New Way to Strip It Away
New tools help take the misery and mess out of removing damaged or outdated wallpaper.
PROTECT the baseboard with self-stick masking paper after spreading a plastic drop cloth onto the floor.
Sooner or later, you'll have to remove a roomful of worn-out or outdated wallpaper. Thanks to new nondrip, nontoxic enzyme strippers and specialized tools, you can get the wallflowers out of your house more neatly and quickly than ever. But how you proceed still depends on the kind of wallcovering you're dealing with.
Tips for Taking it off
Early wallpaper was nothing more than printed, uncoated paper. Today, most residential wallpapers are coated with acrylic or vinyl to make them more durable and "scrubbable." They also come prepasted to save time during installation. Though most modern pastes still are starch-based like earlier versions prepared on site, many are enhanced with synthetic additives. Luckily, today's nontoxic strippers work on nearly all types of paste.
Uncoated wallpaper soaks up strippers readily. Or it can be soaked off the wall, paste and all, using hot water applied with a large sponge. This method, though messy, is simple and effective. Thick vinyl wallcoverings are tear-resistant so you can usually pull them off in sheets. But because the backing and paste stay on the wall, you'll have to get rid of them with hot water or a stripper.
Professionally installed wallpaper frequently is tougher to remove than homeowner-hung paper. That's because pros, often leery of factory-installed pastes, use unpasted papers and apply adhesive liberally, or they add an activator to prepasted versions to improve adhesion. Either way, you'll have to work a little harder if you're removing paper put up by a pro.
Vinyl-coated wallpapers - several layers of old paper, painted-over paper or a lightweight paper that can't be pulled off - are even trickier. Water or stripper can't penetrate these surfaces and attack the adhesive. You'll need to score the surface of the paper - without carving up the wall - to expose the adhesive.
The room shown here had a vinyl-coated, prepasted wallcovering that was stuck fast. The removal method we chose included a thick-bodied gel stripper and two specialized tools. All three products are manufactured by Wm. Zinsser & Co. The stripper, called DIF ($13 per gallon), is nontoxic and odorless. This enzyme-fortified gel is less messy than liquid strippers. It sticks to vertical surfaces and doesn't run down the wall creating puddles on the floor. We perforated the wallcovering with the Paper Tiger scoring tool ($20), a palm-grip handle fitted with three sets of swiveling, spiked wheels. The spikes perforate the paper as the tool is rolled across it without damaging the wall. We followed up with the Paper Scraper ($9). Unlike other scrapers, this one has a replaceable blade mounted in a wide base at an angle that makes accidental wall gouges nearly impossible.
ROLL THE scoring tool across the wall, cutting thousands of tiny perforations into the wallcovering but not the wall.
The first step is to cover the floor with a plastic drop cloth. Also protect the baseboard, window and door casings and other moldings with self-adhering masking paper (photo 1). Peel off any loose wallpaper by hand, then run the scoring tool over the entire wall (photo 2). Make sure there are perforations at least every couple of inches. Pour the stripping gel into a clean metal paint tray (photo 3) and use a 1 1/2-in.-wide sash brush to apply it along the moldings and ceiling (photo 4). Then spread a generous coating of gel to the rest of the wall using a paint roller with a 3/8-in.-thick nap cover (photo 5). Wait 20 to 30 minutes for the stripper to penetrate and soften the adhesive; the paper will start to blister when the stripper has done its job. Then use the scraper to strip the loosened paper from the wall (photo 6). After removing all the paper you can with the scraper, run the scoring tool over any remaining sections of paper and roll on a second coat of gel (photo 7). Wait 20 minutes and scrape away the remnants. Use a 6-in. drywall knife to scrape off all the gooey residue of softened adhesive and stripper (photo 8). Wash the walls clean with a sponge soaked in warm, soapy water (photo 9). Finish up by carefully peeling off all the masking paper and rolling up the drop cloth; both can be safely discarded with the household trash.
POUR THE THICK stripping gel into a metal paint tray. One gallon of the nontoxic gel strips about 200 sq. ft. of wall space.
Where To Find It:
Wm. Zinsser & Co.
173 Belmont Dr., Dept. TH1097 Somerset, NJ 08875