Introduction

Sal Vaglica stripping wallpaper with a putty knife
Photo: Ryan Benyi
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Q: I'd like to paint my kitchen, but I have to remove the wallpaper first. How do I do it? —Kenneth Chin, Trumbull, Conn.

Rich O’Neil, painting contractor and owner, Masterwork Painting & Restoration, replies: Removing old wallpaper is an easy project for most homeowners and well worth the trouble. You just cannot get a decent-looking surface if you leave the paper in place and put paint or new wallpaper over it.
If you’re lucky enough to have "strippable" wallpaper, all you have to do is grab a corner and peel off whole sheets. But if the paper sticks stubbornly to the wall, you'll have to dampen the surface with a concentrated, enzyme-based wallpaper remover that breaks down the adhesive holding it to the wall. With a proper soaking, wallpaper will come off in large swaths, not bits and pieces, and before you know it the whole room will be a blank slate ready to be covered with the finish of your choice.

Shown: This Old House assistant editor, Sal Vaglica strips wallpaper using a putty knife.
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    More in Painting & Finishes

    Tools List

    • flathead screwdriver
      Screwdriver
    • Wallpaper scoring tool
      Wallpaper scoring tool
    • backpack pump sprayer
      Pump sprayer
    • Fine Brush
      Wallpaper brush
    • plastic putty knife
      Metal or plastic putty knife
    • small plastic bucket
      5-gallon bucket
    • long-handled sponge applicator
      Sponge mop
    • spray bottle
      Hand sprayer
    • grout sponge
      Sponge
    • sandpaper
      sandpaper (to dull the corners of the putty knife)

    Shopping List

    1. Plastic sheeting

    2. 2-inch painter's tape

    3. Enzyme-based wallpaper-adhesive remover4. 10-percent solution of povidone-iodine

    5. denatured alcohol