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How to strip wallpaper and prepare walls before wallpapering

Listed under Blog, preparation, wallcoverings Posted Oct 05 2008

How to strip wallpaper and prepare walls before wallpapering. This is not exactly a pleasant job, but when it is all over, it can be very satisfying to look back at the transformation!

Stage 1 – plan of action

This is the system I work to, so it should point you in the right direction and keep you on track! Available as FREE DOWNLOAD (pdf)

  1. Check the walls for potential issues – before you start stripping
  2. Lay down protection on the floors. As part of a 5 star total redecorating job I would mask up the floors. Occasionally I get asked to do the stripping job only, so I tend to use a mix of plastic sheeting and a plastic backed cotton dust sheet.
  3. Peel off the top layer of paper, and use the larger pieces to protect the floor
  4. Soak the backing paper with water with a dash of fairy liquid or Zinsser DIF.
  5. Strip wallpaper, scraping off all the paste too.
  6. Sand the walls thoroughly to remove traces of paper or beads of paste.
  7. Fill cracks in plaster. There are different options for filler, and generally, decent trade quality poly type filla is fine.
  8. Sand filler smooth with a vacuum extractor. Then do a second fill and repeat the sanding and cleaning operations!
  9. Seal walls with Beeline Primer Sealer
  10. Cross line with 1400 grade lining paper. I paste the wall along the joint lines with a heavy duty tub paste.

First tool required for stripping wallpaper is a hammer!

It never hurts to do a quick “survey” of the walls you are about to strip. Tapping with a hammer means you can be forewarned and forearmed.

How to strip wallpaper

The task is not so daunting when you know how a pro would do it. In a nutshell, you need plenty of water applied in the right quantity, plus time, patience and a sharp blade on the end of a long-handled scraper…

The nuts and bolts of stripping wallpaper are explained in this article How to strip wallpaper with a smile on your face. It has helped many DIY decorators get through one of the most daunting home improvement projects for a Bank Holiday.

I think it even saved a marriage too! See here

Occasionally wallpaper just falls off in sheets, other times it is so unforgiving, you have to soak it in enzyme-destroying Zinsser DIF. But rule of thumb, warm-ish water, a drop of Fairy Liquid, or fabric conditioner, plus big sponge or roller, and you are good to tackle most wallcoverings, even painted ones..

Preparing walls after the wallpaper has been removed

Bear in mind, once the paper has been stripped off, there is still more preparation work to do. So, don’t jump the gun straight onto lining and painting, lining and wallpapering. Read about the How to prepare walls before wallpapering ie the filling, sanding, and sizing still to do.

Managing expectations can sometimes be harder than stripping wallpaper!

Lining paper or wallpaper cannot make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear plastered wall

Some walls start life undulated or badly plastered. When these less-than-perfect surfaces are filled and lined “properly”, a discerning eye would see a lovely even surface with little evidence of a joint, no pimples, no lumps of filler showing through from underneath.

But, if you measure perfection by a spirit level rather than by a discerning eye, I would say you need a plasterer to make these surfaces look like a new billiard table.

Impossible scenario As a decorator, the worst thing is to be told – I want these undulating, bulging, decaying walls perfect. only to learn that the budget stretches to an hour of filling and 800 grade B&Q lining paper!

I can’t face it, I need to employ a pro to strip, prepare and hang lining or wallpaper

Budgeting to strip wallpaper
As a guide, I would allow a day to strip up to 8 rolls of wallpaper. (8 rolls equates to an average hallway, stairs and landing, or a 12 x 12 room.) I would expect to have everything stripped, tidied and cleared away in a day without too much drama.


To prepare plastered plasterboard walls after stripping the paper. In OK condition, I would normally allow a couple of hours to size the walls with the Beeline Primer Sealer.

To prepare lath and plastered walls after stripping the paper. I tend to allow half a day to make sure the cracks and dings are filled and sanded smooth, ditto with sealer. Filling is something to assess carefully.

If I suspect a nightmare scenario lurking beneath the wallpaper… Occasionally I have no clue what is going on, and I tend to give a guide price before I start the job.


Time to line walls.
For 8 rolls in a standard room it takes about half a day from set up to packing away, and about a day for a hall, stairs and landing.


Cost to hang wallpaper.
The basic premise is, a day rate for normal papers and wallpapers costing over say £30/roll, the hanging cost should equal the cost of the roll.

I hope you have found some use in this guide, and the related explanations. Please bookmark them, tell your friends – and save yourself a lot of money over the years.


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One comment to “How to strip wallpaper and prepare walls before wallpapering”

  1. acmasterpainter

    A reference for the whole process of stripping wallpaper and preparing walls before wallpapering – via #twitoaster

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