Remove Wallpaper from Drywall

How to Remove Wallpaper from Drywall

There is no way to get around it – to remove wallpaper from drywall is a monotonous job. It is messy, wet and sticky, yet it is also oddly satisfying! Whether you recently moved into a new home or have been staring at that papered wall you did 20 years ago (what were you thinking?) – removing said wallpaper can really change the look of a room.

Know What to Expect When You Remove Wallpaper

Now let’s think positively. It will take a bit of time to do it, but it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Knowing what to expect when removing wallpaper, and how it will all go down, is half the battle.

Strippable wallpaper is the most commonly found in homes nowadays. It was designed to be removed easily, but it still requires the same preparation and time commitment. To test whether this is what you have, take a putty knife and try to lift a corner. If it comes up easily, pull a bit more (don’t pull outward – try to pull close to the surface). The entire sheet should pull away if it is strippable. There will be a backing left on the wall, which still needs to be removed.

Non-strippable wallpaper is common in older homes. Some resist moisture because they were designed to be washable. Some are made from fabric and others may have been painted at one time. If your home dates to no later than the 1940s, then you likely have drywall underneath.

Preparing to Remove Wallpaper

Set aside a weekend for this task. Make it as fun as possible – put together a kick butt playlist, recruit family and/or friends, have a potluck, and start stripping (wallpaper).

Materials checklist:

  • Tarps, drop cloths, old towels, plastic sheets
  • Painter’s tape
  • Scoring tools or coarse sandpaper
  • Chemical wallpaper stripper – consult with the specialist at your store about which one will work best for you (premixed, liquid concentrate, powder)
  • Safety gloves and goggles
  • Wallpaper removing fabric sheets (optional)
  • Spray bottles
  • Sponges and floor mops
  • Buckets
  • Ladders and step stools
  • Scrapers and putty knives with round edges (avoid plastic)

Before you do anything, empty the room. Take down everything from the walls and remove all fixtures. Remove as much furniture as you can; anything that can’t be removed should be put in the middle of the room and covered. Tape down plastic sheets or tarps all around the perimeter of the room (cover baseboards if applicable). You will be using water and chemicals, so you want to protect any surfaces that need it.

Steps to Remove Wallpaper

The most important thing to keep in mind is that it is time consuming, but you want to remove wallpaper right. If you don’t, you could risk spending more money down the road. If you are going to be painting afterwards, any glue left on the walls can cause the paint to crack and flake. If you are repapering, it could bubble or not stick properly. So be thorough.

  1. The most fun part of the job – hand peeling the paper off the walls! Always pull what you can with your hands first. Dry scrape what can’t be removed afterwards. Any stubborn paper leftover can be removed with a damp sponge and scraper.
  2. Using a scoring tool or coarse sandpaper, scuff and score the backing on the walls. Be gentle, as this makes small holes in the backing and glue. You don’t want to damage the drywall.
  3. This is where wallpaper removing fabric sheets are optional. If your budget allows it, you could use them. If you aren’t sure if you need them, always consult with a professional at your local hardware store. If you do use them, follow the instructions on the package. You will have to work in sections.

If you are not using sheets: fill buckets with super hot water. Using mops (for higher up) and sponges, soak the backing. Let it absorb for no longer than 15 minutes (any longer could damage your drywall). Work in small sections so it doesn’t dry out. Scrape off the backing with spatulas and/or putty knives – be careful not to gouge the walls.

  1. Use a chemical stripper to remove the paste. Spray on for 15-20 minutes and then wipe down the walls using sponges and mops. Make sure to rinse and wring out plus change your water as often as possible.
  2. Double check to make sure you have removed ALL the paste. It has a darker sheen to it and will still feel sticky. If it looks like you have removed all the paste, spray a light mist of water on your walls in sections. Use a light parallel to the surface which will highlight the leftover, stubborn paste. Keep washing your walls until it is all gone. Don’t soak your walls when washing.

Wait 24 hours before you move on to prepare your room for the next phase. Patch holes, sand, and vacuum up any dust. Then voila! Your room is ready for its fresh look.

Remind yourself how nice it will be when it is done. It may not be a quick job to remove wallpaper, but remember to be prepared and know what to expect when you do it.