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Wallpaper Removal

Wallpaper Removal

Wallpaper Removal Tips and Advice
Wallpaper removal is easy. Well, maybe it’s not really easy. Actually it’s a hassle, extremely messy, time consuming and you could damage your walls. The good news is you can greatly minimize your chances of damaging your walls if you take your time and understand what is going on beneath the wallpaper. The trick is to loosen the adhesive behind the paper. Let me talk you through it.

The FIRST step is preparation
First, KNOW that this is going to be a messy job. There is no way around that. Bits and pieces of wet paper, covered in adhesive, will end up stuck to everything that’s not covered. Fortunately, it cleans up easily with some soap and hot water. You can minimize the extent of the mess by taking the time to place an inexpensive plastic drop cloth over the furniture. Remove everything hanging on the wall and make sure that the furniture has been moved back from the wall by at least three feet.

The SECOND step is finding out what type of wallpaper you are dealing with
Okay, now that we have prepped our work area, what’s next? We need to discover what type of wallpaper it is, which will help us to find out how much work we are in for. To do this, start by finding an edge and attempt to peel the paper off. Here’s where you either sink or swim. Some of the heavy vinyl and fabric wall coverings will just peel right off. Others will split, leaving a layer of plain paper on the wall. What happens then is that when you try to tear off that layer, it comes off in small pieces. There is a third type that we’ll talk about in a few minutes. The third type…..it’s the worst type.If your wallpaper is the first type then your wallpaper will just peel right off. You got lucky. Hand sponge the walls down with warm water and allow them to dry for at least 12 hours before you paint or apply different wallpaper.

The THIRD step…..strip it,…..strip it good!
Now for the other 99% of us, that didn’t get lucky, here goes. Start by peeling off that top layer of paper. What’s left on the wall will be a layer of plain paper and adhesive. You need to make sure you have the entire top layer off, if you don’t the warm water that you are going to apply in the next step WILL NOT penetrate enough to saturate the remaining paper and adhesive.

The FOURTH step…..the BIG SOAK
Apply warm water to the paper with a sponge, squirt bottle, garden sprayer or whatever you have handy that will accomplish the job. Use just enough to saturate the paper without water running down the wall and making a mess.

Now for the really big secret to wallpaper removal: WAIT. That’s right, wait. Moisten the area again and wait some more. It normally takes about 20 to 30 minutes for the saturated paper to completely soften the adhesive beneath. Look at the wallpaper, the wallpaper that is saturated will always be a darker color. That’s the stuff that is ready to be removed. Notice that I said removed, NOT SCRAPED.

Next, use a 6″ broad knife to remove the paper from the wall. It should come off easily and in long strips. If it does not, remoisten the paper and wait a few more minutes. Let the water do all the hard work! By wetting the wall ahead of where you are working, it is possible to move steadily around the room once you get started. If you don’t want to play the moisten and wait game you can go directly to the fifth step.

The FIFTH step…when that paper still isn’t coming off
Now, about that last group. You’ve watered and waited and watered and waited. Frankly, this just isn’t working and you’re becoming impatient. The problem is that you are not getting enough water to penetrate the surface and completely saturate the core of the wallpaper. There is a solution. We need to break up the water resistant surface coating of the wallpaper without harming the wall.

Now you might be tempted to start gouging at the wallpaper or scraping it roughly. This is not a good idea. This is how you damage the wall. Then you have to spend more money because you have to call a contractor to repair your damaged wall. There are special tools that will score the paper which will allow more moisture to penetrate the wallpaper. One tool is the PaperTiger made by Zissner. It has teeth that will penetrate the paper backing and allow more moisture to penetrate the paper. At this point you can either play the moisten and wait game again or you can rent a commercial wallpaper steamer. The steam will pass through the perforations made by the PaperTiger and moisten the paper. Make repeated passes over an area with the steamer until the core of the paper becomes saturated and the adhesive softens. If an area is being particularly stubborn, try going over it again with the PaperTiger to allow additional steam to penetrate the paper.

Don’t waste your time scraping at areas where the adhesive has not yet softened. I cannot stress enough that this is how walls get damaged. Steam the paper until the adhesive softens. Remove the paper with your 6″ broad knife. You should see good results with the steamer.

The SIXTH and LAST step….you’re almost done!
Remember to hand sponge the walls down with warm water and allow them to dry for at least 12 hours before you paint or apply different wallpaper. In this last step you are not trying to soak the walls. Use as little warm water as possible and still get the walls clean.

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