Q. What process do you recommend for removing wallpaper from drywall? We did one room using a liquid chemical remover, and a lot of patching was needed because of marks made by scrapers and so forth. Should I just paint the wallpaper in other rooms?
A. The only practical alternative is a wallpaper steamer, and you would probably have much the same experience if the drywall was not previously prepared with a sealer or sizing to make wallpaper stripping easier.
The basic problem is the drywall itself. Drywall is a rather fragile material, easily cracked, punctured, gouged and scratched; it is simply a layer of gypsum with a paper facing on each side.
It is even more fragile when it gets wet, which is generally does with either a liquid remover or a steamer. If you want to try a steamer, you can rent one at a tool-rental agency or buy a do-it-yourself steamer for about $50 at a home center.
Careful scraping and peeling of old walllpaper can keep gouge marks down, but some patching is usually needed. In some cases where there is significant damage, a skim coat of wallboard joint compound can be applied to give a smooth surface; this is best done by an experienced drywall installer or painting contractor.
Prime the walls before skim coating with Gardz or a comparable sealer. An often-used sealer for new drywall is Shieldz.
Some types of wallpaper can be painted, though I wouldn’t try to paint foil or badly damaged paper. Painting will look best if the wallpaper is carefully smoothed at seams and damaged spots with joint compound, so there is still a lot of preparation work needed.
After patching and smoothing the patches with sandpaper, prime the surface with B-I-N, a shellac-based primer and stain killer. Apply at least two coats of flat latex wall paint.
Q. We redecorated the basement in our older house but want to keep some old wood paneling. We’d like to brighten the dark paneling but still let the grain show through. Is it possible to whitewash wood paneling?
A. Many old wood barns and other buildings were whitewashed years ago, but whitewash is seldom used today because there are better, more convenient alternatives. For example, thinned white paint can serve the same purpose, and so can special coatings like pickling stains and glazing stains.
If you want to try thinned white paint, add about one part of thinner to three or four parts of paint (use mineral spirits to thin oil paint and water for latex). Oil-based paint works best because it gives more working time before it dries and doesn’t raise the grain of the wood, but latex paint can also be used. Try the paint in an inconspicuous place first to see if you like the results.
Pickling stains are translucent white stains that were popular on hardwood floors some years ago. Glazing stains serve much the same purpose. You can check home centers and paint stores near you for these products, and you will also find sources on the Internet.
A simple formula for whitewash, if you want to try it, is to mix 25 pounds of lime with 5 pounds of table salt and add water till you get a creamy consistency. Test first on an inconspicuous part of the wall, of course.