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Can You Paint Over Wallpaper? Yes! We’ll Show You How

Can You Paint Over Wallpaper? Yes! We’ll Show You How

Can you paint over wallpaper? And if so, isn’t it better to just remove it first? Don’t worry — we’ll cover answers to these questions and more in our complete guide below. Read on to learn all you need to know.


Disclaimer: The information included in this post is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as legal, financial, or DIY advice. We highly suggest consulting a professional before attempting any DIY home improvements or repairs.


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Can You Paint Over Wallpaper?

Image of wallpaper in a roll

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Wallpaper was all the rage in the 1990s and earlier, but it has dramatically fallen out of style in recent decades. That’s bad news for homeowners in older homes that still have it on their walls. Even worse is that wallpaper can be tough to remove.

Luckily though, in most cases, you can paint over wallpaperHowever, there are exceptions to the rule. There are some types of wallpaper that you cannot paint, and attempting to do so will create a big mess.

In this article, we’ll look at how to assess whether you can or cannot paint over the wallpaper in your home. Then we’ll provide you with a step-by-step guide for how to go about it properly. This way, you can improve the overall look of your home.

Best Practice: Remove the Wallpaper First

For a piece on can you paint over wallpaper, a woman with a paint scraper pulls down sections of the paper

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As most professional painters and home renovation experts will tell you, it’s always safest to remove the wallpaper before painting. Once you paint on top of the wallpaper, it will be that much harder to remove. The paint will act as an adhesive between the wall itself and the wallpaper.

Wallpaper is also much more prone to damage than the wall itself. If the wallpaper starts to peel or break down in another way, the paint will go right along with it, and it will be challenging to fix. Finally, if the wallpaper has any texture whatsoever, that will show through the paint itself.

I’d know — I used to be a property manager. If there’s any way to learn about cutting corners, it’s working with investors. And unfortunately, many of my clients cut as many corners as possible. While this saved them a little money in the short term, it made their homes look run down. So I suggest taking the extra time to remove the wallpaper.

When You Must Remove the Wallpaper

Obviously, if there is already any visible damage to the wallpaper, it must be removed before painting. In addition, there are certain types of wallpaper that cannot be painted. The most common is fabric-backed vinyl.

When Not to Remove the Wallpaper

All of that being said, there are times when removing the wallpaper might do more harm than good. If the wallpaper was attached to drywall or plaster, it might damage the layer underneath if you try to remove it.

Additionally, if you’re dealing with multiple layers of wallpaper, it might be too difficult to remove them all. If there are layers that were manufactured before the 1980s or even later, they might be glued, and this renders them almost impossible to remove.

Finally, before deciding to remove the wallpaper, make sure that you do a test spot. Find an out-of-sight place (behind a large piece of furniture is ideal) to test a couple of methods for removing wallpaper. If it’s impossible or very difficult, you may want to remove it. Just be sure to repair the spot using spackle and sandpaper.

How to Paint Over Wallpaper

1. Clean the Walls

First, the walls must be as clean as possible before painting. We recommend wiping the walls with a duster or slightly damp cloth and then vacuuming them. Take your time with the vacuum, allowing it to penetrate the deep layers of dirt and dust.

If the wallpaper is in a kitchen, bathroom, or other room with a lot of activity, it might also have layers of grime or grease on it. If that’s the case, use a powerful cleaning agent, such as diluted TSP to scrub the walls. Let them dry completely.

2. Repair Any Damage

As you’re scrubbing and cleaning, carefully examine the wallpaper for any damage, and fix it as best you can. You can use wallpaper adhesive to reattach anywhere that it’s peeling. The edges are most prone to peeling. Alternatively, you can cut any loose pieces away and then fill them with spackle and sand until smooth.

3. Prepare the Room for Painting

Next, get the room ready. Use painter’s tape to tape off the trim and any other fixtures. Lay down an old sheet or towels or a painting cloth. Be sure to cover any light fixtures and other items you don’t want to paint on.

4. Prime the Wals

If you’re painting on top of wallpaper, you must use a primer. Paint does not always adhere readily or evenly to wallpaper. Make sure that you use an oil-based primer. Water and wallpaper don’t mix, and the water in a water-based primer could soak into the paper, damaging the adhesive and causing it to peel even before you paint.

Primer is easy to apply. Apply it just like paint; use a roller in the open areas and then a brush in the corners and along the edges. Primer doesn’t have to look perfect, but you need to apply it evenly. Otherwise, the paint won’t adhere or look even.

Allow the primer to dry completely. Read the manufacturer’s instructions for drying and add some extra time to be safe since the wallpaper is a bit different from standard walls. Now that the walls are clean, primed, and ready, it’s time to paint.

5. Paint Your Wallpaper

There aren’t many limits to what kind of paint or what colors can be applied on top of wallpaper. You can even paint over patterned, dark, or bold wallpaper. It just may take a few coats. Once again, be sure to use oil-based paint rather than water-based paint for the same reason.

You can apply paint to wallpaper the same way you do on regular walls. Do a thin, even coat of paint throughout the entire space. Allow it to dry completely, at least overnight, before applying a second coat.

You absolutely must apply two coats of paint. Over time, paint can fade, and then you’d be able to see the wallpaper underneath. You may also need a third coat. Give the second one a day or more to dry, and then assess whether it’s required or not.

Frequently Asked Questions

Image of a man skimcoating a wall because he does not want to paint over wallpaper

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Will a professional paint over wallpaper?

In most cases, no, they will not. That’s because it’s best practice to remove the paper first. Since you’re paying them for a service, it’s their responsibility to do the best job they possibly can. That almost always entails stripping off any old coats of wallpaper before painting, or at a very minimum, skim coating over the paper.

Do I need any special tools for this job?

Nothing too out of the ordinary is required. As far as tools you don’t always need when painting (besides apparent items such as rollers, trays, and more), you are more likely to need spackle and sandpaper than regular walls.

In addition, read up on the methods you want to try if you’re going to test out removing the wallpaper, as you may need other items for that.

Can I paint textured wallpaper?

Yes, you can. If you don’t want the texture to show underneath the paint, be sure to sand the entire coverage area. Sometimes the texture can look interesting after being painted, though.

Can I apply wallpaper on top of wallpaper?

Usually, yes. However, consider that you might be creating a nightmare for yourself or a future homeowner by layering wallpaper.

So, Can You Paint Over Wallpaper?

Before and after of a room that just got fresh paint for a piece on can you paint over wallpaper

R.classen/Shutterstock

So, can you paint over wallpaper? Yes. But should you? We don’t think so. There are just too many things that can go wrong. If you’re looking to save a buck, it’s worth a shot.

But you’re almost always better off skim coating, priming, and then painting. As my dad always said, “if you’re going to do something, do it right the first time”.

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