Instructions for painting on wallpaper – Forbes Advisor

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  • Work time: Between 6 and 10 hours per room
  • Total time: A weekend
  • Competence level: Beginner
  • Project cost: $ 100 to $ 300

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Wallpaper is falling more and more in fashion, and it turns out that at the moment its popularity is increasing. That doesn’t mean you have to like it, though, or that you should just live with the tacky orange and yellow floral print that the original owners of your home hung on the walls decades ago.

Of course, you could go through the ordeal of removing it, but this project is time consuming (and not necessarily easy for wallpaper newbies). Fortunately, you have another option: paint directly on it.

Can you paint over wallpaper?

Believe it or not, painting over wallpaper isn’t just possible, it’s almost always best to remove it, says Michael Nungesser, owner and general manager of several Five Star Painting franchises in Georgia.

“Depending on the condition of the wallpaper, it may be faster and more cost effective to paint on it,” says Nungesser, adding that this is also a fairly DIY friendly project.

“If it is in good condition and simply obsolete, [painting over] it’s perfectly acceptable, ”he says.

What if you knew the builder’s team hung the wallpaper when the house was brand new? Definitely paint over it, says Nungesser, because there’s a good chance the builder didn’t prime the walls before hanging the wallpaper (a practice far too common in new construction).

“If you are going to remove the wallpaper [from a wall without primer], you will cause serious damage to drywall, ”he says.

Before you start

With this in mind, before you commit to painting over your wallpaper, it is important to assess the quality of the wallpaper. Does it flake, lift, or otherwise fail? In that case, you’ll want to remove it, Nungesser says, because painting over failing wallpaper will likely leave you with disappointing results. Which means it just won’t look very good.

Advantages and disadvantages of painting on wallpaper


  • It saves a lot of time.
  • This is generally a DIY friendly project.

The inconvenients

  • If you do not properly prepare the wall, the wallpaper underneath can peel off and lift.
  • The seams of the wallpaper (and even the textures of the wallpaper itself) can show through the paint.
  • Depending on the quality of the original wallpaper job, it may look shoddy.

Security considerations

Interior painting is a very safe DIY job (especially when compared to things like electrical or roofing work). However, it’s always a good idea to have a safety mindset, even if the risk of injury is minimal.

To help keep you safe when painting over wallpaper (or painting over anything, really):

  • Wear hearing protection to avoid getting paint and other chemicals in your eyes.
  • Use a breathing mask to protect your lungs from paint fumes.
  • If you must use a ladder to reach high areas, make sure it is sturdy and do not use the rungs incorrectly.

Tools and supplies

The tools and supplies you’ll need for painting over your wallpaper are really no different from the tools and materials you’ll need for painting over paint (or drywall).

Your shopping list should include:

  • Gloves and eye protection
  • Respiratory mask
  • A degreaser, such as Krud Kutter or Grease Lightning (do not use TSP)
  • Bucket
  • soft cloths
  • Protective covers to protect your floor
  • Painter’s tape
  • Rollers and brushes
  • An oil-based primer
  • To paint
  • If you need to make minor repairs, you may also need sandpaper, a putty knife, and patching compound.


If you are already a seasoned DIYer, these instructions will sound very familiar to you.

1. Clean and prepare the wall (s).

Even though the walls look clean, they’re probably at least a little dusty and grimy. To get things clean enough for primer and paint, just wipe them down with lukewarm water and a soft cloth. Or, if you prefer, use a spray degreaser

To note: Do not use TSP to clean your wallpaper (TSP is for “normal” walls).

2. Inspect the edges

Hopefully your wallpaper is in good enough condition that this step is fairly straightforward, but in any case you should inspect the edges to make sure there is no peeling or other damage or signs of wear. If you find any, you can use your spackle and putty knife to fill them in and smooth them out, much like you do when preparing drywall for painting. You can also sand any textured sections.

3. Paste everything

Then tape and cover whatever is around you that you want to protect from paint splatters (moldings, trim, etc.).

4. Apply your oil-based primer.

Emphasize the oil, as it essentially seals the wallpaper to the wall. The water-based primer does the opposite (use it and your wallpaper will likely start to peel off).

5. Painting

Once your primer is dry enough, you can finally paint. This is the part that can take a while as you will have to paint, wait and repaint (you will probably need two coats, with time to dry in between). After the second coat dries, your wall will look like new.

When to call a pro

Despite the fact that painting over wallpaper is a very accessible project, sometimes hiring a pro to help you out is a good idea. For example, if the wallpaper fails (like it’s peeling, bubbling, or lifting), a professional can get the prep work done faster (without a steep learning curve).

You might also be better off bringing a professional in if your wallpaper has a lot of stitching or you know the visible stitching will bother you. A pro will know how to take care of it.

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