The entryway into your home is so important. It’s the first thing people see when they walk in and it sets the tone for your house’s style. So, after two years of procrastinating because removing the wallpaper in our living room was so terrible, we finally decided to bite the bullet and start the wallpaper removal process, again.
Walking into this every day was pretty good inspiration:
See how dark and busy and, let’s just say it, tacky it is? Complete with the overly ornate chandelier with marble inlay (not pictured – sorry we removed it to start this process). Oh, and this photo doesn’t show it but all of the light switch plates were gold. Pretty sure Italian mobsters lived here before us. Please know that I’m not stereotyping and I honestly have no idea why but the room always made me think of Italian mobsters…
Anyway, we finally got up the courage to begin the wallpaper removal, but immediately realized our methods used in the other room (spraying with wallpaper remover liquid, scoring the paper, spraying again, then slowly pulling it down) would not work. Just like in the living room, the wallpaper (and two layers of it) was glued directly to the drywall, as we suspected. Our biggest concern was not how terrible this was for us, but that at least three families lived in that house for the last 26 years and didn’t change anything in that entryway!?
After our trials and errors in the living room, we learned that the best and only way to deal with wallpaper directly on the drywall is to use a wallpaper steamer. So we researched renting/buying one and it was going to be pretty pricey. We could rent one for $30/day, but that meant we’d HAVE to complete the whole room in one day (not too hard since it’s a small room, but still that’s a lot of pressure when we both have one-hour commutes to work each way and typically don’t get home until 6:30-7:00).
So we looked into buying a wallpaper steamer (we still have to remove wallpaper in both of our guest baths), but those were too expensive for the use we thought we’d get out of it. So, we questioned, what is so special about a wallpaper steamer? In the end, we decided the answer was “nothing.” So we went to Wal-Mart and bought the mid-priced, large-ish clothing steamer for $35.
Did it work? Yep! Did it work as well as the wallpaper steamer would have? Maybe not, but it worked as well as we expected. Was it reasonably priced? Yep – same as one day of renting a wallpaper steamer. Does it now play double-duty? Yep! We are now the proud owners of a clothing steamer for all our fancy clothes. Yay! Overall, we were very happy with the decision and now we have our own so when we tackle the bathrooms we just have to take a trip to the laundry room for our own handy steamer.
On to the actual work.
The process was pretty easy. Let the steamer heat up, score the area you’re working on, run the steamer very slowly along the wall, peel behind it. We found that because we had two layers of wallpaper, and the top one was very thick, we had to peel it off in layers which doubled the workload. Another good tip is to use your fingernails to scrape the glue layer (the second layer, behind the paper itself).
Tips we learned
1. Go slow. Take your time and hold the steamer over the area for several seconds before you start to peel.
2. Hold the steamer up every 5-10 minutes to make sure it’s steaming. If it suddenly gets difficult to peel the paper, check to see that you are getting steam and if not just hold the handle above your head until you do.
3. The steam is HOT so be careful.
4. If you have multiple layers of wallpaper or even one very thick layer, do the removal in layers.
5. Don’t forget to score the area first. It may even be helpful to score in between layers.
6. If the brown paper of the drywall starts to come up as you peel, stop peeling, cut or tear the piece you were working on at the point where it started to peel the backing, and hold the steamer over the area for several seconds before starting again. When you start again, try to grab only the wallpaper layers and move very slowly. This probably won’t stop it completely and you will definitely tear down some of the drywall, but it can help.
7. Don’t worry too much about damaging the drywall. Go into this process knowing and expecting that it will happen. It may even continue to happen after you prime the area (we know from experience – but we’ll get to that).
In the end, it looked like this. Not very pretty, but at least that terrible wallpaper is gone.