Painting Over Wallpaper


Dear NH,
I want to use interior flat latex paint over wallpaper that's well adhered. Is it worth the effort to strip the paper rather than just paint over it?
IB from St. Louis, MO

You can definitely paint over wallpaper, but I have mixed feelings about it. First, the seams will show through the paint unless you carefully coat them with a skim coat of wallboard compound to hide them. Second, you must use an oil- based primer to seal the paper, or the latex paint could cause the wallpaper paste to soften, causing the paper to "bubble." Another "hidden" problem is that many wallpapers have a texture... sometimes not very noticeable until painted. Flowers, anyone?

Even if the paper is vinyl (which generally does not let water through) it is wise to prime because a good oil-based primer-sealer will insure that the paint will stick to smooth vinyl surface.

The reason I don't suggest painting over wallpaper is that if the wallpaper begins to fail, the walls will begin to look very ragged. The repair is not difficult... simply cut out all the loose areas and smooth them with wallboard compound. Since wallpaper failure tends to be progressive, this process of failure/repair will continue on and on over the years. If you spend the time now to strip the paper, you save yourself future disappointment.

Once you paint, the removal process becomes much more tedious and difficult, since the paint has removed any porosity in the paper and also stiffens it by adding more thickness to the wall. The more coats of paint, the worse it gets!

Nowadays, with the high-quality chemical wallpaper strippers available, removing wallpaper is not as much of a chore as you might think. Messy, yes, but not catastrophic. I have an article at the site that discusses some of the issues in wallpaper stripping. The URL is

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