First of my writeups to cover my own personal home improvement projects.
You should strip wallpaper before painting or re-wallpapering. If you paint on top of wallpaper, I will come and kick your lazy ass. (unless conditions conspire to require painting of wallpaper.... But I still think you should rip the wallpaper off and repair the underlying problem...)
This involves some slightly dangerous chemicals, and sharp, sharp instruments. Be very careful. You can try this at home, however, since stripping the wallpaper at someone else's home may be problematic. Kids, ask your parents for permission.
stuff you need - $50 - $75 at Home Depot if you don't buy the wet/dry vac.
- Big scraper thing - the most useful one I have has a long 12-inch handle, and a replaceable *SHARP* blade about 4 inches accross. Much better than 'dedicated' wallpaper removing doohickeys made by DIF.
- wallpaper perforator - they sell many styles of these things. They are designed to punch tiny holes in the wallpaper to let the stripping solution get behind to the glue, while not tearing up your wall. DIF's perforator ("Wall Shark " or something like that) is actually really good, and they sell replacement poking wheels.
- stripping solution - no, not velcro women's clothing, but a chemical remover for wallpaper glue. The best one I have used comes in a spray bottle, made by DIF, is blue, and is gelatinous, so when you spray it on the wallpaper, it stays there and doesn't get in your lung. Alternatives are liquid concentrates that you mix up with water to appropriate dilutions.
- plastic sheets to cover your floor
- trash bags
- wet/dry vac to speed up cleanup
- small razor blade with holder - to help take care of small areas that the big scraper can't get to
- cheap paintbrush - helps distribute the stripping solution to areas that you missed.
- Take all your furniture out of the room. Removing wallpaper makes a big mess.
- Cover your floors - see step 1
- Remove nails and stuff from the walls. If you don't, you can hurt yourself on them.
- Remove switch and electrical socket covers. Just the plastic/metal/wood covers that surround the switches and sockets. As long as you don't poke inside, you don't need to bother turning off the breakers to that room. Be careful, though.
- Perforate the wallpaper, using tool. This starts making little pieces of wallpaper, so the trash-generation has started. Don't bother cleaning up, the mess is just starting.
- Spray/paint on stripping solution. You can't use too much, though too much can get messy. Don't be stingy - the point is to saturate the wallpaper, and soften the glue. Work in small sections, because if you spray too big an area, parts of the area will start to dry out before you can scrape the wallpaper off. I recommend a 3-foot wide section, from ceiling to floor.
- Wait 15-20 minutes. You need a bit of patience. If you start attacking the wall paper now, it'll just waste your energy. Use the cheap paintbrush to make sure you haven't missed any sections with the stripping solution.
- Attack with the big razor scraper. Sharper blades work better. The wallpaper should come off quite easily. Be careful not to gouge the walls, though if you do, it can be repaired easily before painting or re-wallpapering.
- After you get most of the wallpaper off, you'll invariably have little patches of stubborn wallpaper or glue. Take a sponge and wet it with water or stripping solution, and wet the stubborn section. It should get softened and become easy to remove fairly quickly.
- Repeat, until whole room is done.
- Make a final inspection to get rid of little paper/glue particles off the walls, using the big or small razor blade to remove. You want to get rid of all these before painting or re-wallpapering.
Congratulations, you're done. Now to the painful process of painting or wallpapering.
I started removing wallpaper from another bedroom. This one has somewhat more modern-looking wallpaper. Interestingly, the top layer of this wallpaper (which is slightly textured) came off in big sheets. You can tear it off, or using the sharp razor from above, slice off the top layer. This leaves a paper backing on the wall, which comes off as described above, except you don't need to perforate, since the paper has no waterproof protection.