How to Strip Wallpaper
How to remove the old wallpaper so you can cover your wall with your choice of finish
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. Read on for O'Neil's step-by-step guide to easy wallpaper removal.
Shown: This Old House assistant editor, Sal Vaglica strips wallpaper using a putty knife.
Prep the Walls
Shut off the room's power at the circuit breaker. Remove all receptacle and switch plates on the wall, and cover the openings with 2-inch painter's tape. Tape a plastic sheet to the top edge of the baseboards to protect the trim and floor. Roll a scoring tool over the paper in overlapping circles, making tiny cuts for the adhesive remover to penetrate. Aim for 10 perforations per square inch.