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Can You Paint Over Wallpaper?

Are you wondering if you can paint over wallpaper? Find out whether you can, and whether you should, in this article!

Can you paint over wallpaper?

Yes, you can paint over wallpaper. But should you?

That's a more difficult question, and there are a lot of differing opinions out there. Some people believe you should always remove the wallpaper first, while others think it's acceptable to paint over wallpaper in some cases. 

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Is it Possible to Paint Over Wallpaper? 

Yes, it's certainly possible to paint over wallpaper, even a border. However, the type of material the wallpaper is made of, and the condition it's in, will be a big factor. But when you use the right tools and techniques, you can get a pretty good finish.

Why would you want to paint over wallpaper? Old wallpaper can look dated, but it can be a pain to remove. Check out these three methods for removing wallpaper to see if that's a project you're willing to tackle yourself.

Instead of spending a day peeling and scraping, you might want to skip a step and go straight to painting. Yes, the paint will usually stick, but is this really a good idea? 

Should You Paint Over Wallpaper? 

Some contractors and painters will tell you to never paint over wallpaper. Why? There's two main issues.

First, it takes extra work to paint wallpaper properly. So it might not save you any time after all.

Second, if the painted wallpaper doesn't turn out the way you were hoping, you just made even more work for yourself. Removing wallpaper with paint on it is significantly more difficult than wallpaper alone.

When You Should NOT Paint Over Wallpaper 

There are times when you definitely should not paint over wallpaper. Here are a few things to look for to determine if your wallpaper is paintable.

First, check to see if there is any bubbling or peeling at the seams. This will not look better after it's painted. However, if you take the time to repair these areas, you might get a good finish.

Second, if the face of the wallpaper is vinyl or has a plastic coating, the paint will not bond properly. This type of wallpaper is common in bathrooms because it can repel moisture, and that includes water-based paint. 

Finally, textured wallpaper may have a raised, bold pattern that is difficult to hide with paint. Even if you think that grasscloth wallpaper will look cool when painted, it will be more difficult to get an even coat on the uneven surface. Check out my tips for painting textured walls before tackling this type of project.

Nobody likes stripping wallpaper, but sometimes skipping a step isn't worth it.

How to Paint Over Wallpaper 

Painting over wallpaper requires a different approach from painting over normal drywall or wooden wall paneling. You'll need to do some prep work to get a decent finish.

Prepare the Wallpaper for Paint 

First, take a moment to inspect the wallpaper. If there are any bubbled areas, these should be repaired. If the corners are peeling, they should either be reattached or cut out. Check out the video below for tips on how to repair wallpaper.

Fill any nail holes or scratches in the wallpaper with spackle, just like you would for drywall. Any imperfections in the surface will show up in the final result, so take the time to fix anything now.

Use a vacuum to remove any dust. You need to ensure there is no built-up dirt or residue on the wallpaper. It must be clean to accept primer and paint.

Use the Right Primer for Wallpaper 

Now that everything is clean and fixed up, it's time to prime. Avoid a water-based or latex primer. Why? Latex primers cause the wallpaper to peel and bubble because the water deactivates the drywall paste.

You'll have more luck with an oil-based primer paired with oil-based paint. You can read more about the difference between oil-based primer and water-based primer here.

Also, some wallpaper has a strong color pigment. This pigment can leak through the primer, tainting the final color. My go-to shellac primer will get the job done by blocking the color from bleeding through.

Fill the Imperfections in the Wallpaper

Before that fresh coat of paint, go over all the gaps and seams and touch up any imperfections with spackle.

Wait, didn't we just do this?

The primer will highlight problem areas that you may not have noticed before. The flat, matte sheen of the primer makes every bump and scratch more visible.

Paint the Wallpaper 

Once everything is ship-shape, it's time to use the paint!

Paint everything as you normally would, starting from the outside edges and working your way towards the center of the wall. Allow the first coat to fully dry before you move on to a second coat.

After the first coat, inspect the wall to make sure the wallpaper is taking the paint well and that there are no bubbles or wrinkles. With any luck, your walls should look like new again!


Yes, it's possible to paint over wallpaper. However, you should ensure this is the best route. If there's any way you can get the wallpaper removed (with a reasonable effort), you'll probably be glad you did.

However, if you decide to paint over the wallpaper, make sure you take the time to prepare the surface. Also, it's essential that you use a primer made to work with wallpaper. If you don't use a good primer and repair the seams, you'll end up with lots of imperfections showing through the final project. 

Are you planning to paint over your wallpaper? Let me know how it went! If you have any tips, let us all know in the comments below!

Check out these other painting tutorials!

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