Dear James: I remodeled the kitchen and have damaged the wallpaper in spots, so I thought I would just go with painted walls. What is the best way to strip the wallpaper without damaging the drywall? -- Michelle C.
Dear Michelle: It can be difficult to repair the damaged wallpaper without it being obvious. Even if you have saved some of the original wallpaper, the old wallpaper is likely faded and the new will not match. Also, being in the kitchen, cooking grease and oils have probably discolored it.
Removing old wallpaper from drywall can be difficult. If you get it too wet for too long, the paper skin on the drywall will become saturated and may pull off with the wallpaper. You can repair the spots with spackling compound, but unless you sand them very carefully, some of the spots will be noticeable.
Start working in one obscure location, perhaps behind the refrigerator and try to strip some of the wallpaper. Don't worry if you get it too wet at this point. Once you remove a small area, you will be able to determine if the wall was painted first. If it was painted, the drywall will be able to handle more wetness.
You will also be able to determine what type of wallpaper material it is. Standard wallpaper will saturate quickly with water or a stripper solution. Vinyl-type wallpaper will be resistance to penetration by the water and the water will just bead up on it.
If you find you do have vinyl-type wallpaper, you will have to remove it in three steps. First you will have to lightly score the surface with a utility knife or scraper to break the surface. This will allow the water or stripping solution to penetrate to loosen the adhesive.
Another option is to buy a wallpaper piercing tool at a paint store. It has a small wheel with points to puncture the surface just deep enough without damaging the drywall beneath it.
Next, wet the wallpaper surface. Make it just wet enough to allow you to pull the top vinyl surface of the wallpaper from the wall. It will still leave the backing and adhesive on the wall. At this stage, you will remove the wallpaper similarly to any other wallpaper.
Warm water will dissolve most of the wallpaper adhesives commonly used. Stripper additives, such as Zinsser's DIF, include special enzymes which dissolve the adhesive quicker. If you find you seem to be damaging the drywall covering in too many spots, use an additive to dissolve it quicker.
I like to spray it on with an old window cleaner spray bottle and then spread it evenly with a large sponge. Some enzyme solutions make some people cough, so if you have this problem, just sponge the solution on the wall so less gets airborne.
Wait about 15 minutes and try pulling off the wallpaper. Within 30 minutes, it definitely should be loose. Remember, the sooner you get it off and allow the wall to dry, the less chance you may damage the drywall.
Use a wide scraper to remove as much adhesive as possible and then scrub it gently until all the adhesive is removed. Paint the entire wall with primer so the repaired spots have the same surface texture as the rest of the wall. Apply two coats of the finish paint.
James Dulley's weekly column, "Here's How," can be found at creators.com.