The Great Wallpaper War: Tools You Should Have In Your Arsenal For Complete Removal Victory
Most people agree that while the 80's and 90's provided the world with some awesome music and some interesting fashions, some the design trends were downright ghastly. If you've purchased a home built in these decades, you might be facing wall upon wall of floral, striped, and banner wallpaper. Properly installed wallpaper can be very difficult to remove, so you're right to feel completely daunted by the task. Paying someone to do it for you can be expensive-- up to 1.50 a square foot. However, with some tool rentals and a lot of elbow grease, you can return your walls to their pre-wallpaper glory for a fraction of the cost.
An Impossible Job
The reason why wallpaper is hard to remove is because it is supposed to be a long lasting design solution. Most wallpaper is from one of two varieties. The first variety is easier to install and easier (comparatively) to remove. It has built-in adhesive that is activated by water. The wallpaper is soaked and then hung. As it dries, the glue sticks the paper to wall. The second kind is when the glue is applied, and then the paper. This glue is often thicker and not applied as evenly as the first kind, leaving you with sections of adhesive that are exceptionally more difficult to fully remove from the wall.
You'll find that when you go to remove paper, the printed design will peel away, leaving the back of the paper stuck to the glue which is still firmly attached to the wall. When you reach this point, you'll to need to find a way to rehydrate the adhesive so that you can get the paper and glue off. You can do this the slow way, using a bucket of hot water. With a washcloth in one hand and a scraper in the other, you'll slowly peel the paper off. However, when you whole house is afflicted, you'll need something better.
Making The Impossible Possible
First, head down to a tool rental shop and ask to rent a steamer. These machines look almost like a vacuum. Where there would be a bag, there is a tank of boiling water. The vapor moves through a hose and attachment. The attachment may have sharp pointy pieces, like nail heads, that prick through the paper layer, allowing the steam to get behind the paper and help detach it from the wall. You can steam the paper and pull it off in one fluid movement. Then, you can work quickly to wash off the wet glue before it dries on the wall. You'll find that the glue will roll down the wall, often dripping on the floor. Protect your floor with a drop cloth, as adhesives can mar finishes.
You'll find that even with a steamer, you will find areas of wallpaper that are more stubborn. These are usually where the glue was thicker; areas closer to the floor, around door casings and moldings, and areas where more than one type of paper was applied are usually the worse. Do your best to use the steamer to remove as much of the adhesive as you can, using your scraper to assist.
After you have gotten as far as you can with the steamer, clean it according to the rental instructions before it dries-- some glue may linger on the body and attachments. Then, allow the room to dry fully. When you return the steamer, trade it for an electric belt sander.
Finishing The Job
When the remaining glue that the steamer could not remove is fully dry once more, use the sander to file off the yellowish substance. Be careful not to get overzealous in your sanding; you don't want to damage the wall. Track your progress by feeling over the areas with adhesive to make sure they are flush with the wall around them. You may need to remove baseboards and moldings in order to remove it all.
Then, you're ready to refinish the wall. Instead of choosing wallpaper, check it out and opt for a bucket of neutral primer and paint. You won't believe the change!