Stripping Down

Well, I’m done.  V and I got off to a great start removing the kitchen wallpaper.

Tearing off the patterned pieces took about an hour, but left all the glued backing on the wall.  Based on past wall paper removal experiences (main bathroom at our first house, I’m talking about you), I thought this step would be incredibly tedious.  Lucky for me, it wasn’t too bad.  I’m guessing it went smoothly because the thicker decorative paper was off.  Before I got serious about the removal process, I tested a small area.  Just a wet sponge and a metal scraper got the backing off without damaging the walls.

Obviously wetting the walls with a small kitchen sponge would have taken forever, so I got out a plain spray bottle that I use for ironing.  Filled with water, I liberally sprayed the walls one small section at a time.  At first I was hesitant to spray a ton of water, but then I realized it had to happen.  So, I sprayed until the paper turned a dark golden-yellow color, let it sit five minutes, then sprayed it again.

It came off smoothly and mostly in large sheets.  Then I decided to put another theory to the test, just to compare removal processes.  I added white vinegar to the water (about 1/2 water, 1/2 vinegar) and sprayed the walls with that.  I wouldn’t say this worked better, just a little quicker.  And smellier.  I think the vinegar penetrated quicker, but I made the mistake of testing this in the confined area above the cabinets.

Do yourself a favor and use vinegar in an open space or wear a mask.  Of course it’s not a chemical smell, just strongly acidic.

Now that the bulk is done, I have to work on the details.

And fill nail holes, prime, and paint.

I’m stuck waiting on paint until we patch the areas below the new windows in the breakfast nook and family room.  And I suppose I should wait until we install trim around the windows and door so I’m not repainting everything.  Or worse, stuck with noticeable touched up areas.  Can someone tell me why satin paint shows touch ups so easily?

Have your wallpaper removals been this easy?  Or did you have thick, sticky paper to deal with?  I swear, the foiled, embossed floral wallpaper in the main bathroom at our first house did not want to come off, no matter what trick we tried.  What did you do this weekend?  Let’s just say we’ve starting tearing (more) things apart.

16 thoughts on “Stripping Down

  1. I have removed wallpaper from two houses and, I promise you, I will never do it again! Ever! Yuck. I’m impressed that you tackled that big ol’ kitchen so quickly.

    What’s your long term vision for those cabinets? Are you going to refinish or paint them? Do you worry about picking a wall color before you see the way the light plays on those changes? I tend to hold out for those reasons and it causes a home-improvement-avalanche. Oh, painting the walls? Better paint the trim! And those blinds now look yellow- better replace those! I never noticed that the switch plate covers weren’t true white- better replace those! Now I have anxiety about getting ahead of myself.

    Wooo… might have triggered an anxiety attack just reliving that process. Woosah.

    1. Hey Stephanie!

      Seriously, wallpaper is terrible. I think (some) look pretty, but I’ll never hang it because I don’t want to deal with removal. I’d sooner paint the design on.

      You know, I don’t give a crap about these cabinets. As much as I’d like brighter cabinets, I don’t want to take the time to sand these down, prime and paint. Just not worth it considering we know we won’t keep them when we renovate the kitchen. Who knows when that will happen, but I’d rather live with the ugly than waste time and money. I’m still working on finding the paint color, but I don’t get too worried about it. Worst case scenario, I’m stuck repainting if the color I choose is terrible. But of course once one thing happens, it does bring on an avalanche of projects. Stripping the wallpaper was the first step, now we’ve got plenty to do. As if we didn’t already. Haha.


      1. Hey, if you’re definitely replacing the cabinets, I wouldn’t mess with them either! Is Ben going to build all of the cabinets for this kitchen, too? I’m feeling tired just thinking about it! 😉

        I should have known that you wouldn’t be worried about repainting. You’re a pro!

        1. Yeah, so much work and it’s not worth it. Yep, the plan is to build these cabinets, too. So, I totally don’t want to deal with painting these cabinets knowing I’ll have to paint the ones we build later. Oofta, that makes me tired thinking about it.

          Thanks, lady!

  2. Our last house was built in 1983 and had some horrid wallpaper. So of course we removed it. And upon removing the wallpaper, we discovered that the original owners wallpapered directly to the dry wall. There was no primer, let alone regular paint underneath the wallpaper. It was a NIGHTMARE! I am glad that you’re wall paper removal process went (relatively) more smoothly.

  3. I removed only wallpaper borders in our house thusfar; so nothing like what you tackled. I will say that what worked the best for me (and took only a naptime to finish) was mixing 1 part fabric softener (liquid) to 2 parts water in a spray bottle. I would mist everything down and by the time I got back to the beginning I could just putty knife it all down. I did lay towels around the baseboards to help protect them from all the dripping water. I have 3 more rooms to go so I’ll be doing this again!

  4. I am in the process of removing wallpaper from our kitchen, I have been at it for over a month part-time and there’s still so much more to do. The previous owners used actualy white glue to put the paper up, so you can imagine how difficult it is to remove the ugliest paper ever made! Big pieces of the cardboard backing are coming off of the drywall or chunks are coming out where the glue dots are.

    1. Hi Denise!

      Oh man, I feel your pain. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why people don’t prepare walls for wallpaper. Perhaps they plan to never remove it. Either way, I feel your pain. Our main bathroom was terrible to remove, which is why we installed bead board to cover it.


  5. Great job! Quick question- are you also going to replace all the receptacles/switches and face plates? I need to do this in my kitchen (just painted) and I’m a little nervous…

    1. Hi Jess!

      Thanks! Eventually we’ll replace the switches and outlets as well as the face plates. When we get to that phase, I’ll be sure to post about it.


  6. My husband and I did a gut reno on his grandmother’s brick bungalow that was 100 years old in St. Louis. There was a hallway that had peeling wallpaper that we decided needed to come down and be painted. My mom was visiting and has ample wallpaper experience, so she decided to help. When we stripped the first layer, we found ANOTHER. Then, ANOTHER! There was 5 layers of wallpaper. One on top of another. It was like a time machine! Every layer represented a decade. What a mess.

    1. Hey Jessica,

      Why do people do these things?!? In our bedroom, the previous owner painted over the wallpaper, so I feel your pain. Glad it’s done now!


  7. We paint before installing the trim – then you don’t have to tape the woodwork in those areas – just paint past where the trim goes – and there’s a nice clean edge with the trim going over the paint – and no little lip of paint on the trim if the taping wasn’t perfect.

    1. Hi Debi,

      If we were installing wood trim, I would definitely paint first, too. But we’re using MDF painted white for our trim, so it’s easier to install, caulk the seams, paint the trim and then paint the walls. 🙂


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