Painting Wallpaper – If Not Coated, You Must Prime it With Oil Paint
QUESTION: Tim, I’ve got decades-old wallpaper in my kitchen I want to paint. It’s in great shape with only two small tears. Can I paint over the wallpaper or must I remove the wallpaper before painting? The paper was applied directly onto the drywall. Frank H., Yorktown, VA
A few years ago, a ham radio friend of mine taught me an interesting thing. He said, “The power is always in the question.” This is a great example of it. I know what Frank want’s to know, but it might have been better if he asked, “Tim, is it a good idea to paint directly over wallpaper and if so, is there a special paint?”
Can You Paint Wallpaper?
The truth is, you can put paint on just about anything. It’s similar to putting lipstick on a pig and many people paint things to disguise not-so-good-looking things. But the issue here is that most paints now are water-based. Water-based paints can often wreak havoc with some wallpaper.
Does Wallpaper Have a Plastic Coating?
Some wallpaper has an ultra-thin plastic coating that resists water penetration. This is why some wallpapers are scrubbable and washable. That’s a good thing.
Does Old Wallpaper Have the Coating?
But some wallpaper, especially older paper doesn’t have this clear coating. It’s just paper. You probably know if you get most paper wet, the water soaks right through. When this happens with non-coated wallpaper you can get ugly blisters in the wallpaper minutes after painting it with a water-based paint.
Does Oil Paint Create Blisters?
Oil paints don’t create these blisters. This is why I recommend painting wallpaper with an oil primer or some other product like shellac. Just be sure that the primer doesn’t contain water. Once the oil primer dries, you can paint the wall with whatever you want, including blacktop sealer, although I don’t really feel that would be a good look or smell.