Painting over wallpaper is a debated topic. Most painting professionals and manufacturers will tell you that painting on wallpaper will not look as nice as starting on a clean wall.

However, if you are considering painting over wallpaper, you are probably most concerned with saving time.

Can You Paint Over Wallpaper?

Yes, you can absolutely paint over wallpaper given that it is in good condition and securely attached to the wall. However, this does not mean you should always paint over wallpaper. Also, keep in mind for vinyl wallpaper or textured additional steps are required before painting over the wallpaper.

If you decide to paint over your wallpaper the key is that you do not rush the process. Be sure to start a proper thorough preparation. Use all the proper tools and techniques throughout the process.

When Painting Over Wallpaper is the Better Than Removing It

Sometimes painting over wallpaper just make more sense, even if it is not ideal. This decision will require looking at both the monetary cost and your time.

The Monetary Cost of Removing Wallpaper Before Painting

The monetary cost of removing wallpaper to paint is not significantly more. Those costs are mostly related to a steamer. Depending on if you’re hiring someone or not, that could add about $100 to your project. All other expenses such as:

  • paint
  • sandpaper
  • brushes
  • spackle, etc.

exist regardless of your decision.

The Time Cost of Removing Wallpaper Before Painting

Choosing to remove wallpaper before painting could require a significant amount of time. So this is the greatest “expense” to you.

The removal process for wallpaper is difficult and very time-consuming. It may take several days to do it properly.

Additionally, removing the old wallpaper, especially if it is multiple layers, will often cause damage to your walls. This damage will need to be properly repaired before you can begin painting. Not only will have to add significant time to patch and repair, but also the time for the patching to dry.

However, keep in mind that while removing wallpaper takes a lot of time, removing wallpaper that is painted over will be much more difficult and time-consuming.

When You Should Not Paint Over Wallpaper

There a two cases when you should not consider painting over your wallpaper:

  1. If the wallpeper is peeling in serveral places
  2. If it is a specific kind of wallpaper (like fabric-backed vinyl)

Required and Recommended Tools for Painting Over Wallpaper

  • Safety & Protection

    • Goggles
    • Gloves
    • Mask or a respirator
    • Long-sleeve clothing
  • Prep Work

    • Bucket of warm water
    • Soft cloths
    • Trisodium Phosphate (cleaning solution)
    • Putty knife
    • Wallpaper glue (as needed)
    • Caulk
    • Spackle (as needed)
    • Sandpaper (150 – 180 grit)
    • Painters tape
    • Oil-based primer
  • Painting

    • Paint Brushes
    • Paint Roller
    • Mineral Spirits
    • Paint (oil based preferred)

6 Steps to Painting Over Wallpaper

So you’ve decided to go ahead and paint over your wallpaper. If that is the case it is important that you are very thorough in following this 6 step process. This will ensure the best results in the short term, and avoid cracking, bubbling, and peeling of the paint and wallpaper in the future.

Step 1: Secure the Wallpaper

Look for any areas of peeling, bubbles, or lifting. Use the adhesive to secure these areas. If these repairs are extensive. Stop and re-think if you want to move forward with painting without removing the wallpaper first.

Step 2: Caulking

Apply a bead of caulk along the top and the bottom of your walls at the point that the wallpaper meets the skirting boards and the ceiling. This will prevent the paint from seeping under the wallpaper which may lift it from the wall.

Step 3: Sand

Carefully sand the wallpaper seams making them less noticeable once painted over. You can also apply spackle or joint compound. Once dry sand it down to a smooth surface for painting.

Step 4: Cleaning

You must thoroughly clean your wallpaper. Removing all the grease and contaminants that will keep the paint from properly adhering. Use trisodium phosphate (TSP) for best results. However, you may get by just using soapy warm water. Allow plenty of time for the wallpaper to dry before moving to step 5.

Step 5: Priming

Once the wallpaper is dry, seal the wallpaper with an oil-based primer. Apply one coat to seal the adhesive of the wallpaper. This will protect it from moisture from the paint to prevent peeling and lifting.

Step 6: Time to Paint

You are finally ready to begin painting.

If you are using water-based paint, make sure your primer was applied very well. However, it is ideal to use oil-based paint to ensure that the wallpaper won’t be exposed to any moisture. After the first coat is dry, apply a second coat.

Choosing the Right Primer – Why Oil-Based?

Proper priming is critical for good results when painting over wallpaper. You will need to use oil-based primer to:

  • Avoid moisture in it like latex water-based primer
  • Prevent peeling and lifting
  • Prevent staining from certain wallpaper adhesives and glue
  • Block patterns on the wallpaper from showing through

Keep in mind oil-based primers will have a strong smell and take longer to dry. So make sure that you keep the room well ventilated while you are priming and painting. If that is an issue for you, you can try a shellac-based primer.

However, under no circumstances should you use a latex water-based primer.

Painting over Wallpaper If It Is Embossed or Textured

Painting over embossed or textured wallpaper is never recommended. In fact, if the pattern or texture is too deep then it is impossible.

That said if your pattern or texture is not deep you can try to paint over it. However, you will need to first use a heavy grade (1700 is ideal) lining paper to cover the wallpaper.

Lining paper will cover the imperfections of the wall and the patterns. Hang it like you would regular wallpaper.

But again, if the wallpaper is heavily textured, this method won’t work and the pattern will still show through.

Also, consider the time it takes to hang the lining paper.

At this point are you really saving any time over simply removing the wallpaper?

Painting Over Vinyl Wallpaper

Can you paint over wallpaper that is vinyl?

Put simply the answer is yes.

However, like with any other wallpaper must be in good condition and securely attached to the wall.

If your vinyl wallpaper is the new peel and stick kind, then you need to remove it. As it will not be able to hold the extra weight that wet paint will create. Ultimately it will just start peeling off on its own.

Tips for Painting Over Wallpaper

While some of these tips are mentioned above, they’re worth stressing here.

  1. Do it right the first time. If you know you are going to eventually take the paper down, just do it now. To paint over the wallpaper is not a short-term fix. Should you paint on top of wallpaper it will be much much harder to remove in the future.
  2. If the wallpaper is textured you must take extra steps to ensure it does not show through. If it is too deeply textured, you will be unable to do paint over it without it showing through.
  3. Even without a pattern or texture, any damage, seems, or ripples will show through. Make sure to cut any pieces of rippled or peeling wallpaper
  4. The time spent on the prep work will determine the results. The more time you spend the better the wallpaper the end product will look.
  5. This isn’t a typical painting refresh job. There is a lot of painstaking detail. Consider working with a professional painter who is familiar with the intricate process.

The Bottomline on Painting Wallpaper

Removing wallpaper and starting with a clean surface is always preferable.

However, if done properly, it is possible to get quality results painting over your wallpaper. Before deciding to paint over your existing wallpaper take some time to evaluate:

  • condition of the walls
  • condition of the wallpaper
  • if you have the time to remove the wallpaper
  • if you have the right tools and supplies to paint over the wallpaper

This will help you decide if painting over your wallpaper is a good idea.

If you decide you want to save the time of removing the paper, and have the patience to properly prepare your wallpaper for painting, make sure you carefully go through the steps above to ensure the best results.

Ultimately, consider contacting a professional painter for removal or proper preparation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you paint over a wallpaper border?

Yes, you can paint over your wallpaper border. However, just like with an entire wall, make sure that you use a coat of oil-based primer first.

Why is my wallpaper bubbling when I paint it?

Wallpaper bubbles happen when there is a weak bond of the wallpaper to the wall. This causes the wallpaper to begin lifting. It may also happen when the wallpaper adhesive is not smoothed out even when the wallpaper was hung. You will need to fix any bubbles before painting over the wallpaper.

How to paint over wallpaper?

Follow the 6 steps above

How to paint over wallpaper in a bathroom?

Same as any other room with wallpaper. Just follow the guide above.

Do painters remove wallpaper?

A professional painting contractor can help you with the removal of wallpaper. To get an estimate click here. Information such as ceiling height, room size, and type of wallpaper will be helpful to provide.

How much does it cost to remove wallpaper?

On average, the cost to remove your wallpaper will cost about $3/sq ft for labor and about $100 for materials. For a 12×12 foot room that comes to about $535.