Home Improvement

Can You Paint Over Wallpaper? Learn How to Do It

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Wallpaper is a popular medium in home decoration, as it is versatile and easy to install. It offers a great choice when it comes to pattern, colour, material and texture. However, as with other aspects of interior design, trends in wallpaper come and go quickly – a fair reason for one to feel the need for a change. Well, naturally, there are many ways to go about renovating your uninspiring-looking wallpapered walls.

For instance, you can replace your no-longer fashionable wallpaper with new or strip it and paint your walls to completely change the look and feel of your room. And there’s another third option, too! You can refresh the style of the place if you’ve got bored with your old wallpaper by splashing some paint over it.

So, this post will focus on exactly that – how to paint your walls without taking down the wallpaper, first. After all, who would want to spend hours on removing paper and old glue from their walls?

Right then, let’s find some answers to the following questions:

  • What paint should you use over wallpaper?
  • Do you need to prepare the walls in any way?
  • What do you need to keep in mind to ensure that the final result looks good?
  • Is painting over wallpaper a cost-effective option?

Well, we can assure you that it’s, at least, a time-saving way of refurbishing your room. So, read on to figure out whether paint over wallpaper is the right solution for your walls and learn about the best techniques and methods to apply in your project.

Table of Contents:

Can you paint over wallpaper?

According to experts, the rule of thumb is that you can paint over wallpaper, as long as it’s well-attached to the wall and in good condition. The key to success is using the right materials and techniques, in order to make the wall look as good as if you started your project with a blank plastered wall.

You see, in some cases, painting over a wallpaper might be the easier and better option. Why? Sometimes, removing the old wallpaper can harm the wall beneath, especially if it’s been glued directly on bare plasterboard, without the latter being skimmed first. Or, stripping the wall off the paper may simply not be cost-effective or convenient in your particular case, be it because of budget issues or a tight schedule to finish up your project.

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So, when is painting over wallpaper a better option?

  • As a general rule, wallpaper that would be difficult to remove is a good candidate for painting over – especially if it’s attached directly to drywall, which is not properly primed. Removing it can significantly damage your wall. Besides, removing multiple layers of wallpaper also often causes unexpected damage. So, in these cases, consider painting over it instead of removing it.
  • It is a good option if you want to update a room quickly – it’s reasonable that you might not want to spend ages removing the old wallpaper. As we’ve already mentioned, you can get good results by painting over it.
  • Are you on a tight budget? – you might want to renovate a room within a small budget for various reasons, such as transforming cost-effectively and fast a place for rent. Then, painting over the old dingy wallpaper sounds like the perfect option.

Note, however, that old wallpaper should be removed in cases when the wallpaper is already loose, ripped or suffers from damp or mould – painting it over will not hide these issues and may cause more significant problems in the future. If you are in doubt about which is the best option for you, consult a professional before you begin.

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How to paint over wallpaper like a pro

There are few things to start with when looking at how to paint over wallpaper. It’s vital to get the initial preparation right by getting a proper primer. This is a key step to ensure the perfect look of your walls at the end.

The best choice here is to use an oil-based or shellac-based primer. They will block anything coming through the wallpaper. In contrast, a water-based primer could soak into it and loosen the adhesive. Oil-based and shellac products can take longer to dry, and the smell will be overbearing. But the effort is worth it, as you can use latex, oil-based, and all other types of paint over the oil-based or shellac primer. To ensure that, check the instructions before buying.

Both water and solvent-based paints are a good fit for your DIY projects, as they are not hard to apply. Be careful when choosing anything with a high sheen, such as satin, as it will show any imperfections or texture in the wallpaper.

If you’re trying to paint over very dark colours, get a tinted-grey primer. It covers better and will allow the final paint colour to show up vividly.

So, here are the tools and materials you will need:

  • A sponge;
  • Rubber gloves;
  • Dishwashing detergent;
  • TSP (if your wallpaper is greasy and grimy);
  • High-quality paint brushes;
  • A paint roller;
  • Joint compound and adhesive (if your wallpaper is damaged or peeling);
  • Caulk;
  • Sandpaper;
  • Tape;
  • Oil-based or shellac-based primer;
  • Paint;
  • Drop cloths to protect your floor and furniture.
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Clean the wallpaper-covered walls

Remove any dust from the wall with a brush, first, or use the soft attachment of your vacuum cleaner. Then, use a big sponge and a mixture of dishwashing detergent and water, and lightly wipe off any soiling if the wallpaper is washable. This way, the primer will stick better. If there are grease stains on the wall, clean them with a TSP solution.

Use a small amount of cleaning solution on the walls, as it could soften the adhesive of the wallpaper and cause it to bubble and peel off easily. Allow at least 24h for the walls to dry.

TSP is such a strong solution that it must be diluted. Mix one half-cup of it for every two gallons of water in a bucket.

Repair any damage to the wallpaper

Old wallpaper is prone to peeling and fading over time. You will need to fix it before starting to paint over it. Use adhesive to repair any detached corners and pieces of paper. If there are any holes or cracks in the wall, use the joint compound to fill them in. To make the wall as smooth as possible, you might need to sand down the wall using fine-grit sandpaper. Go slowly by applying light pressure.

To ensure that the wallpaper is tightly attached to the wall, seal it along the wall’s perimeter and joints by applying a small amount of caulk. Thus, you’ll also keep moisture out and will extend the life of your wallpaper.

Before you prime and paint the wall, you need to vacuum away the dust and dirt made by sanding down. After that, tape off the edges of the wall, especially covering your skirting board if applicable.

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Prime the walls and wait for them to dry

Apply a coat of wallpaper primer to the entire surface of the walls before painting. Use a brush to cut in the corners and a roller to finish the big stretches. Wear gloves because the oil-based and shellac primers are sticky and hard to clean!

As we’ve covered above, solvent-based primers will help to seal the wallpaper’s adhesive so that the paint doesn’t disintegrate it. The moisture can often loosen the wallpaper glue, causing bubbles or peeling, as we’ve already pointed out.

Allow plenty of time for the primer to dry, according to the manufacturer’s directions. Make sure the space is well ventilated, too.

If you’re going to use a shellac-based primer, have denatured alcohol on hand to clean up any splashes and your brushes.

Apply your first coat of paint to the wallpaper

Once the wallpaper is completely cleaned and dry, you are ready to begin painting over it. Just like with the primer, use a paintbrush to cut in at the corners and along edges, then let the roller do the rest.

Let dry completely and apply a second coat

You’re probably going to need two coats of paint to ensure that the underlying colour is not showing through, especially if you are applying paint over dark coloured wallpaper. Let the first coat dry completely.

After that, consider sanding the wall. It’s a daunting task but will minimise the small roughnesses and could significantly improve the final look of your walls.

When you’re finally finished, stand back and admire the new look.

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Painting over textured or patterned wallpaper

Textured wallpaper blends well in most interior styles and can provide an attractive accent to the room. However, if you love the pattern of your wallpaper but it’s faded or slightly damaged, you may decide to cover it with a coat of fresh paint.

Specific things to bear in mind when painting over textured wallpaper:

It isn’t vastly different from painting any other wallpaper

The process is similar to painting drywall, so no special tools or skills are needed. Follow the instructions above and keep plenty of paint on the brush to avoid areas looking patchy as well.

Excess paint can accumulate in the grooves

This could happen if you are painting over a very detailed and knotted pattern. Clean the excess paint using a clean, dry sponge before it dries.

Choosing the right paint and colour for painting over textured wallpaper

Take into account the finish of the paint, as well. It is advisable to use paint that has a matt finish. If the wall is not perfectly smooth, then gloss paint is more likely to show up the imperfections.

Now, you’re ready to make a decision about your walls. As with many home improvement tasks, the quality of the final result depends on the effort exerted at the beginning. In other words, it’s all in the preparation of the wall.

Let the professionals do the hard work for you!

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  • Painting over wallpaper is a good option if your wallpaper is difficult to remove or you want to update your room quickly.
  • Proper preparation is essential for a good result.
  • Use an oil-based or shellac-based primer, as this will seal the paper properly.
  • Painting textured wallpaper isn’t different from painting any other wallpaper.
  • Use matt finish if your wall is not perfectly smooth. Gloss finish is more likely to show this up.
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