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Wallpaper - Secrets to Hanging and Removing

Updated on November 18, 2014

The Secret to Properly Installing Wallcoverings

What you need to know so you can enjoy the color and texture wallpaper adds to any atmosphere.

Are you one of many who have tried to strip stubbornly stuck wallpaper? I know I have. Here's the kicker --- I'm the one who had prepped the walls prior to hanging the paper. I believed I had done everything right, taken all the right steps. Bought the right sizing and primers - everything. When it came time to remove, strip the wallpaper, it didn't come off like I thought it would. Color me gobsmacked and confused.

Then, I read this article written by Tim Bodine, master craftsman.  I was blaming the wallpaper when in fact the walls were not prepped correctly.  Tim hit the nail on the head with his description of how sizing over builder's white paint can cause a total breakdown in what is supposed to be strippable wallpaper.

Now, I know better.  If you had sworn off wallpaper like me, I urge you to take another look.  Even though wallpaper took a bit of a hiatus from residential applications, Tim Bodine of Professional Wallpaper and Paint never took a break from installing it.  His article below is an easy to follow outline of his proven method that makes hanging paper easier and the removal much more efficient.

Written by:

Lori A. Sawaya, The Land of Color & Color Strategies, LLC

Color Strategist | Colorographer | Color Forecaster

IACC/NA Vice President & Website Committee Chair


Learn from a Master Installer - Best tips for hanging wallpaper so you can REMOVE it too!

Master Craftsman, Tim Bodine, of Professional Wallpaper & Paint Co. knows a thing or two about hanging - and removing - wallpaper. He has some pointers to share with you below.

Professional Wallpaper & Paint Co.

St. Charles, MO 63303


The BEST tips for hanging wallpaper so when it's removal time, it will cleanly strip off the walls.

The Secret is GARDZ - GARDZ by Zinsser Can Save You Time and Money

AUTHORED BY: TIM BODINE | Composed by: Lori Sawaya

  • I would like to explain why I dig Zinsser's GARDZ primer so much. To do so, I must explain some things about hanging wallpaper.

    When I install wallpaper, a primer must be used prior to hanging. As painters, we all know why it is important to prime. As a hanger, this might mean different things.

    First, a good primer will obviously help the wall covering bond to the wall (provide 'tooth').

    Second, it will help the wall covering release from the wall when removal is performed.

    Third, it can provide 'slip' to a wall, helping a pasted sheet slide into place without it being stretched.

    Most hangers use a water-based acrylic pre-wallcovering primer. The specs usually say to let it dry for 24 hours before initializing the next step. Hmm. How many of us apply the next coat when the primer is dry enough to touch or lightly sand? Yeah, me too.

    Now this would not be much of a problem for another coat of paint, but with wallcovering, it is a different scenario. Another coat of paint can be applied, and dry quickly due to the evaporation of the vehicle. This does not strain the primer layer very much.

    However, with a wallcovering, we are applying a much heavier/thicker layer coated with a thick, viscous paste that is water-based. On top of this, there is usually a vinyl layer hampering the drying/evaporation process. This causes the primer layer (which has not properly dried/cured) to reactivate, returning to a semi-liquid state. The paste inter-mingles with this broken-down primer, and becomes 'one'.

    Add to this a little relative humidity, and a cheap builder's flat below the primer, and you got problems. We all know you can sneeze on builders flat, and it will rub off. Imagine layering on several mils of moisture, and allowing it to marinate for a day or two. Now you know why sometimes a 'properly prepped and primed' surface with a wallcovering can be a bear to remove.

    To sum this up, a paperhanger looks for a fast drying primer, that will not re-wet or wet-out shortly after drying. Almost all paints or primers (acrylic or oil) will re-wet if applied too soon. Not so with the new DRC's. Someone coined the phrase DRC a couple years ago referring to all the new Drywall Repair Clears. Taken from the old acrylic clear masonry primers (Benjamin Moore's comes to mind), Scotch Paints in CA developed a product called DrawTite. Several imitations appeared shortly afterwards. Sherwin sells its version of it, along with others. However, Zinsser was the only one who could come up with something comparable to the original DrawTite, and overcome the distribution problems that Scotch had.

    GARDZ dries in half-hour or less, and will not re-wet itself. The moisture resistant surface is a dream from which to remove wallpaper. It stinks a bit when applying, and there is a learning curve in rolling a water-thin product without making a mess, but is worth it.

    To back up my claim, I brought pictures for proof.

    This is a basic drywall patch, probably 1/8" thick blue-lid joint compound. I rolled some GARDZ onto the bottom right corner, and let the roller edge draw a finger up the middle:

    After drying for only15 minutes, I primed the rest of the patch. You can see the previously primed section did not re-wet, and remained solid:

Paint Samples - How To - Use Swatch Right Paint-Peel-and-Stick Color Sample Decals




Swatch Right is a 12" circle-shaped paint color testing decal. Hold the tab, paint-peel-and-stick to preview wall color. It's fun! Three super-helpful-to-you things about Swatch Right:

  1. THE COLOR! Swatch Right Grey is a neutral color boost that works for you to achieve opacity faster. Especially helpful with deep or vibrant colors that require multiple coats.
  2. THE TAB! You have something to hold on to when applying paint and also someplace to write the paint color name, number.
  3. REMOVABLE, repositionable, and flexible.

Why Swatch Right works better than a board:


Swatch Right mimics the behavior of paint film. It's completely flexible and conforms to shapes and contours - walls, ceilings, trim, corners. . . just about anywhere!


Wallpapers - Wallcoverings - Tips - How-To's - Wallpaper is making a come back, check out these links and be ready!

Wallpaper, wall coverings information and books.

New Guestbook Comments

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    • Aibrean82 profile image


      5 years ago

      Very good to know! Thank you for sharing the secret to wallpapering!


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