When Dealing with Old Wallpaper…

You have to ask yourself a few questions.  Especially if you plan to remove this old wallpaper, then you need to know what you’re dealing with.  Many homeowners make the mistake of using the wrong wallpaper removal techniques for their situation.  But with a little investigation, you can answer the following and make this task a lot easier.  Either for yourself or for the professionals at D & L Enterprises!

How old are we talking?

While dating wallpaper isn’t always easy, it can be incredibly helpful to homeowners.  Not only will the age give us some idea of what materials were used in manufacturing (and how to remove them).  But also, it paints a picture of decorating and remodeling in historic homes.  In some cases, dating the wallpaper enables experts to date the structure itself.  Or to at least determine an approximate time period of architectural changes.

If we’re talking about really old wallpaper, then you need to determine what type of technology was used to make it.  Before 1835, most wallpaper was handmade.  Often unused pieces of rags and wool were pasted together in small molds.  Meaning, you should see more lines and a lack of uniformity if your wallpaper is this old.  Later in the 1800s, machine-made paper became more popular.  With most options growing thinner over time.  At this point, it may be brown and brittle—much more so than manmade varieties—but pay attention to the print(s), too.

What type of wallpaper are we working with?

Even with modern wallpaper, you still have to determine what type you have.  At least, if you want to use the most efficient removal techniques.  The three most common varieties we see are:  dry-strippable wallpaper, porous wallpaper, and nonporous wallpaper.  Nonporous wallpaper is probably the easiest to identify, since it typically has the most elaborate decorations.  If you see any metallic finishes or raised decorative elements, then you’re probably dealing with this type.

Although easy to spot, it’s definitely the hardest one to remove.  Since you often have to score it before you apply any water or removal solutions, allowing the liquid to move past the nonporous exterior.  Porous wallpaper (as you might have guessed) is the exact opposite.  It quickly absorbs water, loosening it from your walls.  You can test whether or not you have this type by applying water to the surface and watching whether it soaks up or drips off.

Last, but not least, there’s dry-strippable wallpaper.  The good news is it was made to come off easily, in large sheets.  Unfortunately, the only way to test this type is to try to remove it initially.  If you can peel back a corner with little effort, then you’re probably dealing with dry-strippable wallpaper.  But if you notice a lot of tearing, then it’s likely another type.

How many layers of wallpaper are there?

Of course, there is a possibility that you have multiple types of wallpaper applied on top of one another over the years.  Maybe the previous homeowners didn’t want to tackle wallpaper removal themselves, so they just kept covering it up.  Either with paint or newer prints and styles of paper.  Again, the best way to determine what you’re dealing with is to try to peel back a corner piece and see for yourself.  Count how many layers you see until you reach the plaster or drywall underneath.

If you have 2 different layers, you may be able to tackle the project by yourself.  Keep in mind, two layers will take considerably longer to remove than one—no matter what type(s) you have.  Which is why you should consider renting special equipment and/or working with the professionals if you have more than that.  Or if someone has painted over the wallpaper at some point.  Not only will the experts at D & L have the right equipment for the job, but we can also minimize damage to the walls underneath.

Unfortunately, once you peel off old wallpaper, you never know what you’ll find.  Our home finishing team can make this process easier for you, even repairing damage to drywall and/or plaster underneath.  Before you start your next wallpaper removal project, give us a call!