Handyman | Bill Ruisinger on stripping or painting over wallpaper

Updated: 2012-08-05T01:28:38Z


Special to The Star

Q. Our house has two bathrooms, both of which are papered with a water-resistant, if not waterproof, paper. They were that way when we bought the house. We would like to paint the walls, but do not know what preparation is needed or what kind of paint to use. We have not found any scraps of paper to show the local experts, and I hate to rip off some of the present paper to take to the store. Any suggestions?

A. My recommendation is almost always to strip the wallpaper. I know this isn’t always feasible, but it’s the best way to ensure you won’t have problems in the future. Sometimes the paints and primers will cause the wallpaper to bubble, creating even more work. You can have the wallpaper professionally stripped. If you are confident that the paper is in good shape and have decided not to strip it, here’s how to handle it: Rub your hands across it and make sure there is no texture to it, this will show through when painted. If it has a texture, you will want to skim coat the walls with drywall joint compound to smooth it out. Prime all of the wallpapered areas with a primer/sealer, preferably a solvent-based one such as Zinsser’s B-I-N Shellac Base Primer & Sealer. Be sure to use a respirator and have plenty of ventilation.

Once your walls are sealed, you’ll probably see the wallpaper seams and you’ll want to coat them with drywall joint compound. Make sure you sand the compound to a smooth finish. Now you are ready to paint your walls. I suggest using a flat paint or primer on the repaired areas, then painting with a high-quality latex paint. Remember, when choosing a sheen for your paint, the higher the sheen, the more defects are visible. If your walls still have imperfections, either work on those areas a little more or use a low-sheen paint.

Do you have a question? If you have a question or problem with something in or around your home, ask a Handyman. Our panelists have expertise in building, remodeling, painting, carpentry, plumbing and more. Send questions to home@kcstar.com or Handyman, House + Home, FYI, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.

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