Traditional pink floral wallpaper covers the walls in the Schmidt’s new master bedroom. Photo courtesy of Mike Schmidt.
Newlyweds Shannon Schmidt and her husband Mike recently purchased their first home in West Orange, N.J. Built in the 1920s, the California bungalow has character, but according to Shannon needs sprucing up—especially what she calls “the ugly wallpaper.” “It’s a sad little old house that seems to have been ignored for awhile,” says Shannon. “But the wallpaper needs to come down.”
Like typical do-it-yourselfers, the couple surfed the Web and asked friends and family for advice on how to do the job, but they became confused when each source offered a new way of accomplishing the task. “Everybody tells you a different way—scoring it, not scoring it, using hot water, a steam machine, water and vinegar or even fabric softener,” she says.
With so many options, professional Tom Westley, owner of Wallpaper Concepts in Chicago, Ill., understands the couple’s confusion but says that removing those murals or boring boat scenes is really pretty simple. “It’s all about penetrating the papers with water and breaking down the paste.”
More wallpaper covers yet another room in the honeymooners’ first home. Photo courtesy of Mike Schmidt.
Breaking It Down To do so, Westley uses Strip Plus wallpaper stripper combined with hot water and applies it to the wall with a garden sprayer. “You have to let the water do the work,” he says. “A big mistake is to rush the job. The paste is hardened and the only way it will release again is to be softened by water. You might have to spray the water a dozen times until the water has done the work and you can peel the whole thing.”
Mike Morrissey, owner of WPI Decorating of Naperville, Ill., says that most removal methods are just old wives’ tales and although many DIYers use a steamer, it’s a tedious process. “If you have hours of time it will work, but that’s not what we use in the trade; we use hot water,” he says.
During the process, don’t saturate your wall or let the water run. Westley suggests taping newspaper to the bottom of the wall before applying the water so any runoff goes onto the paper and not behind the baseboard.