Is there anything more satisfactory than removing a strip of wallpaper in one long piece?
When we bought this house, we didn’t notice how many rooms were covered in wallpaper. “Oh, it’s only a few walls…”
When it came time to actually do something about it, we couldn’t believe how much wallpaper we were looking at.
I pulled a sheet of the original forty-year-old wallpaper just to see what we were dealing with. The top layer pulled away easily, but it left the soft paper underlayer, and under that was unprimed drywall, which is exactly what I did not want to see. Unprimed drywall is sheetrock without a paint coat, so the top layer is just a sheet of paper.
Before you apply wallpaper you’re supposed to first paint a priming layer over the drywall so the wallpaper can be removed later. Without that first coat, you’re adhering wallpaper directly to paper, and you won’t be able to remove it later without tearing it all up. That’s what Google said as I was reading about removing wallpaper from plaster walls or primed drywall, but when it came down to removing the wallpaper from unprimed drywall, every article said, “Good luck.”
Was I doomed to spend the rest of my summer pulling tiny strips of wallpaper off the walls in the back bathroom, just to end up having to spackle over all the gouges in the walls? Would I have strips of wallpaper trailing on my shoes and the feeling of glue on my hands for weeks?
I just could not do it.
Preferring the immediacy of a wrecking bar to the patience required with careful wallpaper removal, I quickly decided to take down two walls. “This will be good,” I justified, “Now we can put in insulation to soundproof the walls between the living room and the bedrooms. We’ll just put up new sheetrock and have new walls after this.”
But after knocking down those two walls and then looking around the kitchen and the bathrooms, I realized I could not pull down every wall with wallpaper. It was too much.
Through all of the demolition, the termite damage, the water coming out from behind the shower wall, the ancient air conditioner that struggled in the summer heat, and scraping up the vinyl floor, it was the idea of removing so much wallpaper that defeated me. We decided to call professionals and hire someone to remove the wallpaper in the kitchen. They would either remove the wallpaper or put up new sheetrock, whichever was faster and better.
I thought it would take the crew a long time to remove the wallpaper, but they did it quickly! And then I felt kind of dumb.
Did they use some kind of special wallpaper solution to dissolve the glue? No, they just used water, but there was one huge difference.
While I had been spritzing water with a small spray bottle, they soaked the walls with a compression sprayer for lawns and gardens.
It’s the water that lets you remove wallpaper easily from unprimed drywall without damaging it.
First pull off the top layer of wallpaper, and then soak the underlayer. Aim the stream of water at the top of the wall with the compression sprayer until water runs down the wall (for certain, have something to cover and protect the floor from the mess.)
Let the water soak into the underlayer for about ten or fifteen minutes while you move on to pull off more of the top layer on a different wall.
Let the water do the work, really get it wet and let it soak in and soften up the glue, adding more water if needed. Then use a scraper or putty knife to lift up the wet paper. You’re not scraping the wallpaper. You’re gently sliding the tool under the wet paper and pushing or lifting it away.
I wondered if the water would damage the wall, but most of water was absorbed by the underlayer of the wallpaper. The drywall did get wet, but it dried just fine. Best of all, there were no gouges to repair.
I was able to remove the wallpaper in my bathroom in just one afternoon. It made a terrific mess, but it was finished!