How to Paint Over Wallpaper- The Easy Way

As a painter, I often get questions on what someone can paint or what they should avoid painting.   One of the most common questions I get from people is how to paint over wallpaper the right way.

Because wallpapers vary it is sometimes difficult to give a good solution for someone that is asking a complex question.  There are more variables involved than just straightforward painting.   The difference on how to paint over wallpaper in a bathroom will be different then painting wallpaper in a bedroom.   More so from the types of wallpapers than anything.

The problem comes when the wallpaper gets outdated or faded or torn. This kind of wallpaper looks really bad. It can spoil the look of your entire house. It is worse in case you plan to sell your home. Torn wallpaper can really bring down the value of your home.

Possible Solutions

The solution is simple here. Just remove the old wallpaper and replace it with a new one. But this is simpler said than done. When you try to remove the wallpaper, you realize that the adhesive stays behind. This is a really strong adhesive. It needs to be removed, scraped or erased before you canHow to Paint Over Wallpaper place another one there.

Another option can be to remove the wallpaper and then paint the wall with a roller. But this is not a simple exercise. It will require a lot of money, time and effort. This leaves us with the third option.

Painting over the wallpaper 

Paint on the existing wallpaper. This is a much faster and easier solution. Besides, it also costs much lesser as you can even do it yourself. The wall does not get damaged this way. In fact, the wall only gets stronger as there is a wallpaper along with layers of paint that add to its strength.

Before going into the painting process, we have other questions that may need answered. Let’s take a look into some of these common questions

What paint to use on wallpaper?

When painting over textured wallpaper or painting over vinyl wallpaper I tend to stick with an oil based paint.  I feel that oil based paint sticks better to wallpaper and does a better job at covering up the previous wallpaper.

Is it okay to paint over painted wallpaper?

While most of the time you will just be painting over traditional wallpaper, there are times when you will be painting over painted wallpaper.   During these times it is recommended to add an extra layer of primer to make sure that none of the paint will show.  If you are painting from light to dark this may not be needed, but this is definitely recommended when you are painting dark to light colors.

Now that we have answered some of the the most common questions we can get on how to paint over wallpaper step-by-step. Let’s dig in.

Painting over the wallpaper

Tools needed:

  • Oil- Based Paint
  • Paint Sprayer
  • Scissors/knife
  • Tri-Sodium Phosphate
  • Sponge
  • Clean cloth
  • Oil based or shellac based primer
  • Adhesive
  • Drywall compound
  • Tape
  • Sandpaper
  • Gloves
  • Glasses
Step 1: Preparing the wall

This is a very important step. A smooth wall means that paint will be able to stick to it in a better way. Besides, it would provide a better finish and will last much longer. Any unevenness will be highly visible under paint and take away all its beauty.

Any kind of peeling wallpaper must be removed by using a sharp knife or scissors. It is advisable to remove the trimmings and corners as much as possible. This is because wallpaper tends to start peeling off from here. Hence remove as many edges as you possibly can.

The wall has to be cleaned now. This can be done by diluting Tri Sodium Phosphate with water. Now apply this mixture on the wall with the help of a sponge. Allow it to dry as per the time specified. Post that, remove all the traces of the chemical by using a clean cloth. Make sure that there are no remnants of the chemical on the wall as these will interfere with the paint sticking to the wall.

Step 2: Using Primer

Seal all the borders of the wallpaper. In case this is not done, the borders will peel off later taking away the paint with them. Make use of adhesive in order to seal these borders. The adhesive should not be water based as that will ruin the entire purpose of the sealer.

Using a primer helps to strengthen the wallpaper. Hence a primer is very important. It also helps to enhance the holes and seams in the wall. Keep the room well ventilated while applying the primer as it has a very strong odor.

An oil based primer will not form any bubbles on the wallpaper. Also, it will cover any old stains and patterns of the wallpaper. It dries faster and hence saves a lot of time this way.

Step 3: Repairing the wall

Once all the defects have been exposed, these need to be covered up. Tape can be used to cover up the seams. This should be used from the ceiling to the floor. This gives a better appearance, covers the seam well and is easier to apply too.

Drywall compound is to be used in order to cover all the deficiencies and defects in the walls. This may mean that more than one coat may be required. Make sure that the primer application, as well as drywall compound application, is done in one direction only. This gives a smoother appearance to the wall.

Step 4: Smoothing the wall

Next step is to smoothen out the wall. This is done by making use of a sand paper. This is a step that is taken only after the primer and the drywall compound has dried up completely. This way any excess primer or sealer gets removed. It is advisable to keep a cloth below in order to avoid any excess dust sticking to the lower part of the wall. Continue till the wall becomes smooth enough in order to ensure that the paint sticks well to the wall. All the dust must be wiped off before painting, or else it will remain stuck to the wall and spoil the entire finish of your painted wall.

Step 5: Painting the wall

Wear hand gloves all the time while going through these steps of painting over wallpaper. Wear glasses in order to protect your eyes from dust, paint and so on.

Even though many people use brushes and rollers to paint, it is the paint sprayer that is becoming more popular today. This is because it is relatively easy to use. Anybody can use it. On the other hand, a certain amount of skill and expertise is required in order to paint using brushes and rollers.  

Anybody can use a paint sprayer and get an even coating after a few tries. This may not be the case with a paint brush. It is also much faster to use a quality paint sprayer such as a Graco or Wagner paint sprayer as you can usually get by with just a couple coats.  

This is a cost efficient option too. There is no need to buy expensive paint brushes, rollers and so on as you can get by with just a few gallons of paint and the tools above if you already own a paint sprayer.

Mixing colors when painting over wallpaper 

In order to mix one or more colors in order to get a customized shade,a sprayer can be used. There can be one coat of a particular color followed by another coat of a different color. It is due to all these reasons that people are opting for paint sprayers in order to paint over wallpaper.

Make sure there is good ventilation while the painting work is going on. These are chemicals that produce toxic vapors. Hence keep the room well ventilated so that these odors can escape.

Always opt for oil based paint. In case it is water based, it can cause the adhesive behind the wallpaper to loosen up and bubbling taking place. Hence oil based paints are the best option.

Wrap-up on  How to Paint Over Wallpaper 

There are many who feel that it is better to strip the wallpaper off a wall before painting it. On the other hand, there are many who feel that it is more sensible to paint on the wallpaper. There are pros and cons of both these situations.

No matter what the outcome is, the fact remains that painting over wallpaper if definitely faster and easier. Besides, it keeps the walls safe and rather adds to their strength. There are certain procedures that must be followed in order to have a smooth, shiny and brightly painted wall. In fact, anybody can go through these processes. All that it requires is a steady hand, a bit of effort, a few safety precautions and some amount of time. You can get your wallpaper painted easily. This way you can change the look of your entire house.

In case you are not keen on doing this work yourself, ask for professional help. This will be less effort for you, while the work will also get done faster!


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