How do I Prep Walls to Paint After Removing Wallpaper?

Fiona Fearey

Over time, wallpaper often begins to peel or look outdated. Although you may be tempted to paint over the existing wallpaper, the best course of action is to remove it. However, you don’t need to hire a painting contractor for this job.

Replace outdated wallpaper with painted walls.

Removing the old wallpaper by spraying, peeling and scraping is somewhat physically demanding, but satisfying when you see the progress. Once the wallpaper is gone, you’ll be able to identify any issues that need to be addressed before painting the walls.

  1. Cover the floor with a drop cloth. Wear a pair of latex or vinyl gloves to protect your hands while using any chemicals. Put on safety glasses to keep wallpaper remover solution out of your eyes.

  2. Follow the manufacturer's directions on your wallpaper remover solution. Mix the solution with water in a bucket if it is supposed to be diluted. Many manufacturer's make solutions that can be sprayed onto the walls. Apply the solution to the walls where the wallpaper was stripped off. Scrape the walls with a scraper to remove all traces of adhesive.

  3. Empty the bucket and refill it with hot water. Rinse the walls with a sponge dipped in the hot water. Change the water in the bucket as needed. Allow the walls to dry.

  4. Assess the condition of the walls. Sand rough walls with a sander. Fill in any holes with plaster. For the smoothest texture, apply a thin coat of plaster—a skim coat—to the entire surface with a wide plaster knife. Let the plaster dry completely before priming the walls.

  5. Carefully paint along the edges of the wall with primer, covering any areas where your roller can’t reach. Use low-tack tape to keep primer off of the ceiling and trim if you don’t feel confident that you can control the brush. Roll the primer onto the rest of each of the walls.

  6. Remove the tape. Wash your brush. Take up the drop cloth.

  7. Tip

    For a less toxic wallpaper remover, make your own by diluting distilled white vinegar with water.