Don’t let old or outdated wallpaper stand in the way of your decorating dreams and schemes. Paint can work magic in so many home improvement projects and if you’re hoping to change the look of a room that’s covered with wallpaper, paint just may be the magical solution. Great Guys Painting helps you know when it’s safe to paint over wallpaper, and most importantly – how!

When It’s Safe to Paint Over Wallpaper

Expert DIYers and even paint manufacturers usually recommend that old wallpaper should be removed before you paint. However, there are situations where actually removing the wallpaper can ruin the wall underneath. How will you know when it’s safe to paint over the wallpaper?

  • If the wallpaper was installed over unfinished, unprimed drywall, the heavy paper surface of the drywall could easily come off with the wallpaper removal process. In a case like that, where you would need to replace the drywall, it may be better to paint over the wallpaper.
  • Another situation where it may be better to paint is when there are multiple layers of wallpaper that would be especially difficult to remove.
  • If you have to dig into the wall surface to remove wallpaper, you run the risk of damaging the wall. Maybe painting over the wallpaper will be a better solution. 
  • Peel off some wallpaper near the baseboard to determine if the wall appears to have been primed and properly prepared, or if there are multiple layers of wallpaper. Then you’ll be able to determine if it’s safe to paint over the paper.

When You Shouldn’t Paint Over Wallpaper

  • Certain types of wallpapers shouldn’t be covered with paint. For example, paint won’t adhere well to vinyl wallpapers and if your old wallpaper is peeling or bubbling in places, paint will show all those unattractive imperfections. 
  • Another situation where you shouldn’t paint over wallpaper is when a lot of the paper is coming loose at the seams. Sometimes re-pasting the loose spots can be successful, but often re-pasting doesn’t work over the long term. This is a case where the paint wouldn’t hide the loose spots and the paint job would look terrible. 
  • Those are cases where it’s important to remove the wallpaper before painting. It wouldn’t be worth the expense to buy the paint, spend the time to paint over the wallpaper, merely to end up with a DIY project you’d regret. 

The Steps to Paint Over Wallpaper

Now that you know the do’s and don’ts of painting over wallpaper, the quality and success of the paint job will depend on how carefully you prepare. Check out the six steps of painting over wallpaper to make sure you’ll end up with a top-notch paint job.

1. Gather Your Supplies and Prep the Room

  • You’ll need: A ladder, mineral spirits, oil-based primer, paint, brushes, roller, paint pan, painters tape, soft clean cloths, bucket, putty knife, drop cloth or plastic sheeting, mask, gloves, and protective eye-wear. Long-sleeved clothing and a hat can help you stay protected.
  • Optional supplies, based on the condition of your old wallpaper, may include: spackle, sandpaper, grease-cutting detergent, and wallpaper seam adhesive.
  • Move as much furniture to the center of the room as possible and cover it. Roll up rugs and lay down kraft paper, drop cloths, or plastic sheeting to protect the floors near the walls. 

2. Clean the Wallpaper

Wallpaper tends to attract dust and dirt more than painted walls. 

  • Just like with painted walls that you’re going to re-paint, you must wipe the dust off the wallpaper so that the primer will adhere. Use a slightly damp – not wet – clean cloth to remove the dust and dirt.
  • If you’re removing wallpaper from a kitchen, it’s likely the paper is greasy. You’ll need to wash the wallpaper with a solution of hot water and a product like TSP that will cut the grease.
  • No matter the amount of dust, dirt, and grease, make sure the cloth you’re using to clean with is only slightly damp. If the wallpaper gets too wet, the adhesive can bubble or loosen – creating a situation where painting won’t work.
  • Before you begin the next step, make sure the wallpaper and walls are completely dry. 

3. Repair Wallpaper Damage

  • As you clean the wallpaper, you may notice peeling seams or edges that you weren’t aware of previously. 
  • You can paint on a thin layer of wallpaper seam adhesive or lift the loose areas with a putty knife then cut the loose pieces away. You’ll fill in the cut away areas with spackle so that the wallpaper surface is completely level. When the spackle is dry, sand it lightly.

4. Protect Molding and Trim with Painters Tape

Run painters tape along the baseboard and any trim or molding to protect it from the primer and paint.

5. Properly Prime the Walls

  • You’ll use an oil-based primer to prepare the wallpaper for the final coat of paint. No matter if you’re using water-based or oil-based paint for your final coats, do not use water-base primer. It could soak through the wallpaper and cause the adhesive to loosen. 
  • If you decide on a water-based latex for your top-coats, check the oil-based primer label to make sure it will be compatible. 
  • When you use oil-based primer, the fumes can be overwhelming. Make sure you use a mask – a $35-$45 respirator mask will provide the best protection from the toxic fumes – and make sure you open windows and have plenty of good ventilation.
  • Cut in the edges and corners with a brush, then roll on the big areas. 
  • Allow the primer to dry thoroughly.
  • Clean your brushes and roller with mineral spirits.

6. Paint

  • Before you start painting, make sure all of the wallpaper is completely dry. Check the lower areas down near the baseboards because this area can stay moist longer than the higher areas.
  • Plan on painting two coats. You’ll definitely need two coats if you’re painting a light color over dark wallpaper, or if the wallpaper has a bright bold pattern. 
  • Cut in the corners and edges just as you did with the primer. 
  • Roll the big areas to make the job go faster.
  • Allow plenty of time for the first coat of paint to dry completely. 

Get out those color swatches and choose a paint you’ve been dreaming about – then simply follow the techniques and use the right tools to paint over your wallpaper. Voila! Your room will look stylish and beautiful! 

If you’d like some help with this fairly easy but time consuming DIY project, Great Guys Painting knows the pros who can assist. When you hire an expert painter through Great Guys Painting, you’re assured of professional workmanship and a job you can be proud of. We make sure every painter in our network is licensed and insured so you can trust the job will be done right. 


Save time and stress – get help painting over your wallpaper! Not convinced painting is the right choice? Explore professional wallpaper removal and installation to update your look with the latest trends in wallpaper. Either way, you’ll love the final outcome when you choose a trustworthy and professional painter through Great Guys Painting. It’s simple – ask for a free quote now!