removing wallpaper

As you know, to put up my new wall unit, I needed to remove the wallpaper on that wall first. This was an intimidating task, but in the end it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be. 

Now I am by no means an expert after removing one wall, but since I have a lot more to remove, I knew I would need to come up with a system that worked. I didn't have time to run to town after chemical or a steamer, and I had heard the steaming method was ineffective anyway. So after a bit of Googling I found the magic ingredient: liquid fabric softener.

I was worried about the paper in the living room because it was the paper-backed type. (The rest of the house is fabric-backed and peels right off in one peice, however, it leaves a residue of glue that will need to be scrubbed.) Removing this type turned out to be a simple process.


First, I peeled the top layer off, leaving the paper backing on the wall. If I was careful, I could do this in one big piece. You can leave the top layer, but it is usually not porous and you would need to score it using a special scoring tool to allow the water or chemical solution to soak through it to the paper backing. From what I read, scoring can leave marks in your drywall which is of course not desirable.

Next, I made my solution of hot water and liquid fabric softener. I used about 1 part softener to 3 parts water. I didn't experiment at all with the mixture because this seemed to work fine. You might be able to use just water—I don't know—but I think it helps to use the hottest water possible. I made the solution in small batches so I could keep the water hot.

Spraying the wall turned out to be the most tedious part. You want to soak it really well, so having a garden sprayer or something similar would make this job go faster. I also sprayed one panel ahead of where I was working so it could soak for about 5 minutes before I peeled. Any less and the solution didn't soak through the paper enough. Any more and it would start to dry out. 

With a scraper, I started from the top and carefully peeled the paper away from the wall, working in 6-8" strips down to the bottom. 

Where you might run into trouble:

1) If the wall wasn't primed and painted well before, prepare to have a giant-sized portion of patience. It won't come off easily and you will likely damage the drywall with your scraper. Fortunately for me, this was only a problem where the old heat registers were removed. 

2) In areas where seam repair adhesive was removed, extra scraping was necessary and a sticky residue was left behind that I had to sand to smooth out.

The end result, while satisfying, unfortunately was no where ready to paint. For some reason the paint was cracked where the seams were. In addition I had nail pops, nail holes, and a few gouges to repair—plenty of evidence that this was an old wall. I can see why it was tempting to cover it with wallpaper.

After scraping, spackling, sanding, and wiping the wall, I primed and painted and ended up with the slightly imperfect but satisfying result:

(Try to overlook the missing outlet cover and baseboards.)

So I hope this encourages someone to tackle your own wall paper removal job, and I'll keep you updated on mine!