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Do you need to to strip wallpaper before re-papering or painting?

At one time or another, we have all faced the dilemma of whether or not to strip existing wallpaper before painting or perhaps repapering our walls.

It’s a decision which really needs experience and good judgement and we’re often asked to give our advice. There is no easy right or wrong about it. The only guiding factor is what you see before you when inspecting your walls.

For example, there are a number possible scenarios which would necessitate stripping:

  • How old is the paper?
  • Is the pattern a decade or two out of date? If this is the case you would be wise to locate the bottom corner of one of the ‘drops’ of paper, perhaps behind the TV or another piece of furniture, & try lifting it.
  • Has the back of the paper become brown with age?
  • Does it come away from the wall easily, either completely or leaving a thin backing of paper behind?
These last two are sure signs that the paper will need to be removed – when painting or wallpapering over existing paper, it becomes wet again with the paint or the paste, and it’s likely to come away from the wall entirely. It’s own original paste will have dried out long ago & any paint or paste now will cause it to lift or bubble away from the wall. Not too terrible if you’re painting it, but catastrophic if you’re hanging expensive wallpaper on it.

Another thing to be mindful of, if you’re planning to hang a patterned wallpaper over existing painted lining paper, is how well that paper was originally hung. It may not be immediately obvious, but if you run your hand over the seams, are they flat or are they raised up in any way? If they are proud of the wall surface, you’re likely to see very prominent vertical lines pushing through your new paper, especially if the pattern is a sparse one. Expert hands will know how to flatten or cut out & fill proud seams, but the safer option is to remove the paper.

That said, there are times we would advise leaving the wallpaper just where it is. There are no real guarantees with paper, but if it clearly has a good thick coating of paint, and if when you knock on the wall you feel as though you’re knocking on the wall, and if there are no loose corners or blown seams or blisters or bubbles – then it’s probably safe to paint or wallpaper over the top.

If you are considering work on your property in or around London we are more than happy to offer free advice. We welcome the chance to offer you our detailed quotation for the work.

With best regards
Marlon Bulger
Production Director
Bulger Wicks

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