Wallpaper removal – a little howto

When you enter somebody’s house, one of the things you really cannot not see is the paper or paint against the walls. As we mentioned before, our house underwent a renovation when the previous owners moved in, some 30 to 40 years ago. While they had been really playing it safe downstairs, with some kind of textured paper and white paint, they had gone a little more adventurous in the bedrooms on the first floor… As you can see below, this asked for a little wallpaper removal work!

Bedroom 1

Please take a good look at the above picture. Think you’ve seen it all? Let me point it out: there’s wallpaper on the walls (duh), on the ceiling and even on the doors! Ok, those are doors from a cupboard, but it also applied for the doors of the rooms. Because we weren’t sure we could paint it without the paint peeling back off, or keeping us from getting it off the walls later on, we decided to get it off right now.

The gear

Also known as “what you will need if you want to reproduce this at home”. Please note that Amazon links are affiliate links and are mostly provided to show you what to look for when you’re nosing around in your local DIY shop if you want them really fast :).

  • wallpaper paste in powder form, not pre made
  • a bucket and some water
  • a whisk (find it on Amazon)
  • a large paint brush or block brush (find it on Amazon)
  • putty knife (find it on Amazon)
  • a ladder or some small scaffolding might come in handy for the elevated parts of the wall (and the ceilings in our case) (one type of scaffolding we used on Amazon)

The method

Also known as “what you will need to do if you want to reproduce this at home”. Just keep in mind that although this really isn’t hard, you might have to do a little experimenting as well.

Precaution: please make sure you know what type of wall you’re going to be removing the paper from, most likely it’s either plaster (on brick) or drywall. You can find out if you gently knock on the wall, if it sounds hollow it’s 99% sure drywall, if it doesn’t then chances are it’s going to be plaster. This has an effect on what follows, drywall is basically just gypsum between to sheets of paper and doesn’t really mix well with a lot of fluid…

  1. Mix the wallpaper paste in the bucket with the water. We found that diluting it about 10 times more than what’s on the package for regular paste works really well for this method. Use the whisk to make sure you get a homogeneous fluid.
  2. Use the brush to apply the mixture to the paper. If your wall can stand it, apply generously, the more soaked the paper is the easier it will peel off. Just keep the precaution in mind, be careful when applying to drywall…
  3. Chances are now you’re already able to peel off entire sheets of paper, depending on the paper, the wall, the amount of mixture and moistness of the paper, and so on. However, there will be spots where you’ll have to use the putty knife in order to remove the paper. Do so by gently scraping it along the wall, scraping off the paper. Be careful not to stick the knife into the wall! If you feel like you need to use a lot of force, go back to step 2 and let the paper soak a while longer.
  4. Collect all the wallpaper and let the walls dry.

So how does that look like when it’s all done? Like this:

Walls with the wallpaper removed

Yes, the cleaning hadn’t been done completely, but most of the paper had already been gathered.

Chrisje friendly?

About as much as it gets, no risks of cutting or hurting yourself, little risk of damaging the walls. Like taking candy from a baby :).

A little extra

As I mentioned already when writing a little about the history of our house, behind all the wallpaper we found some writings from when it was built and decorated, both the first and the second time around:

Writing found underneath the wallpaper

It’s in French, but for those of you that don’t speak it, it says “G. Bollez, entrepreneur in painting, castle street, Ruysselede” and then the date July first, 1934. Awesome, isn’t it? Now that’s something you won’t find everyday 🙂

As closure, this is the method we successfully used to remove the wallpaper. I know it’s far from the only one, I’ve heard enough people that use another kind of liquid to moisten the paper, or use a steaming device, and so on and so forth. We would love to hear what kind of method you have used with success in the past, or, if you tried “our” method, what kind of problems you ran into.