— Stacie, Britton, Michigan
A: Steve Thomas replies: Your options depend on the condition of your walls — and you can't know what that is until you get the paper off. No matter what you find, cracked or crumbling plaster must be repaired before you paint. If the damage is extensive you might want to consult a professional plasterer or drywall contractor and have them resurface the walls.
If your walls are in good shape, there are still a few steps you should take to prepare them for paint. Painting contractor John Dee suggests filling a pump sprayer with five ounces of wallpaper stripper diluted with a gallon of water. Wet down the wall and scrape off the paper with a three- or four-inch scraper blade. When the paper is gone, spray the walls again and scrape off paste residue with a broad knife. Rinse with clean water and wipe down with a wet sponge until no paste remains.
Give the walls 24 to 48 hours to dry before painting. Roll on an oil-based primer as the first coat over plaster so the finish will have an even sheen, water vapor will have slower passage through walls, and paint can adhere better. You can use either an oil or latex topcoat. Latex finish paints are the most popular choice for walls because they're more easily cleaned than flat paints and more forgiving of imperfections than glossy paints.