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Painting Over Wallpaper

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Painting Over Wallpaper

Time to bury that wallpaper in primer and paint!

My daughter's room in the house we bought 6 months ago was rather obviously wallpapered with material left over from other projects. Navy accent wall with pink strawberries and green leaves is all well and good, but the other walls were beige with tiny little abstract dots reminiscent of cheap calico.


"accent wall" of questionable decorative merit

All over the internet, the debat rages; some people will say it's perfectly okay to paint over wallpaper, and some will tell you, no, do it right, don't be lazy, take the wallpaper down first. I am here to tell you that if painting over the wallpaper is the 'easy' way, I don't want to know what taking it down is like. But either way, it was a moot question for us, as underneath our wallpaper was lead paint. Painting over the wallpaper to seal that stuff in there was the obvious choice.

Here's what we used for 150 square foot room with about 350 square feet of wall space:

1 gallon oil-based primer, white, Kilz Complete ($22)
1 gallon latex-based primer, tinted, Kilz Latex ($19)
1 gallon satin-finish latex interior paint, 'Aspen Glen', Behr Premium Plus Ultra ($37)
1 gallon flat-finish latex ceiling paint, white, Behr Ceiling ($26)
1 qt high-glossy latex interior paint, white, Behr ($15)
1 container DAP fastpatch 30 ($9)
self adhesive mesh tape ($7)
drywall sanding screens ($4) 1 tube acrylic/latex caulk, DAP ($2)
Mineral Spirits ($11)
6 plastic drop cloths ($7)
Blue painter's tape ($5)
Total: $164

We also bought some equipment that should hopefully be usable on other projects: caulk gun, angled brush for oil paint, all purpose angle brush, 3 roller covers, roller pan, pole, painters tool, putty knives, buckets, respirator, latex gloves, bucket grid, roller cage, paint mug, step stool for a total of about $100.


Almost ready to get to work. We put cardboard down over the cheap plastic drop clothes to keep them from sticking to our feet and to weigh it down.

I took some time off from work for a DIY-cation, but the first day we didn't even get to the painting because of the surprisingly long time it took to cram things we could do without for a week into the closet and find homes elsewhere for everything else that we could. The bedroom is upstairs, and once we'd moved the twin bed into our adjacent bedroom and the book shelves into the hall, there was no where else to put the super heavy cabinets, so we slipped furniture sliders under the legs, pushed them a ladder's width away from the walls and wrapped them up in plastic. Sometimes they got in the way of maneuvering the roller, but they were useful for settings things on from the ladder, so even if we'd had a choice I might have opted to save some sweat moving them further. We washed the walls with magic eraser and some cheap orange oxygen cleanser from Dollar Tree and called it a day.

First up the next morning (Day 2): caulking! With the gun, it went pretty easy. We did all around the trim everywhere it met wallpaper. There was a lot to do, but it was easy, and didn't take too long.

Next up: the ceiling. Which had seemed fairly white until we actually started putting white paint on it, at which point it became obvious that it was very, very beige. This was my first time using a roller, and I found it a real challenge to maneuver it around the ceiling. The first pass was a less than stellar job. Also the second pass a few hours later by my husband. But I did one more pass just before we put the final coat on the walls several days later, and by then I must have developed a little know-how, or maybe there was just enough paint up there to hide the worst of the amateur paint-rolling blunders, because it ended up being quite acceptably even.


Primer over blue wall paper

For the walls, we started with the oil primer to make the wallpaper resistant to the water in the patch and latex paint to come. As I'd been warned, it wasn't all that pleasant to work with because of the smell and the cleanup, but it seems to have worked admirably. We ended up putting a second coat on the navy blue wall; I think if we'd put it on a little more thickly the first coat, we could have gotten away with one.


Should have used an easy-sand, slow-set product and made the bands wider. Hind sight is 50/50!

The next day (Day 3) we started in with the patching. I had liked the idea of using a product that I could mix in the quantity I wanted and be able to save the left overs indefinitely for future projects, but I didn't realize that when they said "dries in 20 minutes", they meant that you have to use everything you've mixed in 20 minutes or less, even if you have it sealed up tight. Oops, there goes most of the first batch! After that, I only mixed 1 or 2 scoops of the powder at once, instead of 6. The stuff on the walls actually took a good time longer than 20 minutes to dry from gray to white, ready to sand.

There were 20 wallpaper seams, plus a few cracks over the doors to do. The cracks I used mesh tape over, but the wallpaper seams were so fine I thought that would be overkill. Doing the patching took at least half the day, and then came the sanding. In retrospect, we should have spent more time on this, and/or maybe gotten an electric sander and/or used something easier to sand than this quick set stuff, which dried very hard. Still, considering it took us 6 days to do the room including moving days, which was exactly how many days off from work I had, I can't really imagine having done the kind of exhaustive work that would have been required to make the patching job look great. So we'll settle for acceptable" and my sanity; seems like a good tradeoff.


Yay, color!

We vacuumed up all the sanding dust as best we could, and wiped everything down with a damp cloth before finally proceeding to the fun part on Day 4: first bit of color! I had had the latex primer tinted to what I thought was the same color as the one we'd picked for the wall paint, but either by mistake or by design, the tinted primer was a much bolder green color than the final paint. It was quite a statement once we'd gotten all 4 walls done, and I found myself rather liking it. There were still spots where you could faintly see the wall paper pattern after the first coat was on, and we still had plenty of paint, so after letting it dry a few hours, we went back and rolled another coat.


The primer and the paint were tinted to the same color at Home Depot, but check out the difference!

Day 5 was finally "real paint" day. Next to the vibrant primer green, the final coat looked almost white. I was a little sad, but I was so not about to run out to Home Depot for another gallon of paint and another day of painting! It did dry a little darker and upon further reflection, I think this is a more livable shade for a bedroom. But I may have to paint a bathroom a crazy bright color someday.

Although the first round of cutting in and rolling with the oil based primer had taken us 4 hours, this last coat only took us 90 minutes to put on. Either all that practice worked its magic, or we were just really ready to be done. Or both! By afternoon we were ready to start working on the trim. We hadn't bothered masking the trim during any of the previous steps. The ceiling trim got generously sloshed with white oil based primer and ceiling paint, and when green primer or paint dripped on it after that, we wiped it quickly off. For this final leg of the room painting journey, we slapped some painter's tape along the edges and did some quick and dirty painting with white glossy trim paint. No sanding, no finesse, just get it done. But we couldn't quite make it that night, calling off the attempt at 9:30 p.m.

And so, Day 6: finished up the trim around the closet and painted the back of the door in the morning, and then in the afternoon cleaned the mess up and started hauling things back in.



Done! Looks much greener in person than it does on my laptop screen...

And then collapsed. Next time, I take a real vacation! And take more time and care with the seam patching. But meanwhile, it's still a little thrill to catch a glimpse of the room as we walk by. The details may not bear close examination, but it's definitely a huge improvement. Now about that carpet...

- Victoria, 2014-07-15

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