How to Remove Multiple Layers of Painted Wallpaper from Plaster Walls

If you live in an older, historic house, it’s quite possible that some of the rooms are papered in multiple layers of wallpaper. Part of the reason for so many layers of wallpaper may be due to sheer laziness, since removing old paper and applying new sizing is a huge chore. And, according to some of the old timers living on our block, multiple layers of wallpaper also had the side benefit of increasing the insulating value of the walls, blocking both noise and cold air from entering the home.

Whatever the reason for all those many layers of wallpaper, getting them off the walls so the room can be repainted or papered is a long, and tiresome job. The task is even more difficult if the final layer of paper is covered with a couple of coats of latex paint.

Removing multiple layers of wallpaper that have been covered with paint requires a slightly different technique then basic wall paper removal. For this DIY project you will need the following materials:

A small metal putty knife and a broad scraping knife;

a heavy tarp to cover the floor;

one ml clear plastic tarp and masking tape;

a trash can to collect the paper;

a spray bottle filled with a quart of warm water mixed with a spoonful of liquid fabric softener;

utility knife

and a small screwdriver.

Step 1: Remove the switch plates and outlet covers from the walls.

Step 2: Next, cover the baseboards with sections of clear plastic tarp and tape into place.

Step 3: Check the edges of the door and window molding, and note if the wallpaper stops at the edge of the wood trim, or has been wrapped onto the side of the molding itself. In areas where the paper overlaps onto the molding, “score” the paper with the utility knife at the point where the trim meets the wall.

Step 4: The best place to start with the wallpaper removal is with a section of paper that has already pulled away from the wall with the areas around the door or window usually a good place to find already loosened paper. Carefully press the small putty knife behind the wallpaper, and gently pull away from the wall. You won’t get all of the wallpaper, but you should be able to peel off at least half of the existing layers.

Step 5: Continue prying off the wallpaper as you work your way around the room, concentrating on just removing the upper layers of paper.

Step 6: After removing the painted layers, it’s time to retrace your steps and begin to work on the remaining layers of wallpaper. This is done by spraying one section of wall with your homemade wallpaper stripper, letting it soak 5-10 minutes, and then scraping off the wet paper with the wide scraping tool.

While your homemade wallpaper stripper does a great job removing a couple of layers of wallpaper, keep in mind that multiple layers of paper will require multiple applications. We discovered the easiest method was to work our way around the room several times, continually spraying the walls and scraping off one or two layers of wallpaper as we moved in a circle. It took us about a total of ten evenings plus one weekend to remove some 20 layers of paper from a 13 x 27 living room, to give you some idea of the time involved in this project.

Step 7: Once the paper has been removed, the final step is to spray the walls once more with your stripper solution, and scrape off any remaining paste residual. The walls should then be rinsed with clear water, sponged off, and then allowed to dry before applying a good prime coat.

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