Saturday, February 21, 2009

How to Strip Wallpaper With a Smile on Your Face

Faced with the prospect of stripping wallpaper, most people get despondent - unnecessarily. After 20 years in the painting and decorating trade, I can share a few tips on how to strip vinyl wallpaper easily and efficiently - and stay smiling.

How to remove vinyl wallpapers cleanly and efficiently with a smile

The secret to stripping wallpaper lies in the correct use of water, patience and a good scraper.

Firstly you need to peel off the top protective layer to reveal the backing paper beneath. I would advise lifting the bottom corner and carefully peeling the paper up slowly until you have about 12" completely flapping. Then you can pull a bit harder for a bit of fun!

What most clean freaks forget - leave the dry strippings scrumpled up on the floor (to catch any splashes of water).

Second, load a sponge till it drips a little, then lightly scrub a patch a foot square. Keep rubbing gently till the sponge is dry. Repeat this on the next adjacent patch and the next, until you notice the first square drying up. This is your natural break, so return to the first patch - rinse and repeat the whole process three or four times until the paper is absolutely sodden and ready to almost fall off.

Some say it is best to start soaking from the bottom and work up, but there seems to be no difference either way. Regardless of where you start, keep working steady and sure, not in mad bursts.

Finally, when the paper is clearly ready to fall off with a little help, use a proper scraper - get rid of that traditional blunt scraper, and use a long handled professional scraper (from Stanley) with a 4 or 5" razor blade. Patience and a steady hand and the well soaked paper will come off very easily. There is no reason (nor excuse) for gouging the surface with your scraper.

If it gets too hard to strip - let more water do the work.

Wallpaper stripping problems occur when you try to take short cuts.

Steam strippers - No!! I have childhood memories of my parents struggling with steam strippers, filling the house with condensation, scalding their hands and literally blowing cracks in the plaster by holding the steam plate in one place for too long! I can't recall any place for a steam stripper in a decorator's tool kit.

Slashing the top layer of vinyl paper with a knife - No!! Professionals also make mistakes, like slashing the top layer with a knife, supposedly to let the water penetrate the surface paper. In my experience, water does penetrate faster, but it creates hundreds of little pieces and overall, slows down the stripping process.

Using more than a sponge - Maybe!! Rollering water onto the walls is fast, but you need the floor covered (or ideally carpet-free) in readiness for a big soaking. Airless spray is the fastest way to blast wallpaper off, but not everyone has a big enough wallpaper job to make it worth working that way.

Water and patience can strip anything

Given enough time, water can dissolve diamonds, so clearly, old paste behind wallpaper is no match for water. In general terms, the correct balance of patience and water, and of course a good scraper, can make for a wonderful, gleeful experience.

Taking it steady, I would be surprised if I couldn't completely remove 8 rolls of wallpaper in a day, check the walls for filling - and still be smiling, ready to rub the walls smooth, and hang some more wallpaper the following day, hopefully!

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