Texturing plaster walls that have been wallpapered & painted over

babs77April 26, 2010

We recently purchased a home built in 1910 that we'll be renovating and putting back on the market. Every room in the house has wallpaper on the walls that has been painted over numerous times. Even on the ceilings in most rooms. The wallpaper seams, though not obvious throughout at first glance, are pretty noticeable in some areas once you start looking a bit closer. We are trying to find a less expensive alternative to installing drywall on top or mudding all the walls and ceilings. Due to the amount of time we'll be dedicating to the overall project, removing all the wallpaper will not be an option.

Has anyone used a wall texture product in this scenario? There are different terms depending on the look you want -- orange peel, knock down, or acoustic. If so, how successful was it and would you recommend it to make wallpaper seams less noticeable?

We are looking at purchasing a sprayer and compressor and using the dry mix which you add water to and then one person applies to the walls and a 2nd person then smooths out, with mud knife, to get the desired knocked down affect/thickness. Looking at "after" photos, it does look like this may help hide the seams well enough but I sure would appreciate feedback if anyone has attempted this.

TIA for an advice or feedback you all may have!

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A seasoned buyer is going to know as soon as they see the walls that there's a nightmare lying under that texture!

Have you tried just sanding where the seams are so it's feathered to a somewhat smooth surface? It's been my experience that sanding with a little bit of paint magic, meaning a good glazing techniques on top of the regular paint can do a whole lot more to hide those imperfection than the textured stuff.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 4:08PM
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We do plan on testing an area. Doing textured painting without sanding the seams and another area with sanding the seams. I bought a can of the spray on version today to use for this test.
I'm reading that this textured paint technique is becoming more popular. I think any seasoned buyer is going to know that plaster walls are a nightmare!

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 4:52PM
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Uhm......I'd think twice about applying anything over wallpaper. Plastered walls are not nightmares, I love my old plastered walls. It's getting the stuff off of them people have done instead of removing it what is a job. When I was skim coating one wall where I removed paper, I had inadvertently left some minute shreds of it, and the compound immediately bubbled up and loosened. Anything moist over paper, especially real paper can bubble or come loose. Rent a steamer, do it right and remove it. You'll be glad you did in the long run. If I were buying that home, I'd know in a heartbeat if you put something over paper instead of removing it, and I'd wonder what else was done the 'easy way'. Believe me, it would prejudice me against any other repairs to the house. Ask this question on the home buying/selling forum and get their responses.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 8:20PM
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Don't do it. I recenly did this for a temp fix for the same reason and within a week it started cracking. I don;t plan on reselling our 150 year old home, but the kitchen needed something. So im stuck with it.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 9:14PM
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This is just my opinion, but, I think you may (deservedly) earn the fury of your buyers when they discover what you have done. And you can be certain that eventually they will discover it.

Since you already know that removing what's on there will be (at best) some trouble to remove, can you imgaine how much harder it will be when there's more crap like sprayed-on texturing on the walls?

I think the only ethically correct (unless you are planning on alerting potential buyers to the issue, which I assume you are not) solution is to either remove the painted wallpaper (sometimes it's not as bad as it might seem, when you use a good steamer) or simply freshen the walls with another coat of paint. Then it's at least buyer beware, and you haven't made things exponentially worse for your eventual buyer.

If an owner was doing this for his own convenience or choice, it would be one thing, but what you have proposed seems like choosing to pass on a thinly disguised problem to save yourself some trouble and expense. That's bad Karma.

I don't know how much personal experience you have with bringing an older home back to life, but I can vouch for the fact that for most of us, the stuff done by the previous owners (even as choices for their own taste, not simply as quick-flip strategy) are often the most vexing, costly and dispiriting problems we face.

This is your chance to not be a @#$%?*&^!!! PO (previous owner).

Please reconsider. As another poster noted doing it right may help secure a sale, or even get a better price.

(PS: In some parts of the country knockdown and other forms texturization were done during the period when asbestos was used as component. If I saw KD in a 1910 house, that would make me run for the hills because of that risk, alone. So you might actually create the appearence of a problem that isn't there now. In current housing market, you don't want to add any impediment to a potential sale.)

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 9:17PM
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Thank you all for your honest feedback. I think we may try sanding the seams and paint one sanded seam area as a test. If worse comes to worse, I guess we will be renting a steamer!
We do know that in at least one room there are many layers of paint over many layers of wallpaper.
On our last reno, we took down several layers of wallpaper only to have to drywall due to the extensive damage to the walls. Trying to avoid that hassle and expense since we have many areas of this home that will need extensive work.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 9:43PM
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Your reply was certainly very gracious considering our lack of support for your plans. I think most posters here take pleasure in helping people solve their old house dilemmas, because we love old houses and we want to help other people love their old houses, too. And most of us learned how to do things from asking endless questions. I know I am forever indebted to people who taught me, explained stuff and helped me see the bigger picture when I came to a deadend. I wish we could have been more positive, for you.

One thing I do know about wallpaper removal: get a really powerful steamer. Don't try the job with a dinky little one. There are some proprietary chemicals that sometimes help.

Good luck with your project. Please come back and ask for any help or advise we can offer you.

    Bookmark   April 27, 2010 at 10:03PM
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Sounds like you ran into something they didn't teach you in Carpetbagging 101, or How to Buy Low, Fix Cheap and Flip to the First Sucker who Can Get Financed.

Well, God bless you. I guess all the suckers out there have to get educated somehow, so it might as well be the hard way. The bottom line is I don't think there is any easy way to do what you need to get done. I've seen all sorts of concoctions applied to plaster, none of which look good, and all of which have to come off when you decide you want a good wall.

The good news is that it's probably not as bad as you think it is, though if you're paying somebody to do it, it will probably break you. If you have the time and ambition, try just one room yourselves - use steam, or more likely that DIF stuff with hot water after plenty of scoring. It's dirty work, but you'll get better at it after a while. Try to be careful not to gouge up the plaster too much and maybe when you're done all you'll need to do is paint.

If you're going to be in the old-house-fix-up business, you'll probably also want to familiarize yourself with how trowels or drywall knives work. It takes a while, but once you get the hang of it, you can really improve a place in a relatively short time, with relatively little money, just by repairing or skimcoating the walls.

Or, go through the whole house in one day with an airless sprayer and really flat paint and hope for the best...

    Bookmark   April 28, 2010 at 3:16PM
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I removed all of the multiple layers of paint, panelling and wall papers off of the walls and ceilings of our old house (just used a spray bottle of water with a little Dawn). It really didn't take that long and the beautiful plaster walls made it so worth it. Me thinks that your opinion of plaster walls comes from a lack of knowledge. I don't know anyone who would trade plaster for drywall. And in our area, doing what you suggest would greatly reduced the value of the house.

Of course your intentions for the house are completely different than those of us who enjoy living in our old houses.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2010 at 2:30PM
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Tryinbrian, I enjoyed reading this forum until you came along and called a nice poster like babs a "sucker." This is a respectful forum, please don't bring it down. It sounds like you have good advice to give but I don't enjoy getting helpful advice from someone who insults me first and I don't think the OP does either.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 8:47AM
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Stripping painted wallpaper from plaster is not hard at all.

4 inch and 5 inch razor blade scrappers and it strips right off leaving bare plaster.

The biggest problem is the bags of paper and the little bits of paint that peel off as the paper strips.

Cover the floor with brown wrapping paper and tape the seams.
Tape the paper to the baseboard also.

Once the walls (and ceiling) are stripped, roll up the brown paper with most of the wallpaper inside and carry it outside for disposal.

I have had to personally do this many times, since you usually cannot hire anyone to do the job.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 2:37PM
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Oops, sorry to offend Slateberry51. I wasn't trying to be disrespectful with my use of the term "sucker", it was an attempt to describe in admittedly blunt terms what the poster's apparent business strategy was.

It's not that I don't think buying, fixing up, and re-selling homes can be an honorable business endeavor. Rather, it's when the fixing-up aspect becomes a cosmetic cover-up with little regard to the durability of the fixes that the endeavor begins to reek of a plan of deception rather than honest endeavor.

Perhaps I am wrong, but certain terms in the original post made me suspicious: "...trying to find a less expensive alternative...", due to time constraints "...removing the wallpaper will not be an option" as they try to "hide the seams well enough". Well enough to sell it, I suspect. Plus the reference to her experience on "...our last reno".

I'll also admit I'm a little prejudiced against spray-on textures and don't believe the have the qualities necessary for a durable wall. Ceilings, maybe, if they're done right, but how is the proud new owner going to keep those mud-textured walls clean and sanitary? Real plaster texture walls are hard and tough, and cleanable, but mud-spray ones are anything but.

Pardon my salty language, sometimes the words just come spitting out!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 1:53PM
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tryingBrian, as far as I am concerned, you were right on point. Blunt maybe, but you expressed my thoughts exactly. I cringe when people buy a old house for resale only, and then proceed to renovate (I use that term loosely), in the cheapest, fastest manner. Then the next owner comes along and has to deal with mess. That is why old houses get such a bad rap and why successive owners want to rip them down, or gut them rather than undo the messes made by POs.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 5:24PM
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Powermuffin and tryinbrian, you guys are right on! It took me 9 months to scrape off 6 layers of paper from 90 year old plaster, and while the walls look gorgeous now, I hated the fact that someone tried to cover up some problems.

There is nothing worse than a fast, cheap remodel, when done only for a fast sell. For those of us that love old houses, this is exceptionally difficult to hear.

To the OP, you'd probably have a nicer look if you took the time to remove the paper and paint the beautiful old plaster. Those of us that love old homes, and possibly the future owner of your home, might appreciate your efforts.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 12:32AM
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I'm not sure if the OP is reading this anymore, but I did want to offer advice. I've been scraping (and scraping and scraping, you get the idea) wallpaper for so long. We're in the process of redoing my daughter's room and there were many many layers of wallpaper on the walls. I assumed the layers started in the 1930's, but on one wall, they put sheetrock over the plasterwall. It's some bizarre cardboard-like substance, so I guess in the 1950's- late 60's they just redecorated a lot.

Anyway, long story shortened, when I got to the last layer on that cardbaord wall, it's stuck like glue over it. I got off all I could, scrubbed it, and my husband put a layer of plaster over the whole thing and it's now smooth as glass. I don't think this would work with many many layers, but my father in law has done this in the past, and after 20 years all is still good. I wouldn't recommend doing this in the more public areas of the home, but in the bedrooms it might work for you.

It sounds like from your post that you are a thoughtful remodeler. I, like so many on this forum, cringe when thinking of "flippers" and the lack of care for history that many have. However, there are people who remodel who do a great job and do it not only to make money, but to improve their community. Those people are to be commended, because their vision helps create a longer history for that house in that community. I hope that you are able to bring that home to its former glory and find a family to love it.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 9:59AM
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Thanks for your gracious words tryinbrian. I agree with autumngal, the op is probably gone by now. You are right, in general a flipper would not be expected to choose long-term value/better maintenance choices over short-term convenience/quick fix cosmetics. But the fact that the op even visited this forum with a question is promising. Flipper today, custodian tommorrow: check out the Rosenbaums in Attleborough, MA. Did they ever get bit by the old house bug!


Craig and Yvonne in Fanwood, NJ, while never flippers, seem to have also found a way to make responsible renovation and restoration pay.


I remember being critical of a poster asking about vinyl siding when I was new to this forum. Since then, I've toned down a bit. I figure there are two kinds of people: those of us who "get" old houses, and future converts. :-) I think babs genuinely wanted to know the best way to proceed, and while constrained by time and money, who knows how she might rearrange other work or priorities in order to incorporate advice from this forum.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2010 at 9:10AM
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