Hanging wallpaper in a room is a great way to give it a new look, and it can also add some warmth to a room where the paintwork makes it look cold. You can apply new wallpaper over old, but this has many hazards. You may need to repair the old paper before starting, and then the old paste could loosen and cause bubbles under the new layer. There is also the problem of overlapping seams showing through, and having to flat them down before starting. Stripping the old paper may seem to be a harder task, but in reality it is often the best approach. Here is a simple guide about how to strip your walls.
If you pull back the corner of your paper and can pull it off the wall, then you probably have strippable paper and can just carry on stripping the walls with no fuss. You will need to remember to pull with the paper close to the wall to avoid tears, but you will find that you can often pull off a complete sheet at a time.
If you try the same thing, and the top layer comes off, but leaves a backing paper on the wall, the job is still quite straightforward. You may not need to break the surface of the paper to let water penetrate to the paste, but if you do, you need to be careful if the wallpaper is applied to drywall. Personally, I would avoid using a wallpaper scourer on drywall and would just soak the paper. Again, care needs to be taken with drywall, so don’t apply too much water. The water you use (applied with a sponge or a paint roller) needs to be as hot as you can use, and you should add some wallpaper stripper to the mix. You can add vinegar if you wish, though I don’t like the smell it leaves. This backing paper will often bubble up, when wet, where the paste has loosened, and this is a great clue that it is time to start stripping. You will want to start at the top of the sheet, and try to pull the sheet down in the same way as with strippable papers. However, this paper is often incredibly simple to remove, and you will find that your wall-scraper simply pulls it away from the wall. If you have any tough spots reapply some water and start again.
Traditional papers are a much tougher job than either of the other options, and you will, in all likelihood, need to break the surface to allow water to penetrate. If you are worried about your drywall you can use sand paper to remove the outer layer instead of a wallpaper scourer, as this will allow penetration. You should apply the hot water to a sheet (saturating it), leave it for 5-10 minutes, and then saturate the next sheet. Once the second sheet is saturated, you should apply some more water to the first sheet and start to strip (again from the top). Using this method gives the water a chance to penetrate through to the paste before you start to strip. This will undoubtedly be a more time consuming task, but is a perfectly acceptable way to strip traditional paper. I would suggest keeping your water hot at all times, and using a good quality wallpaper stripper additive to make it easier though.
A wallpaper steamer is perfect for those awkward papers that will not come off, and is not too difficult to use. Most hire shops will supply you with one, and they are economical enough for home use. Water is heated and piped to a pad you hold on the wallpaper, once the paper is wet enough it is easy to scrape off. You can tell when the paper is damp enough as it will change color, and when this happens you move the pad to a new patch. It is best to steam a sheet at a time and then strip it, rather than steam to steam and strip a patch at a time, but different people will use different techniques.
As you can see, wallpaper stripping is not such a difficult task. However, you will need to be very careful with paper on drywall, and you will need to make sure you are not digging your scrapper into to the wall itself. Now you have finished stripping, you can wash your wall down, fill any holes or marks, sand down, and start applying your new paper.
By: Neil Purnell