Can You Paint Over Wallpaper?

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Written By Jim J Neal

Ask a group of DIYers if you can paint over wallpaper and you’ll get different answers depending on each person’s point of view.

There’s no way around it: Wallpaper removal is messy, tedious work. So if you want to change the look of a wallpapered wall, it’s tempting to skip the wallpaper removal and go straight to paint. But is that a good idea?

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Can You Paint Over Wallpaper?

Yes, of course you can. People have been painting over wallpaper for hundreds of years. People will argue that it’s not a good idea, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do it.

Painting over wallpaper makes sense in these situations, as long as the wallpaper is not peeling or bubbled:

  • The wallpaper was installed on a surface that wasn’t primed and it fused to the wall. In this case, you can’t remove the paper without damaging the wall.
  • The room is seldom used.
  • You’re not super-fussy about things being perfect.
  • You’re not in your forever home.
  • You are staging your home to sell.

Should You Paint Over Wallpaper?

Okay, so you can paint over wallpaper. But that makes the wallpaper extremely difficult to remove in the future, says Michael DiGilio, Wallcovering Installers Association president and owner of DiGilio Decorating. If you’re in your forever home, it’s best to get that wallpaper off the wall before you paint.

“The only time that I would ever really do that [paint over wallpaper] is if you’re going to cause more damage to the wall by taking it off than leaving it on,” DiGilio says.

How To Paint Over Wallpaper

If you decide to paint over wallpaper, DiGilio recommends cleaning the wall first. Wipe down the walls with a microfiber cloth slightly dampened in a mixture of mild all-purpose cleaner and water.

Start at the bottom and work your way up. This might seem backward, but it’s better to wipe drips from a clean surface. Give the wall time to dry — a few hours if you’re in a dry climate, overnight if the humidity is high.

Once the walls are dry, test the primer in a small spot to make sure the wallpaper doesn’t bubble. If it doesn’t, tape off your baseboards, window and door trim to protect them from paint drips.

Apply a coat of oil-based primer. Water-based primer can soak through wallpaper and reactivate the paste under it, leading to peeling. “Oil-based primers dry rock-hard and they usually dry overnight,” DiGilio says.

When the primer dries, apply two coats of acrylic paint, following the paint manufacturer’s instructions on how long to wait between coats. With any luck, your room will look great and that painted wallpaper with stay put as long as you want it to.

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