DIY Painting & Finishing

How To: Paint Over Wallpaper

Are you sick and tired of your old wallpaper? Before you go to the trouble of stripping it off, consider covering it with a few coats of paint. Read on to find out how to do it and to figure out whether painting is the right solution for your walls.
Bob Vila Avatar
How to Paint Over Wallpaper

We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs. Learn More ›

Looking to redo a wall that has been papered? If you weren’t the one to put up the existing layer wallpaper, any number of imperfections—from nail holes to degraded plaster—may lurk underneath it. Another ugly truth: The wallpaper you see may, in fact, be only the top layer of several applications. It’s hard enough to remove one layer of wallpaper, let alone multiple layers.

If you have no plans to move, it may be worth the effort to strip away the paper entirely and work with what’s underneath. But if you need a quick fix, you can actually get good results by painting over wallpaper!

RELATED: 11 Problems You Can Solve with Paint

You can achieve a brand-new look with a minimum of hassle. Follow this set of steps for how to paint over wallpaper.

Tools & Materials may earn a commission from purchases made through these links.

Find trusted local pros for any home project
How to Paint Over Wallpaper - Detail Red

STEP 1: Clean the wallpaper-covered walls with diluted TSP.

Painting over wallpaper successfully requires proper preparation. This may involve the counterintuitive task of repairing or replacing loose or missing sections of the wallpaper. At the very least, prep work here requires cleaning the walls with trisodium phosphate, a chemical better known as TSP.

TSP is such strong stuff that it must be diluted. Mix it with water in a bucket, aiming for a ratio of one half-cup for every two gallons of water. Closely follow the manufacturer’s usage directions, including the labeled safety warnings. Adequately ventilate the room in where you’ll be painting over wallpaper, and don’t forget to wear protective gear.

TSP can be applied with a sponge or even an extra paintbrush. Once the TSP has dried, use a damp (but not dripping wet) rag to remove the chemical from the wall. Tread carefully. Too little water and you may not get the chemical off, thereby compromising the paint’s ability to adhere. Too much water and you run the risk of damaging the wall.

STEP 2: Add extra adhesive beneath the paper’s top and bottom edges, then prime.

If you’ve gone to all the trouble of painting over wallpaper, peeling layers are the last thing you’ll want to see. One way to prevent peeling is to apply an adhesive compound where the wallpaper is most vulnerable—at the seams where it meets the ceiling and floor.

An even better approach is to finish the right way: coating the wall with a combination primer-sealer after painting over wallpaper. Not only does primer-sealer minimize the chances of peeling, but it also provides a surface to which the paint can readily adhere. Use an oil-based primer-sealer, not a water-based product; after all, water and wallpaper don’t mix.

STEP 3: Wait for the primer to dry before painting over wallpaper.

Once the walls are clean and you’ve applied the primer-sealer, give the walls enough time to dry. Check the can for exactly how long the manufacturer suggests to wait.

STEP 4: Apply your first coat of oil-based paint.

You are now ready to begin painting over the wallpaper. Whether or not you choose to seal and prime, be sure to opt for an oil-based paint when you’re ready to coat the walls.

Approach the job as you would any other painting project: Use a paintbrush to cut in at the corners and along edges, then let the roller do the rest. You’re probably going to need a couple of coats to cover any patterns when painting over wallpaper.

STEP 5: Let dry completely and complete a second coat.

Let the first coat dry completely before you proceed to the next one. During the interim, consider sanding the wall. It’s tedious, yes—less so if you own a power sander—but sanding minimizes imperfections and could greatly improve the finished appearance of your work. Either way, the very last step is to paint the top coat. When you’re finally finished, stand back and admire the difference. Where once there had been wallpaper you had tired of, you’ll now see gleaming, freshly painted surfaces!