Sometimes wallpaper feels like it has been cemented on; at other times even a child can remove it. Here are some tricks to strip the stubborn stuff.
Removing wallpaper can be backbreaking work or it can be fun. That’s right, fun. I have, at times, taken my kids to one of my developments and we have all gotten into a room stripping the wallpaper while jumping around to music, having a ball. So what separates the workout from the disco party when it comes to removing wallpaper?
I have learnt the hard way that it all depends on what you are dealing with. From my experience, the things that affect the ease of removal are:
- The type of paper
- The backing paper used
- The adhesive used
- The surface underneath, e.g. gyprock, render, limestone, horsehair plaster etc.
If you know what you’re dealing with you can employ specific methods to strip the wallpaper. There are a number of books and websites that will tell you what to use and the techniques you need if you have this information. The problem is, many people don’t.
If you’ve just moved into a property, or if you’ve bought a place to renovate for profit, it’s unlikely you’re going to know exactly what the previous decorator did to hang up the wallpaper. You can generally find out the original surface, but that’s as far as you’re likely to get without scientific analysis.
Fortunately there are three techniques you can use to remove or at least loosen any type of wallpaper.
1. Steam and scrape
Score the wallpaper lightly with a Stanley knife or similar, then use a steamer on the section to loosen the adhesive. Use a scraper to gently scrape off the paper. You can hire or buy steamers, usually called wallpaper steamers or wallpaper strippers, from hardware stores.
2. Boil and roll
Boil water in a kettle and then, using a paint roller on a long arm, roll the boiling water onto the walls. The heat and the damp should cause the paper to fall away. Finish the job by gently using a scraper to take care of the rest. Be sure not to damage the subsurface.
There are many chemical products on the market that all seem to work as well as one another, but this is often the riskiest method both in terms of personal protection and potential damage to your walls. Don’t forget to wear personal protective equipment (gloves, mask, eye protection) and if you notice the technique you are using to remove the wallpaper is damaging the walls, STOP and get advice before you cost yourself a fortune in wall repairs!
Bonus tip: Persistence and patience will take you a long way.
If none of these techniques work for you, it’s time to bring in a professional. Sometimes I’ve managed to strip all the wallpaper using one of these techniques, other times I have had to pay a contractor for four days to strip one room. As I mentioned before, it depends on the material, adhesive and wall surface you’re dealing with.
What technique for removing wallpaper has worked best for you?