Home>Discussions>INTERIORS>Molding & Carpentry>Wallpapered Walls and Ceiling over Plaster
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Wallpapered Walls and Ceiling over Plaster

I live in a home built in 1918. The previous owners owned the house for 60 years and wallpapered half the walls and ceiling (from floor to halfway up the wall is paneling, the other half the wall to the ceiling and ceiling included is wallpaper). Plaster and lath underly the wallpaper. We want to paint the rooms but are undecided as to what would be the better option. Here are some scenarios we have visited:

1. Keep paneling up. Paint over wallpapered walls and ceiling. Unsure if wallpaper will bleed through and amount of paint needed to coat and cover the wallpaper.

2. Remove paneling and plaster down to the lathes and install drywall. Have been informed that this is a very time consuming, yet messy process. Is the plaster better to keep up since it remains a stronger reinforcer for the walls?

3. Remove paneling and wallpaper only. Repair plastered walls (cracks, holes, etc.) and repaint. However, we have yet to peek under the paneling to see if its plaster or just the lathes.

Also, we have 12 foot ceilings in the entire house. Not sure if that makes any difference.

Any help or insight is greatly appreciated. Thanks :)

Hank Bauer
Re: Wallpapered Walls and Ceiling over Plaster

If the plaster is in good condition and sound I would keep the plaster.
If the paneling is over plaster that would indicate that it was added.
Remove all material applied over the plaster repair plaster and repaint.
Also check in your local area your home may retain a higher market value if the plaster is retained.
Also in some cases you maybe able to get grant money if the house has any Historical Value?

Re: Wallpapered Walls and Ceiling over Plaster

What Hank said plus;

I am going to guess your house was built without insulation in the exterior walls. In that case, removing the lath and plaster would enable you to insulate and upgrade the electrical and plumbing at the same time. Those are huge benefits.

DO ask a few realtors if keeping the original plaster or replacing with drywall / insulation / new electric is better for you in the long run.

If the wallpaper is ancient, then it should practically fall off the wall itself. A light coating of water may help.

Re: Wallpapered Walls and Ceiling over Plaster

I would side with Hank Bauer also. Stay with the original plaster if it is tight.

Wallpaper usually comes off plaster without too much problem. Plaster is much harder and water resistant than drywall. Older uncoated papers ( no plastic coating on them to make them washable) usually soak right off. Steamers work relatively well on plaster.

Should you elect to leave the lower paneling in place and remove the wallpaper over it, make sure you tape off the paneling to keep water from running over it or BEHIND it. If much water gets behind it, you risk that the paneling starts warping outward, or at least, leaches out woodstains to the surface.

I would not want to live through removal of plaster and lath down to the studs. This is hard, dirty, dusty labor. I would compromise in judiciously opening the walls sufficiently to install new wiring, plumbing, etc. Loose insulation can be blown in through small holes drilled high on the wall between studs and then plastered over. A talented plasterer such as Hank Bauer can easily take care of such patching.

If you go through with a down to the studs and re-drywall job, woodwork most likely will not line up with the new wall thickness. Then you would need a talented trim carpenter. Backing off 90 year old woodwork without damageing it is also time consuming.

It is hard for me to judge, having not seen pictures of your home, but I can imagine that paneling could be in keeping with the architectural style and age of your home. Paneling also does well in breaking up the tall 12 foot walls you say you have.

I grew up in an 1887 Victorian in Chicago and have a great appreciation for the architectural detail of that age.

Re: Wallpapered Walls and Ceiling over Plaster

Thank you all for your replies! They are much appreciated.

After much thought and discussion, we are most likely going to just remove the wallpaper and take a peek at what is behind the paneling. We are doing other home renovation projects right now, so the walls will have to wait till mid-May. Many have told me that a brand of paint call Kiltz or Kilz (sp?) works well with painting over wallpaper if we choose to leave the wallpaper. I will post before/after pics when we start.

Unsure if it has any Historical Value in Omaha. Do any of you know how I would find out such information?

Thanks again :)

Re: Wallpapered Walls and Ceiling over Plaster

Ask a few realtors in the historic sections of town. Certainly the Douglas County Historical Society will know. http://www.omahahistory.org/

Re: Wallpapered Walls and Ceiling over Plaster


Yes, should you decide to paint over the paper, you will want a non-water soluble primer such as the original Kilz or Cover- Stain. Both are quick dry oil paints. You don't want water from following paints to get to the paste which is holding the paper on the wall.

Before you paint over it, run your finger tips over all the seams, checking for overlaps. You will want to sand the overlaps flat before primeing over them. Also, tap with your fingers along all corners. Loose paper will have a hollow sound. Any loose paper should be cut back to where it is firmly stuck and then the edge should be feathered out with sandpaper.

After priming, any areas needing additonal smoothing will be obvious and can be spackled at this time. After these patches are dried and sanded smooth, you can spot prime them.

After the primeing is done, you can finish coat with acrylic paint.

Personally, I always prefer to remove wallpaper if possible. If you should try to get it off after having painted over it, it will be greatly more difficult!

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