August 10, 2009

Wallpaper Removal vs. Skim Coating with Wallboard Compound

I've been asking everyone I meet to analyze the cost/time/outcome benefits of removing wallpaper vs. skim coating over the wallpaper with wallboard compound. I've had lots of conversations that go like this: "Hi! Nice to meet you! Do you think we should rent a wallpaper steamer-offer? Or should we just go over the stuff with wallboard compound, then apply oil-based sealer and THEN paint?"

Here are some answers I've collected:

  • "Um. What? No. Seriously. What?"
  • "Fabric softener. It works pretty well on wallpaper."
  • "I have plaster and lath walls too ; tried painting over my wallpaper, but it doesn't look that great."
  • "Fabric softener works well on OLD wall paper, but DIF is a great product that you spray on in combination with a "paper tiger" which perforates the paper allowing the enzymes in DIF to be scraped off. It will be a big job, but that works best from my experience."
  • "Warning: Walls will not be smooth once paper is removed. Lots of water loosens the paper from the wall or the lower layer of paper. It might be worth it just to have a pro plaster over the paper instead of stripping first. You should only gain 1/4 of an inch of wall. Molding and trim will still stand out. If I was close, you know I would come help. Good luck."
  • "Liquor store is good for recovering from wallpaper removal. Oh, and I agree with the fabric softener--it worked for us."
  • "I did mine. Three layers that had been there for 30 years. I forget the name of the product but you can buy it at [big orange store.] You mix it with hot water and soak the walls after you use a wheel to put holes in paper so it penetrates the wallpaper. The easier way is to hire someone to do it. "
  • "Ah, wallpaper removal. Best trick I have found is to get a pump sprayer ( the kind you would use to spray for bugs outside) and then mix a solution of water and vinegar - 8--9 parts warm water to 1-2 parts vinegar. Totally saturate the paper and then use a scraper to remove the paper. I found that the older the paper, the better this worked. Trick was to use the pump to save your hands from a little spray bottle and to let it soak a bit to work on the glue. You might want to use a rubber scrapper if you're concerned about chipping the plaster on the walls.
  • "Personally, I found this worked better than the expensive products and if it was old enough to be paper (and not vinyl-ish) that I didn't need to poke holes - which helped it tear off in sheets. Best of luck!"

Do you have any thoughts about removing old wallpaper vs. skim coating over it?


  1. I recomend wine. :o) You are going to need it.

  2. I agree with the person (people?) who said that if it's old wallpaper it'll be easy. Forget the power sprayer and use a sponge (large and natural would be nice), just be patient and give it plenty of time to soak in (1/2 hour?) and be ready to re-sponge as necessary. You'll also need the sponge to clean any remaining paste off. I think we used hot water and ammonia to get the stuff in your room @ 1604 off & it wasn't bad at all. I like the rubber scraper idea. I have no opinion on newer or (shudder) vinyl paper. Seems like skim-coating w/ plaster would be $$$$$. Sorry the floors didn't turn out!

  3. We have done this. All of it. Except simply skimming over--doesn't that loosen the paper unless you use an oil base first?

    Sometimes at the end you just have bare plaster, no finish coat underneath, which is annoying.

    We used an oil based primer on one room of wallpaper in Krak II (scraping loose stuff off first) patched the bad spots leftover, sanded, and painted. Looks good. It was a lotta work. We used 1/4" drywall on the other rooms, from Westover Building Supply. They are also handy with plaster advice.

    You aren't getting rid of the hallway medallion wallpaper, are you??? C'mon. It looks fab from here.


  4. If you are removing wallpaper that has not been painted over, then the vinegar and warm water solution will work very well. Remember to protect your floors. If the wallpaper has been painted in some places, you will need a steamer and a lot more elbow grease. My row house walls are horsehair plaster, and I was surpised at how dark and uneven they were when the paper was removed. We filled in cracks and holes, Kilzed stains, did a skim coat of primer, and then two coats of eggshell texture paint. The walls now appear to have a smooth, even texture. Wallpaper removal is a messy job, and your fingertips will prune, but it's very do-able.

  5. Thank you all SO MUCH fo your suggestions!

  6. Buy this product for vinyl wallpaper ez-off+
    product is completely bio-degradable and environmentally safe. It works well if it is hard to pull off the vinyl layer, you don't score the paper it soaks thru vinyl, it works awsome the best of the best, end of story.

  7. I had some circa 1960s wallpaper that came off easily - but the glue it left underneath, not so much. After spending much time scrubbing, I decided that I would skim coat the rest.

    If your walls are really flat, skim coating might be a good idea. However, ours are not, so it was very difficult to get the plaster to look good - what should have been a coat or two turned into many coats. I think I ended up spending about as much time on the skimcoating as I would have spent scrubbing off the glue. Further, the areas that I just scrubbed all the glue off look a little bit better.

  8. can i skimcoat over walls that were papered and painted looks like about 2 layers of paper and 2 coats of pait?

  9. Last poster? Unless the paint used was oil-based, I am going to say no. But I am NOT AN EXPERT! Call in your local skim-coater and see what they say about preparing the surface. They need something to adhere the skimcoat to, and I'm not sure your current situation will work.


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