Asked on Nov 01, 2017

Removing wallpaper from UNFINISHED drywall.

by Jwien
Recently moved into a home with wallpaper in almost every room. It is not strippable/peelable and was applied over UNPRIMED/UNPAINTED drywall. When I try to remove it using conventional methods (Wall tiger and hot water/softener/remover) the drywall itself is damaged in the process.
Any suggestions?

  12 answers
  • Yikes! I feel for you. Generally when I have encountered this I just replace the sheetrock, but that will turn out to be a pretty penny. You might consider it for future projects down the road as you renovate room by room. If in decent shape, I would just wash the walls and paint over.

    • Jwien Jwien on Nov 01, 2017

      Thanks Naomie. I prefer to not paint over the paper (23 years in the paint industry tells me that is not a good solution) but we may wind up replacing the really bad drywall sheet by sheet if it can't be smoothed well enough.

    • Jwien Jwien on Nov 01, 2017

      Thanks Janet

      I tried the water but because I can't remove the top of the wallpaper (the printed sheet) I'm not removing just the under layer so it's not soaking in well enough even with the paper tiger tool. I think the tool is scoring the drywall too.

  • Pg Pg on Nov 01, 2017

    Have you tried steaming it off. It is slow and time-consuming, but may come off without doing more damage to the sheetrock.

    • Jwien Jwien on Nov 01, 2017

      Hi Pg

      This might be the route I have to take. I'm going to try to borrow a steamer from a friend and try an inconspicuous area!

  • Cynthia H Cynthia H on Nov 01, 2017

    There are a couple of things to consider. Is the wallpaper smooth and well attached? What look do you want? Can you do over one room at a time? I found a product that might help:

    • Jwien Jwien on Nov 01, 2017

      Thanks Cynthia

      I know these wall liners work to convert paneling to paint or paper but I really don't want to apply another layer on the walls then paint over it. I appreciate the idea

  • 27524803 27524803 on Nov 01, 2017

    We have that type of ugly patterned "drywall" in our mobile home and we rented one of the machines that sprays wall texture and did a "orange peel" type finish on the walls before priming and painting... we found that when we just painted it would come off if you bumped the wall.

    • Jwien Jwien on Nov 01, 2017

      Hi Marty

      I'm going over real wallpaper and I don't think the texture finish is going to work for me. I want to stay with smooth walls.

      Thanks for the suggestion

  • Karen Tokarse Karen Tokarse on Nov 01, 2017

    If it's attached that well, just paint over it. Another option would be to cover it with Martha Stewart beadboard wallpaper to cover up any imperfections in the existing wallpaper, then, just paint over that. Either of those options is a LOT less expensive than replacing the drywall.

    • Jwien Jwien on Nov 01, 2017

      Thanks Karen

      Covering the paper before painting is a last resort for me. I'm an old school paint industry fan and really hoping to have smooth walls. I will keep this in mind though.

  • Kenneth Gallenbeck Kenneth Gallenbeck on Nov 01, 2017

    I encountered this myself and we didn't find a good solution. We peeled it off as best we could and spackled any areas of the drywall that were damaged. Then we properly primed before painting.

    • Jwien Jwien on Nov 01, 2017

      Thanks Kenneth

      You can probably see above I'm going to try steam first. Unfortunately I already have half a wall that will need the spackle!

      I really wish the previous owner had picked strippable wallpaper!

  • Cindy Cindy on Nov 01, 2017

    You could try using steam to get it off. Either use your iron set on steam, or try a clothes steamer. Either way I think steam might work. If it doesn't work, would you consider putting paintable wallpaper over it.

  • 27524803 27524803 on Nov 02, 2017

    Good luck.

  • Sharon Sharon on Nov 07, 2017

    I strip wallpaper and do specialty painting for folks, so I encounter lots of unprimed, unpainted wallpapered walls. First get a bunch of plastic tarps and tape the floor from the baseboards down. Then lay a thick layer of newspapers all along the walls to soak up the solution that hits the floor.

    I score it, and wet it with hot water and fabric softner, using a tub and a big car sponge, or use the garden sprayer. Let soak 20 mins while you move to the next section and prepare it. Go back to the first section and scrape it off, if it resists, wet again. I work in 4 foot sections, ceiling to floor.

    Just resign yourself to skim coating the walls if it tears it up. I use a 12" drywall taping knife and 6" taping blade to spread and level pre-mixed joint compound, Next day, I run the sander over it and then vacuum it. I put a spot light on the section I'm working on..... like you, I like smooth walls without imperfections.

    Here's my new favorite technique for getting the mud on the walls fast.... since I'm not doing knockdown texture, I'm using a 1/2 nap roller.

    • See 1 previous
    • Sharon Sharon on May 06, 2018

      Just remove any pieces of the drywall paper thats loose, I use a sander. Then just skim coat. Never had it flake off yet in 50 years. Do mix up the joint compound so its nice and creamy. If you look in the video, there is a link in the comment section where he shows you tools and how he mixes and slightly thins the joint compound for rolling if you plan to roll on.

  • Jwien Jwien on Nov 19, 2017


    this is great! i'm a pretty adept diyer so i see my biggest investment as time! I just wish my drywall was that good after the wallpaper came off.



  • Kat Kat on Apr 20, 2018

    I know this post is old, but for future reference to those looking for options, if the wall paper is smooth and flat enough for you, you can use oil-based killz to paint over it, thus sealing it. It should definitely be an oil-based primer/sealant. Though its very stinky, it's worth it. If you paint papered walls (especially ripped up drywall with brown paper showing through) without sealing - from my personal experiences as a painter- the paper will get rippley and often dry and firmly remain as such. whatever you decide, remember that this is more of a last resort solution in wall paper removal, as the texture of the wall paper (i.e. the seams and such) remain, sometimes even if you skim coat. Also, once wall paper has been painted over with either water or oil based paints, its basically there for good.


    -when using oil based paints, remove any clothing or objects from the area youre in if you don't want them to smell the next day.

    (It goes away after a day or two)

    -cover anything and everything, its more splattery than normal paint. It can, and will get all over and cannot be washed out of most fabrics,including your roller and brush, (since oil based)

    -Tape off any wood frames and wood baseboards and such to keep off paint speckles.

    -Last, do not plan to stay in the area that you oil paint. Once you put up the coat, open a window or two and leave the room to let it dry for an hour or two!

    • Alex Alex on May 06, 2018

      I'm having this problem now, where the wallpaper is so firmly adhered to the drywall that it is pulling off the paper surface and leaving the brown paper part exposed and damaged, no matter how much I try wetting it or what chemical I use to weaken the glue. With the brown paper exposed, should I put a primer on first, then skim coat? Or should I skim coat and then prime?