Can You Paint Over Wallpaper? Here’s All You Need To Know

You’ve just bought your first house and you love everything about it, from the front porch to the back patio. Everything, that is, except that dining room wallpaper. So, now you’re standing in the dining room wondering, can you paint over wallpaper? The good news is, yes, you can.


Is Painting Over Wallpaper the Right Solution for You?

Before you slap some paint over the paper, ask yourself a couple of questions.

Are you planning on staying in the house for a while? If so, it’s worth exploring stripping the wallpaper before you paint. But that comes with its own issues, including revealing old nail holes, degraded drywall or plaster, and the potential that the wallpaper layer you’re staring down may just be one of many.

Stripping is time-consuming and you can accidentally gouge the walls, especially if the paper is old and stubborn. If you’ve already tried stripping the paper and it’s not coming off easily, don’t risk damaging the walls.

Also, if the room you’re painting is small, like a bathroom or home office, the time and labor you spend stripping the paper, may not be worth it.

In these cases, painting is a good option.

You’ll Need Some Gear, First

Painting over wallpaper requires you to work with strong chemicals, so protect your eyes, skin, and hair before you start. Here’s what you need:

  • Clothes and shoes that cover as much skin as possible
  • Disposable gloves (rubber or vinyl work well)
  • A hat
  • Eye goggles (if you wear glasses, get the kind that fit over them)

If you have allergies or asthma, or if you’re concerned about lung health in general, invest in an inexpensive respirator mask. At a minimum, open as many windows as you can for cross-ventilation.

Can You Paint Over Wallpaper Without Priming?

Old wallpapers adhered to the wall with a chemical compound known as sizing. This helped protect plaster walls from moisture. But if you paint sizing, it can stain through your paint if you don’t seal it. So, before you paint, you’ll need an oil-based or shellac-based primer.

Oil-based primers take longer to dry than other paints, and they off-gas smelly, unhealthy chemicals. But they’re great at hiding wallpaper patterns and covering glue or stains. Just make sure your oil-based primer will work with water-based latex paint.

Another option is a shellac-based primer, which isn’t as smelly and dries in 15-30 minutes. You can use latex over this primer.

Keep mineral spirits on hand to clean up any spills and your brushes when using an oil-based primer. For shellac-based products, use denatured alcohol.

Prep the Room

Clean your walls with a damp rag to remove any dirt and dust. Don’t make the rag too wet; you don’t want to saturate the paper. Then tape the trim and around the floors and move or cover the furniture

Once the walls are clean, repair peeling areas or exposed seams by carefully trimming off the paper with a sheetrock knife and paint primer over the spot to seal it. After you’ve sealed the paper, let it dry, then spackle any holes or dings in the wall, and sand the walls with 150-180 grit sandpaper to even out the surface. Then wipe the walls once more with a damp cloth to get rid of any new dust.

Time to Prime

Once you’re protected, and the walls are clean and smooth, apply the primer. Don’t overload the brush; instead, start with less and then build up. When the primer is dry, check for rough spots, and fix any with a spackling compound that is a blend of spackle and primer (that way, you won’t have to reprime the walls). If you’re using good products, and you take your time, one coat of primer should be enough.

Paint Over Your Wallpaper

Once the primer dries, you’re ready to paint over your wallpaper, just like you’d paint any other wall.

To sum up, can you paint over wallpaper? Yes, if you follow a few easy rules for prepping and priming first, your project is sure to succeed.

Are you looking for an interior painter in your area? Try our wallpaper installation and removal services. We can help you transform your home with a new coat of paint or some wallpaper!


Kelley Rebori

Kelley Rebori has written for national brands like Paintzen, HGTV, the DIY Network and Trulia for more than a decade. She loves home renovation projects, chocolate icing and small poodles. She and her husband split the year between their homes in Tennessee and Italy.