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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

How To Paint Over Wallpaper

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Painting over old wallpaper requires special preparation to insure the finished paint job is smooth. Hanging new wallpaper over old wallpaper requires much of the same special preparation. Here are the steps we followed to prepare to paint over a wallpapered ceiling and to hang new wallpaper over existing wallpaper on the walls of the guest half-bath in the entry. 

How to Paint Over Wallpaper
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Every house has its own peculiar quirks which means what works in one house may or may not work in another house. Please research wallpaper company sites for additional information since what I write is from personal experience, not professional advice. Nonetheless, you will get ideas about the overall process for painting and papering over old existing wallpaper. 

How To Paint & Paper 
Over Existing Wallpaper

Check Existing Wallpaper 

How To Paint Over Wallpaper
Check existing wallpaper to see if the old paper should be removed before painting or papering the wall. Old paper must be tightly adhered to the wall to paint or to paper over it. There may be a few loose edges at corners or seams, but if there are large sections of loose edges or bubbles in the paper where it has lifted from the wall, you should remove the paper instead of leaving it on the wall.  

Clean All Surfaces 

Use a damp cloth or sponge to clean all surfaces. If the old paper feels greasy or oily, once again you probably should remove the paper instead of painting or papering over it. Any cleaner you use to remove grease or oil may leave a residue that could interfere with a solid bond between new paper or paint and the old paper. 

Remove all screws and nails. If you plan to rehang pictures or mirrors in the same locations, measure how far the screws and nails are from a permanent fixture such as a post, chair rail, or ceiling. Take a photo with your smart phone of the screws and nails to help you remember where the items were.   

Trim Seams 

How To Paint Over Wallpaper
If the existing paper is in good condition (tightly adhered, no bubbles, and a clean surface) prepare the old seams for new paper. Use an exacto knife to trim away about ½ - 1 inch of the top layer of the paper on each side of every seam. You can see the paper above is tightly adhered to the wall at the trimmed seam, even after more than 25 years on the wall. 

apply joint Compound  

How To Paint Over Wallpaper
Apply joint compound, commonly called mud, to every trimmed seam and at every edge that may be a little loose. Also apply joint compound to any holes left from nails or to holes left from screws. 

How To Paint Over Wallpaper
We applied joint compound to all seams, along one corner, and to holes. 

We allowed the joint compound to dry overnight, and sanded down all of the compound with a hand-held block of sandpaper to create a smooth, flat surface. 

Apply Problem Surface Sealer 

How To Paint Over Wallpaper
To prepare the ceiling to be painted, we applied a problem surface sealer to prevent the paint from soaking into the old wallpaper or into the joint compound. 

How To Paint Over Wallpaper
We used GARDZ, made by Zinsser. The label tells why. 
  • Penetrates, seals, and binds unstable surfaces 
  • Locks down torn drywall 
  • Seals wallpaper adhesive (and joint compound) 
  • Provides water-resistant foundation 
The sealer is a clear water based solution which makes it easy to clean brushes with soap and water. My painter says this is the secret to painting over wallpaper. 

Paint The Ceiling Wallpaper 

How To Paint Over Wallpaper

Would you guess there is old wallpaper 
under this beautiful blue painted ceiling? 

We used interior latex paint to paint over the old wallpaper on the ceiling. 

Allow the sealer to dry overnight before painting over the wallpaper. We painted the ceiling before applying new wallpaper to the walls to prevent paint drips from damaging the new wallpaper. 

In the photo above, the joint compound needs another sanding and needs problem surface sealer before the new wallpaper goes up. 

How To Paint Over Wallpaper

The next time you see this guest half bath, there will be beautiful new French Country style scroll leaf wallpaper over the old wallpaper! 


Gardz Problem Surface Sealer by Zinsser - Kelly Moore Paints or Home Depot 

French Country Powder Room - Plans for the mini makeover to add new wallpaper and paint