How to Remove a Wallpaper Border

So, you’re taking on a weekend painting project but before you can start, you’ll need to remove the wallpaper border.  At first you think, no problem, and start tearing away at the border, only to realize that it only comes off in tiny small pieces. You think to yourself, at this rate I’ll be here all week.  So to find a quick way to remove your wallpaper,  you search the internet and find this website: the only authoritative source to removing wallpaper borders you’ll ever need. 

So let’s get started by giving some solutions, a couple of common problems and a work around for wallpaper borders that simply don’t want to come off.

First, find a sponge and wet the surface of the wallpaper border with water.  If you don’t have a sponge, use a cloth towel or spray bottle to soak the border. 

Second, wait 3-5 minutes and let the water soak in.  After letting the border soak, test a spot for removal by pulling the polyethylene outer  portion of the paper from the corner.  By now the border should cleanly release from its paper backing; if not, repeat the step above.

Next, once your border is completely stripped, you’ll need to wash off the wallpaper glue or paste. Soak heavy glue with a spray bottle and wait a couple of minutes until it softens.  Using a scraper, scrape off the heaviest amounts of glue from the walls, periodically rinsing the glue from your scraper in a bucket of water.

Finally, wet and scrub the remaining glue by using an abrasive scouring pad. Rinse and clean your walls before painting.

Now, after trying the first two steps, if you find out that you have a stubborn wallpaper border that simply won’t release from its backing, then it’s on to plan B.  Plan B is similar to what’s outlined above, except that you’ll need to break through the surface of the top piece of the wallpaper border. There are a few ways to do this and all of them basically involve scratching or abrading the surface to allow water to penetrate to the bottom piece of wallpaper.

To abrade or scratch the surface you can purchase a tool such as the Paper Tiger which punctures little holes into the surface of the wallpaper or use a very coarse sandpaper to scratch the top layer of the border.  Afterwards, simply follow the rest of the steps outlined above. 

If you find that the wallpaper border is still not coming off or that its removal is causing drywall damage then its time to stop and go to plan C.  Plan C basically admits defeat and says that your paper border is a big pain in the ass to remove.  So instead, we will leave it on the wall and make it a part of the wall.  At first this may not seem like what you instinctively want to do, but trust me, it is. 

So here’s how we do it.  Go out to your local paint store or big box store and get a quart of oil primer like Kilz or Cover Stain and a bag of Durobond or some other joint compound product.

Protect all counters, floors etc because these primers are designed to adhere and will be a pain to remove, if dripped or spilled. 

Apply a light coat of primer to the wallpaper border.  If you started stripping your border and already have

some drywall damage, make sure the damaged drywall facing is tight and no loose facing is present.  If the facing has separated, use a utility knife to remove the loose facing before applying the primer.

Next, once the primer is dry (about 1 hour), apply a thin skim coat of Durobond or some other joint compound product to wallpaper border in order to transition and smooth the edge of the wallpaper.

Once dry, lightly sand the joint compound to a smooth finish, remove all compound dust, and apply a second thin coat of primer.  That’s it.  Your now ready to paint.