Asked on Dec 09, 2015

Wallpaper on the ceiling... oh no!!

by SelkieDreams
So sometime between the 1930s when our house was built and now, someone decided to put wallpaper on our 10 foot ceilings (in every room). Currently the wallpaper is cracked and peeling, you can also see overlapping, where they did not do a good job putting it up. Now comes the question: Does anyone have any tricks on how to get it off easily? The whole house was wallpapered and there are spots where the wallpaper is so old we opted to redo the drywall because it was so hard to remove. Is it easiest to steam it? How does one soak it like you would the walls? On the walls, when I removed the wallpaper, I used a combination of water and vinegar and wallpaper removal gel. Needless to say neither one worked well for me. Any help would be appreciated!
  33 answers
  • Stephanie Stephanie on Dec 10, 2015
    1. Rent a steamer and do it yourself. You can also buy a steamer. But, with no doubt there are layers of paint, so steaming may not work well. Also, add in the cost of the medications/doctor visits for your aching body after you do this. 2. Bite the bullet and tear out the ceiling; then put up a new one. If you have a pro do this, it can be done in less than a week. I doubt the ceiling under the wallpaper is in good repair, so you might end up doing this anyway. Expense, yes. But work with the contractor to do one room at a time or whatever you can. Just not a job I would tackle on my own. BTW, in our last house (originally built in 1860's), the people had done various odd things with wallpaper, too. Must have been a fad at one time?! Ours came with a wallpapered mahogany fireplace. What were they thinking???
  • Leslie Leslie on Dec 10, 2015
    Google " how to remove wallpaper" Whenever I have a problem to solve I use Google to research until I find what is best for the project I am working on. There are simpler and more effective ways of removing wallpaper. They may be more labor intensive but will work :) One way is just scoring the paper and spraying down with warm water. But do your research. Good luck!
  • Janet Pizaro Janet Pizaro on Dec 10, 2015
    Hopefully this will help you.
  • Regina Regina on Dec 10, 2015
    Wallpaper is difficult to remove without damaging the wall or in this case ceiling. Looking at your pictures, it looks like there may be damage under the wall paper. Sometimes wallpaper is used to cover up problems. Since your ceilings are so high, you may want to consider covering the ceiling with new thin drywall. It will be more expensive, but the end result would be worth it. You can also get some really neat ceiling tiles to cover it up.
  • Rosalia Rosalia on Dec 10, 2015
    I wouldn't even try. Old wallpaper, old plaster (or plaster board or cement board, what ever it may be) I would cover it.bead board, new gypsum drywall, tin. I just can't even imagine working from underneath on something so tedious.
  • Lesley noack Lesley noack on Dec 10, 2015
    I agree with Regina. The expense is well worth it over the sweat and aggravation. Depending on your decore maybe even a T and G ceiling.
  • First I would not give up hope! From the looks of the peeling, I think you would have great success with hot water and peeling. It will be a 'wet' job but I think you could easily start by putting hot water ina spray bottle and start spraying and soaking the wallpaper. I have peeled tons of wallpaper in my time and hot water works great. Then after you get the easy parts peeled away use some liquid fabric softener mixed in with hot water and let it soak on the wallpaper. About 1 part softener to 3 parts water. Then you use white vinegar to wipe everything down to remove any residue. Goodluck
    • See 1 previous
    • Leslie Leslie on Dec 11, 2015
      @The Garden Frog with C Renee I agree. I have cement board walls and had wallpaper in the bathroom and with a little patience it all came off with this method. IF there is damage you can always go over the damaged areas with wall mud and putty knife which HD or Lowes or any hardware store will carry and then sand down. This way you can really see what the damage is and if you can repair or if you have to replace. Sometimes a little elbow grease saves money especially if we are on a budget :)
  • Int2363025 Int2363025 on Dec 10, 2015
    Just as Renee suggested spraying with water is the answer BUT, use a pump up sprayer instead of a spray bottle. More moisture quicker....and easier on tour hand.
  • Susie Susie on Dec 10, 2015
    When I moved into my 100 year old farmhouse 6 years ago there was wallpaper EVERYWHERE and layers of it. The ceiling in my master bedroom had 9 layers of wallpaper. We thought the ceiling was falling down or in very bad shape but it just had layers of paper on it. Spray it a little at a time with water and Downy softener. Use a metal putty knife to scrape it off. The ceiling might be in better shape than you think. Years ago they did not take off old paper before they put new up, they just layered over it and yes - even on the ceiling.
  • Lori Lori on Dec 10, 2015
    I'm afraid I don't have much to add except you are a better woman than I am to even "buy" the house. :) Nobody likes stripping wallpaper and there is no "easy" way. If you have a lot to do, I'm for covering it with the above suggestions. One time in an old house the ceiling was papered and it had a water stain which I tried to cover with some drywall compound but it pulled the paper off and fell of course. It would be good if there were some kind of a wet mucky paste you could smear on, let the moisture work thru the layers and scrape it off. The hard part is keeping it wet long enough for the moisture to work thru even on walls let alone ceilings. Good luck and may the force be with you. ;)
  • Barbara Barbara on Dec 10, 2015
    Honestly, I think I'd be tempted to just cover it up. There are many options all of which can be painted any color you like. I prefer bead board, but even faux tin tiles 20 x 20 can go up and then painted to suit. Also tin tiles for a more vintage look but much pricier. Additionally, you can't really know what is under all of that wallpaper, so a cover-up plan will smooth out the ceiling, provide a cost-effective cosmetic update and save many hours of sweat equity. We had 'cottage cheese' ceilings in our living room that extended down our hallway and I opted for the bead board. The friends and family plan had it up in 3 hours (we have a very large living room) and painted in a few more. Put up the very simple crown molding and it was done. I love it. but some of the faux tin ceiling tiles are made of polystyrene and have both plain and designs. Just search: faux ceiling tiles on Amazon for some examples. If you are still determined to remove the paper, stick with the water, vinegar and wallpaper remover and a putty knife, its labor intensive but I think its your best bet.
  • LD LD on Dec 10, 2015
    The fastest and easiest way at be to rent a wallpaper steamer, and use the widest putty knife you can find. Just remember to cover yourself, for it will be a messy job, but you will be so happy when your done.
  • Sally-Charles Evans Sally-Charles Evans on Dec 10, 2015
    Steam is your friend in this messy job! I found by accident that it will remove paper that you intended to keep (for the time being). We had a sick child and the doctor recommended the vaporizer. After three days of that steam in that small room the paper was jumping off the walls and screaming "save me"! Long story short....steam it!
  • Mollee Kauzlarich Mollee Kauzlarich on Dec 10, 2015
    As a child I helped with both putting it up and taking it down. The best luck was with steam and putty knife. It is not a quick job but it's worth it. Maybe a couple days of a humidifier or vaporizer in the room my get it loosened a bit first.
  • Liz Straughn Liz Straughn on Dec 10, 2015
    We had/have the same thing in our house. So far, we've just done the bathroom (because it was coming off), but we covered it with headboard. Not the large panels, but the kind with two strips per board. It took a little longer, but there wasn't as much waste. It looks great!
  • Judy Riley Judy Riley on Dec 10, 2015
    that is actually ceiling paper made to put onto ceilings, hence the no pattern. you can buy wallpaper remover paste at the hardware store, just paint it on wait a few minutes and start scraping. there is also a tool that marks the wall that you can use to put holes in the paper and then just add water and scrape. either way, its gonna be messy and very time consuming
  • Marlena Scott Marlena Scott on Dec 10, 2015
    I have the same issue. In our kitchen, we had vinyl wallpaper. After taping and mudding every joint, we done an orange peel look with lite weight compound. Primed with a high quality of primer. We covered several ceilings with thin plywood used for subfloor and place trim on the seams. To remove paper from the ceiling, prep is key. Cover everything with plastic. We used cheap fabric softener with hot water and a new sprayer that is used for gardens. There is a tool that scores the papet. Score, apply, let set for about 5 minutes, apply again and using plastic paint scrapers, work the area until you get to the surface. Start working manageable area. Wear safety glasses and mask. This is a nasty job. Wash everything in warm water.
  • SelkieDreams SelkieDreams on Dec 10, 2015
    Thanks everyone! I might end up trying the various solutions to see which ones work best for the paper... Although, depending on how much drywall is actually on the ceiling (there were parts of the house that had 3 to 4 layers of the stuff) covering it up might be the end solution. Thank you SO much for your input! <3
  • Susan N Susan N on Dec 10, 2015
    Oh, the fabulous experiences of owning an old home! My suggestion, as long as you have ruled out any leaks, would be to put up white, paintable wallpaper in a very neutral pattern. It is thick enough to hide the lines you have. Paint it or not and call it a day...
  • Jani Wolfe Jani Wolfe on Dec 10, 2015
    Selkie we used ceiling tiles from Home Depot. They are interlocking and so easy to install. I glued the backs one on each side and one in the middle and handed them to the Hubs to attach to the ceiling. Only took a couple of hours to install. There are several different patterns to choose from and they are paintable too. ALOT easier than peeling off the old wallpaper.
  • Trudy Locke Trudy Locke on Dec 10, 2015
    We removed ten, yes, ten layers of wall paper on our 1820 s home's ceiling. We used a paint roller with water and fabric softener , then let it soak. It came off in some small and some large layers and pieces, It took much elbow grease, but we had the original plaster ceilings and walls then. They were pristine after the work was done!
  • Lee Govan Lee Govan on Dec 10, 2015
    Try wetting the ceiling with water using a weed sprayer, then sponge over, another way is to sand off any loose bits then skim coat it with a plaster solution, then prime and paint.
  • Jane Jane on Dec 10, 2015
    My brother once owned a wallpapered ceiling. He sprayed on texture to hide the paper. Within a few minutes the paper ... and texture...started falling in long strips. Funny now...not so funny then. At least the paper was down!
  • Jill Chaney Jill Chaney on Dec 10, 2015
    Soak with water and a spray bottle then use a heat gun and a scraper. You can get off multiple layers and even old paint and glue this way.
  • Susan S Susan S on Dec 10, 2015
    My first house had multiple layers of wallpaper on the ceiling. I rented a commercial wallpaper steamer from Home Depot. I held the steam plate up to the surface and let it do the job. Scrapping was very easy after that. The steamer helped to remove most of the wallpaper glue also. The job only took a few hours.
  • Meredith Black Meredith Black on Dec 11, 2015
    This is funny years ago everybody papered the ceilings. You should try putting it on a 10 foot ceiling. I helped my Mom do it. Not fun.
  • Lynda Dexter Lynda Dexter on Dec 11, 2015
    They sell a scoring tool at hardware stores. I have always used that and a mixture of water and fabric softener, Yup fabric softener, Cheap softener works well. I mix 3 caps of softener with 2 qt water. score the wallpaper and spray. Let sit say 20 to 30 min and peel away. oh and your house will smell GREAT!!!
  • Sally-Charles Evans Sally-Charles Evans on Dec 11, 2015
    The scoring tool is a "Paper Tiger". Sold in hardware stores, Lowes type stores, and of course wallpaper stores.
  • Lynn Lynn on Dec 12, 2015
    Be prepared for the plaster to fall down also. Since you are going to have to sheetrock, I would start with that over the wallpaper
  • Lyn Therese Lyn Therese on Dec 12, 2015
    Mix 2 parts Downy Fabric Softener and 1 part water in a spray bottle. Take a razor blade and lightly score small cuts in the paper. Don't press too hard or make to long of cuts. You don't want to damage whatever surface the ceiling is. Spray solution on wall paper and let sit for about 5 minutes. Try lifting the wallpaper from one of the cuts. If it doesn't come off easily, spray again and wait another 5 minutes. By testing how long it takes to come off, you will know how long to wait for the rest of the ceiling. Do sections at a time. Whatever size you are able to spray and remove at that time. Depending on the wallpaper, the top layer of the paper may only come off. If this is the case, spray solution on the thin layer that is left behind. It should just slide off without any problems. You might be surprised at how easily it comes off. I had wallpaper in my bathroom for 20 yrs and when I used the spray, it peeled off so easy. Before using wallpaper remover, try this solution first. It's cheaper and it leaves a nice smell in the room. You will have to wipe the ceiling with soap and warm water. The fabric softener must be cleaned otherwise when painted, it might not cover due to the film left behind from the softener. It sounds harder than it actually is but once you start to spray and remove sections, it get easier. Good luck.
  • Elaine Badillo Elaine Badillo on Dec 20, 2015
    Have an old victorian to which they at some point wall paper from ceiling down. Where it was peeeling , we had a field day ripping whatever was loose and score where it was questionable to see if it would separate. Being on a budget, bought 5gal of spackle and went over area to smooth. Let dry and do another coating. Ran my hand over area to make sure it feels dry, let it sit a day or two and paint over. You'd think we put new walls.
  • Marion Nesbitt Marion Nesbitt on Dec 21, 2015
    Have a 100+ yr old home. Invest in a drywall trolley so you have a platform to work from because of the height of your ceilings. (Cover the platform with newspapers to collect the debris and for easy disposal and replacement.) Invest in a steamer - indispensible. Score the paper. Wet down with warm water and keep it wet as you steam. Use a drywall blade to scrape off the paper. Rinse really well using one of the scrubber pads, warm water and vinegar to remove any residual glue, etc. (Hope you're luckier than I was. When I got down through multi layers of paint and paper to the original wallpaper, I had a time. They used glue from hell. Not one seam in the wallpaper had opened or slipped. I couldn't put my hand on the plaster underneath because I had to hold the steamer on the wall for so long to get some action. )
  • Der33502777 Der33502777 on May 26, 2018

    You guys know this stuff is likely riddled with asbestos, right? That was very common back in the 1930s-1970s.