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Prepping Wallpapered walls for Paint

Posted a few years ago by Rosie Wood - No Comments

There are two main stages to prepare a wallpapered wall for painting. The first is to tidy up the wallpaper, the second is to prime the surface. If you are considering missing a step, just remember, there is a time versus quality trade-off.

First stage: Cleaning up the wallpaper.

Wipe down the walls. Often wallpaper will have been on the wall for years. It is a good idea to wipe down the walls before you begin, you don't want dust in your paintwork! Don't use a really damp cloth for this stage – you don't want wet walls!

Check for peeling wallpaper. It will be far more noticeable when the surface is painted. Wallpaper glue can be used to stick it back down.

Check for damage. Any holes in the wall from paintings? Or other damage to the wall's surface? Now is the time to fill them. Smooth some joint compound over the holes and when it is dry, sand the compound down being careful to not sand the wallpaper itself.

Second stage: Priming the wallpaper for a smoother finish.

Often you will hear that it is a good idea to apply an (oil based) sealer to the wallpaper (depending on if you will be using a water based paint). The purpose of this is to keep the wallpaper from peeling away from the wall. This step is unnecessary however if you are following the steps below, that is because the undercoat will be oil based and so you will not incur the problems associated with applying water based paint to the wallpaper.

Tape up around skirting boards and window frames. Using special painters tape from a hardware store, tape all the way along those areas you don't want painted. This step takes a very long time. Be careful to create a long straight line here, especially when your final paint color will be very different from the wood – remember that your final paint job will follow the lines of the tape. A trick to applying tape well is to use shorter bits - the tape needs to have just a weak adhesive on it so that it doesn't pull paint off when it is removed - so long bits of tape tend to curl up and come unstuck.

Priming / painting an undercoat on the wallpaper. This step is important because it will help stop patterns from the wallpaper showing through onto your final paint job.

A note here about oil based versus water based paints: Water based paints can bubble or pull away from the wall – remember painting water based paints onto paper as a kid? The paper doesn't stay flat. That is just one of the benefits of using an oil based undercoat.

There are different thicknesses of undercoat and if you have a raised pattern on your wallpaper, using a thicker paint is a better idea, as it can even out the surface. These thicker paints however are more difficult to get a smooth finish from (again, think of your painting days as a kid, the thicker paints such as acrylics are harder to get smooth than water colors), so for a novice, it is better to do a few coats of a regular thickness oil based undercoat.

If your surface is not smooth now is the time to get out the sandpaper. Applying an undercoat means that when you come to sanding you will essentially sand off some of the primer rather than the wallpaper to get a smooth finish. You want to do this because sanding joins in wallpaper without a primer on will sand off a thin layer of the wallpaper and it will be rough – not the intended result! Use a fine sandpaper for this step.

Make sure you clean off the sanded wall before painting! Wipe off all the dust with a clean, damp cloth.

You are now ready to apply some color!

Rosie Wood - Author Biography

Rosie has DIY experience fixing up houses for herself and her family. She's been responsible for Painting, Tiling, Deck Building, Old Floor Maintenance, and home decoration. She brings a woman touch to our website, helping handymen and handy woman with DIY projects for their home.

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