When properly hung, wallpaper can last about 15 years. This can be a double edged sword. Wallpaper does last a long time but so does the pattern on it. Styles change throughout the years and although the wallpaper itself may be in great condition, the pattern may become seriously outdated. Removing wallpaper is notoriously difficult. But this factor doesn’t have to keep you from redoing these walls in your home. If you’ve had enough of your old, outdated walls there are some things you should know before painting over wallpaper.
Generally the best results are achieved when you remove the existing wallpaper before painting. However this isn’t always possible. Some walls may be in such poor condition that removing the wallpaper will damage them further. It is possible that the wallpaper is the thing that is holding the wall together. Removing it could result in the plaster crumbling.
By leaving the wallpaper intact your walls will remain in their current condition. If this is the case then you will definitely want to paint over the wallpaper. If the wallpaper has already been painted over at least once this would most likely result in the plaster crumbling upon removal of the paper. This is another situation where it would be best if not necessary to leave the wallpaper intact.
It is a time consuming process to remove wallpaper. In addition to removal, the walls will need to be prepped and any damage repaired. If you have a limited amount of time this is another reason you may choose to paint over wallpaper.
Examine the wallpaper for air pockets, tears or other irregularities. These blemishes will be much more obvious when painted over. You must also take into consideration the texture of the wallpaper.
Any raised patterns will definitely show up in the paint. Some wallpaper has a smooth surface but there are many types of wallpaper that have raised areas incorporated into their patterns. Run your hand along the wall to feel if the surface is smooth or textured. If the wallpaper is in good enough condition and there are no textured patterns then this may be a case when painting over wallpaper will be a good idea.
Another consideration is whether or not the design in the wallpaper will show through the paint. A bright, boldly colored pattern will be harder to cover up then a muted, subtle one.
Preparing Wallpaper for Painting
Once you have decided on painting over wallpaper there is still some preparations you will need to do. First, remove all the loose paper, taking special care around the seams. Using wallpaper seam glue, paste down any remaining loose edges.
Next, prime the walls with one coat of fast-drying shellac or alcohol-based primer. These tend to be smelly, so make sure you have lots of ventilation. Unlike water-based primers, these will not loosen the wallpaper. Use a short nap roller, one sold for smooth walls.
Using the widest drywall knife you can, apply drywall mud over all seams and flaws. Sand until smooth. Prime over the drywall areas. You may need to go back and re-drywall some flaws. Take time with this step, and make sure you have good light.
Use a large sanding sponge, available in paint or hardware stores, rather than sandpaper. It will be easier to get a smooth, flush finish. Using clear or white caulking, caulk along the ceiling, baseboard and trim. This will help you get a nicer line when you cut in the edges with a brush.
Applying the Paint
Since glossy paints will show remaining imperfections in your wall, consider some of the excellent, washable flat paints now on the market or an eggshell finish if you want luster. No matter what finish or color you choose, count on doing two coats for the best-looking, most-washable surface. You can definitely paint over wallpaper. If you do it correctly, you can produce beautiful, long lasting results.