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Can You Paint Over Wallpaper? The Answer May Surprise You

Bedroom with patterned wallpaper

Charlie Interior Design

We are big fans of wallpaper. The right wallpaper can completely transform a bedroom or make a guest powder room feel like an elegant hotel bathroom. But, sometimes you get stuck with wallpaper that's just not vibing with the rest of the house, or it's been damaged and needs to go. When this happens, you have two options: you can remove the wallpaper, or you can paint over it. Yes, you read that right—you can paint right over it.

It's important to note that not all wallpaper can or should be painted over. To get the lowdown on painting over wallpaper, we chatted with Beverley Kruskol, the owner of M.Y Pacific Building, Inc., to learn when and how to do it right.

To get started, you will need:

  1. A high-quality paint
  2. Primer
  3. High-quality rollers and brushes
  4. A sheetrock knife
  5. Fine-grit sandpaper
  6. Wallpaper glue

Read on for everything you need to know to paint over your old wallpaper.

When Can You Paint Over Wallpaper?

Nursery with wallpaper

Becca Interiors

First thing's first: not every wallpapered wall is prime for painting. Kruskol advises clients to take into consideration the state of their wallpaper before they get started.

Scenarios you should avoid? "If the wallpaper is torn due to age or other reasons, bubbling caused by moisture from high humidity, leaks or heavy condensation, peeling, a seam starting to lift or is extremely old," she says.

So, if your wallpaper is in great condition, can you paint over it? Not so fast, says Kruskol. "The best wallpaper to paint over is a smooth paper with as little design as possible," she advises. This means a textured wallpaper or a very bold one may still show up under the paint—and ruin your crisp painted walls.

To summarize, yes, you can paint your wallpaper, but ensure it is in fairly good condition and is as smooth as possible before you begin. Otherwise, consider removing it first.

First, Buy the Right Paint

Bedroom with wallpaper

Doris Roberts Interiors

Once you've decided to paint over your wallpaper, the next step is picking out your wall paint. Beyond just focusing on the perfect paint color, it is important to get the right paint, too. Kruskol recommends always using a high-quality paint primer before painting, even if your paint is a 2-in-1 type.

Beyond that, splurge on high-quality interior paint as well. This is not the time to cheap out—thin paints will allow the wallpaper pattern to peek through after you're done.

While they can be messy, opt for an oil-based primer instead of a water-based one. These primers are created to block anything coming through under the primer and will be the best to ensure full coverage of those clean white walls.

Next, Prep the Walls

Room with gray wallpaper

Dan Rak

Kruskol recommends cleaning the wallpaper thoroughly with a damp rag before you get started. Then, look for any rough patches or areas where the wallpaper is coming up. Here's when you should grab your sandpaper, glue, and scraper so you can prime the walls to perfection before you slap on paint.

"If there are any seams coming up, sand slightly, apply some glue and allow to dry thoroughly. If necessary, scrape as needed," Kruskol recommends.

Once you've sealed and scraped away and rough patches or loose ends, it's time to prime. The key, says Kruskol, is to make sure you let the primer dry entirely before starting with the paint. If you trap moisture between layers of paint and primer, you're asking for bubbling.

Finally, Start Painting

Bedroom with wallpaper

Forbes + Masters

Now, the fun begins. Once you've prepped, clean, repaired, and lined up your painting tools, you can finally start to paint over your wallpaper. While there are easy ways to avoid some common painting mistakes, the truth is that this project will be a bit more difficult than painting over a clean wall.

If you come across a tear or rip in the wallpaper while you're painting, take a step back and repair it first. Painting over any vulnerable areas will easily turn into a mess. "It’s very tricky when applying any type of moisture—including primer and paint—to wallpaper, as it can cause the wallpaper to start separating from the wall," Kruskol says.

Just remember that this may take a bit of trial and error. Play some music, grab some wine, and prepare for a few mistakes along the way. Taking time to get it right will pay off in the long run.