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Wallpaper Removal

Great-Looking New Walls Begin With Removal of the Old Wallcovering

Old wallpaper, whether you had it installed years ago or it came with the house you purchased, can be a major obstacle to a stylish home interior. Removing wallpaper is a job the average homeowner can handle, but it's messy and requires a large time investment, not to mention the patience of a saint. Furthermore, if the job isn't done right, the wall itself can be damaged, which will result in more time and money being spent. Make things easier on yourself and hire a pro to remove wallpaper.

Considerations for Removing Wallpaper

It can be tough to say from the outset what will be involved with stripping wallpaper and, as a result, how long the project will take and how much it will cost.

In large part, the complexity and pricing of the job depend on the type of wallpaper installed. While older wallpaper may actually be made from 100% paper, newer types are often coated with vinyl, foil, or textiles. These materials resist the water-based solutions that are used to soften wallpaper for removal, necessitating the use of a special perforating tool. Newer adhesives also resist moisture, and require a chemical application to break them down. In some cases, the outer paper layer can be simply peeled away by hand, leaving only the backing and glue layers to be dealt with.

The particular care that's taken when removing wallpaper also depends, in part, on the type of wall that's behind the paper. Too much moisture damages drywall, and the material is also easy to gouge and scourge. Plaster walls, on the other hand, are more forgiving. While all walls will require some repairs to get them ready for new wallpaper or paint, where drywall is installed, extra caution must be exercised, as too much damage to the drywall could necessitate hanging new sheets.

How Wallpaper is Removed

Bearing in mind the factors described above, the following is a description of how wallpaper is typically removed.
  • A handheld tool is used to poke many, tiny holes in the wallpaper (but not the wall). The perforations allow the chemical solution that is sprayed on to penetrate the coated paper layer to the adhesive layer below.
  • A liquid or gel solvent is applied to the wallpaper. It passes through the perforations that were made and begins to break down the glue bonds. 30 minutes or so is usually sufficient to soften the glue to the point where it can be removed.
  • The paper is peeled away where possible, and scraping tools are used for more stubborn spots.
  • It's possible to use a steamer to remove older wallpaper. While newer adhesives are moisture resistant, older ones can often be removed with steam stripping.
  • Sub-walls inevitably suffer some damage when wallpaper is removed, and they'll need to be repaired. First, shellac is applied to the drywall to create a moisture barrier. Next, drywall compound is applied to areas with major damage. After the compound dries, it is lightly sanded. The final step is to prime the compound-repaired sections in order to ready them for a new layer of paint or wallpaper.

Wallpaper Removal Costs

As this article points out, it's hard to know how a wallpaper stripping job will proceed until the actual work gets underway. In fact, the contractor may have to readjust his initial estimate as he begins to strip the wallpaper and discovers how much time and materials are required for the task at hand.

Despite the unknowns surrounding wallpaper removal, the following prices should give you some idea of what to expect.
  • A straightforward removal might only cost $2 to $5 per square foot, while a more difficult job could be as much $10 to $30 per square foot or more.
  • Wallpaper removal and wall repair in a typical sized kitchen or large room might cost up to $1,000 and take 1.5 days. In smaller rooms, the same work might cost $300 to $600 and take up to a day.
  • Many contractors charge an hourly rate. Expect to pay at least $30 to $40 per hour.
  • Other contractors might charge $10 to $20 per roll for removal.
  • It's common to be charged up to 25% more for high walls and stairwells.

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