Painting Over Wallpaper (Best Techniques for Every Room)

November 26, 2020

Painting over wallpaper is often controversial. Some painting and decorating professionals say that painting over wallpaper can never look as good as if you started with a blank wall. However, if you want to quickly update a dated room, it's understandable that you might not want to spend ages removing the old wallpaper.

As long as you don't rush the process, you should be able to paint over your old wallpaper. The key to painting over wallpaper is using the right tools and techniques. As with all D.I.Y. projects, proper preparation is essential.

Painting over wallpaper doesn't need to be tricky, just follow our guide! Read on to discover the best techniques and methods for painting over wallpaper.

Getting Started

Tools and Equipment You Will Need

If you are painting over wallpaper, most of the tools you need are standard painting and decorating products. You will be able to find them at most D.I.Y. stores. For this project you will need:

  • High-quality paint brushes
  • A paint roller
  • Joint compound (if your wallpaper is damaged or peeling)
  • Sandpaper
  • Tape
  • Oil-based primer
  • Paint (water, solvent, or oil-based paints will all work)
  • Drop cloths (to protect your furniture)


When Should You Paint Over Wallpaper?

Removing wallpaper is usually a pain. It can take a lot of elbow grease and patience to make sure that you get every spec of paper and wallpaper paste. As a general rule, if you can remove the old wallpaper, you should before you start to paint the wall.

Removing the wallpaper takes time, but it should provide you with a smooth blank canvas. However, in some cases, it is better to leave the wallpaper intact. So, when should you paint over wallpaper?

Sometimes removing wallpaper can significantly damage your wall. This is especially true if the wallpaper is attached to drywall. You may also run into problems if multiple layers of paper have been applied to the wall. So, in these instances, you might want to consider painting over your old wallpaper instead of removing it.

Just bear in mind that if you painting over wallpaper can make it harder to remove later on. So, if you are in doubt, it's best to consult a painter and decorator before you begin. 

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Next Steps


How to Prepare Your Wall for Painting

It's vital to get the initial preparation right if you are going to paint over old wallpaper. Any loose pieces of paper or detached corners need to be reapplied to the wall with an adhesive. If there are any holes in the wall, you need to fill these before you start painting. The aim is to make the wall as smooth as possible otherwise the paint won't sit properly on your wall. You might need to lightly sand down the wall in order to even out the surface.

Tape off the edges of the wall, especially covering your skirting board if applicable. It's also a good idea to clean the wall before you begin to apply your primer and paint. Use a sponge and a gentle detergent and lightly rub this solution into the wall. Just make sure that you don't completely soak the wallpaper, otherwise, it might start to disintegrate. Allow the wall to totally dry before you attempt to add a primer to the wall.

To make sure that the wallpaper is firmly attached to the wall, you can add a small amount of caulk along the perimeter of the wall. It is vital to that you ensure the paper is secure, otherwise, all of your hard work will go to waste. Caulk will prolong the longevity of your wallpaper.


How to Repair Damaged Wallpaper Before You Begin Painting

Old wallpaper is prone to ripping and fading over time. However, if your wallpaper has sustained damage, you will need to fix it before you can start to paint over it.

Firstly, touch the wallpaper to see if any edges or corners are coming away from the wall. Loose wallpaper will peel away quickly if you don't fix it now. To keep your wallpaper firmly secured to the wall, you can use joint compound. As it starts to dry, the joint compound will shrink. So, apply a few layers to make sure that the contraction of the joint compound doesn't affect your work.

The wallpaper needs to be as smooth as possible before you add paint to the surface. If your wallpaper has bumps or bubbles, it's a good idea to sand down the wall. To get the best results, use fine sandpaper. Always go slowly and start by applying light pressure to the wall. You don't want to rip or tear the paper by sanding it too hard.

Sanding the wall is likely to produce a lot of dust. Before you go on to prime and paint your wall, you need to vacuum away the dust and dirt.

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What Type of Primer Do I Need to Use for Painting Over Wallpaper?

A primer will provide a good base for your paint to sit on. It's a good idea to use an oil-based primer, as this will seal the paper properly. If you skip this step, the paint will dry in patches, which looks terrible.

Oil-based primers have a stronger odour than water or solvent-based paints and primers. So make sure that you keep the room well ventilated while you are priming and painting. Allow at least an hour for one coat of primer to totally dry. If you are applying multiple layers, you might need to wait up to 24 hours.


Can You Paint Over Vinyl Wallpaper?

Vinyl wallpapers consist of a backing paper with a vinyl skin overlaid on top. Most modern vinyl wallpapers are designed to be strippable. To remove vinyl wallpaper, you need to start at the bottom corner of the paper and peel it away from the wall. Make sure that you do this in one smooth, clean motion. This will help you to avoid ripping the paper or leaving behind any mess.

However, stripping away your vinyl wallpaper isn't always a practical option. Vinyl wallpaper is designed to be able to withstand water, so it can be tricky to remove. If you are short on time, you might want to avoid removing the wallpaper. So, can you paint over wallpaper if it's vinyl? The short answer is yes, so long as the wallpaper is well attached to the wall and it's in good condition.

If you are painting over vinyl wallpaper, you will definitely need to use a primer before you start painting. Once you have primed the wall properly, you can use any kind of paint on top. Dark or heavily patterned vinyl wallpaper will need multiple coats of emulsion. Typically, you will need around three coats of emulsion. Make sure that you leave ample amounts of time between each coat. This will allow the paint to dry properly and it prevents the paint from peeling.


Painting over Wallpaper If It Is Embossed or Textured

Many people love textured wallpaper because it can provide an interesting focal point for an otherwise bland room. However, faded or damaged textured wallpaper looks terrible. So, if you are in this situation, you might want to paint over your old textured wallpaper.

But can it be done? There is a lot of debate as to whether it is a sensible idea to try and paint over textured wallpaper if you want to disguise the pattern underneath. First of all, you need to determine how deeply textured your wallpaper is. If the pattern is too deep, painting over the wallpaper will be impossible. A light or medium depth textured wallpaper can be painted over if you follow our instructions.

Painting over wallpaper that is embossed or textured can make it tricky to remove later on. However, if you are prepared to take the risk, there are several products that you will need to buy. Firstly, you will need to purchase a roll of heavy grade lining paper. 1700 grade lining paper would be ideal for covering textured wallpaper.

Lining paper covers any imperfections on the wall underneath, so it can be used to hide a patterned wallpaper. You hang lining paper in the same way as you hang normal wallpaper, but always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

Once the wall has been lined, you can add your choice of paint. Apply the paint using a roller and use a paintbrush to make sure that you cover tight corners and edges. Go slowly and evenly across the surface to prevent any tears from forming. Remember, this technique is only suitable for lightly textured wallpaper.

If you try to apply lining paper over heavily textured wallpaper, it is likely that your old pattern will still show through. This technique requires a lot of patience because you need to make sure that the lining paper is securely attached to the old wallpaper. You also need to make sure that the base is totally dried before you start painting.

Changing the Colour of Textured Wallpaper

Sometimes, you might love the pattern of your textured wallpaper but hate the colour. If you are in this situation, the good news is that painting over wallpaper is fairly easy if you don't want to disguise the texture, but you do want to update the colour.

As always, tape around the wall to protect your skirting boards and parallel walls. You will need to use an oil-based primer before you begin to paint over your wallpaper. Oil-based primers dry more slowly than water-based primers. So, you need to make sure that you wait before you continue painting. Wait at least 24 hours for optimum results.

Once you have applied an oil-based primer, you can use water-based paint on top with no issues. Water or solvent-based paints tend to a better option for D.I.Y. projects, as they are easier to use. Contract matte paint is a good choice if you are painting over textured wallpaper. Contract matte paint also works well if you are painting over lining paper that you have used to cover up textured wallpaper. A couple of coats of paint will provide you with even coverage.

Sometimes if you are painting over wallpaper that is embossed or textured, excess paint can accumulate in the grooves. This is particularly due if the pattern you are painting over is detailed and intricate. If this happens to you, you need to wipe away the paint using a clean, dry sponge or a paintbrush before it completely dries.

All set to get your home improvement project underway? To effectively plan your budget, easily compare painting and decorating prices with this comprehensive guide or if you've decided to simply switch to a new wallpaper then you can learn more about wallpaper installation costs here.

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