Last updated on May 6th, 2018
Ever wondered if you can paint over wallpaper? According to John B., our contractor/handyman (pictured above, in action), wallpaper needs only to be removed if it is sagging, torn, or “bubbling.” A coat of paint will only exaggerate these blemishes. On the other hand, if the paper is smooth and firmly glued to the wall, you can paint right over it. Since the paper in our kitchen was in near-perfect shape, John took the paint-over route. Check out John’s paper-preparation method, and see some photos of his priming job:
First, John glued any loose seams in the paper. Then he degreased the paper with “Formula 409.” Finally, and very importantly, too, he applied an oil-based primer to seal the adhesive within the paper, and away from the moisture in the finish paint. Without this moisture barrier, the paper could potentially bubble and peel after latex paint is applied.
Some before-and-after shots:
North wall before priming…
And after priming. John painted the radiator the easy way. He used a can of spray paint. Later, he used a very slender roller to paint behind the radiator.
Before: East wall, with an upper bank of 19th century cabinets (these will stay)…
Before: South and west walls (we are replacing these cabinets and moving the refrigerator)…
An old leak had damaged a small section of the south-east ceiling, so John had to remove sheet rock down to the lath.
That problem is mostly fixed now. The ceiling, of course, will be painted as well.
And why are we going through the trouble of painting the kitchen? Because new cabinets. And cooktop. And wall ovens. All these have been ordered, and are scheduled to be installed the first or second week in May. I figured we should get all of the repair work and painting accomplished before installation of the new stuff.
Anyway, if you papered walls and wish to paint them, you might be able to do so without first removing the paper — an odious job for sure. If the paper is mostly in good shape, no removal is necessary.
And that is the Gospel, at least According To John.
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cynthia corriveau says
wow lets hope you don’t have your seams showing through. It is also miserable down the road to remove the wallpaper if you have to. I know I also live in a 125 year young victorian granite house
Very exciting Kevin! Since the kitchen is one of the rooms you spend a lot of time in you deserve to have what you want and have been dreaming of! It looks bigger and brighter already. Hang in there. 🙂
Hope this painting process works out well and the renovated kitchen is all you want it to be!!
Hope this turns out well for you. I have to echo Cynthia tho’. Speaking from experience, the seams will show through eventually and then it’s ten times worse trying to get painted-over wall paper off the wall.
Good luck and I hope it works out well. Here, the seam lines were visible after some years. 🙁 Maybe they were not prepped quite right?
(The word you are looking for is “lath” not “lathe”…. )
My house was built in 1911 and had many a renter. Some of the rooms had the most dreadful wallpaper. I chose to completely remove it in some areas, others not. Now I kick myself daily for not taking the time (probably a year) to remove ALL the wallpaper. I hope yours turns out better than mine.
I love all your posts, on every subject! I’m so glad you do this for us! (I was just re-reading your post on placing newspaper to keep weeds out of my garden!)
“The gospel according to John”, Haha! I adore you! So, at the first picture, I thought, no, don’t cover that wallpaper. I love it! But once it’s covered, that dark trim around the windows really stands out! I look forward to seeing the rest of the play-by-play. Also, your ceilings are wonderfully high! Beautiful home!
Patricia Lapp says
To the horror of many, I have joyfully painted over wall paper to great success. The wall paper makes a liner on the old plaster walls. My painter skim coats the paper to hide any seams or paper issues and so far I am happy as a clam. The room where I did the ‘right thing’ and removed the paper first had cracks appear (once again those old plaster walls).
I have even painted over wall paper, had the paper removed when I decided to repaper, and am now planning a paint job over paper again.
Beverly, zone 6, eastern PA says
This is going to be marvelous! Always admire a hard worker, and your painter is definitely on-task. Can’t wait to see the finished kitchen. You must be E X C I T E D.
I am facing the nightmare of having to remove painted over paper with the seems showing and peeling along the stairs. It is a horrible task and I would never do it to owners who eventually follow me. Now that I think about it, I will consider removal of a situation like this as a condition of purchase in my next house. Far easier to remove an oil tank so I will handle that.
Yamile Rijo says
You have inspired me to do a couple of raised beds with your newspaper trick.
I have done it in my flower gardens and yes it works.
Your kitchen will look bright and wonderful. You will be cooking up an even bigger storm in the newly renovated one. Enjoy.
Oh, my goodness, all the experiences and opinions on this wallpaper conundrum. Just remember, each situation is different and the comments indicated that. Good luck to everyone. Renovations are a real challenge and thoughtful decisions are important – Kevin if you are happy that’s what matters. I’m anxious to see the completion of the kitchen.
Cookbook Collector says
I live in a house built in 1942 in a less humid climate area of USA. Over 30 years ago I painted my wallpapered dining room and it still looks good today. After prepping the seams, I painted it a very very dark teal. If I look real hard I can now see only a couple fine cracks, but that is probably caused from cracks in the plastered walls underneath and/or dry climate. I think your kitchen will be fine and there will be plenty of other things for the eye to land on instead of fine lines.
Oh, I still say you will need to add a small sitting area. How about near those beautiful windows where all you need is a small rocker, small rug, and maybe a lamp/table combo to set your or your kitchen guest’s coffee/tea cup, or martini glass on while you tend to kitchen duties; sitting next to that radiator could be pretty sweet in the winter.
You’ve just solved my dining room walls dilemma.
Linda Miles says
Who knew?! Painting over paper may be option for us. Thanks
Julie R says
I too have painted over wallpapered walls. The reason I decided on doing that is because when we moved into our house many years ago, there were a few rooms that had wallpaper and I tried everything to removed it so that I could paint. Well, who ever put up the wallpaper in our house must have wanted it to stay put for ever. I tried steaming it and scraping it, but only small pieces of wallpaper came off, and the drywall was coming off with it. It ruined the texture of the walls so badly that I came up the idea to put bead board paneling up in one of the rooms and painted it a nice creamy white color and I still like it to this day. It gives that room a cute cottage feel. In my kitchen, there was wallpaper also, and I ended up painting over it, rather than going through what I went through with the other room’s wall being ruined from the paper not wanting to come down. I can see seams from the wallpaper in the painted over room. But I’ll take that over the completely ruined looking walls of the other room. When I painted over the wallpaper in the kitchen, I didn’t do any sort of prepping to the paper, just painted right over it. And all these years later it still looks good, but with the seams showing a little bit. But the paper itself is not bubbling, thank goodness.
I am anxious to see pictures of your finished kitchen, Kevin. I hope it will turn out just the way you and Mr Fox want it.
I can’t wait to see the finished kitchen.
Janet Metzger says
HELPFUL! And, I am so glad you can remodel your kitchen! It has been a long wait.
Just purchased a 1962 lake house with every room wallpapered. Sure hope this works.
The original owners of our house didn’t bother with primer on the drywall before they put up wallpaper. Tried getting wallpaper off the bathroom, but it was taking the drywall off too. Such a mess, that we went with italian plaster. It looks great. Now doing the kitchen that we left the paper on and painted, then wallpapered over that. Now we will prime it with oil primer after fixing seams. Then a flat paint. Very hard to find flat paint right now. It could be some time before it is done.