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Why You Can't Paint Over Wallpaper

09 Sep 2021

Ever wondered why you can't paint over wallpaper? Wished there were other options available? We've got you covered. Find everything you need to know here!

Why You Can't Paint Over Wallpaper

Perhaps your offer on the home of your dreams has been accepted, or a space you’ve wished to rent is finally yours. You’re excited and in the middle of moving in, but there is one minor issue that you aren’t quite sure how to tackle yet. The previous owner has used wallpaper in the home, and their taste doesn't exactly match yours. Maybe the wallpaper is damaged and peeling, or the design is dated and won't match your décor.

Either way, the thought of having to remove all of that wallpaper seems too daunting a task. You consider painting over it, but various opinions strongly advise you not to. But why? Why can’t you paint over the wallpaper?

Too Much Risk

Many factors may quickly lead to disastrous results when you attempt to paint over typical or older wallpaper. Since you do not know what kind of wallpaper has been used, how it has been affixed, or even what is behind it—painting over a wallpaper could result in future costly damages.

For example, the drywall in your home may have or be experiencing problems. But with wallpaper left covering the drywall and then a coat of paint over it, how will you know? Old nail holes, degraded drywall or plaster, and many other issues may be hiding behind the original wallpaper in your new home.

Difficult to Remove & Flaws Easily Show

How long will you be staying in your new home? Do you plan on living there for a very long time? Is it just a rental for a few years? If you paint over the wallpaper in a home you’ll be living in for a very long time, you’ll no doubt want to remove the wallpaper eventually. A coat of paint over this makes it immensely more difficult to do so in the future than it would be now. Secondly, if your wallpaper has any texture, chances are that texture will be easily seen through the paint.

Even if the original wallpaper does not have texture, most wallpapers are applied in sheets. While it may look even to the eye, painting over wallpaper can often reveal immediate defects that aren't currently visible, making seams, ripples, or damage to the wallcoverings more noticeable than before.

Lastly and most importantly, moisture is often used in most standard wallpapers to activate the adhesives that allow it to stick to the wall. If you were to apply paint over standard wallpaper, the liquid in the paint would cause the wallpaper adhesive to begin to loosen, resulting in the paper beginning to bubble or, worse, detaching from the wall entirely.

How Do I Remove Old Wallpaper Easily?

The first step in deciding how to remove old wallpaper is understanding what you have. Depending on the wallpaper type, you might have some that are easy to pull off in dry strips, or it may need to be soaked, or it might need steam heat and/or chemical assistance. 

The method you can use to determine the possible wallpaper you have:

  1. Dry-strippable paper. Designed for easy removal, it should be possible to strip without moisture. Test a piece in an inconspicuous place and attempt to peel back a corner. If it peels back easily without resistance, it is probably dry strippable. If it tears immediately, it most likely is not.
  2. Porous wallpaper. This type of wallpaper usually does not come off in sheets but can quickly absorb moisture and loosen up. Take a small sponge to an area of choice and apply water to the area. If the water is quickly soaked up, then it is porous. If it immediately beads and drips off, it is not porous.
  3. Nonporous wallpaper. Some wallpapers have a decorative or protective nonporous layer. This type of wallpaper will require you to score it before adding water to soak through and loosen the adhesive.

Once you know what type of wallpaper you have, you can remove it quickly by following our How To Remove Wallpaper guide.

What Can I Do If I am I Renter?

There may be some cases where you might not have the option due to the risk of drywall damages or if you are within a rental property and your rental agreement does not allow you to. Then, you indeed cannot remove the wallpaper.

In general, removing old wallpaper from your walls before placing new wallpaper or painting over them is the best means to providing better quality and longer-lasting results than trying to paint over it all. But if your rental agreement does not allow changes, it is not safe to attempt to remove it. However, there is good news! Thanks to some modern innovations, there are ways to cover old wallpaper in a rental without damaging the walls.

What Other Options Are There?

Luckily for us, the wallpaper world has drastically changed thanks to new, innovative technologies and imaginative companies that uniquely understand the challenges of designing living spaces from large to small to renting and everything in between.

Peel & Stick Wallpaper

If you can’t change the walls, whether it’s in your rental agreement or you don’t know if you can commit to a single style, there’s a solution for you in removable wallpaper. Exceptionally easy to install and remove, thanks to the latest advances in adhesives, peel and stick wallpaper can be used anywhere in your home, removed safely, and re-used again. If you don’t like the peel & stick options, when you consider ordering from us, we offer the unique option to design your very own fantastic peel & stick wallpaper so that you can decorate with your dream design.

Contact Paper

Contact paper is a single product with many, many applications. This self-adhesive solution can accent a single wall, cover a kitchen backsplash, be used to refresh furniture, and can even be used to change countertops in bathrooms and kitchens (just be sure not to place a hot pot on the counter!)

Exclusively at Astek Home: Anaglypta

As a homeowner looking for something different--what if we told you that it’s possible to not only use wallpaper in your home but that there is a specialty wallpaper that was designed to be purposefully painted over? Our Anaglypta collection is a stunning array of romantic motifs, subtle textures, and patterns with a deep emboss that is washable and paintable. If you like, they can be left as is or painted any color to bring an exciting splash of ambiance to any room.

Anaglypta | Deco Paradiso | Paintable Wallpaper

No matter what options you are looking for, there’s always a perfect wallpaper solution waiting for you. Realize the home décor of your dreams more effortlessly than ever with the right wallpaper today.

Products shown: Spanish Tile 9 | Peel & Stick Wallpaper, Deco Paradiso | Paintable Wallpaper