stripping wallpaper
Photos by: Merle Henkenius
PROTECT the baseboard with self-stick masking paper after spreading a plastic drop cloth onto the floor.
Sooner or later, you'll have to remove a roomful of worn-out or outdated wallpaper. Thanks to new nondrip, nontoxic enzyme strippers and specialized tools, you can get the wallflowers out of your house more neatly and quickly than ever. But how you proceed still depends on the kind of wallcovering you're dealing with. TIPS FOR TAKING IT OFF
Early wallpaper was nothing more than printed, uncoated paper. Today, most residential wallpapers are coated with acrylic or vinyl to make them more durable and "scrubbable." They also come prepasted to save time during installation. Though most modern pastes still are starch-based like earlier versions prepared on site, many are enhanced with synthetic additives. Luckily, today's nontoxic strippers work on nearly all types of paste. Uncoated wallpaper soaks up strippers readily. Or it can be soaked off the wall, paste and all, using hot water applied with a large sponge. This method, though messy, is simple and effective. Thick vinyl wallcoverings are tear-resistant so you can usually pull them off in sheets. But because the backing and paste stay on the wall, you'll have to get rid of them with hot water or a stripper. Professionally installed wallpaper frequently is tougher to remove than homeowner-hung paper. That's because pros, often leery of factory-installed pastes, use unpasted papers and apply adhesive liberally, or they add an activator to prepasted versions to improve adhesion. Either way, you'll have to work a little harder if you're removing paper put up by a pro. Vinyl-coated wallpapers - several layers of old paper, painted-over paper or a lightweight paper that can't be pulled off - are even trickier. Water or stripper can't penetrate these surfaces and attack the adhesive. You'll need to score the surface of the paper - without carving up the wall - to expose the adhesive. THREE-POINT ATTACK
The room shown here had a vinyl-coated, prepasted wallcovering that was stuck fast. The removal method we chose included a thick-bodied gel stripper and two specialized tools. All three products are manufactured by Wm. Zinsser & Co. The stripper, called DIF ($13 per gallon), is nontoxic and odorless. This enzyme-fortified gel is less messy than liquid strippers. It sticks to vertical surfaces and doesn't run down the wall creating puddles on the floor. We perforated the wallcovering with the Paper Tiger scoring tool ($20), a palm-grip handle fitted with three sets of swiveling, spiked wheels. The spikes perforate the paper as the tool is rolled across it without damaging the wall. We followed up with the Paper Scraper ($9). Unlike other scrapers, this one has a replaceable blade mounted in a wide base at an angle that makes accidental wall gouges nearly impossible.
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