Stripping Wallpaper Advice and Hints
Whether you intend to paint or paper a wall, it is always a good idea to strip the old paper off first. If you do not the dyes orin the existing wallpaper may stain through the new surface, the old paper may soften and lift up, the pattern may show through (in the case of relief textures), or (if you are covering washable, metallic, coated or flocked paper) the new finish may simply not stick to the wall.
There are a variety of methods you can use, depending on the type of paper and how firmly it has adhered to the surface. Certain papers can be stripped dry, by simply peeling away the bottom edge and lifting it off the wall. However, this usually leaves a thin backing paper which can be soaked and then scraped off. Generally, though, for most papers you will need to soak the paper with hot water, score the surface and scrape it off or, for more stubborn washable or relief or painted papers, use a steam stripper. In either case, it is important to work gently and methodically to avoid damaging the underlying plasterwork.
Plain painted walls do not need to be stripped before redecoration (unless they have been covered with distemper, which is incompatible with modern paints). Textured coatings, however, cannot be papered over, and so they will need to be stripped.
Remember that textured coatings and relief papers may well have been applied to cover imperfect plaster. If that is the case, stripping will leave you with a surface that requires further work.
Using a Steam Stripper
Steam strippers are fairly inexpensive to hire and can vastly simplify the process of stripping washable, relief or painted paper. Water is boiled in a tank and the resulting steam is fed through a hose to a perforated plate.
Fill the tank with water, according to the manufacturers’ instructions, and, when the steam is ready, hold the plate against the bottom of a length of paper for 30-60 seconds, or until the paper appears damp.
* Do not keep the steam stripper in one position for too long or the plasterwork will be damaged.
Materials and Equipment
• broad stripping knife
• serrated scraper, knife or abrasive paper for scoring
• steam stripper
• bucket of hot water
• sponge or brush
• rubber gloves and safety glasses
1. To strip standard wallpaper, wet thoroughly with a sponge using hot water. Work from the top down, wetting several times, and allow at least five minutes for the water to soak in.
2. Ease the paper off using a broad stripping knife, held at an angle of 30 degrees. Scrape upwards, taking care not to dig into the plaster. The paper should wrinkle and come away. You may also find that you can pull off big strips.
3. To help water soak into washable paper, score the surface with a serrated scraper, knife or abrasive paper.
4. For painted or heavy relief papers, use a steam stripper. Steam rises, so work upwards. Peel off one area of paper with a broad knife while you are steaming the next.
5. Vinyls or easy-strip papers are designed to be peeled off. Using a craft knife, lift the corner of the covering away from its backing.
6. Use your hands to peel the paper away from the wall. If the backing paper comes away as well, strip it off by soaking and scraping. If it remains intact, however, you can simply paper over it.
Removing Textured Coatings
Removing textured paints is laborious and messy. The best way is to paint on a special textured paint remover and, once the coating has softened, scrape it off. Alternatively, you can use a steam stripper. Wash the wall down afterwards, and make sure to wear protective gloves and glasses. Never be tempted to sand a textured coating.