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How to strip wallpaper to prepare for redecorating

2 years ago by

Painting and decorating your walls is a great way to liven up any indoor space and create a look that you love. But if your walls are covered in wallpaper, you’ve got an important job to do first.

Knowing how to strip wallpaper from wall interiors is essential, as it’s a step you need to take before the redecorating process can begin. Old wallpaper should always be properly stripped off before repapering.  If it’s not, you risk a bumpy, uneven finish that looks unappealing and quickly starts to peel.

The challenge with removing wallpaper is simple – you just don’t know what is going to be underneath! You can make an assumption that in an older home you’re most likely to find plaster directly underneath so you must be careful to not damage that too badly or else you’ll end up with a bumpy wall to be decorating. Keep an eye out too for lining paper or particularly textured wallpapers especially if found on the ceiling as the odds are these were put up to cover some cracks or wall damage.

But don’t worry – removing strip wallpaper from your walls is not nearly as hard as you might think, and the project can be done in a day if you put your mind to it and follow our simple steps.

How long does it take to strip wallpaper?

Knowing how to strip wallpaper is a skill everyone can learn quite quickly, but you might also be wondering; how long does it take to strip wallpaper?

Well, the answer mainly depends on how big your walls are and how many of them need stripping. The average 17 square metre room takes approximately 10 – 12 hours in total. However, most of that time is spent waiting for things to dry.

What tools do I need?

You will need:

  • Painter’s tape
  • Drop cloth
  • Taping knife
  • Step ladder
  • Old sponges or rags
  • Bucket
  • Safety goggles 
  • Polyfilla

With these basic items, you can safely remove your old wallpaper, clean the wall behind it, and prepare the uncovered surface for a fresh new look.

How to strip wallpaper step-by-step

To learn how to strip wallpaper, follow these five steps from start to finish:

Step 1: Prepare and protect your space

Wallpaper stripping can get messy. Before you start, remove (or cover) all the furniture in the room, lay down some drop sheets to collect the paper bits, and tape over your electrical outlets. Then, put on some old clothes, don your safety goggles to protect your eyes, and you’re ready to go!

Step 2: Reactivate the glue

A lot of wallpaper is put up using a water-base glue which means the easiest way to remove it is to attempt to reactivate the glue a little bit so that it should just peel away smoothly, without damaging your walls. This is easier than it sounds! Simply get a paintbrush and a good pot of hot water (the hotter the better) and paint over edges of the wallpaper, leaving the water on for 3 or 4 minutes at a time. This should then make it nice and easy to use a scraper to gently remove the paper from the wall.

If the water isn’t working, then you can test using a chemical solution which will breakdown the adhesive further. You use this in a similar way to the water by applying it to the wall, leaving it and then repeating the scraping process. If you are really struggling, before calling in a professional, you could source a Paper Tiger which is a tool filled with tiny perforations that you roll over the wall. This will add some small holes through the paper which will enable the chemical or water to sink through into the layers of wallpaper better and reach the paste, which will make it easier to remove.

You’ll find the most success with a 4 inch sized scraper as this will give you a good flat base to work from, enabling you to pull off bigger strips of the paper at a time.  A wallpaper which is ready to be scraped off should be coming off in strips of at least 3 inches in length, if you’re unable to achieve this then it’s best to stop and consult with an expert or you risk damaging the wall further as it may be worth leaving the old paper and covering it with a lining paper before decorating rather than risking more damage.

Step 3: Scrape and scrape again

Wallpaper is made of layers so the second step of adding water and then scraping should help you remove the top layer of the paper; this is the toughest layer which has the film on it (usually in the form of a picture or print) and you may find that the backing layer remains on the wall after this. Simply repeat step 2 at this stage and apply some more hot water onto the wall and repeat the scraping process again to peel the rest of the paper off.

Step 4: Wash the walls

Once you’ve removed the bulk of the old wallpaper, your wall probably looks a little mucky. Now is the time to go in with your bucket, sponge, and hot, soapy water, cleaning off any residual wallpaper adhesive and removing any dust particles that may remain. Allow to dry completely.

Step 5: Smooth it out

After your walls are clean and dry, it’s time to check for any roughness that might prevent the next layer of wallpaper from getting a smooth finish. Grab your Polyfilla and patch up any rough, cracked areas on the wall. Smooth it over and wait to dry.

Now your walls are ready to be redecorated with new wallpaper or painted over with a fresh coat of paint – the choice is up to you.

Whether you wanted to know how to strip woodchip wallpaper, how to strip wallpaper off plaster walls, or simply how to get a clean strip primed for painting, we hope this guide helps. And, if you’d rather leave stripping and wallpapering to the professionals, we’re more than happy to assist you in your home makeover.

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