What to Do When Stripping Wallpaper Damages the Drywall

By Linda Tubbs

Hi my name is Linda Tubbs, owner of Tubbs Pro Wallpapering of Hampton Roads VA. If you are stripping your wallpaper and it causes extensive drywall damage, I highly recommend hiring a professional who has the experience to get the job done quickly. But if you’re a “do-it-yourself” type person and have a lot of time on your hands, then please keep reading!

If you have any questions about any of the items needed for stripping and prepping damaged walls, go to any Sherwin-Williams store and they will direct you to the most effective items.

Supplies Needed:

Wallpaper Stripper: I highly recommend the liquid form that you mix with water. Use a sprayer. DO NOT buy any type of “goo” product. They just make an even bigger mess.

Drop Cloths, Old Towels, etc: Protect your floors and carpeting!

Wallpaper scrapers and other tools for removal.


Utility knives

Sand paper

Drywall Mud & Spreaders

Shellac-based Primer

Oil-based Primer

Your Paint or Wallpaper of Choice

Time & Patience

When stripping paper, there are three things that need to be removed:

  1. Top Layer
  2. Backing
  3. Glue

At first try removing the top layer dry, then wetting the backing. If this doesn’t work, though, I suggest using a paper tiger on the top layer, then wetting the top layer with your wallpaper stripper. Let it stand however long the label says to, then strip off the per. Often times only the top layer will come off and you will still have to re-wet the back layer to remove it. After both layers of paper are removed make sure to wipe your walls down with a sponge and/or wet cloth. If there is still a sufficient amount of glue on the walls, respray the walls and wipe/scrub off the glue.

Stripping wallpaper is already a pain, but if your paper was installed on un-primed walls then removing the paper can become a nightmare. Sometimes when you’re stripping paper the top layer of drywall is also pulled off. You’ll see a brown, cardboard-like substance underneath this top layer. If you mud over this drywall layer it will bubble up. How do you get passed this problem?

If you have an extensive amount of drywall damage and the mud is bubbling up, the key to solving this problem is white shellac-based primer. The shellac prevents the moisture of the mud from soaking into this cardboard-like drywall layer. Make sure to keep the area you’re working in well-ventilated, and paint the shellac-based primer over all areas where the brown cardboard-like layer is showing. Let the primer dry. Now you’re ready to prep your walls.

The first thing you will want to do is mud over all areas you used the shellac-based primer. If there are still areas that bubble up, wait until the mud dries to see if the bubbles suck in. If they do not, you’ll have to cut out the bubbled up areas and re-prime and re-mud. Apply mud to any other areas of the wall that may have small holes,gouges, or dents from removing the wallpaper. After the mud has dried, sand your walls smooth. Please wear a mask and work in a well ventilated area!

Once your walls are smooth, paint the walls with oil-based primer. I always recommend using oil-based primer after removing wallpaper, because it counteracts any minor glue residue that was left on your walls. Oil-based primer has a very strong odor to it, so open all windows and turn on the fans. Once dry, this odor will fade. Your walls are now ready for new paint or wallpaper.

Linda Tubbs, owner & founder of Tubbs Pro Wallpapering, has been providing quality wallpaper installation, wallpaper removal, and painting in Hampton Roads VA since 1984. For more information or to view this article on her blog, please visit her website at TubbsPro.com

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