How Do You Paint Over Wallpaper

How Do You Paint Over Wallpaper

How Do You Paint Over Wallpaper

Understanding the Basics of Painting Over Wallpaper

While conventional wisdom often advises against painting over wallpaper, in some instances it's genuinely the best course of action. Before diving right into the task of painting over wallpaper, however, it is crucial to understand the basics — requirements and potential issues — to ensure an aesthetic and long-lasting finish.

When To Paint Over Wallpaper

To start with, it's worth noting that painting over wallpaper should be considered a last resort, particularly when removing the wallpaper would risk damaging the wall or is otherwise quite challenging.

The Importance of Wallpaper Condition

The condition of the wallpaper is fundamental to the eventual finish after painting. If your wallpaper is peeling, chipped, or otherwise damaged, the imperfections can be noticeable after painting. Therefore, make sure that your wallpaper is in optimum condition before deciding to paint over it.

The Type of Wallpaper Matters

Not all wallpaper types are suitable for painting over. Textured or patterned wallpapers can result in a uneven painted finish. On the other hand, flat, smooth wallpapers tend to retain paint better and offer a more seamless finish.

Preparation is Key

No paint job is successful without thorough preparation. This is particularly true when painting over wallpaper. The wallpaper should be firmly glued to the wall, no loose edges should exist, and any imperfections should be corrected prior to painting.

Priming the Wallpaper

After ensuring the wallpaper is in good condition and well-prepared, priming comes next. A high-quality primer that's compatible with both the wallpaper and your chosen paint should be used. This will prevent any wallpaper patterns or colours bleeding through the paint over time.

Choosing the Right Paint

The choice of paint is equally important. It's recommended to use oil-based or latex paints when painting over wallpaper. These types of paint adhere well to the wallpaper and offer excellent durability.

Show Patience

Finally, remember that painting over wallpaper isn't a quick process. It requires patience and attention to detail to achieve a flawless finish.

Assessing the Condition of Your Wallpaper

The first step towards successful painting over wallpaper is to assess the condition of your wallpaper. This is an important phase as it aids you to understand the amount of prep work needed, the materials to gather, and the time it will take.

Checking for Looseness and Bubbles

The first thing you need to check is whether the wallpaper is loose or bubbling. To do this, use your fingers to gently run across the surface of the wallpaper, feeling for any areas where the wallpaper may be either loose or bulging out. Loose or bubbling wallpaper can cause problems when painted over, as the paint layer can amplify these imperfections, making them stand out.

Finding Damages

Next, check the wallpaper for any signs of damage such as tears, holes, or water damage. These types of damages can affect the final look of your painted wall. Therefore, you will need to repair any such damage before you can proceed with painting over the wallpaper.

Determining Wallpaper Type

It is important to determine the type of wallpaper you have. Different types of wallpapers have different characteristics that can affect the overall painting process. For example, vinyl wallpaper is non-porous and will require a specific type of primer to allow the paint layer to adhere properly.

Evaluating Wallpaper Color/Pattern

Assess the color and pattern of your current wallpaper as well. If it is of a dark color or has a very prominent design, you might need to apply multiple coats of primer or paint to conceal it fully.

Examining the Number of Layers

Lastly, look into how many layers of wallpaper are on the wall. If there are multiple layers, this could complicate the painting process and might require more preparation work.

Seeking Professional Help

For those who aren't as experienced or are unsure, don't hesitate to seek help from a professional. They can help assess the condition of your wallpaper and provide you with the best course of action for a beautiful and lasting result.

By conducting a thorough assessment, you can ensure that the paint job will be successful. Remember, painting over wallpaper is not a shortcut, but an alternative solution that requires proper planning and technique.

Selecting the Right Tools and Materials for the Job

To ensure a smooth, professional finish when painting over wallpaper, choosing the right tools and materials is vital. The job will require several items including primer, paint, brushes, rollers, a roller tray, sandpaper and possibly a seam repair kit.

Type of Primer

Selecting the right primer is an essential first step. Choose an oil-based or shellac primer to ensure an even paint absorption over the wallpaper and to help seal any adhesive that could react adversely with the paint. This will create a smooth, sealed surface ready for painting.

Brand Recommendation

Zinsser's B-I-N Shellac-based Primer is a high-quality choice for most kinds of wallpaper. Apply it using a brush or roller, and allow it to dry thoroughly.

Paint Options

Paint selection is very much down to personal preference. Both oil and latex-based paints can work well over a primered wallpaper surface. You could also consider a paint and primer in one product as your second layer for added ease

Color Choices

Select a shade that matches the rest of the room’s décor. If painting over wallpaper with a pronounced pattern, it's best to select a color that is a similar tone to that of the primer to avoid potential show-through over time.

Brushes and Rollers

For space around windows, doors and corners, a high-quality brush (2-3 inches wide) is the best choice. For larger surfaces, a roller will provide a smoother, more even finish. The type of roller cover (nap) can depend on the texture of your wallpaper, with a 3/8-inch nap generally working well on most wallpapers.

Sandpaper and Seam Repair

Sandpaper (between 120-150 grit) can be used to sand down any visible seams or rough spots. A seam repair kit may be necessary if the wallpaper has peeling or lifting areas, providing a smooth, continuous surface ready for primer and paint.

By selecting the appropriate tools and materials, you can transform dated wallpaper into a fresh, modern backdrop for any room.

Preparing Your Wallpapered Surface for Painting

To achieve an impressive painting over wallpaper, it's integral to adequately prepare your wallpapered surface. This process involves few step-by-step procedures to ensure your painted wall turns out smooth and impeccable. Let's break it down.

Inspect the Wallpaper's Condition

The first thing you need to do is closely inspect the state of the wallpaper. Look out for peeling ends, bubbles, or unsightly wrinkles, as these could impact the final appearance of your paint job. If the wallpaper is in a good state without obvious defects, you can proceed to the next steps. However, if it's badly damaged, it may be best to remove it entirely before painting.

Clean the Wallpaper

A clean wallpaper will hold paint better than a dirty one. Begin the cleaning process by dusting off the wallpaper with a dry cloth or vacuum cleaner. Then, fill a bucket with warm soapy water and clean the wallpaper gently using a sponge. Avoid soaking the wallpaper as it could cause peeling. Once you're done cleaning, give it enough time to dry thoroughly.

Repair Any Wallpaper Damages

If the wallpaper has peeling edges or holes, repair them before you start painting to ensure a smooth finish. Use a utility knife to carefully trim any loose wallpaper and use wallpaper glue to reattach peeling edges. For large holes or tears, you may need to patch in a piece of replacement wallpaper.

Sanding the Wallpaper

Sanding is a crucial step in preparing the wallpaper for painting, especially if the wallpaper has a textured surface or glossy finish. Use sandpaper to gently roughen the surface of the wallpaper. This will make the paint adhere better. Remember to clean off any dust leftover from sanding before you start painting.

Applying a Wallpaper Primer

Applying a wallpaper primer gives a uniform base for your paint and ensures that paint adheres properly to the wallpaper. This especially crucial if you are painting a light color over dark wallpaper. Once the primer is dry, your wall is ready for paint!

Masking Off Your Work Area

Before you start painting, mask off doorframes, window frames, and baseboards with painter’s tape. This will keep paint from splattering on these areas and result in a crisp, clean edge when you're done painting.

Remember Safety Precautions

Lastly, keep the room well-ventilated during and after painting. This can be done by opening windows and doors or using fans to circulate the air. Make sure to also wear protective gear such as gloves and a face mask when handling and applying paint.

Applying a Primer: Step-By-Step Guide

Applying a primer to your wallpaper prior to painting is a critical step that helps to cover any patterns and colors, provide a surface that the paint can effectively adhere to and minimize the possibility of peeling or bubbling. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to paint over wallpaper by applying a primer:

Step 1: Prepare Your Area

Before you begin, make sure you move all furniture away from the walls and cover the floors with drop cloths to avoid any unwanted paint spills. Use painter's tape to cover any baseboards, window frames, door frames, and any other areas that you want to protect from the primer and paint.

Step 2: Choose Your Primer

Pick a primer that is specifically formulated for wallpaper. These primers are often oil-based or shelac-based which allows them to provide a better seal over the wallpaper and prevent the adhesive from mixing with water-based paints.

Step 3: Apply the Primer

Dip the paint roller into the primer, making sure it's well coated but not dripping excessively. Apply to the wallpaper in a consistent manner, using overlapping strokes to ensure even coverage. Start from a top corner of the wall and work your way down, then along the wall. For edges and hard to reach areas, use a brush.


Apply a thin, even layer to avoid any runs or drips that can create an uneven painting surface. It's better to apply two thin coats of primer rather than one thick one.

Step 4: Let the Primer Dry

Once you've applied the primer to the wallpaper, allow it to dry for the amount of time suggested by the manufacturer, usually at least a few hours. Do not rush this process, as the primer needs to fully dry so that the paint can adhere properly.

Step 5: Inspect the Primer Application

After the primer is dry, examine the walls carefully for any areas that may need additional primer or touch-ups. Address any uneven applications or visible wallpaper patterns or colors that are still showing through. Once you are satisfied with the primer application, you can begin the painting process.

By learning these steps on how to apply a primer to wallpaper, you're halfway to creating a beautifully painted room. Next, we'll discuss how to apply the topcoat of paint over the primer for a polished and professional look.

Choosing the Right Paint for Wallpaper

When it comes to painting over wallpaper, one of the most essential steps is selecting the right type of paint. There are a wide range of paint varieties, each offering different finishes, coverage levels, and drying times. Here’s how to make the best selection for your wallpaper painting project.

Consider the Type of Wallpaper

The type of wallpaper you're working with plays a crucial role in determining the kind of paint you should use. Vinyl-based wallpapers, for example, are water-resistant and therefore require a paint that can adhere well. On the other hand, paper-based wallpapers absorb moisture easily, meaning a paint that dries quickly with minimal moisture would be an ideal choice. Understanding the nature of your wallpaper is your first step towards choosing the right paint.

Evaluate the Desired Finish

The finish you’re aiming to achieve also significantly impacts your paint selection. A flat or matte finish, for instance, can help hide imperfections in the wallpaper, while a high-gloss finish may highlight any flaws. Consider the current condition of the wallpaper and the look you want to accomplish before deciding on the right finish for your paint.

Pick the Suitable Paint Formulation

Paint comes in several formulations - oil-based or water-based (also known as latex). Oil-based paints offer a hard, durable finish and are excellent for rooms that require cleaning frequently or experience a lot of traffic, such as kitchens or bathrooms. However, they take longer to dry and emit stronger fumes. On the other hand, water-based paints dry quickly, have less odour, and are easier to clean up, making them suitable for living rooms and bedrooms.

Choose the Appropriate Color

The color of your paint is another crucial consideration. It depends on your style preference, the room's size, lighting, and the overall atmosphere you aim to create. Light colors can make a small room seem larger and brighter, while dark colors can bring warmth and coziness to larger spaces. Always test a small swatch of the paint on your wallpaper before making a final decision to ensure it satisfies your style and complements the space effectively.

Ensure Adequate Supplies

Last but not least, ensure you have an adequate amount of paint. Calculate the area to be covered, and check the manufacturer's recommendation for coverage per gallon. It's always better to have slightly more paint than estimated to avoid running out in the middle of the project, or in case of touch-ups in future.

By thoroughly considering all these factors, you can ensure that you choose the perfect paint for your wallpaper transformation project.

Painting Over Wallpaper: Techniques and Tips

Painting over wallpaper is an art and while not recommended for every circumstance, with the right technique and approach, it can breathe new life into a room. Here are some techniques and tips to approach the task effectively.

Preparation is Key

Prepare the surface properly before starting to paint. This includes eliminating any surface lumps or old wallpaper bubbles with a sandpaper and securing loose ends with adhesive. A primer is essential and should precede any painting. It helps to optimise the grip of the paint on the wallpaper, preventing future issues of peeling or chipping.

Choosing the Right Paint

When painting over wallpaper, choosing the right paint is crucial. A flat or matte finish paint is ideal to hide any imperfections that could still remain post the preparation step. Avoid glossy paints as these can highlight those tiny irregularities more than flat paints.

Brush or Roller

The debate of whether to use a paintbrush or roller can be put to rest, as both tools have their unique strengths. While brushes excel at painting smaller areas near trim or inside corners, rollers are great for covering larger wall expanses quickly.

Multiple Coats and Correct Drying

Apply multiple coats of paint if necessary and allow the surface to dry adequately before applying the next coat. This helps in achieving a more polished finish and prevents unwanted clumping.

Use a Wallpaper Liner

For heavily textured or patterned wallpaper, using a wallpaper liner beforehand can be a good choice. This will provide a smooth surface and can make the process of painting over the wallpaper considerably easier.

Mind the Seams

Take extra precaution to ensure the seams of the wallpaper are well covered and flat. If the wallpaper has started to peel along the seams, use a good quality adhesive to fix it before the painting process.

Consider Hiring Professionals

While many aspects of painting over wallpaper can be done DIY, if the job is overly complex or the wallpaper is severely damaged, it may be beneficial to hire a professional painter instead.

Cleaning and Maintenance After Painting Over Wallpaper

Once you have successfully painted over your wallpaper, it's essential to follow certain cleaning and maintenance guidelines to keep your newly-painted walls looking fresh and vibrant for as long as possible.

Immediate Clean-up After Painting

Use a damp cloth or sponge to wipe off any paint splatters or drips on the floor, windows, and other nearby surfaces. Clean your paintbrushes, roller, and other tools thoroughly to keep them in good condition for future painting projects. Dispose of paint cans or containers responsibly, according to local regulations.

Regular Cleaning to Maintain the Painted Surface

Routine cleaning can maintain the aesthetics and improve the longevity of the painted surface. Light dusting, vacuuming, or wiping with a slightly damp cloth can remove dust, dirt, and fingerprints from your walls. It's important not to use abrasive cleaners or scrubbers, which could scratch or damage the painted surface.

Dealing with Stains and Marks

If your painted wallpaper gets a stain or mark, carefully remove it with an appropriate cleaning solution. For water-based stains, use a mixture of warm water and a mild detergent. For oil-based stains, using a specific grease-cutting cleaner may be necessary. Always test any cleaning solution on an inconspicuous area before applying it to the stain to avoid discoloration or other damages.

Maintenance Tips for Longevity of the Painted Surface

Regularly inspect your painted walls for any signs of peelings, bubbles, or cracks. If you see any of these issues, consider retouching the paint or consult with a professional painter for advice.

Keep your painted surfaces away from direct sunlight, as it can cause the paint to fade over time. Using shades, blinds, or curtains can significantly reduce sun exposure to your walls.

Maintain a consistent indoor temperature and humidity, especially during the colder months. Fluctuations in these conditions can cause the paint to crack or peel.

Proper cleaning and maintenance can greatly extend the life of your painted wallpaper, keeping your walls looking beautiful for years to come. Consider these tips as part of your routine household chores to take full advantage of your painting efforts.