How to Paint Over Wood Paneling in 7 Easy Steps!

When Should You Paint Over Wallpaper?

There are certain times when painting over wallpaper can be a reasonable option. Removing wallpaper can be time-consuming and expensive. Wallpaper removal can potentially damage your walls if you are using a scraping method. Painting over wallpaper is a cost-effective process that allows you to give your interiors a new look. Whatever your reason, if you want to try painting over wallpaper in your home, you’ll need to follow the proper procedure to get the look and quality that you desire.

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3. Mask baseboards and trim

Use painter’s tape to mask off the baseboards, window and door trims, and molding to avoid getting any primer or paint on these surfaces.

1. Clean the walls

‘The first step in painting over wallpaper is to make sure the walls are completely clean,’ says Emily Perez, Head of Design at Kitchen Infinity. ‘It is necessary to ensure that there are no particles of dust or other dirty things. The priming process is hampered if the wall is not properly cleaned.’

To get the walls clean, use a cloth to remove any dust or grime. It should be barely damp as you don’t want to wet the walls.

If the walls are greasy, you could use a mild detergent solution but you may need to use a TSP solution instead. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure you wear safety gear. 

Allow walls to dry thoroughly. 

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Pros and Cons of Painting Over Wallpaper

Pros

  • It saves a lot of time.
  • It is usually a DIY-friendly project.

Cons

  • If you don’t prep the wall correctly, the wallpaper beneath it can peel and lift.
  • The wallpaper seams (and even textures of the wallpaper itself) can show through the paint.
  • Depending on the quality of the original wallpapering job, it can look shoddy.

Things You’ll Need

  • Mask or ventilator
  • Safety goggles
  • Gloves
  • Trisodium phosphate (TSP)
  • Rags/cloths
  • Joint compound
  • Drywall knife
  • Spackle
  • Adhesive/wallpaper paste
  • Sandpaper/sanding blocks
  • Primer/sealer combination (oil-based)
  • Masking tape
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paint roller
  • Interior wall paint

Tools and Supplies

The tools and supplies you’ll need to paint over your wallpaper are really no different than the tools and materials you’ll need to paint over paint (or drywall).

Your shopping list should include:

  • Gloves and eye protection
  • Respirator mask
  • A degreasing product, like Krud Kutter or Grease Lightning (do not use TSP)
  • A bucket
  • Soft rags
  • Drop cloths to protect your flooring
  • Painter’s tape
  • Rollers and brushes
  • An oil-based primer
  • Paint
  • If you need to make any minor repairs, you may also need sandpaper, a putty knife and spackling paste

Steps for Painting Over Wallpaper

Follow these steps to learn how to paint over wallpaper in your home.

Step 1: Clean the walls

Wipe the dust and dirt off the walls with a barely damp cloth. Primer won’t stick well to a layer of dust.

If the walls are greasy and grimy (think highly-used kitchen), clean them with a diluted solution of TSP. Don’t soak the walls with the water or solution because that could soften the adhesive below the wallpaper and cause it to loosen or bubble.

Leave plenty of time for the walls to dry.

Step 2: Repair any damages to the wallpaper

Look for peeling edges or seams, as these are the weakest areas in terms of adhesion. Some experts recommend using a thin layer of wallpaper seam adhesive to reattach these loose fragments.

Another recommendation is to lift those areas with a thin putty knife, cutting the loose bits away and filling in with spackle to create a level surface, then sanding lightly when completely dry.

If the wallpaper has a texture you don’t want to detect through the paint, the whole wall should be sanded until smooth, using either a palm or orbital sander. With a slightly damp cloth, wipe away dust.

Step 3: Tape off molding and trim

Using painters tape, carefully tape off any molding, trim, wainscot, or baseboard you want to protect.

Step 4: Prime the walls

No matter which type of topcoat you will be using—oil-based or water-based—you want to use an oil-based primer. That’s because a water-based primer could soak into the wallpaper and loosen the adhesive.

An oil-based primer will not do that. Just as with painting, use a brush to cut in the corners and edges, then use a roller to finish the big stretches.

Allow plenty of time to dry according to the manufacturer’s directions. Make sure there is plenty of ventilation in the space.

Step 5: Start painting

Once the wallpaper is cleaned, repaired, and primed, paint it as you would any other surface. This will be especially necessary if the wallpaper has a bold pattern, or if you are applying light-colored paint over dark-colored wallpaper. You’ll likely need two coats, with plenty of drying time in between.

Painting over wallpaper can be done, and sometimes it should be done rather than removing the wallpaper.

As with many home improvements, the quality of the result depends on the effort exerted at the beginning. In other words, it’s all in the preparation.

Wrap Up

Regardless of the type of surface, you will be painting, remember that preparation is almost always the key to a proper finish. This will even be better if you are knowledgeable of the appropriate painting materials and tools.

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