Is Painting Over Wallpaper a Good Idea?

Once in a while I get asked a serious question which is done with valid intention, but to some folks hearing it being asked, may invoke a bit of giggling until they hear an answer for it which possibly changes their tune and gets them to nod their head in approval.

“Is Painting Over Wallpaper a Good Idea?” falls directly into this category.

If the average home improvement contractor/painter were to overhear someone asking me this question, their initial reaction may be a bit of head shaking accompanying a chuckle, as the question on its surface may seem a bit ridiculous to them.

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Afterall, if one was going to paint a wall with wallpaper on it, wouldn’t they want to take the wallpaper off first?

I mean, seriously, isn’t that the whole purpose of painting a wallpapered wall properly?

If you paint over wallpaper, isn’t the surfaces just going to look like painted wallpaper??


However, possibly not…

As crazy an idea as painting over wallpaper may appear to be on the surface, there are not only viable circumstances which may justify painting the wallpaper, but there are typically ways to paint a wallpapered wall and make it look like a regular painted wall without any long-term negative implications.

Even if it “can” be done, why the heck would someone want to paint over wallpaper in the first place?

Possibly for a number of reasons…

The person undertaking the project may be afraid that if the wallpaper is removed, the walls that the wallpaper is attached to may come off with it.

In many instances, this is a legitimate concern!

Maybe the person taking on the project is short on time and needs to get the walls painted quick.

Or perhaps the person merely wants to paint the walls and not have to deal with the hassle of removing the wallpaper.

If the goal is to paint the wallpaper and truly have things look like what one would expect to see when looking at a normal painted wall, there are certainly things that must be done in order to most correctly achieve this.

The first thing one should do is to make sure that the walls are clean and that any loose paper is surgically removed (a razor knife teaming with a putty knife will work fine for this task).

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After that, a prime coat of ‘GARDZ’ or comparable primer should be applied to the wallpaper to stabilize its surfaces and neutralize any weird reaction that the coming layers of product might have interacting with any adhesive used to originally hold the wallpaper in place.

Following this, I would suggest priming the walls with a latex primer, then smoothing out any imperfections and/or seams with a thin layer of joint compound or spackle, sanding the dried joint compound or spackle after it has dried, spot priming the sanded areas, and then repeating the process of smoothing out/sanding/priming until the surface appears to be prepped out properly enough (smooth looking and feeling) to paint.

Then, finally, apply two coats of finish (in this scenario my suggestion is a ‘Matte’ sheen) and voila, at this point you should have some pretty good looking painted wallpaper!

Although I am certainly not advocating for painting over wallpaper as a common practice, as my preference truly is to remove the wallpaper completely prior to painting any wall that the wallpaper is located on, I am simply acknowledging that contrary to popular opinion, wallpaper can absolutely be painted and is not as horrible an idea as one may initially think. Lopco Painting

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