i've been working on early 1900's homes with plaster walls for25 yrs. I'd like to say one thing first. nothing replaces manual labor. Painting over wallpaper is just the biggest mistake any homeowner can do. It's typical and is done with success. But be warned..in the future if you decide to paint again and then again you will eventually degrade the glue underneath the paper and bubbles will form or the paper will start falling off the walls.
The proper way to fix and paint old plaster walls is to strip the old paper by any means you like. They all require hard labor. But hey, it's your house and you have a lifetime to finish it, so do it right. If the walls have not been primed or painted the go get yourself a good quality oil-based primer and seal the plaster.
Now you can go around and fix all the cracks and holes. Cracks should be gouged out and filled with plaster patch. If you like you could actually run some joint tape over the cracks and feather it back to the wall by applying 3 or 4 coats of joint compound.
After all the cracks and holes are filled to your satisfaction then you would sand and prime the patched areas with a Acrylic primer. Then lightly sand the whole wall with a 120 grade sandpaper and then caulk around baseboard, windows and doors.
Now you should re-prime the entire wall with an acrylic primer. Now you are ready for any type of finish paint you like. Jerry
I moved into a house that was completely wallpapered. When redoing we just plastered over the wallpaper and we never had a problem. I plastered the walls myself. It's really easy- like icing a cake. Once dried we just painted over the plaster. It saved me many nights of late night wallpaper peeling and my sanity. They offer courses (or used to) on plastering at Home Depot for free.
I am not sure if this thread is still active, but thought that I would add my 2 cents in case others find it while looking for help. I am in the process of renovating a 1930 home with lath and plaster. Most of the home had several layers of wallpaper on both the walls and ceiling. We used a steamer (which you can buy at Lowes/Home Depot for ~ $50) to remove the wallpaper. Once an area had steam applied to it, it could usually be scraped off with a putty knife. It helped to rip off the outermost vinyl layer if possible. It is a messy process, so put down drop clothes, but it allowed me to strip the wallpaper off of walls and ceilings at the rate of about a room per day. I am not sure if the moisture could damage the plaster, but in our case it didn't. We found beautiful plaster walls and ceilings in wonderful condition beneath the paper.
When I was much younger (I believe I was in the 8th grade at the time), my sister and I removed wallpaper from the walls in our room. It had several layers of paper laid over plaster. What we had to do was dampen the paper and remove sometimes only a layer at a time. It took us several days. I remember we took old cloths, wet them with water (and I think we got them pretty wet for the job) and wet the paper with the cloths. I think nowadays there are rollers with small spikes in them that can be rolled over the walls prior to dampening the paper.
The thing to remember with plaster walls is causing as little stress on the plaster as possible. I would do as susanmajp said or even buy some very light colored paneling. I had a wall done in white paneling once and I really liked it.
We've renovated old homes, and removing old wall paper often takes the plaster with it, leaving the wall with holes and/or chunks missing. The best way to fix it, is to put new plasterboard up, right over the old wall. You still have to tape and use mud, etc. And it is a big mess, but you end up with new walls. A quick and cheap way is to make sure all the old wallpaper is securely attached, clean and use a good primer, and use a textured paint right on top. Places prone to earthquakes often use this approach to repair walls in homes since it can hide a multitude of repairs. The problem is, these surfaces are a lot harder to clean. Whatever you choose, you will have lots of work ahead of you. Good luck.
my advice is to paint the wallpaper-if your house is very old, as mine is, removing the wallpaper can add stress to the plaster and cause more cracks or even cause the plaster to lose it's key (holding ability)
I would go to HGTV.com to get more specific advice if you really need to remove the wallpaper.
Aaargh... Old wallpaper is just awful. I wouldn't even attempt to take it off unless your walls are just crumbling under it. Kilz works wonders (get the oil based kilz) I'm not familiar with the product the other reply mentioned, but you can also get a texture product to put in paint. It's like sand. I had my son's rock band totally screw up the walls in their band room and I wasn't about to replace the drywall, so I got this texture and man, what a miracle! good luck. Just stick with it- don't get discouraged.
There's a type of paint called "High Hiding" that's supposed to cover wallpaper, cracks, and other texture problems. I'm sure there's other paints made for this purpose. If someplace like Home Depot doesn't have it a paint store probably does.
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