Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Removing Wallpaper: What’s the DIF?

I don’t particularly like to wallpaper but I don’t hate to do it. I like the variety of options that wallpaper offers. And, considering that we have an older home outfitted in an even older decor, it's usually a good fit.

What I do hate, however, is removing wallpaper. That’s something I think that prison inmates should be made to do.

How hard – or easy – a job it is depends on a lot of factors. Wallpaper, truly paper and with no backing, will either fall off the wall or cling to it for dear life. There is no middle ground.

Vinyl prepaste wallpaper may come off in larger strips, but it almost always has at least one patch, more often than not several patches, that are particularly stubborn. Wallpaper of any kind applied to other wallpaper or to painted surfaces usually clings well but can be removed easier than wallpaper attached to bare drywall.

That’s been my experience anyway. And it’s also why many people don’t like wallpaper.
When I began ripping the old wallpaper off in our bathroom last year, I had just discovered a great product: Zinnser’s DIF spray gel wallpaper remover. It's very easy to use and IT WORKS!

Score the wallpaper. Spray It down. Let it sit for 15 -20 minutes. Remove wallpaper! (Use a remover tool or just a dull putty knife – my preference – to bring up the edges and remove any excess remover.) You can find other wallpaper removing tips from Zinsser here.

Wipe the wall down with a damp sponge. Once it dries, you’re ready to paint or put up new wallpaper!

This stuff really came in hand last weekend as we demoed both downstairs bathrooms at the restaurant. It worked like a charm in the men’s restroom, on a modern drywall surface. But on the bare plaster wall in the ladies’ room? Not so much. I managed to get the border off, leaving a few lumps in the surface, but that wallpaper was stuck! I was afraid to fight with it too much, concerned about what might be underneath, fully believing it to be the original plaster walls. OUCH!

So, I sanded off the rough edge left by the border, then used the sandpaper to scuff up the wallpaper, wiped off the dust and painted it. I used a color similar to the background color of the wallpaper. Voila! New surface to paper over.

It went pretty well though even the layers of old wallpaper couldn’t hide years of imperfections in the walls. If you’re looking for a perfectly smooth surface, you’ll just have to start with drywall!


cd said...

I also think DIF is fabulous. My bathroom wallpaper was applied directly to new drywall with no sizing and it was a bear to get off. I found myself gougling the wall numerous times which then meant mudding and sanding. For the areas DIF was not working on a friend suggested using Windex after scoring the wall with the zinser tool. At first I thought she was confusing Windex with the DIF bottle, but it works wonders.

Jayne said...

I used a steamer on the plaster walls in my entryway and front parlor and the paper peeled right off. My problem now is figuring out how to get the steam higher than I can reach. Scaffolding, I guess.

MonkeyGirl said...

I have had mixed results using DIF. Maybe it is because I am really impatient and don't wait long enough or I go to the opposite extreme and lose interest and walk away for more than 15 minutes! Either way, I'm glad it worked for you!

NV said...

cd -- Hmm. Good piece of advice to store away as I finish up the bathroom!

Jayne -- Maybe put some DIF on an extended roller? Just a thought!

MG -- Yeah, you really DO have to wait for it to work! :-)