How Much Does Wallpaper Removal Cost?
Removing wallpaper can be a lengthy and difficult process, so many homeowners choose to hire a pro to remove theirs. Wallpaper removal cost averages around $786 nationally, with a range between $420 and $1,190.
- Typical Range: $420 to $1,190
- National Average: $786
Wallpaper goes in and out of style, and does so with great gusto—some wallpaper companies make designs so distinctive that those with a discerning eye can guess the year the paper was hung just by looking at the pattern. It can be flashy and fun or quiet and elegant; it can also bring color to an accent wall or create an easy-to-clean surface in a family room. Some people love it, some hate it. One thing everyone can agree on, though, is that it can be extremely difficult to remove from a wall.
For homeowners who know how to remove wallpaper properly (or are willing to learn), removal can be a DIY job, especially if it’s only one wall or a small room. Larger-scale jobs, on the other hand, or older, thinner paper that’s been glued to the walls for decades, may send a homeowner running to the internet to find a wallpaper remover to help. According to Angi and HomeAdvisor, the average cost of wallpaper removal runs from $420 to $1,190, but there are many factors and decisions that play into what the cost will be for any individual project. Understanding these elements can help keep the budget aligned with what a homeowner really wants to have done.
Factors in Calculating Wallpaper Removal Cost
What’s the best way to remove wallpaper? It depends. Not all walls are the same, and the varieties of wallpaper quality, glues, and materials can affect the cost of stripping it down. Unfortunately, homeowners can’t change the composition or size of their walls or existing wallpaper, so some of those costs may not be within their control. Other decisions, such as the method of removal and labor costs, can be chosen carefully to stay within a budget.
Newer wallpaper, sometimes called “strippable” or “removable” wallpaper, is the easiest and most inexpensive wallpaper to remove, largely because it requires very little intervention. Removing this kind of wallpaper can be as simple as loosening a corner of the paper and slowly peeling it down and away from the wall, then cleaning up any residual adhesive. Porous wallpaper, which is a traditional-style paper, usually with a matte finish that allows liquid to pass through, is also fairly simple to remove using spray liquid to soften the paper and loosen the glue. Nonporous wallpaper is the most expensive to remove, as liquid can’t permeate the paper to release the adhesive, so the paper must be perforated and then either moistened with remover solution or steamed off, then scraped off in smaller pieces. Homeowners can try peeling at a corner to see if the paper is strippable, or they can moisten the paper with a damp sponge or spray bottle to see whether the paper absorbs the liquid or repels it to determine what type of paper they have.
Some older wallpapers, including woodchip-style paper and papers that have been painted over, will be more labor-intensive to remove and will therefore be more expensive.
What’s the easiest way to remove wallpaper? Removal methods depend largely on the type of paper, but a combination of methods may be necessary depending on the type of adhesive used. Stripping is one of the least expensive methods, averaging between $0.60 and $1.50 per square foot; it can be slightly more costly if the paper doesn’t strip easily or pulls apart as it’s peeling off.
Soaking and scraping is the common way to take off porous paper and some nonporous paper that isn’t strippable. The additional labor required for the soaking and scraping may sometimes make this method more costly than stripping, but the average job costs about the same as stripping at $0.60 to $1.50 per square foot. Soaking and scraping will likely be the best method to remove papers that are firmly adhered to the walls.
Steaming is a chemical-free way to take down wallpaper that uses hot water to soften the glue. Homeowners who want to DIY can rent a steamer for about $15 for half a day, or they can purchase a steamer for about $50. If a pro does the steaming, the cost to remove wallpaper will increase by about $50.
The type of wall hiding behind the wallpaper will also help determine how to get wallpaper off. Wallpaper is usually adhered to plaster or drywall. If it’s strippable paper, it won’t matter which substrate it’s being removed from. Plaster and drywall, however, each have particular quirks and considerations. Plaster doesn’t absorb as much water as drywall, so there’s less danger of oversoaking the paper and damaging the wall underneath; as a result, contractors can often work more quickly to remove wallpaper from plaster walls than from drywall. However, plaster is more delicate by its nature and more prone to gouging or crumbling; therefore, it needs to be handled by someone who understands how to handle it to avoid damage that might require costly repairs. Something as simple as incorrectly angling a putty knife or roughly working at a clump of dried glue can result in unsightly gouges or chunks of crumbled plaster falling out of the wall. Such expertise can come at an additional cost.
For homes with drywall, homeowners will want to make sure they’ve asked the contractor if they know how to remove wallpaper from drywall, because it can be a tricky project. If the drywall beneath the wallpaper was primed prior to the application of the wallpaper, the primer will protect the drywall from moisture and the paper will release much more easily. If it was not primed, removing wallpaper will cost more per square foot than it would cost to remove it from plaster. Unprimed drywall soaks up moisture rapidly, so spraying the wallpaper can quickly make the drywall soft and the paper almost impossible to separate without damaging the drywall.
For a room that has a straightforward layout with typical-height ceilings and walls that can be easily accessed, wallpaper removal shouldn’t require additional costs. However, some homeowners choose to apply paper in areas they don’t want to have to paint, and the removal from those areas can cost extra. Small cabinets and tight closets can be difficult for a removal contractor to squeeze into and scrape away all the debris, and vaulted ceilings and stairwells can require tall ladders or scaffolding and safety equipment for contractors to access the paper and thoroughly remove it without risk of injury. In addition, if the room has unusual angles or nooks and crannies where wallpaper often needs to be glued down more tightly than on flat expanses of wall, more time may be required to scrape those areas.
Wondering how to remove old wallpaper? It may seem that old wallpaper that’s peeling around the edges will be easier to remove, but that’s not necessarily true. While older wallpaper may not feature the efficient adhesive that more modern styles use, the glues can adhere very tightly to the walls—and have been doing so season after season for years. Convincing that adhesive to unstick can be very difficult and can require intensive labor, especially if various residents over the years have tried to seal down loose edges or pieces with glue that wasn’t intended for walls. These little islands of paper stuck to the wall are nearly impossible to release and therefore must be sanded off.
Room Size and Ceiling Height
The larger the room, the longer it will take to remove the wallpaper. It’s straightforward math; bigger rooms will cost more in terms of labor and materials. Similarly, rooms with very high ceilings that require multiple ladders or trestles and a lot of leaning in and out to scrape will also require more time and material, and thus will cost more than rooms with traditional or lower ceiling heights.
Labor costs are the most substantial part of wallpaper removal projects. The cost of labor will vary regionally, based on the market in the area in which the home is located. It will also vary based on the specifics of the job, as labor costs are primarily calculated using time. On average, labor costs between $0.60 and $10 per square foot. Larger rooms, high ceilings, and other considerations all tie into the cost of labor. In addition, some homes have multiple layers of wallpaper applied one on top of another, and some have wallpaper that has been painted over, both of which will substantially increase the time and effort that go into the removal process. Contractors will provide a labor quote in one of two ways. In some cases, the contractor will estimate the number of total hours of work the project is expected to take and price the job based on that number (plus the necessary materials), so the labor is a line-item on the quote. In other cases, especially jobs that include multiple rooms, the contractor will simply price the whole job, pushing labor and material costs into one number that isn’t itemized. Customers are certainly entitled to question these numbers and ask if there will be a cost reduction if the hours worked end up being less than the estimate.
Additional Costs and Considerations
The previous factors determine the price of wallpaper removal in a home. However, there’s more to a removal job than just the removal of the wallpaper itself, so a good budget should consider and include these potential expenditures. Failing to include these steps in the job can end up costing a homeowner a surprisingly significant amount of money in repairs later on, and if there’s no budget for them, homeowners can be left living with bare walls for some time.
While water is most often the primary liquid used to soften wallpaper and glue, sometimes chemical solvents are necessary to break the bond of the adhesives. These chemicals are generally mild, but the water and the chemicals can still do a number on exposed hardwood floors and carpets, as can the bits of sticky, wet wallpaper that drop off the walls. It’s important for homeowners or contractors to carefully cover the floors with a protective layer of paper or waterproof covering to make sure they’re not creating a reflooring project as the wallpaper is removed.
The same concern exists for the furniture or appliances in the room—really, anything the water, solvents, or gummy bits of wallpaper might land on should be moved or covered. Sometimes this is a job the homeowner can do to save money, with some direction from the contractors, but in the case of large or heavy furniture, it may be worth the extra expense to let the contractors handle this part.
Often, the walls will suffer some damage during the process of removing the wallpaper. Sometimes people glue down loose wallpaper edges with household glue, and pulling or scraping off that piece of glue takes a little chunk of the wall with it. Other times the paper was put up in the first place to hide damaged walls, such as plaster that has loosened or fallen out where something was hung on the wall, or drywall that is water damaged. These problems will need to be repaired before the wall can be painted or repapered, which will require filling holes and cracks, sanding, and sometimes adding texture so the repair matches the texture of the rest of the wall. This will add cost both in the time it takes to make the repairs and the materials needed to complete the job.
If the walls underneath the paper are very badly damaged, it may be necessary to skim coat the entire wall to achieve a smooth, uniform consistency. Contractors will mix a thin batch of joint compound and apply the mixture over the surface to fill holes and unify the texture. This job usually costs between $0.75 and $1.50 per square foot. Even if the wall isn’t badly damaged, it’s worth considering a skim coat. The texture of a wall that has had wallpaper covering it for years may not be uniform, and the slightly different texture of left-behind adhesive may not become obvious until paint has been applied. A smooth skim coat essentially makes the wall like new, ready for whatever treatment the homeowner wishes to apply.
Presumably, the customer will want the wall to be finished after the wallpaper is removed. Many contractors who remove wallpaper also offer painting services so the whole job can be bundled into one for a discount price. If that’s not an option, homeowners can hire a painter at a cost of between $2 and $6 per square foot. Alternatively, the cost to paint a room as a DIY job can be between $200 and $300 for paint and supplies. Homeowners can paint a small room themselves to save some money, but for larger or more difficult projects, contractors can purchase paint for about half the price with their contractor discounts, and since they already have the supplies, it may cost less in both money and time to hire this job out.
Some bold homeowners will try painting over wallpaper rather than removing it. This may be an option in some cases, especially if the walls behind the paper are thought to be somewhat delicate. If the homeowner ever plans to remove the wallpaper, however, it’s important to remember that it’s more expensive and difficult to remove wallpaper once it’s been painted over, so unless there’s a problem with the wall, it’s probably best to remove the wallpaper and then paint.
New Wallpaper Installation
If paint doesn’t suit the decor of the home, or if the walls aren’t particularly attractive after the removal of old wallpaper, the next option is to repaper the walls. Fortunately, there are modern styles and patterns of wallpaper to suit almost any taste, and they’re easier to apply than wallpapers of past years, including many that are peel-and-stick and don’t involve glue. Installation costs will range from $280 to $720, depending on the type and cost of the paper selected and how complex the shape of the room is—both of which will also affect the labor costs. A quick search for “wallpaper installation near me” will help homeowners find a contractor to help: Spaces that require tall ladders present an installation and safety challenge, and it’s best to get some professional assistance in these situations.
Types of Wallpaper Removal Methods
Wallpaper removal is rarely an easy process: It can take a lot of patience, creativity, and most of all, time. There are three basic methods of removing wallpaper, each with its own challenges.
Stripping wallpaper is often considered the best way to remove wallpaper, and those who find that their wallpaper is strippable are in luck: It could be an easy DIY project for those who want to learn how to strip wallpaper. Hiring a professional will cost homeowners between $90 and $220 for a 144-square-foot room. To check if the paper is strippable, homeowners can start by loosening the corner of the wallpaper and gently pulling it back. If it peels back smoothly the wallpaper is dry-strippable, and they’ll be able to continue this process around the room. If that doesn’t work, they can check to see if it’s wet-strippable by using hot water to dampen the top portion of a panel of the paper, letting it soak for a bit, then seeing if the paper peels away easily. If so, the paper is strippable, and this same process should be continued for each panel until all the paper is off—using a spray bottle or pump sprayer may help. Some effort may be necessary to pick off pieces that tear away from the panels, and the walls will need a good cleaning to remove any bits of adhesive that stayed behind. Stripping rarely damages the walls behind the paper.
Soaking and Scraping
If the paper isn’t strippable, the likely removal method is soaking and scraping. A small device called a paper tiger or scoring tool is rolled over the surface, creating small perforations or tears in the paper. Then liquid is applied (either water or a wallpaper stripper solution designed to dissolve glues and adhesives) with a sponge or spray bottle and allowed to soak in. Once the paper is saturated, a scraping tool is used to remove the paper and glue together. Soaking and scraping costs an average of $0.60 to $1.50 per square foot, and it can cost more if there are many stubborn bits of paper that refuse to peel easily.
Similar to the soak-and-scrape process, a scoring tool is used to perforate the paper, and then a handheld steamer is used to soak the paper and steam-heat the glue or adhesive, making it easier to peel off the panels. It may be necessary to follow up with a scraper to remove stubborn pieces of the panels. Steaming is a long and arduous process; it’s not difficult, exactly, but it requires a lot of patience because the steam must be applied evenly and for a long enough period that the glue softens and the paper pulls away. However, overzealous removers who steam too large an area at once will find that the water has cooled by the time they begin peeling. Although a homeowner can DIY this part with a rented or purchased steamer, this is also a job that may be well worth the expense of paying a pro who knows what they’re doing to complete. Steaming will add about $50 to the cost of a soaking-and-scraping project.
Do I Need Wallpaper Removal?
While some people move into a new house and can’t wait to start removing all the old wallpaper, others enjoy the intricate patterns and punch to the decor that wallpaper provides, not to mention the ease of cleaning the walls. How do you know when it’s time to remove the wallpaper?
Older styles of wallpaper can be fun and vintage or just old and dated. If the style of the wallpaper is dating the house in a way that makes the homeowner unhappy, it’s time to remove it, even if it’s still in great condition. Even if the residents love a vintage look, vibrant styles that are dated may need to be removed before placing a home on the market; while the bright vintage look may appeal to some buyers, it may drive others away. A real estate agent can advise on whether keeping older wallpaper or removing it will be best for the home’s sale value.
Significant water damage can irreparably detach wallpaper from the wall. While small leaks can loosen an area of paper that can potentially be glued back down, larger leaks may be trapped behind the paper, causing bubbling that damages the wall and stretches the paper, making it impossible to flatten back down. Water trapped behind paper can be difficult to dry out and can result in mold growth, so if there’s significant water damage behind the paper, it should be removed so the wall can dry out.
Remember, too, that hot water is what is most often used to remove wallpaper. If the paper is damaged by steam from a stove or is hit with a significant spill of hot water, the glue may loosen, causing the paper to sag. This kind of damage can’t be easily repaired.
Loose or Ripped Wallpaper
It’s easy to forget that wallpaper is simply reinforced paper, so if the corner of a bookcase drags against it, the paper can tear like any other paper. Impacts can cause rips, as can pets scratching at the paper, curious children peeling a loose edge, or friction spots where shoulders brush repeatedly as people walk by. Seams can come loose easily—they’re the trickiest part to glue down thoroughly—and once loose, the edges can seem to catch on everything that passes by. The tears and loose edges look shabby, and while they can be repaired if they’re minor, they’ll soon look mismatched or dirty in a way that can’t be cleaned.
Poor Air Quality
Older wallpaper can hide a multitude of problems. Years’ worth of dust can accumulate in the texture of the paper and the seams, especially if the homeowner doesn’t know how to clean wallpaper (or even that it should be cleaned at all). Plus unseen water damage, caught between the paper and the plaster or drywall, can slowly develop into mold or mildew and spread around the room behind the paper. Homeowners who notice a musty or stale scent, or simply notice that the air in the home isn’t as fresh as it should be, should consider removing the wallpaper to improve the overall air quality and assessing the condition of the wall behind to check for mold or mildew growth.
Wallpaper Removal: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional
In some cases, wallpaper removal can be a DIY project. Temporary wallpaper that peels off in a smooth sheet, or a single layer of strippable wallpaper in a medium-size room with standard ceilings, may be easily removed by a homeowner using one of the best wallpaper remover tools.
The real question is whether or not the homeowner really wants to tackle this project themselves. There are situations where it’s advised to hire a professional: If the ceilings are so high that the homeowner needs a ladder that’s taller than what they already own, it’s probably too high to climb up to do work that’s tedious and labor-intensive. In fact, wallpaper removal jobs that involve tall ladders are safety hazards and should be left to professionals who have access to equipment such as scaffolding and safety harnesses. Steamers are heavy, and using them requires extraordinary stamina and patience. Even soaking and scraping can cause hand cramps and frustration. Plus, any of these methods can result in damage to the walls that a homeowner may or may not have the equipment and know-how to repair. And accidentally painting over residual wallpaper glue can have disastrous—and potentially irreparable—effects on the wall texture.
Finally, wallpaper removal is incredibly time-consuming; it can take days. Homeowners who have the time, energy, and patience to spread the job out over days or weeks can certainly give it a try, but the pros have the experience and the equipment to get the job done more efficiently in much less time. Plus, paying a contractor means it’s someone else’s job to clean up all those bits of paper and haul them away.
How to Save Money on Wallpaper Removal Cost
Wallpaper removal costs are generally pretty reasonable, given the challenge the job presents, but it’s always a good idea to consider how the price might be reduced. Consider these options.
- Be flexible with your schedule. If the contractor can fit your smaller job in between larger jobs when it’s convenient, the cost might be lower, and it will definitely be lower than a rush job.
- Check with the contractor about what furniture needs to be moved out of the way, then ask friends to help move it rather than paying for that service.
- Ask the contractor what kind of preparation is needed on the floor and surrounding areas, and perform that labor yourself.
- Ask the contractor if you can handle the cleanup yourself in exchange for a lower cost.
Questions to Ask About Wallpaper Removal
Any professional who comes into a home should be licensed appropriately, insured and bonded, and should be able to show proof of those things before the homeowner even considers hiring them. In addition, they should be able to provide the names of references and photos of their completed work, which the homeowner will want to check. Beyond those basic requirements, there are some specific questions homeowners can ask a wallpaper removal contractor.
- What process will you use to remove this wallpaper? Why is it the most effective?
- How long have you been removing wallpaper?
- What challenges do you see in this job? Are there areas you can identify as potential problems?
- What exactly is included in the contract? Will you repair wall damage and prime the walls after the removal to leave a clean finish for whatever we plan to do afterward?
- Do you also provide painting or wallpaper installation service?
- Who handles cleanup and disposal of the wallpaper after it’s removed? What constitutes “cleaned up?”
- What measures will you take to protect the floors and other surfaces in the area?
Wallpaper removal is a multistage job; there are many more components in terms of preparation, removal, cleanup, and wall finishing than most people realize. The following are some commonly asked questions, along with their answers, to help homeowners zero in on the aspects of the project they’re planning.
Q. Can painters remove wallpaper?
Realistically, any contractor who has extensive experience removing wallpaper and repairing the walls can remove paper. Many painting contractors have experience with this, so homeowners will want to ask specific questions about the painters’ experience and techniques to make sure they know how to handle potential problems, and they’ll want to check references.
Q. How do you prep walls after removing wallpaper?
The answer to this question depends on the condition of the walls after the paper has been removed. If the walls are in excellent shape, a little patching of any holes, followed by a complete sanding—preferably using a pole sander to make sure the entire wall is sanded—followed by a wipe-down with a damp cloth or tack cloth to remove all the dust will leave it ready for priming and painting or a new coat of wallpaper. If the walls are not in good condition and have a lot of pitting, damage, or uneven spots, consider skim coating the entire wall with a light coat of joint compound. Let it dry, then sand and wipe down as described. The wall will be ready to go!
Q. Is it worth it to remove wallpaper?
It’s not ideal to paint over existing wallpaper. If the paper can be safely removed, it’s best to do so, then prepare the wall and paint or repaper. Painting over wallpaper can create a lot of problems; it can make the wallpaper brittle and dry, causing it to curl away from the wall, and paper that has been painted over is significantly more difficult to remove—so if homeowners make the mistake of painting over paper that reacts badly, the “fix” will be expensive and time-consuming.
The only time it’s a good plan to paint over wallpaper is when the wall behind the existing paper is particularly delicate. If removing the wallpaper is going to pull out chunks of plaster or require significant drywall repair, then painting over it may be the only option. In that case, homeowners will want to prepare by learning exactly how to paint over wallpaper. In all other cases, removing the wallpaper before painting or repapering will be the most cost-effective option.
Q. How long does it take to remove wallpaper in one room?
If a homeowner does the job themselves and has the full days to devote to the job, it will take about 2 days to remove the wallpaper in a single room with average-height ceilings. A professional contractor can do the job in about half that time. There is always the possibility that it will take longer: If the homeowner discovers that there are multiple layers of wallpaper or paint over one of the layers of wallpaper, or if they have to figure out how to remove wallpaper glue that won’t come off, the time frame for the job will extend.
Q. Is it cheaper to remove wallpaper or replace drywall?
This depends on the type of wallpaper and the material of the wall behind it. In most cases, it will be less expensive to remove the wallpaper. If the paper is strippable, or if the wall behind it was primed before the wallpaper was applied, the wallpaper removal will likely be simple and reasonably inexpensive. Peel back a corner of the wallpaper and check to see how easily it comes off and whether the wall behind it resists letting go. If, on the other hand, the wallpaper has been painted over, it will be nearly impossible to remove, and if it is adhered tightly and causes significant wall damage when a piece is removed, the homeowner will be in a similar situation. In those cases it may be less expensive to drywall over the wallpaper as a way to cover and resurface the walls.
Q. What is the fastest way to strip wallpaper?
If the wallpaper is temporary or peel-and-stick, removing it is a matter of getting a good hold on the edge and slowly peeling it off. Dry-strippable wallpaper is similarly swift to remove, with the caveat that the homeowner may need to go back and pick off bits that don’t come away with the panels. Beyond those easy fixes, hot water can be a good tool. Homeowners can score the wall if they’re concerned that the wallpaper may not absorb the water, then spray it liberally with hot water and start peeling and scraping.