Can Wallpaper Be Painted Over? The RIGHT Time and Procedure

Have you ever looked at your wallpaper and wished you could change its look without the hassle of stripping it all down first? Then, you probably wondered “can wallpaper be painted over?”

Today, we’re discussing the possibility of painting over old wallpaper, when it’s a good idea to do it, and the proper procedure for achieving the best possible results.


Can You Paint Over Wallpaper?

So, can wallpaper be painted over?

Technically speaking, you can paint over already existing wallpaper. It’s the matter of “should you?” that’s debatable.

Painting professionals are likely to advise you to take down the wallpaper and get rid of any remaining adhesive before applying paint. While this approach will probably result in the best appearance, it’s not always possible without damaging the walls.

In such cases, or when you’re looking to save time and effort, it’s totally acceptable to paint over your wallpaper.

Is It a Good Idea to Paint Over Wallpaper?

Painting over already existing wallpaper can be a good idea depending on the situation. Here are some instances where painting over wallpaper is a better option than stripping it down first:

  • If the wallpaper is too old, it can be too difficult to remove. In this case, trying to force the wallpaper off of the walls can end up ruining them with holes or grooves.
  • If the area you’re painting isn’t large enough to justify the time and effort that’ll be spent on taking down the wallpaper.
  • You want to create a textured finish with the paint. Wrinkles, seams, and other irregularities in the wallpaper can easily produce such an effect.
  • If the visible wallpaper is hiding an even older wallpaper behind it.

Whatever the reason for painting over the wallpaper, you’ll achieve the best results if the wallpaper is white or generally light-colored.

This brings about the question: when is painting over wallpaper isn’t a good idea? Well, here are some situations where we recommend stripping off the wallpaper first:

  • If you don’t want the texture and pattern of the wallpaper to show in the paint job.
  • If you’re planning to stay in that house for a long time or if it’s your permanent residence.
  • If you’re looking to resolve any issues in the walls before painting. This includes filling old holes and reapplying plaster or drywall.
  • If the color of the wallpaper is too dark as it can affect the tone of the paint color.

How to Paint Over Wallpaper

If you’re set on painting over your wallpaper, the following steps will help you get the job done with the best possible results:

1. Gather Your Equipment

First things first, you need to make sure you got all the necessary tools and materials ready for the project. Here’s a list to help you remember everything:

  • Face mask
  • Long-sleeve shirt
  • Rubber gloves
  • A hat
  • Eye goggles
  • Microfiber rags
  • Warm water buckets
  • TSP (trisodium phosphate)
  • Painter’s tape
  • Putty knife
  • 150 to 180-grit sandpaper
  • Wallpaper seam spackle and adhesive
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paint roller
  • Mineral spirits
  • Oil-based primer
  • Your choice of topcoat paint

2. Fix-up Wallpaper Issues

Start by fixing any issues with the wallpaper. For example, loose edges or seams that are popping off the wall.

You can use some adhesive to restore these sections to their sticky glory. Alternatively, you can remove them with your putty knife then make a surface with spackle and smooth it with sandpaper.

As we mentioned earlier, the wallpaper is bound to show texture through the paint. But if you want to minimize this effect, sand down the entire wallpaper until it’s smooth enough.

3. Clean the Wallpaper

Once your wallpaper is all fixed up, clean it thoroughly to ensure that the primer will fully stick to the wallpaper.

Get rid of dust by passing a vacuum cleaner over the wallpaper. Then, grab a slightly damp rag and wipe away any remaining dust.

A diluted TSP solution can help you remove grease stains if you come across them. For example, on kitchen wallpaper.

Whatever you do, don’t wet the wallpaper too much. Otherwise, you’ll be risking loosening the wallpaper’s adhesive.

4. Protect Any Detailing

Once the wallpaper is clean and you’ve allowed it enough time to dry, it’s time to protect any detailing that you want to keep from getting colored by the paint.

Use some painter’s tape for this purpose and apply it over the trim, molding, baseboard, or anything else that needs protection.

5. Prime the Wallpaper

An oil-based primer is a must for painting over wallpaper.

If you use a water-based primer, the water may loosen the adhesive by soaking through the wallpaper. On the other hand, oil won’t travel through the wallpaper.

Don’t skip this step as primer helps reduce peeling chances and promotes better sticking of the paint.

Make sure to allow the primer enough time to dry. The required period should be mentioned on the product.

6. Apply the Paint

Finally, it’s time to paint!

Start by applying the first coat of paint using the roller or brushes. Once again, oil-based paint is the best choice for the wallpaper surface to prevent peeling in the long run.

After the first coat completely dries, apply a second layer of the paint to produce a deeper color and cover up the wallpaper’s color. Consider another round of sanding before the second coat to improve the final look of the paint.

To finish up, apply the topcoat.

Wrap Up

So, can wallpaper be painted over? The answer is yes, although painting professionals will probably recommend that you take down the wallpaper and get rid of any remaining adhesive before applying paint.

While this is likely to produce an attractive appearance, it may not always be a good idea. The wallpaper may damage the walls if it’s too old/stubborn, or it may uncover even older wallpaper.

Not to mention, the wall may be too small to go through the hassle or you may even want the texture and pattern of the wallpaper to show in the paint.

We have discussed if you can wallpaper over textured walls here.

Wallpaper generally has a layer of plastic and can last several decades. In some instances it is possible to paint over it to give it a new look. This can be faster and easier than having to remove wallpaper as it can be quite hard to do this if it breaks apart when you remove it. There are special tools to remove wallpaper but it can be easier to just paint it.