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I have found that the need to remove wall paper often presents a psychological obstacle to people’s redecorating plans. Many find this task to be intimidating, and for good reason. I once had a customer in Warsaw who was a dedicated ‘do-it-yourselfer’, but admitted that she decided to use a professional residential painting company because she didn’t want to deal with layers of old wallpaper. If your old wallpaper is fading, peeling or simply boring, now is the time to deal with it.
A new wallcovering transforms a space from dull to brilliant. To get started, however, you need to determine what you are dealing with. This is where Matthews Painting can help because our house painters are experts at wallpaper removal and stripping & installation. There are a lot of variables to consider when removing old layers of wall paper. The approach taken will differ depending on the underlying surface material and the type of wallpaper adhesive. Most walls are either drywall (gypsum sandwiched between layers of paper) or plaster smoothed over lath (either strips of wood or metal mesh). If you don’t already know what you have, the easiest way to tell is simply by feeling it or tapping it. Plaster is typically harder, smoother and colder than drywall and when tapped, drywall sounds more hollow than plaster. If you are still not sure, remove an outlet cover to see the exposed edges. It is important to know the wall’s surface material depending on your removal technique. Drywall is at greater risk for water damage; so don’t over-wet it. Also, when it comes time to scrape, drywall is more vulnerable to gouging.
Once you have determined your wall surface, you need to know what kind of wall paper you have. Hopefully, you are dealing with paper that is dry-strippable. Lift a corner and try peeling it off. If it all peels off, the removal job will be much easier. If it’s not easily removed or only the decorative surface layer peels, then it is going to be a messier job. Depending on the kind of adhesive, you may just need to dampen it with warm water. More stubborn adhesives may require wallpaper remover solvents or steamers. Also, if your wall paper is non-porous or covered with a coat of paint, the job can get complicated.
If you are dealing with a non-porous wall covering such as foils, vinyl or acrylic finishes you’ll have to perforate the surface by scratching or roughening it so that moisture can penetrate the nonporous surface and reach the adhesive. You can test for porosity by applying a small area with hot water. If the paper is porous, you should see the paper absorb the water immediately. After the paper is wetted, you can scrape it off. The scraping tool you use will also depend on the type of wall and wall covering you have. It can be very hard not to gouge the moistened dry-wall when using a sharp blade – so a putty knife will be preferable in these circumstances.
Removing wall paper without causing damage can be a delicate operation. Using methods such as wallpaper removal solvents and steamers can be downright hazardous. Indiana homeowners are well advised to speak with a professional to know what you are facing. When Matthews Painting conducts a complimentary consultation, we will let you know what you are up against. So don’t hesitate to call us when you finally decide to get rid of that old wall paper and refresh your interior walls.