How to Paint Over Wallpaper

Painting on Top of Wallpaper

T-Immagini  / Getty Images

Overview
  • Working Time: 60 mins
  • Total Time: 4 hrs
  • Yield: 80 square feet
  • Skill Level: Intermediate
  • Estimated Cost: $50 to $100

When wallpaper gets old, worn, and tired—or just when you're tired of your wallpaper—the logical next move is to convert it to a painted wall. In an ideal world, you would effortlessly strip off the wallpaper, exposing bare drywall, and then paint that drywall. Yet wallpaper is finicky stuff to remove. Some patches may come off with ease, with other areas simply refusing to budge. Even if you do manage to remove all of it, you end up with a wall in poor condition for painting.

The alternative is to paint over the wallpaper. Painting over wallpaper isn't as simple as rolling paint over the paper and letting it dry. It's a process that requires some prep work for successful results. But in the end, painting over the wallpaper is often easier and cleaner than trying to remove the wallpaper.

When to Paint Over Wallpaper

Paint over wallpaper that is generally in good condition. If the wallpaper is peeling away in large sections, you should instead remove it. Wallpaper that is excessively dirty will not take the paint. If the wallpaper has large mold spots, the mold will show through the paint.

The paint will not stick well to plastic-coated removable wallpaper. Not only that, if you do intend to remove the wallpaper at some point, the paint will make it difficult, if not impossible, to remove the wallpaper without marring the walls.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Drywall knife
  • Drywall sanding screen
  • Drywall sander and pole
  • Utility knife
  • Paint roller and roller cover
  • Paint tray and liner
  • Respirator
  • Screwdriver
  • Cordless drill and drivers

Materials

  • Fiberglass joint tape
  • Drywall compound
  • Oil-based primer
  • Interior wall paint
  • Painter's tape

Instructions

  1. Remove Items and Tape the Walls

    With the cordless drill or screwdriver, remove items from the wall that will not be painted. This might include switch or outlet faceplates, pictures and picture hangers, shelves, or sconce lights. Set these items safely aside.

    With the painter's tape, tape off all areas that will not be painted such as baseboards, trim, door and window casings, and large shelves.

  2. Cut Off Loose Pieces of Wallpaper

    With the utility knife, cut away any loose, peeling sections of wallpaper. Be careful to only cut through the wallpaper, not into the drywall. Walk around the entire room with a flashlight held at a low angle to better identify the loose areas. You will often find loose wallpaper near doors, windows, light switches, or above baseboards or any type of trim.

  3. Cut in the Wallpaper With Primer

    Dip the brush in the primer. Cut in the edges of the wall with the primer. Be sure to brush all areas that the roller cannot reach, usually about a 3-inch band of paint. Wear a respirator for this task.

  4. Roll the Wallpaper With Primer

    Place a paint liner in the paint tray. Mix the primer well, then fill the reservoir end of the paint tray with primer. Wet the roller cover and roll it out well on the tray. Roll the wall with one layer of the primer.

  5. Tape the Wallpaper Seams

    Once the primer has fully cured, run the joint tape down the entire length of all wallpaper seams. Cut off the ends of the joint tape at the ceiling and at the baseboards. Press it into place with the drywall knife.

    Good to Know

    The reason you cover the wallpaper seams is to keep them flat. If paint seeps through the wallpaper seams, the seams begin to curl and peel up.

  6. Apply the Joint Compound

    With the drywall knife, run a thin layer of joint compound over the joint tape. Do not over-apply, as this only leads to more sanding later on. For any areas of wallpaper that you earlier cut away, fill in the missing section with a thin swipe of drywall compound.

    Tip

    Purchase light joint compound, as this will make the sanding process easier. To reduce dust, you may want to purchase dust-control joint compound.

  7. Sand the Joints

    Fit the drywall screen onto the drywall sander. Gently run the sander up and down the wallpaper seams. Be sure to move vertically, not horizontally. Do not press hard or you risk abrading the wallpaper.

  8. Prime the Walls

    Apply a second coat of primer. Not only does this further strengthen the first coat but it helps to seal the porous joint compound.

  9. Paint the Walls

    Once the wall primer has fully dried, you can now paint the walls with interior wall paint, using the brush and roller. Let the paint dry for at least two hours, then apply a second coat.