How to Repair Drywall After Removing Wallpaper?

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Wallpaper provides a fun, versatile, and affordable way to brighten up your walls and bring life to your home. But after staring at the same wallpaper for years, its dated designs and texture may not be as pleasing. In the end, you may decide to tear it down to update your walls to your liking. But removing wallpaper can leave your drywall looking disheveled and damaged.

Wallpaper conceals any underlying wall impairments. Removing wallpaper from your walls exposes these imperfections and causes serious damage to the walls, especially if done wrongly. Generally, drywall is delicate and damages easily. The underlying drywall paper may tear, the gyprock may become loose, and even the use of a rounded knife in wallpaper removal can leave scratch marks and gouges. Improper wallpaper removal can lead to excessive drywall damage, leaving you with unnecessarily costly repairs and touchups.

If you intend to paint the wall or apply new wallpaper, the drywall must be prepared and repaired to make all your hard work worth it. At the end of this article, you should be able to thoroughly remove all the layers of wallpaper on your drywall, remove wallpaper glue, and repair any damage sustained to your wall in the process.

Wallpaper Removal

Removing old wallpaper from drywall is not easy. However, it can be done if you use the right chemicals to loosen the adhesive that bonds the wallpaper to the drywall. Here are a few steps to remove old wallpaper from drywall.

What You’ll Need

  • Drop cloths
  • Step ladder
  • Small bucket of water and sponge
  • Trash bags to dispose of old wallpaper
  • Scoring tool

Step 1: Preparation

Prepare the work area by laying down a drop cloth on the floor. Remove any nearby artwork, curtains, switchplates, artwork, and any other items that can possibly get damaged. Turn off electricity in the room you are spraying in.

Step 2: Test the Ddhesion

Start peeling the wallpaper from the corner or seam. If it comes off easily without tearing down the underlying drywall paper, continue pulling off the entire wallpaper from the surface neatly. If the wallpaper is stuck and does not come off easily, you will need to make a softening solution.

Step 3: Prepare the Solution

Mix 1 part of hot water to 1 part of fabric softer in a ratio of 1:1. This cleaning solution for walls is quite easy to make by yourself and works pretty well. Stir it well and pour it into a spray bottle with a pump.

Step 4: Spray the Solution Over the Wallpaper

Ideally, it would be best if you worked in sections about 4 inches wide so the solution does not dry out. Spray the solution over the walls until the wallpaper gets saturated. Remember to turn off fans and air vents in the room to avoid drying the solution out. Wait for about 15 minutes until the wallpaper starts to bubble before you try to remove it. Use a sponge to remove any unwanted speck of dirt and glue.

Removing Wallpaper Glue

Even if it took you a few minutes to get your wallpaper off your drywall, the underlying drywall is likely to have a fair amount of wallpaper glue residue. Pulling down wallpaper from walls often leaves a gummy residue on the drywalls that can be arduous to remove. In addition, you will not be able to properly repair or paint the drywall if it’s left on the walls. So removing wallpaper glue residue from your drywall is critical to achieving beautifully repaired and refreshed drywalls.

How to Remove Glue From Drywall

Although a labor-intensive task, stripping wallpaper glue from your walls is quite easy if you have the right tools and techniques.

  1. Move furniture, electronics, and appliances away from the walls. Cover the walls with drop cloths to protect them from water damage. Cover electrical outlets and move electronics away from the work area to prevent electrical danger. Also, wear protective gloves throughout this process and discard the paste into garbage bags.
  2. Put hot water in a bucket and mix with a few drops of dishwashing soap. With your protective gloves still on, dip a sponge in the mixture and rub it against the affected areas. This should make the wallpaper glue soften. Wipe away the glue residue before rinsing and drying the floors with a clean cloth.
  3. Allow the walls to dry completely before proceeding to the next step. If, However, tougher adhesive remains on the walls, move on to the next step.
  4. Pour a gallon of hot water into the bucket. Add 1 cup of vinegar. Dip a clean sponge into the solution and then ring out the excess amount of water so that it is not dripping. Carefully rub the damp sponge over the stubborn adhesive and allow it to sit for a few minutes.
  5. After a few minutes, gently scrape the glue away using a drywall knife or a wallpaper scraper. If there’s still more adhesive to be removed, re-soak and scrape the glue until all of it comes off.
  6. Discard both the glue residue and the cleaning solution.
  7. Dry the wall. After the cleanup, use a dry cloth to soak up the excess moisture and help the walls to dry faster. Open all windows and doors to ventilate the room properly. Wait until the walls are completely dry before moving on to the next step.

Scrape Away Any Loose Material From Your Drywall

Washing your walls eliminates stubborn glue residue and helps loosen up any part of the drywall that needs to go, like bubbling drywall paper. Next, use your fingers and utility knife to scrape off all loose material. This process may seem to make an even bigger mess of the drywall. But you do not want to water your paint on walls that will peel off a few days or weeks later.


Wallpaper glue contains toxic fungicides. Hence, ensure to properly dispose of the glue residue in an inaccessible area to kids and pets.

Prevent electric shock, electrocution, or injury while using water around electrical cables and outlets by turning off the relevant circuit breaker.

When using a putty knife to scrape stubborn glue residue, be careful not to scrape off the drywall.

If you find stubborn areas where the glue residue doesn’t come off, the other available alternative is to seal the wallpaper glue.

How to Seal Wallpaper Glue?

Another effective way to deal with wallpaper glue is to seal them using an oil-based primer. this primer seals the adhesives remaining on the wall. After the primer dries, you can proceed to skim coating. Note, however, that water-based primer cannot seal glue.

To seal wallpaper glue,

  • Take you will need a paint roller and an oil-based primer.
  • Immerse the roller in the primer, taking care not to take too much of it on the roller
  • Apply a thin coak of the primer evenly throughout the wall
  • Repeat the process again in the corners of the wall

How to Repair Damaged Drywall After Wallpaper Removal?

Congratulations! Finally, that old, ugly and dated wallpaper is down. So now, you’re probably ready to update your drywall, but not without doing some repairs. Drywall damage is common, especially when removing stubborn wallpaper. This damage can range from little notches and scratches to the drywall paper to disastrous tearing and deep gouges to the drywall paper. In the worst-case scenario, you may need to replace the drywall, which is no simple task. Fortunately, a few repairs here and there can leave your drywall looking new and refreshed.

Things You May Need

You will need to get a few tools from your local home improvement store to repair drywall. These items include:

  • Sandpaper (150 grit)
  • Scraper (preferably a 6 inch Joint Knife)
  • 2 Paint rollers ( For paint and primer)
  • Paint tray with liners
  • Spray bottle
  • Goggles
  • Plastic drop cloths to cover the floors, furniture, and electronics
  • Large sponges
  • Putty knife
  • Pans, paint buckets, and liners
  • Protective latex gloves
  • Drywall Mud, Spackle, or Joint Compound
  • Shellac or wall primer

Note that this is a basic list, and you may find there are other items required as you go along.

Step 1: Preparation

Cover the floor with a drop cloth. Ensure one of the drop cloth edges is taped to the baseboard under the affected wall. Extend the drop cloth as far as possible in either direction to catch as much residue as possible.

Use the rest of the drop cloths to cover electronics, furniture, TVs, bookshelves, plants, and desks. This step is important because even a light breeze can carry particles away from the work area.

Step 2: Remove Any Loose Paper Using a Utility Knife

Once your work area is set up, the first set is to make sure all loose wallpaper is off the walls. You will surely have some ragged or hanging paper left from the tear. Use a utility knife or a scraper to scrape away any bubbling paint or drywall paper. Note that this process may enlarge the work area. However, it is necessary to achieve well-executed repairs.

Avoid using a blade to remove any rough edges as it puts you at risk of scoring the sheetrock, creating weakness in the drywall’s structural integrity.

Step 3: Prime Your Drywall

Now that you are done peeling off the wallpaper and glue, the real work of repairing torn drywall paper begins. Gypsum quickly absorbs moisture from latex paints. So you need to seal it to prevent blisters. You can use drywall primer or even oil-based paint to seal the exposed gypsum. Prime all damaged areas where the underlying brown drywall paper has been exposed.

Failing to do this causes the exposed paper to wrinkle and bubble up when you apply a water-based product such as paint, drywall compound, or spackle. Also, applying one coat of primer will not be enough to create a smooth surface that’s ready for painting. There is additional prep work that needs to be done.

If you plan to use the roller again, wrap it in a plastic sheet to prevent it from drying.

Scraping and Sanding

After priming, sanding, and scraping, the drywall aims to remove any leftover loose paper. It also helps to smooth down any rough areas on the wall to create a smooth surface. Reprime if you expose any more drywall paper. Sand where there is ripped paper and cut any loose edges of the paper. Smoothing the edges helps create a smoother surface for the joint compound. Make sure to wipe away and clean up any dust before you apply the spackle.

If you end up exposing more drywall after sanding, apply another coat of primer. Remember that the goal is to create a seamless and more workable surface. Failing to prime these damaged areas can lead to wrinkling, bubbling, and other issues. Generally, this first coat of primer helps create a waterproof barrier crucial for creating a paintable surface.

Step 4: Patch Up Scratches, Holes, and Gouges

After removing wallpaper, your drywall is prone to surfer gouges, holes, and other drywall damage. Sanding, scraping, and priming alone will not resolve these issues. After taking care of the previously-mentioned tasks, the next step is to deal with bigger issues. This is where skimming comes into place.

What Is the Skim Coating?

Skim coating is a thin application of joint / drywall compound also known as mud. This compound is used to smooth out brand new or damaged drywall with gouges or whose brown paper is exposed. Skim coating is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to bring walls and ceilings back to their original luster after damage or repair.

Is Skim Coating Necessary and Wallpaper Removal?

As stated earlier, removing old wallpaper can leave your walls looking like a terrible storm has ravaged them. This is why skim coating is recommended to smooth out the imperfections after removing old wallpaper for a touchup without needing to replace them completely.

The main goal of the skim coating process is to create a fresh surface for you to apply your own touch. It also creates a uniform surface for priming and painting. This process involves smoothing worn or damaged drywalls using one or more coats of joint compound to improve the wall’s appearance.

Skim coating also helps to conceal imperfections in drywall caused by wallpaper removal, water-damaged drywall, popped nails, and previous repairs. Skim coating essentially erases these issues providing a smooth surface for painting. Trying to prime your drywall after removing wallpaper without applying a skim coat can leave you with uneven results that need frequent touchups.

How to Skim Coat Your Drywall?

Start by carefully mixing the joint compound as instructed by the manufacturer. A joint compound helps to fill the torn area as well as create a new surface. Once mixed, apply several layers of the joint compound to the affected areas.

Use your taping knife to apply the joint compound and fill gouges and drywall damage. Apply the compound generously over the entire surface, making sure to pay special attention to the corners. Use a drywall knife that is large enough to extend the joint compound a few inches past the margins of the damage so you can sand it flat with the surface once you’re done.

For small repairs, you may need only one coat of joint compound. However, larger areas may need you to make several passes. For optimal results, two coats of skim are often required. Make sure to allow each layer of joint compound to dry for as long as the manufacturer recommends before proceeding. Apply a second coat of joint compound if needed to fill and cover the area thoroughly.

Pro tip: If the surface is extensive, skim coat joint compound over the entire surface. Fill your mud pan with the joint compound. Apply a thin layer of the joint compound over the affected areas or the entire wall where necessary. It may take two or even three applications before the surface is even. Do not work directly from the bucket of joint compound to avoid contaminating it with dried flecks of drywall or joint compound.

Once the repair is completely dry, lightly sand and wipe the area with a clean cloth.

Step 5: Sand the Dried Drywall Joint Compound

Before you start sanding the dried drywall joint compound, ensure the drop cloths are properly covering your carpet, furniture, desks, and electronics. Sanding produces fine dust, which travels far even with a light breeze. Also, wear a mask and goggles before you start sanding.

Use 150 grit flat drywall sander to lightly sand and remove the excess joint compound. We highly recommend using a sander with a pole to make the sanding process a little easier on your arms, especially when working over large areas. Sand both vertically and horizontally until the repaired patch is the same level as the wall.

Use a flat edge or ruler to confirm that the wall is level. Mark areas that need additional sanding with a pencil. Look over the wall for areas that still need sanding and work on them.

To avoid that fine airborne dust that comes with sanding, consider wet sanding the surface before the joint compound completely dries. Instead of producing fine dust, wet sanding removes the areas with high spots while filling in the low spots.

Give the joint compound about 45 minutes to harden up. Try to touch the compound to ensure it is not wet and comes off on your fingers. The compound should be firm but pliable for best results. Instead of using a sanding block, use a damp sponge to gently sand the area and create a smooth surface with the rest of the wall.

Step 6: Replace Drop Cloths

After sanding, wipe down the walls with a wet cloth to get rid of the sanding dust. Now your walls are uniform and ready for a fresh coat of paint. Once clean, take off the dirty drop cloths and replace them with clean ones before applying your primer and paint.

Step 7: Apply an Oil-based Primer

Now that you are done repairing the drywall and cleaning it, apply another fresh coat of primer to the newly repaired areas. Primer helps to seal highly porous surfaces with a transparent flat finish. It also ensures the skim coat adheres properly and that the drywall paper does not bubble. Before applying your oil-based primer, ensure the surface is clean and free of dust, oil, mold, polish rust, peeling paint, and other foreign substances.

Stir a can of sealing primer with a paint stick and pour it into a paint pan. Insert the roller into the paint pan to soak it with primer. Next, use the paint roller to roll on the primer to get it into the cracks, crevices, and loose edges to re-strengthen the damaged drywall. Finally, roll the primer over the damaged areas of the drywall.

Give it time to dry completely, and then apply a second coat. The main goal of applying primer a second time is to prevent the repaired areas from sucking up the paint, which leaves you with dark or faded patches on your finished wall.

Step 8: The Cleanup

Using a soft-bristled brush, gently brush away any dust on the repaired area from top to bottom. Then, use a clean, slightly damp cloth to wipe the rea again from the top down. Cleaning the walls ensures the primer has a clean surface to adhere to and avoids any bubbling or peeling.

When to Hire Wallpaper Removal and Drywall Repair Experts?

Repairing damaged drywall after wallpaper removal is an easy do-it-yourself project if you have the right tools, materials, and approach. That said, taking on this project on your own may not be ideal if you lack the experience and confidence needed. Furthermore, even for ardent DIY enthusiasts, removing wallpaper and repairing drywall can quickly go south as even the smallest mistake can set you back significantly. As such, it is best if you seek the services of professional wallpaper removal and drywall repair services.

Commonly Asked Questions

Can You Paint Over Wallpaper?

Yes, you can paint over wallpaper but it is not recommended. This is majorly because when you paint over wallpaper, it tends to flake and fall apart even under multiple layers of paint. As a result, all the time, money, and effort you put into repainting your walls may be gone in a short time due to peeling wallpaper. As such, it is recommended that you strip off the wallpaper before applying paint.

Can You Apply a Skim Coat Over Old Wallpaper Glue?

The main goal of applying a skim coat is to make the surface smoother. While you can apply the coat of skim over glue, the joint compound used may not be set as needed. To prevent this, seal the glue first before applying the skim coat.

Can You Paint Directly Over Drywall?

Fresh drywall that hasn’t been primed absorbs paint coating really well, just like a sponge. As a result, without an oil-based primer coat, you will experience uneven coverage, especially along drywall seams. Also, to get an even finish, you will need to apply more paint layers to your wall, which can be quite expensive.

Is It a Must to Skim Coat Drywall After Removing Wallpaper?

Applying a skim coat over drywall is not a must if it is not damaged. The main aim of skim coating is to cover scratches, holes, and other damage. If, after wallpaper removal, your wall remains unscratched, you may not need to skim coat it.