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Removing Stubborn Wallpaper in our Tiny Apartment, Small Bathroom Makeover

Catherine Stolfi has a Master of Science degree and enjoys sharing experiences related to expanding awareness on particular topics.

Before / After


When I set out to give my bathroom a major makeover, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money or time. I was living in a tiny rental apartment with an equally tiny bathroom that I wanted to make something I could be happy going into everyday. Initially I started my search for a professional to complete the work but it was difficult to get an accurate price quote without knowing exactly the situation with the wallpaper. The professionals wanted to know the type of wallpaper and glue used, which ofcourse I did not know. Without that information, the costs I received were in the higher hundreds to upwards of almost $10,000, and it just wasn't worth the cost for such a small room in our apartment.

After I did a little research online, I was able to determine that I could do this by myself. I purchased all possible items I might need to do the job since I wasn't sure exactly what I would need until I started the work, but this would be absolutely considerably less cost than a professional. I also wanted to be able to complete this in one day or weekend of removing wallpaper, adding primer and doing the painting. I knew after removing the Wallpaper that I'd need to primer and paint so I prepared for painting the room as well. I wasn't sure the age of the wallpaper, the amount of layers or the type of glue on the wall. This mystery was soon revealed with some good surprises and some bad ones too. This will hopefully assist anyone going into this type of project for what you expect.

Items Purchased

• Wallpaper Glue Remover- Spray [3 different brands]

• Sponge (s)

• Perforating Tool-Wheel

• Wallboard Knife

• Bucket

• Paper Towels

• Painter’s Tape

Removing Stubborn Wallpaper

I learned as I went but going into it overly prepared for any and all scenarios for the quickest turnaround, was my approach. The last thing I wanted was to have a home project take place over the span of days or, even worse, multiple weekends or weeks. I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money hiring a contractor to do the work or even renting a steamer, which is charged by the hour and can be pretty pricey and add up quickly. I went in prepared, searched on the website of home depot and purchased accessories for all types of wallpaper. You can see my list of purchased items to the right. Even though I didn't end-up using all of these products fully, it was worth the purchase to ensure I had what I needed to do the job. And note, all of these things are relatively cheap as compared to hiring someone or renting very expensive equipment.

There are three types of wallpaper: strippable, peel able top-layer and traditional. Strippable wallpaper easily peals. I knew I didn't have this wallpaper by choosing a corner of the wallpaper and attempting to pull it away using a wallboard knife. This is by far the easiest type of wallpaper to remove. Wallpaper with a peel able top-layer can be stripped easily but leaves glued paper underneath that needs to be removed with a solution or scraper. Traditional paper is the most difficult to remove. If you have it, it means you’ll need to remove one thick strip of glued paper, which can be hard and will be the most time consuming. However, with the correct tools, its possible to do it easily. For the latter two types, you'll need a really good scraper that's easy to work with. For me it was the Red Devil EZ Grip Multi-Purpose Painter's Tool, 3". The size of the tool made it easy to use for my small hands and I liked the idea that it was multipurpose so could use it past this project's completion on other projects around the house in the future.


Peel and Paint

I had the type of wallpaper with a peelable top-layer, which means you'll have a layer of thin paper underneath that can be scraped or removed off. I removed all the items from my bathroom and laid paper towel down to protect my floors. I then stripped away the thick floral print paper and was left with glued, thin white paper underneath. To my surprise, spraying the solution directly on the paper was not successful. In the end, I had more difficulty scraping off the wallpaper with the reagent on there. This may have just been the case with the solution I decided to use but I would test it out on a piece of the wall before applying to the whole wallpaper area. I filled a bucket with warm water, added Zinsser DIF glue removal solution and used a sponge and scraper to rub off any pieces left behind. This ended up the best solution for my wall type.

Be sure to prep your bathroom with painter’s tape to protect any tile and bathroom pieces before starting to paint and primer. I added primer in three layers because my wall was in such bad shape. I then used a bright white color paint and painted my bathroom in two layers.

I didn't end up using all the items I purchased in the end but it was well worth it to complete in one day. It also cost much less than if I hired a professional. The work did make all the difference in the world. It turned a room that I cringed at every time I entered it, into a great room of the apartment. I couldn't believe one days worth of work could make such a difference but the hard work and sweat was much worth the reward. My landlord was also pleasantly surprised by the free room remodel, guaranteeing our deposit when we leave this apartment behind in the future.

The photos above are before and after shots from my actual project.

© 2013 Catherine Stolfi


stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on September 01, 2015:

Hi Catherine, I liked your hub, and you have given some useful information. I get a lot of satisfaction in doing my own work. We just finished doing ceramic tile.

James Bowden from Long Island, New York on March 02, 2013:


I cringe when the word wallpaper is used and having to attempt to remove it from my own walls would make me cringe even more! Most likely because when I first tried to remove wallpaper from a room wall, it was a nightmare. I wish that I had first read the excellent tips, that you provided in this very useful article first.

At this time I would also like to extend a warm greeting & welcome U to our talented community of writers. It's nice to have another fellow Long Islander among the crowd here. Good luck to you with your writing, and I can see that you're off to a real good start!


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