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Right tool helps remove wallpaper

Q. We want to remove wallpaper from drywall that was not sized (primed). How can we do this without damaging the drywall?

A. It’s unlikely you will be able to strip the wallpaper without some damage to the drywall, but you can keep damage to a minimum by using this method:

Obtain a wallpaper scoring tool such as the Paper Tiger from a home center or wallpaper-supply store. Also buy some chemical remover such as DIF and a wallpaper scraper (gel-type DIF clings to the wall better than liquids and is often more effective).

Use the scoring tool to make tiny perforations in the wallpaper. If the scoring is done carefully, you won’t damage the drywall. Work on a section at a time, starting in the least conspicuous area, to improve your technique and see how you like the results.

When you have scored some of the paper, apply the remover with a sprayer or roller. The perforations allow the remover to penetrate to the paste and soften it so the paper can be stripped with a minimum of damage to the underlying surface. Follow directions on the remover container carefully.

When you finish a section, you will probably have some nicks, gouges and other damage to the drywall’s paper facing. Remove traces of paste by applying more DIF and scraping off the paste residue. Finally, use a damp sponge to clean the drywall and let it dry thoroughly.

To restore the drywall, apply a coat of sealer such as Gardz, followed by a skim coat of drywall joint compound and another coat of Gardz. For more information, go to and Click on Do It Yourself, then on Projects, then on Wallcovering Projects.

Anyone papering new drywall should apply a coat of sealer or sizing first. It will make removal much easier.

Q. I want to remove several coats of paint from my concrete patio and have obtained a soy-based paint remover that is said to be environmentally friendly and effective. What is your opinion and what are my alternatives?

A. Soy-based paint removers and other “safe” removers do work, but they sometimes take considerably longer to soften paint than removers that contain toxic chemicals such as mehylene chloride.

Some safe removers might need to be left in place for several hours, or even overnight. If you have this problem with your remover, work a small section at a time, spread the remover in a fairly thick coat, and cover it with a sheet of plastic to slow evaporation.

If you are not satisfied with the results of the soy-based remover, try Peel Away Smart Strip or Peel Away 7, which are said to be environmentally friendly and are generally effective on multiple layers of paint.

These strippers are available at some paint stores and online; visit for more information.

Q. What is the best way to deal with ice dams and their resulting problems on roofs?

A. Ice dams, which form at the eaves of roofs in cold-climate areas and sometimes cause water to back up under shingles and cause leaks, are a complex problem.

Many experts recommend “keeping a cold roof” with adequate attic insulation and proper attic ventilation. The cold roof lets the ice melt naturally (instead of from heat escaping from the house) and lets the water run off the roof harmlessly like rain.

Another good approach is to use electric heating cables to melt snow before it can accumulate and form ice dams. The cables can be controlled by a thermostat or manual switch.

In some areas of heavy snow, homeowners use snow rakes to pull snow from roof eaves as soon as possible after snows, which prevents dams from forming. And if you have new shingles installed, specify installation of a waterproof membrane at the roof eaves to prevent leaks if water backs up.

Questions and comments should be e-mailed to Gene Austin at Send regular mail to 1730 Blue Bell Pike, Blue Bell, PA 19422.