Sometimes the job may seem impossible, but technically speaking, all wallpaper is removable. How easy it is to remove the wallpaper is a whole different story. There are many factors that contribute to the removability of wallpaper, such as wallpaper age, wallpaper style, and the type of surface to which it is adhered. That being said, most wallpaper will come off fairly easily with the right type of prep work.
Most modern wallpaper is fairly easy to remove simply, because it hasn’t been sitting on the wall for nearly as long compared to the wallpaper you may find in a home that was built before the 1990’s. Most older wallpaper is made a bit differently than newer paper, but much of what makes removing it difficult is simply a matter of how long it has been sitting on the wall, allowing the adhesive to become aged and stubborn.
Some wallpaper is easier to remove than others. Though, most modern wallpaper, (to include vinyl, paper-backed vinyl, cloth backed vinyl, non-woven, and Easy-Walls), can all be removed with minimal effort. Non-woven and Easy-Walls paper is by far the easiest to remove. It can be peeled off in sheets and re-adhered.
The type of surface to which the wallpaper adheres plays a major role in your ability to remove it easily. The worst way to hang wallpaper is to paste it to unprepped drywall. The bond between the adhesive and the drywall material becomes almost impossible to separate. If drywall has not been protected with primer, you may end up causing a lot of damage to the wall when it comes time to remove the paper.
The best surface to hang wallpaper on is one that’s been adequately prepped. No matter what the surface is: drywall, plaster, wood paneling, or an alternative wall material, it should be sanded if need be, washed and allowed to completely dry, and properly primed with an acrylic, PVA, or alkyd (oil based) primer. Priming the surface gives the wallpaper adhesive something strong to cling to, while protecting your wall from damage or excess moisture.
If you aren’t dealing with any type of easy peel away paper, you’ll need to employ the basic method of removal. This entails a few simple steps including scoring the paper, soaking it in a store bought or homemade wallpaper removal solution, and peeling or scraping away the paper.
Most often, once the paper has properly soaked in the solution, you should be able to remove it in large pieces, with minimal scraping left for those stubborn areas. If you are dealing with older paper that’s been hung on improperly prepared walls, you may have to invest a little more effort into the process. Another option is to dissolve the adhesive with hot steam from a wall steamer. Some people have used Windex and a firm putty knife to scrap old wallpaper off. How well the adhesive is broken down will determine how easily the wallpaper will peel away.
If you quickly realize that your wall is becoming damaged by the wallpaper removal process, you can hang your new wallpaper over your old wallpaper. But, you’ll need to make sure your surface is smooth, clean, and properly primed before hanging your new wallpaper to avoid poor adhesion, telegraphing, and bleed through.
If you’re in the market for new wallpaper, keep in mind how long you’d like to enjoy it on your walls. If you’re someone who likes to change things up often, you may want to invest in the easy peel types of paper. If you tend to hold onto your decorating styles a bit longer, you should feel free to explore the full range of paper that’s available today. Even when you are ready for a new look, this paper should come off quite easily.