How to

How to strip old wallpaper

If you’ve picked up a design magazine or a copy of habitat by Resene lately, you’ll know that wallpaper is making a major comeback. This is undoubtedly thanks to the wide variety of stunning and versatile Resene patterns available, but also due to the modern paste-the-wall styles, which are easier to hang than ever before. Before you start, you’ll need to check your walls and remove any old paper from the surface. Read on to find out how to strip wallpaper.

Choose your new design

The fun part of any project is heading into your local Resene ColorShop, where you can flip through their wallpaper collections. The friendly staff are always available to sit down and help you decide on options that will suit the atmosphere and colours already in your home. They’ll also provide you with samples to take home so you can get a true indication of how the print and colourway will look in your space. Wallpaper samples are best viewed in person to appreciate the colour, texture and the way the design catches the light.  

Assess your walls

Once you’ve selected a Resene wallpaper, it’s time to get started. How you go about prepping the room largely depends on the state your walls are in and what they have been covered with previously. 

If the wall is already wallpapered, it’s best to remove the existing wallpaper so you don’t end up with layers upon layers.

If you’re choosing to wallpaper over a wall that has previously been painted, first give it a clean with Resene Interior Paintwork Cleaner. If there’s any mould, you’ll need to treat it with Resene Moss & Mould Killer. If there are dents, dings or imperfections in the wall, fill them with Resene EzyFill Quick and let it dry before sanding it smooth. Wipe off sanding dust. Then apply a coat of Resene Waterborne Sureseal pigmented sealer. You’re now ready to wallpaper.

Metalyn Wallpaper Remover helps to break down the old glues so the existing wallpaper lifts off more easily.
The trick is to absolutely saturate the old wallpaper, which makes it easier to remove.

Wallpaper be gone

If you have wallpaper you need to remove, it’s best to strip it off before hanging your new wallpaper. Hopefully whoever hung your original paper followed the manufacturer’s recommendation and sealed the plasterboard wall with Resene Waterborne Sureseal before they hung it. This enables walls to be stripped more easily at a later date.

For newer wallpapers where the wall was prepared properly, you can often peel the wallpaper off easily. Work your way around the room making sure you have removed all the old wallpaper.    

For older wallpapers, it’s likely you’ll need a little more prep. Make sure you protect your floor and any adjacent areas with a drop cloth before you start. Firstly, score the wall with a product like the Paper Tiger Scoring Tool – the cuts it makes allows the wallpaper remover mixture you’ll be using to more easily penetrate the paper and layers below. 

Use a product such as Metalyn Wallpaper Remover. Mix it with warm water and apply it to your wallpapered wall with a brush, roller, or even a garden sprayer to make life easier. The key is to ensure the wallpaper is thoroughly soaked with the stripper. Wet the area you are stripping about 5-6m² at a time, and work from the bottom to the top. 

As you’re working with lots of liquid here, always remember to lay old towels against the skirting board to prevent moisture build-up on the floor. If you’re using Resene Moss & Mould Killer at any point, be very mindful of protecting your space as any spills, splashes or drips can bleach the towels and flooring.

Scrape away

Use a flat scraper to remove the damp paper – a highly satisfactory process! Switch between a 75mm broad knife scraper and a 25mm scraper for corners and other tricky areas. Any areas where plaster has been used to fix holes on old wallpaper are difficult to remove.

Once the wallpaper is removed, the surface will be less than perfect and holes and gouges caused by the scrapers will need to be filled, sanded then sealed with Resene Waterborne Sureseal. 

Once that’s all done, you’re ready to hang your brand new wallpaper and transform your space.

Use a flat, bladed scraper to lift the wallpaper away in strips.
Work your way along the wall until all the existing paper and glue has been lifted.

Top tips:

  • If the task at hand seems too major, steam strippers are available for hire. If you have large areas to strip you should consider this option.
  • Most wallpapers are only available for purchase for two to three years, sometimes less. If you are planning to use the same wallpaper in multiple places or on a big project, always make sure you have enough when you start the project. It often pays to buy an extra roll or two in case you need more later.

For more advice about hanging wallpaper, check out these articles:
How to prep a room for wallpaper
How to use wallpaper to enhance your interior spaces
Get the hang of wallpaper: Common questions answered
Tips and tricks for hanging wallpaper
Hanging wallpaper with Michelle Flynn

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