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Painting & Wallpapering/Wallpaper Stripping in 3 Easy Steps


QUESTION: Hi Rebecca,

I am wanting to paint a bedroom that currently has semi-gloss on the walls, but want to change to 'matte' or flat finish.  It is my understanding that the slick-like finish of the semi-gloss makes it difficult for paint to adhere to it's surface, making it necessary to use a coat of primer before applying the new paint.  But what I am wondering, do paint products that contain primer already added in, such as Behr brand, (available at Home Depot or Lowes), work just as well?  What are your thoughts?   Thanks.

ANSWER: Hi Gary. I've come across this situation many times, and, although I don't want to give an, "across-the-board" approval for all products which contain a Primer-and-Paint-in-one, I WILL say that Behr's Primer-and-Paint-in-one will work, provided that old semi-gloss you're painting over isn't an oil-based enamel, (in which case you'd want to use a bonding primer). Chances are, that old semi-gloss is latex, so your Behr paint would work fine.

To sum it up, if the old semi-gloss is...
-latex, use the Behr paint.
-an oil-based, use a bonding primer.
-if you're unsure, use a bonding primer, then you can apply Behr over top.

-due to the fact that you're painting walls, sanding them wouldn't be probable, unless they're smooth-wall, but sanding to remove the sheen would suffice as surface prep, (in the event you DO have smooth walls).   
-no matter if the old semi-gloss is latex or oil, you could always use a Liquid Sanding De-Glosser to prep the walls, as long as you follow the directions. These are solvents which can be wiped on with a rag or sponge and act as liquid sandpaper. These liquid de-glossers are ideal for surfaces which need to be de-glossed without the use of sandpaper.

Sorry for the long answer, but since I didn't know whether or not the semi-gloss was latex or oil, and whether or not the walls were smooth or textured, I wanted to give you the right answer, no matter the unknown variables.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Thanks for your detailed answer.  The current paint is latex, and the walls are smooth sheet rock, not textured.  I think I'll go with using the Behr (all in one) paint/primer product, so as to get it done in one step.  I am not particularly fond of painting, so this sounds the best for me.  

I do have one more issue, if you don't mind.  Do you have much knowledge of wall paper or border?  I have a border that needs removed (same room) and am wondering what is the best way to go about removing it?  I understand they make products that you can apply to soften the adhesive, but since I have never tried doing this I'm clueless. What is the best way to attack this?   Thanks!

Hi Gary.  Since I now know that the current paint is latex and the walls are smooth, I'd suggest using a sanding sponge or light-grit sandpaper first, (150-220 grit).  This isn't absolutely necessary, but the amount of time it takes to quickly scuff-up the walls is maybe 15 minutes for an average size room, (100-150 square-feet).  This will insure your top-coat adheres well, which will minimize the amount of coats you'll need to apply.  

In regards to your question about stripping wallpaper or wallpaper borders, I can tell you that I've spent thousands of hours stripping wallpaper and each job is different.  That being said, follow these steps, in order, for the easiest, most effective way to strip wallpaper and borders:

STEP 1:  You should always try to remove the wallpaper by the path of least resistance, so your first step is to see if it can come off by just peeling it off, (also called, "dry stripping").  Try a small area by a seam or take a razor knife to the corner and cut through the wallpaper if you cant find a seam.  Usually textured walls with wallpaper are easier to strip, (since there's naturally space and air pockets in between the texture).  Since your walls are smooth, you'll know right away if dry stripping is even an option, because it will either come right off or not at all.  Be very careful if you're trying to dry-strip it between the bottom-part of the border that's glued to the wall, because you could end up pulling some of your wall off too.  If the wallpaper doesn't remove easily, skip to step 2.

STEP 2:  If dry-stripping didn't work, don't continue to fight it.  Tearing small pieces off will only complicate the process.  Next, add water to soften the wallpaper.  Most advice for stripping would have you apply water from a spray bottle, but for best results, use sponges and a 2-5 gallon bucket.  Use hot water, (the hotter, the better).  Apply the hot water via sponge at least twice in a row, then give it 5 minutes, and apply it again right before you try to strip it.  Do this in phases, so all of the wallpaper walls have had water applied to them, and always apply the water again right before you strip it.  Use plastic putty knives unless you're experienced with metal ones, since metal putty knives can gouge walls and increase your wall repair.  If the wallpaper STILL doesn't want to come off, skip to step 3.

STEP 3:  If water wasn't effective, incorporate a wallpaper stripping product available at any hardware store, such as DIF.  Depending upon whether or not you get one in gel form or one which requires you adding water, the directions will vary.  If you get one which requires adding the wallpaper stripping product to water, add it to the water and use the process in STEP 2.  If you get the one in gel form, repeat the process in STEP 2 but substitute the water for the gel, so you won't need the water.

STEP 4:  There are rare occasions where the above steps won't work, due to any number of factors, but STEPS 1-3 will work 95% of the time.  If you fall in the 5% where more help is needed, you could use a steamer.  If you're stripping wallpaper in the bathroom, you could always turn on your shower to really hot and close the door to get it steamy.  

STEP 5:  This last year, I went into a house where every wall had wallpaper which needed to be stripped, (anywhere from 5-9 layers).  It was plaster smooth wall which never had been primed before the initial layer of wallpaper was applied, so there was a 0% chance of being able to remove all wallpaper without completely destroying the walls in the process.  Many of the rooms also had painted-over wallpaper where an oil-based enamel was used.  No amount of water or steam or DIF would help.  We ended up having to present the issues to the homeowner to discuss her options.  I spent 7 hours doing a pre-inspection before actually taking on the job, because I told her that I couldn't possibly give her a price without knowing how easy or hard it would be to remove the wallpaper.  We ended up applying a 1/4 inch sheet-rock layer over all walls, which was the cheapest and best solution.  I'm mentioning this to prove my initial point:  No two wallpaper stripping jobs are going to be the same.  

ONE MORE NOTE:  In my opinion, the most ridiculous tool I've ever seen for wallpaper stripping is that little circular palm-sized plastic stripper that uses the sharp wheels on the underneath side to score, or cut, shallow incisions in the wallpaper.  The logic behind this is the water or gel medium used to strip the wallpaper can work more effectively by penetrating deeper into wallpaper to loosen it up, (which is good logic, no doubt).  The problem with those is that it cuts the wallpaper in little teeny strips which makes the entire job much more labor intensive and inevitably leads to many gouges from putty knives, due to the sheer amount of times you'll need to run your putty knife over a wall to get every last piece.

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troy stevens


Questions I could answer would be anything related to the preparation and painting of a house or building. This would include both interior and exterior painting for residential and commercial structures. I'm well-versed in all painting and staining applications, products and methods. Questions I couldn't answer would be primarily those related to automotive, industrial or marine painting.


I've been painting professionally for over 26 years and I've owned my own business, Stelzer Painting Inc., for more than 16 years now. We specialize in interior & exterior painting for residential & commercial clients, re-paints, remodels & new construction. I'm fully licensed, bonded and insured. I have hundreds of referrals from past customers, an A+ rating through the BBB, and an A rating on Angie's List.

-Better Business Bureau, A+ Rating -Angie's List, A Rating -Construction Contractor's Board Member, (#202027). -PDX Advisory Group Member. -Licensed General Contractor -Licensed RRP Firm

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-High School Diploma -Studied at Mt. Hood Community College, Lane Community College and University of Oregon. -Recently completed continuing education requirements for licensing through the Construction Contractor's Board. -RRP Certified for lead-based paint removal through the state of Oregon. -Although my Real Estate License has lapsed, I was a licensed Realtor for several years as well.

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I've managed to maintain a perfect service record since beginning my business in 1998, with over 1,000 satisfied customers and no complaints. Professionally speaking, this is my proudest achievement.

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Richard Swails: (503) 636-7377 Mr. & Mrs. Scott: (360) 718-8676 Lonnie Tongate: (971) 645-7285 On my website,, I also have a link to my referral list, which contains several hundreds more.

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