Painting Over Wallpaper and Paneling is Possible!

Last updated Dec 11, 2018 | Published on Apr 10, 2018 | Decorating, Painting, Re-modeling

Painting over wallpaper is considered to be a big no-no in most remodeling circles. The general advice is to always remove the wallpaper first. But there are some circumstances where you may want to consider this as an option.

In my case, there were 3 rooms in my house that were wallpapered that I knew that I wanted to convert to paint. I first tackled my guest bedroom, where I completely removed the wallpaper before painting, per all the advice I had read. In the end this technique was a bit of a nightmare since our walls are not in the best of shape and there was a LOT of wall repair to be done once the wallpaper had finally been removed. Because we removed the wallpaper.

So instead of removing the wallpaper from the other rooms, I decided to let sleeping dogs lie and paint over it. In the case of my kitchen, I actually painted over (very) old paneling rather than remove it.  The bottom line is that this can be done, it’s not a quick or easy option because you really have to make sure you prep the walls properly and well. Or it just won’t look good.

If this is something you’re considering, here’s how to do it.


ammonia or TLC
large sponges
joint compound
drywall knife
paint brush(es)
paint pail
paint tray (for soaking the strips)
primer (this link is oil-based but you can use water-based primary if your walls are in good shape when you are done)
mineral spirits and dishwashing detergent (for cleaning oil-based primer)

STEP 1: Prepare your room
Remove furniture from the room or move it all to the center and cover it with dropcloths. Then also cover the floor where you’ll be immediately working with a dropcloth.

Gather your tools & materials so they’re all handy.  Pick a spot to start. I like to work from right to left so I usually start at the right side of a long wall.

STEP 2: Clean the Walls

Use a damp (not wet) sponge and either ammonia or TSP mixed in water (I used ammonia on the walls in my stairway and TSP on the kitchen walls). Wash the walls down. If you use TSP you’ll need to wait 24 hours for them to dry.

STEP 3: Rinse

Once the walls are dry, rinse them off with a clean sponge and clean water. Again, don’t soak the walls, just use a damp sponge.

STEP 4: Repair & clean up ragged edges

The first thing you want to do is to cover the seams with a thin layer of joint compound. You don’t want the seams to show after you’ve painted over them.

Then examine the walls and decide where you need to repair. Spackle any small holes. Check all edges and seams and use a strong adhesive to glue down any that are not perfectly flat.

STEP 5: Sand the walls

Sand down the walls, paying special attention if you have a textured wall paper. You want the surface to feel as flat as possible. Then one last rinse with a damp sponge to get the dust off.

STEP 6: Apply primer

Apply a layer of primer. We used an oil-based primer because our walls were in tough shape. If you have a newer wall, consider a water-based primer (it’s easier to clean and doesn’t smell as bad). Some paints are both a primer and paint in one. If your walls are in really good shape, consider those and you can skip right to the painting.

STEP 7: Paint

Once the primer is dry (we let the oil-based primer dry overnight), you’re ready to paint your walls with one or two coats. That’s it – you’re done!

For more information

Read more about our kitchen and stairway, where we successfully painted over the wallpaper. We’re very happy with how the walls came out.

Before we figured out how to paint over wallpaper, we removed it completely. You can read all about that here.

How about you?

Do you have a wallpaper removal tip or adventure to share? We’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

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