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Tips For Painting Over Wallpaper

Updated on August 26, 2017
Matt G. profile image

Matt is a professional painter sharing house painting tips and product reviews.


Can You Paint Over Wallpaper?

Some homeowners are unaware that wallpaper can be painted over successfully, as long as the surface isn't bubbled or peeling badly at the seams. If there are visible air bubbles and loose ends, the material should be removed instead. Sometimes painting over it is best when removal is near impossible. Excessive scraping can leave deep gouges in drywall that need to be repaired.

When prepared correctly, non-textured paper looks the same as plain, painted drywall. I completed this project in a kitchen once and the customer could not see any evidence of the wallpaper underneath the paint. If the paper on your walls has heavy texture though, it will show through the paint, unless the surface is skim-coated with patching compound first.

Select the Right Primer

Wallpaper should always be primed using oil-based primer, not latex. The water in latex primer can penetrate the material, causing air bubbles and curling seams. Latex primer also doesn't seal the surface as good as oil primer, which can allow stains to bleed into the top coats of paint.

The oil primer I use the most for priming wallpaper is a primer sealer called Zinsser Cover Stain. Another good option is Sherwin Williams Pro Block, also an oil primer. Oil-based primer does have a terrible odor, but seals surfaces the best for painting. Wear a respirator when working with these products and open windows for ventilation.

You can apply any acrylic paint over oil-based primer. The primer not only seals the surface, but also creates a strong bond with paint for durability.

I prefer priming the surface before patching. The white primer makes it easier to see defects and seams that need to be patched. If you patch the walls after priming, the patches should be primed separately before paint.

Use a 1/2" nap roller to apply the primer and a natural bristle paint brush to fill in the corners and spaces around outlets. Apply one coat of primer and let it completely dry. It usually takes around three or four hours for primer to dry enough for paint application.

Prepare the Surface for Paint

Careful patching ensures the seams won't be visible after the room is painted. The only way to hide the seams is to patch over them with drywall joint compound. I use Easy Sand joint compound that dries in 45 minutes. The compound is in powder form that is mixed with water in a mud pan. As long as you don't leave thick edges on the patches, joint compound sands easily and dries fast.

Inspect the paper for peeling seams before patching. Scrape over the peeling edges with a taping knife to remove loose ends. You can also lightly gouge the wall along the seams to remove loose edges of the paper. The minor gouging will be filled in when patching anyway.

Pour a little water into a mud pan and carefully add the joint compound. Mix it up with a 6-inch taping knife. Fill in all of the seams with a thin coat of joint compound, working from the top of the seam to the bottom.

After the first coat of compound has dried, lightly sand it and apply a second coat of compound, using a wider, 8-inch taping knife. Lightly sand the second coat and apply a third coat, using a 10-inch knife.

Caulk the base board trim to mask any loose edges at the bottom. I use Quick Dry caulk from Sherwin Williams.

Paint the Wallpaper

Any acrylic paint is fine for painting over primed wallpaper. I prefer Duration from Sherwin Williams. The paint is very durable and washes well. I use the matte and eggshell finish, but flat paint does a better job at hiding surface imperfections. Before painting, the patching and sanding portion of this project should already have been completed. The patches that were applied over the seams should also be primed before painting the walls.

Cut-in the ceiling lines and apply two coats of paint to complete the job. With careful patching and preparation, the seams will be hidden when primed and painted.


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    • Matt G. profile image

      Matt G. 5 years ago

      Thanks. Glad to hear it worked for you. I've painted over wallpaper many times without any problems, but I do prefer to remove it if possible. As long as the material is tight to the wall and everything is patched and primed well, paint will do fine.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      Good information. We have had to paint over old wallpaper and it worked. We did it pretty much the way you listed.