaner and then rinse thoroughly.

  5. Gather tools and supplies for wallpaper removal.

    You’ll need a razor scraper, paper scraper, and a wallpaper steamer. Almost all removal methods require wallpaper-remover solution and either a spray bottle or paint roller to apply it with. The specific tools you'll need depend on the removal method you choose.

    To prep the room and to clean up afterward, you need plastic and canvas drop cloths, wide masking tape, water bucket, towels, rags, and wall sponges.

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