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removing wallpaper

Off With the Old and Up With the New: How to Remove Wallpaper and Prep for More


Apr 28, 2020 by Marc Rapport

As any homeowner who's ever removed wallpaper can testify, myself included, it's a tedious and time-consuming task.

Most new wallpaper is removable and designed to peel right off the wall with no damage, but if that's not what you're facing, get ready to devote some time and elbow grease to getting the old stuff down.

That said, it's relatively easy to do with the right tools, time, and patience. So, let's get into the process. Be prepared to get messy. You can find lots of tips and tutorials online, including places like Lowe's (NYSE: LOW) and Home Depot (NYSE: HD), that also include product recommendations (for their products, of course).

The tools and supplies

Before you get started, and this is true of any home project, ensure you have the right tools and supplies on hand. No one wants to get going on that project you've been planning forever and finally have time to do, then have to stop to go grab more wallpaper remover.

Another thing to keep in mind: Older wallpapers -- those not designed to be removed -- are glued to the wall underneath. To remove them without wall damage, that glue must be dissolved. The glue is generally dissolvable with water, but wallpaper remover can do the job more efficiently and quickly.

Wallpaper remover comes as a liquid or gel. With both types, you'll need a scraper to remove the wallpaper, ideally in sheets as large as possible. With the gel-based remover, you'll also need a scorer to help the gel penetrate the paper. This isn't necessary with the liquid remover; however, because wallpaper is designed to be water resistant, you may have to remove it in layers, if those exist.

Either way, for particularly aged, stubborn stuff, a steamer can help penetrate the wallpaper and dissolve the glue.

Despite being as careful as you can possibly be, you'll likely still do some damage to your walls, so it may be a good idea to grab some joint compound, sandpaper, and primer while you're getting the rest of your supplies.

Prep and process

As with most work like this, it's important to prep the affected area before you get started. Removing wallpaper is wet and messy, so it's important to protect your furniture, floors, and electrical outlets during the process -- and yourself. Wear a mask or goggles.

When you begin removing wallpaper, it's generally a good idea to begin at a seam to make sure you don't gouge the walls while scraping. (Doing that might reveal what's underneath the drywall if you go too far.)

If you're using liquid remover, you will want to fully saturate the wallpaper. This will help prevent tearing the wallboard off with the wallpaper. Sand, and repeat.

Finishing the job

Once you've removed all your wallpaper, you get to sit back and enjoy all your hard work, right? Not so fast. You're likely left with walls that still have some glue left on them and some damage that will need to be repaired.

To remove the glue left on the walls, you can use more wallpaper remover and carefully scrape it off the same way you scraped the wallpaper off. You can also sand the walls to remove any remaining glue and then smooth the walls. An electric sander will speed that process up dramatically.

You can fix the damaged spots with joint compound, spackle, and primer. Once you've repaired the walls, it's time for a fresh wall covering.

However, before you hang new wallpaper, give some thought to what you or the next owner (in the form of a potential buyer) might have to do to revamp the space. Painting might be a good option, especially if you're about to sell.

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Marc Rapport has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Home Depot. The Motley Fool recommends Lowe's and recommends the following options: long January 2021 $120 calls on Home Depot and short January 2021 $210 calls on Home Depot. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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