How To: Paint Over Wallpaper

Ok, I admit it…I have performed one of the most deadliest sins in home renovation. I painted over my wallpaper. Now, I can’t lie and say I haven’t done this before because I did do this in the kitchen, but I have decided it really is truly the only way to get this house remodeled in a timely manor.

I started working on removing the wallpaper in the nursery a couple weeks ago. You might remember, the room looked like this.
This lovely brown “string” wallpaper covered the room. It just had to go! I couldn’t paint directly over the wallpaper because the strings created too much texture. I began first by ripping all the strings off the walls and ended up with just the adhesive layer below the strings. It looked something like this:
With a steamer in one hand, a putty knife in the other I began removing the adhesive layer…slowly. I have mentioned before that the wallpaper in this house was applied directly to the drywall. When you are removing the paper, it tears your first layer of drywall. You get little tears everywhere that look like this:
Then when you use the steamer, if the wall gets too moist you end up scraping off the first layer of drywall with your putty knife. It’s like there is no even point of where the paper will just come off easily. After about 10 hours spent on this room I had only about a 4 foot section of the wall removed, with tears and pealing all over the drywall.
At this point, I gave up. I mean at this rate our boy will be entering 1st grade before I get this stupid stuff removed. It was just so stuck to the wall! After venting my frustration to a coworker, he said his mom is an interior designer and they paint over the wallpaper all the time. Like I said at the beginning, I did painted over the wallpaper in the kitchen and I have always felt some “guilt” for doing this. You know what though, the kitchen turned out great so I figured why not…let’s do it again!
Many people seem confused about where to start when painting over the wallpaper, so this is what I have done and it has worked in one room so far. Start out with removing all the loose wallpaper. Also, if you have a textured wallpaper, as I did with the strings, try to remove that layer as well. Next apply joint compound to all seems, areas where the loose wallpaper was removed, and any rips in the drywall. Your room should look something like this:
And this where I patched over the damaged drywall:
After your joint compound has dried (usually I wait overnight) then you need to sand it all down. I used this special sandpaper for drywall, it’s more like a screen. It works great! Also, there is a special holder for this screen, but I couldn’t find it so I just used my hand. Plus, I think it works better. I like to sand in a circular motion so that no lines appear in the joint compound. Sometimes, if you sand in one direction you will get these little lines from the screen and they do show up when you paint.
After this step you, the wall, and the room will be covered in white dust. It is very important to clean the room after this step. This will involve wiping down all the walls with a damp cloth and vacuuming the floor and baseboards. Painting over the dust on the walls will cause your primer to clump.
Next apply an oil-based primer. It is VERY important that it is oil-based. Regular primer that is water based could cause the wallpaper to release where you don’t want it to! I use Kilz because the coverage is thick and they make the oil-based in an odorless form, which is great for me and the baby!
I painted this on with a 1/2″ nap roller. I wanted to create some texture in the wall and cover-up any imperfections that might show up from the damaged drywall. You also might need to apply a second coat depending on how well it covered the joint compounded seams.
Once the primer has dried your room should look something like this and you are ready to paint!
Once you have your actual paint color on the walls you might notice some areas that didn’t get sanded down as well and show some lines from the joint compound or possibly the wallpaper seams. Just apply more joint compound on those areas, sand it down, prime again, and paint your color over it and it should look nice and smooth.

Hope this saves some of you time on your home remodeling projects, I know it has on mine!