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Can you paint over wallpaper

2 years ago by

Whether you’re tired of looking at the same old wallpaper that’s been up for years, you don’t like the previous occupant’s taste in décor, or you want to give a room a pocket-friendly makeover, you might be asking the question, “Can you paint over wallpaper?” The short answer is, “Yes, you can.”

Read on for more information, tips, and tricks on how to give your wallpapered walls a fresh new look.

The case for painting over wallpaper

Many experts in the industry don’t like the idea of painting over wallpaper, so they would advise you to remove it at any cost before painting. However, that’s not always the best approach.

Stripping away old wallpaper can be a challenging task. If you remove wallpaper and find flaky paint or brickwork, you’re going to have a considerable amount of prep to do before painting the wall.

If the wallpaper was applied directly to plasterboard, having it removed will be even more challenging and you might need to repair the damage done to the wall in the process. Given this, the question, “Can you paint over wallpaper?” is completely understandable.

That being said, painting over wallpaper isn’t always the best option. For example, you shouldn’t paint over some types of wallpaper, such as fabric-backed vinyl. Can you paint over vinyl wallpaper that isn’t fabric-backed? You can, but it will take multiple coats of paint, and you probably still won’t get the finish you want. You also shouldn’t paint over wallpaper that’s peeling in multiple places.

Painting Over Wallpaper

Things to consider

Consider the pros and cons of covering up old wallpaper by painting and decorating before making a final decision.


  • You only need to worry about the condition of the wallpaper and not the walls
  • Painting over wallpaper is quicker and easier than removing it
  • You’ll make less mess by painting than you will by stripping old wallpaper


  • You might need to do a lot of repair and preparation work to get the wallpaper ready for painting
  • You might need to use a primer or undercoat as well as topcoat, which could turn out to be more expensive
  • The finish might not be as good as it is on a freshly wallpapered and painted wall
Blue wallpaper painting

How to paint over wallpaper: tips and tricks

The following tips and tricks shed light on how to paint over wallpaper. Follow these easy steps for a fuss-free budget-friendly makeover:

Identify if you can paint over it

Not all wallpaper should be painted over, for example if the paper has any form of raise on it, it’s better to remove before painting as you risk cracks or lines appearing which cannot be repaired. In general if you were the one who put up the paper or you know what’s behind it then you’ll be in a good position to know if you can paint over the top. If the paper looks to still be tight and there are no bubbles then you’re probably safe to start painting over the top once you’ve primed it, but just note that if you’re painting an older wall then you may have multiple layers of paper to be looking at which risks that a lower layer might start to peel with the added weight you’re putting on the wall.

If your wallpaper is pulling in certain areas but you want to still try paint over it, then skim out any of the damaged areas on the wall and apply a 1200 grade lining paper to cover. This will give it another protective layer before you paint over it. This is really typical in older houses where if you look up at the ceiling and see those straight lines running across, the odds are that’s a thick lining paper been applied.

Clear the walls

Start by removing any pictures, hangers, shelves or wiring that is over the walls so that you’ve got a clear surface to start from. You’ll want to remove these and use filler to seal any holes or bumps up easily.

Then use a cloth to wipe dust and dirt off the wallpaper, as primer doesn’t adhere well to dust. Use a diluted TSP solution to clean greasy and grimy wallpaper. Be careful not to soak the wallpaper, as this could loosen the adhesive and cause the wallpaper to bubble or loosen. Allow plenty of drying time before proceeding.

Repair any damaged wallpaper

Use a thin layer of wallpaper seam adhesive to attach peeling seams or edges, as those are the weakest adhesion areas. Alternatively, use a putty knife to lift those areas and cut away the loose bits before filling those areas in with spackle and sanding lightly when completely dry to create a level surface.

We’re recommend also cutting out any seams that are peeling or corners where the wallpaper ends and using a regular easy fill on them to skim that out and create a flat surface to work off.

Prime the walls

A lot of paste used to hang wallpaper is water-based which means that if you add anything water-based on top of it you risk reactivating the glue and causing the paper to either bubble or pull off. Instead, you need to ensure that you use an oil-based primer to prime the walls or a shellac as that will give you a clean, hard surface to work with.

Use a brush to apply the oil-based primer to the edges and corners before using a roller to finish the rest of the wall. Allow plenty of drying time according to the manufacturer’s instructions before proceeding with painting over the wallpaper. Ensure the room is well ventilated as you do so.

As you’re priming, don’t panic if the paper starts to bubble up initially as it can sometimes just tighten straight back up when it dries so be patient and give the wall plenty of time before you assess how the paper handled the primer.

Paint over the wallpaper

Once you’ve cleaned, repaired and primed the wall and that’s dry, just paint over the wallpaper as you would any other surface. You might need to apply two coats if you’re painting a light-coloured paint over a bold pattern or a dark wallpaper. Allow plenty of drying time in between the coats of paint.

The best way to ensure the job is done to your liking is to use a reliable painting and decorating company such as Paint My Home. Contact us for more information about our professional interior painting and decorating services to ensure that your room makeover is completed to the highest of standards.  

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