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Ask Angie: 3 things to do before you paint over wallpaper

Angie Hicks
Angie Hicks MCT

Dear Angie: Can wallpaper be painted over? — Elena D., Houston

Dear Elena: The better question might be: Should wallpaper be painted?

Yes, it can be painted, but highly rated painters interviewed by our team recommend removing it. The extra work that removal requires is usually worth it, because painted wallpaper might bubble and seams might show. Sometimes, getting wallpaper wet with paint can cause it to peel off.

On top of it all, painting over wallpaper will eventually create extra work for you or others, because it's more difficult to remove. You might even damage a wall when removing painted wallpaper, especially if the paper has been on the wall for years.

Be aware, though, that if you remove wallpaper, you might uncover the need to do extra prep work, such as patching or retexturing a now-bare wall.

But if you're determined to paint over wallpaper, consider these pro-recommended steps:

1. Apply an alcohol-based sealer over the wallpaper.

2. Spread a coat of drywall compound over the wallpaper seams. After the compound dries, lightly sand it. With textured wallpaper, you might want to spread drywall compound over the entire surface.

3. Apply a latex primer that has been tinted to match your paint color. Then, apply two coats of latex paint and hope for the best.

If you'd rather not do painting or wallpaper work yourself, be smart about hiring. Get multiple bids from pros who have good reputations among your friends, family, neighbors or on a trusted online review site. Be sure to get a contract that spells out cost and all other important details.