Throughout life, many people get tired of old, peeling, cracking or fading wall paper.  Others simply decide to replace outdated wall paper patterns. Still others decide to simply allow the natural wall under the wall paper to show again. No matter what the reasons are for making use of them, wall paper removal techniques can be very simple if certain precautions are taken, and if the person removing the wall paper has a basic working knowledge of the techniques to be used. 
Although wall paper removal is a common do it yourself task for homeowners, for your first time removing wall paper, it is sometimes a good idea to talk to an interior decorator or a wall paper professional to determine the best methods, and to get tips and tricks of the trade.

Determining the Type of Wall

Before deciding how to remove the old wallpaper, it is important to determine the type of wall underneath the wallpaper, and the type of wall paper that is being removed. The three main types of walls are wood panel or either plaster or drywall over lath. Lath is either strips of wood or metal mesh wire that holds the wall together. Knowing what type of wall is underneath the paper is important because overexposing drywall to water can cause damage to the wall itself.  Also, drywall is easier to gouge and damage than plaster. To determine if the wall is drywall or plaster, there are two easy ways to tell the difference. The first is the tap test. Tap gently on the wall.  Drywall will sound hollow while plaster sounds solid.  The second test is to remove a power socket from the wall to expose the wall edging. Drywall is generally thinner than plaster, and crumbles easily to the touch. 

Preparing for Wall Paper Stripping Removal

Make sure to use a drop cloth to cover the floor along all the walls to catch any dripping liquid solution and any wall paper or backing adhesive that you may drop to the floor. Make sure to wear rubber gloves and a long sleeved shirt to protect your hands, arms and torso from the adhesive solvent solution. Also wear long, thick pants and old shoes to protect your legs and feet from the solution.  Use safety glasses to protect your eyes from dripping solution. 

Dry Stripping
Sometimes it is simply a matter of dry stripping the wall paper straight off the wall. Simply scrape down a loose corner with a putty knife, and if it comes loose, simply slowly pull the wallpaper at a low angle, meaning not pulling it too far from the wall. If this method completely removes the wall paper, now it is time to simply clean the wall and either wall paper over it again, or paint it.

Adhesive Removal   

If any part of the wall paper remains stuck to the wall, it is going to have to be wet down with wall paper remover solvent or steam, depending on which type of backing the wallpaper had as adhesive. If the wall paper is vinyl, acrylic or foil, it will need to be perforated, scratched or otherwise roughened in order for the solvent mixture to absorb into the adhesive. If the wallpaper is porous, however, it will automatically absorb the water quickly, allowing the solvent to dissolve the adhesive. Once the adhesive is wet with the water and solvent mix, it should easily scrape off.

Soaking and Scraping

After deciding the wall paper requires a water and solvent mix, there are several ways to apply the solution.  The two best ways to avoid getting the solution on the floor is to use either a spray bottle or a long handled paint roller brush to apply the solution to the wall. Once the wall paper or the adhesive backing is completely sodden, it should now be easy to remove the wall paper and adhesive.
If the paper is nonporous, it is important to perforate the paper first by using sandpaper or a perforating tool. This will allow the solution to absorb into the paper and the adhesive, allowing for easier removal of the wall paper and adhesive from the wall.

Don't wet more than about a three foot wide area, from floor to ceiling. Allowing the liquid solution to absorb into the wall any longer than approximately fifteen minutes can cause the drywall to become soggy and easily damaged, when it can be avoided. Then use a wide taping knife or wall paper removing tool to gently scrape off the wall paper or adhesive. You can let the wallpaper and adhesive fall to the floor on the drop cloth. If the soak and scrape method is satisfactory, the task is finished except for cleanup. If wall paper or adhesive is still stuck to the wall, however, it might be time to rent a wall paper steamer. 

Wall Paper Steaming

There are three main reasons that wall paper may need to be steamed in order to be removed.  The wall paper may have been painted over. There may be more than one layer of wallpaper adhered to the wall. The last reason is that the wallpaper was not adhered to a properly sealed wall. It is not harmful to use the steam and scrape method on plaster because it is thick.  Be cautious when using the steam and scrape method on drywall, because the thinness of the material can allow it to be more easily damaged or gouged if it is too wet. 

Make sure to stand on a step stool when working above chest level to avoid hot water or steam dripping down on you, as this may cause serious burns. Starting at the top corner of the wall, steam the wall until the paper is moist enough to scrape away the remaining paper as you place the steamer at an adjacent location. Continue scraping each steamed location as you move the steamer. 

Following these directions after talking to a professional can give you a clean wall, ready to be bared, painted or wall papered. This will give your home a fresh new look, and allow you the opportunity to make your house unique to your tastes.