Can You Paint Over Wallpaper?

A very divisive topic in the home decor world: wallpaper. Some love it, some hate it. You rarely find anyone who is neutral on wallpaper. Whether you’re a fan of wallpaper or not, there are just some patterns that are best covered up.

That begs the question, do you have to remove every inch of old wallpaper, or can you paint over it?

The short answer, believe it or not, is yes, you can paint over wallpaper. However, it has to be done properly. There is a particular process you’ll need to follow and it may or may not be worth it, depending on your specific wallpaper situation.

Before making the decision, take note of the time and money needed for painting versus removal.

When you should (or shouldn’t) paint over wallpaper.

Painting over wallpaper should only be an option if you’ve already tried removing the wallpaper with no luck. Try several removal methods in an inconspicuous spot to get a sense of how difficult it would be to strip the entire space.

If you try peeling it back and it’s so stuck on that you’ll do damage to the walls, that’s a good case for painting over it. If there are multiple layers and you’re chipping away at it with little to no progress, that may also warrant a paint job.

However, if the wallpaper is coming off in decent sized chunks with no damage to the walls, we hate to say it, but total removal is best. Also, keep in mind that painted-over wallpaper is even more difficult to remove than wallpaper that hasn’t been painted. If you aren’t ready to commit to that paint color, ‘til death do you part, you may want to weigh the pros and cons one last time.

What you need to paint over wallpaper.

So you’ve decided to paint, now what? It’s time to start your shopping list. Below is a list of the items you’ll need to do the job right.

  • A High Quality Primer – Before you start splashing your favorite color on the walls, you’re going to need to prep them. This includes covering the existing wallpaper, regardless of the color, with primer. They make primers specifically for wallpaper cover-up that can prime, seal to prevent bubbles, and block out stains.
  • Cleaner – Depending on the kind of primer and paint you use (oil-based or otherwise) you’ll want to have the proper cleaner handy in order to clean your tools and any spills or mistakes that may happen along the way. Oil-based primers are best cleaned up using mineral spirits.
  • Brushes & Rollers – Don’t go for the budget brands here. Get yourself high quality brushes and rollers to do the job right.
  • Protective gear – Tarps, tape, and a mask for the fumes. Protect your furniture, floors, and face!

If seeing the list of items you’ll need for this project still sounds less scary than peeling back that paper, keep reading.

How to paint over wallpaper, properly

Now the fun begins. First clean your walls with a barely-damp cloth and give them time to dry completely. Tape off your trim while you’re waiting for them to dry and cover any furniture you haven’t removed. Use the primer to seal any seams, paying attention to the baseboards and ceiling, and any seams between sheets on your walls.

Once you’ve sealed the seams, begin priming over the wallpaper and let yourself start to imagine a room without pattern.

Let the primer dry according to the directions and then paint the room the color of your dreams and rest easy knowing you’ll never have to see that wallpaper again.