Q. We bought an older home with an extremely well-done wallpaper job in the master bedroom and living room and you really canít see the seams. We donít like it. Would it be safe to paint over the wallpaper rather than go through the mess of removing it? Or would the water in the latex paint I would be applying cause the paper to blister? Do I need to prime it first? I would appreciate any advice you might have on this.
A. My initial reaction is to shout "Don't do it!" to anyone contemplating painting over wallpaper. It makes the eventual and one day inevitable wallpaper removal job that much harder. If you've got wallpaper then you've got seams no matter how good the a pplication job was. One sure technique to find the seams is to take a very powerful light and place it upon the wall washing the surface with the beam of light-- you'll spot the seams, I guarantee it.
And if your wallpaper job was so well done originally then we might be able to assume that the wall surface under it was painted or "sized" prior to the paper's application making the removal more possible. If it wasn't applied originally in that fashion , then the wallpaper glue will have made the wallpaper and the top layer paper of the drywall as one and removal efforts will be doomed to tearing off great hunks of the top drywall paper layer and some gypsum along with it requiring wall repairs with th e skills of a plasterer to do well.
Wallpaper removal is not a fun job and ironically but not surprisingly the better the paper the harder it can be to get off. Cheap paper will wet nicely with a sponge and hot water-- add some laundry fabric softener to hasten things-- and peel it off in great sheets. The better wallpapers are not so water friendly and have to be scored with a scoring tool to get the water behind the paper to soften the glue. 3Mģ markets a wallpaper removal "system" which includes this tool. Paint stores and home centers carry it and while you're there pick up a box of TSP, tri-sodium phosphate, as a detergent for washing the glue off the wall as the last step. It's crucial to wash all the glue off the wall prior to painting because any glue residue will cause the pain t to "alligator" and look a mess. Experiment with your wallpaper removal techniques in an inconspicuous location, such as in a closet or behind a dresser, so if you need to retreat for a while to think things over you won't have to look at it.
Wallpaper was invented a couple of hundred years ago and the divorce rate has climbed steadily since. I reckon it was invented in an attempt to stabilize cracking and falling plaster and you even see it on the ceilings of old plastered homes with the sag ging plaster underneath. Some artistic sort came up with the bright idea of placing colorful images on it prior to putting it up and an industry was born. However wallpaper is one of those products that should come with a warning label printed upon each roll warning that "the installation of this product performed with the assistance of a spouse or significant other can lead to immediate dissolution of said relationship."
Professional wallpaperers frequently work alone performing feats of dexterity with glue slathered paper impossible for normal mortals to duplicate. Should paperhanging amateur couples try this as a team, frequently things go wrong and civility can suffe r. Like the weekend sailboat captain issuing orders to his crew; it's not the order issued but the tone of voice that counts. Fortunately wallpaper removal doesn't carry such risks so I recommend you proceed along that path.
Should you succumb to the temptation of painting over your wallpaper you shouldn't have any problem using latex paint and, depending upon the depth of color you have to hide, a simple primer might do. But let me warn you, as soon as you've painted over those heretofore invisible seams-- you'll see them. Do yourself a favor and bite the bullet. Take the old paper off.