How to Hang Wallpaper Over Textured Walls

Textured wall surfaces, like  knock-down and orange-peel, are very popular in some areas, but as with any design element, they can grow old after a few years. If you want to wallpaper over these areas, you will need to make the walls relatively smooth again prior to hanging the new wallpaper.

There are a number of techniques available, and this article covers 3 methods: soak and scrape, skim coat, and bridge liner (or railroading). Of the 3 methods, soak and scrape is probably the best DIY method for removing the texture.The other 2 are methods are better suited to the professional.

Completely Remove the Texture

Hanging wallpaper is usually a project for a professional, but you may be able to save money by eliminating some of the prepwork yourself. Finishing drywall takes a great deal of experience, so skimming over textured walls may need to be left to the pros, but the soak and scrape method can be a DIY project that will help you keep some cash in your pocket while you are preparing to have your new wallpaper installed.

Soak and Scrape Method

If the texture on the walls has never been painted, it can usually be removed by a process called soak and scrape. The method is pretty straightforward and it works just like it sounds. Just be careful not to over soak the walls. 

  • Make sure you protect your floors with canvas tarps and ensure you have plenty of rags on hand to clean up any spills. Plastic tarps can become very slippery when wet, so avoid using them. Make sure you use safety goggles and wear clothing that can be thrown away when you are finished. This process is messy!
  • The easiest way to soak the wall is with a pump sprayer. They are inexpensive and can be found at any home center or garden store. Fill the sprayer with water and lightly soak the entire wall – you may need to do this multiple times depending upon the thickness of the texture. Allow 10-15 minutes after each soaking before testing. You will know that it is time to scrape when you can remove the texture with your thumbnail right down to the drywall.
  • Start the scrape at the ceiling line and work your way down to the bottom of the wall. Use a 10” or 12” taping knife and proceed slowly. Hold the knife at an angle to avoid damaging the drywall and if you meet any resistance, stop and respray. This method should result in the texture coming off easily.
  • Once all the texture has been removed, allow at least 24 hours of drying time before sanding the wall smooth in preparation for applying ROMAN PRO-999 Rx-35 Sealer/Primer.

Skimming

If the texture on the walls has been painted it won’t be possible to use the soak and scrape method as the paint will repel the water and keep the texture from softening. That means you will need to apply a skim coat over the entire textured surface that will receive the wallpaper. Even though helpful online videos make it look easy, it is not. 

It is one thing to skim coat a 2’ by 2’ area and make it look good. However, it is an entirely different matter to float an entire wall.. Pros spend years perfecting this skill. Here are some helpful steps to follow if you are going to skim the surface yourself.

  • Wear protective eye covering and old clothes that can be discarded.
  • Cover the floor with canvas tarps and use painters tape to protect window and door trim.
  • Remove all the baseboards (as it was probably installed over the textured drywall).
  • You will need a 10” or 12” taping knife and 4.5 gallon container of joint compound.
  • Sand the walls to help take the gloss off the paint in order to allow the joint compound to properly adhere to the wall.
  • You will want to have an empty 5 gallon bucket so that you can water down the joint compound, just a little, in order to make it easier to float the wall. 

Some pros use a roller method where the drywall compound is rolled out on the wall in a horizontal direction by one person, and another person comes behind with a wide taping knife, pulling the compound from the bottom up, and smoothing it out as they proceed. This is an extremely messy method.

Most will apply the drywall mud directly to the wall from the bottom up making sure the skim coat is even and smooth.

  • Let the skim coat dry for 24-48 hours and apply a second coat if needed. Once you are satisfied with the results, smooth the finished product with sandpaper sponges and rub very lightly. You are only sanding joint compound, and it comes off quickly. Over-sanding will require that you do another skim coat and repeat the process.
  • Clean the walls with a dry rag before applying ROMAN PRO-999 Rx-35 Sealer/Primer.

Using Bridging Material Over Textured Walls

This method eliminates the need to remove the textured material from the drywall before hanging your wallpaper. Bridging material – sometimes referred to as liner paper or wall liner is specifically designed to hide wall irregularities from paneling, and textured or damaged drywall. Depending upon the roughness of the wall material being covered, it may be advisable to skim coat any areas with heavy damage, or those with repetitive indented lines such as paneling. 

As with other complex wallpaper installations, bridging material is best hung by a professional, as any poorly covered surfaces will telegraph through the final wallpaper finish and leave you with a job that will have to be redone.

  • Start by sanding smooth surfaces with 200 grit sandpaper.
  • Clean the walls afterward with a solution TSP or other similar cleaner.
  • If you are covering over paneling make sure the panels are secure and there are no exposed nail heads. You may want to fill in the seams but it is not a requirement.
  • Next, you need to prime the walls. There are different primers depending upon the porosity of the surface being covered. Some surfaces are non-porous and others are more porous. Each will require a different primer for superior results. 
  • Slick or nonporous surfaces such as sealed wood paneling, ceramic tile, Formica or glass, should be primed with ROMAN PRO-935 to promote excellent adhesion.
  • Porous surfaces like skim coats, mud joints and contractor-grade paint should be primed with roman PRO-999 Rx-35.​
  • The next part of the process is to hang the bridging paper. Unlike normal wallpaper, the bridging paper is typically installed horizontally. This method, known as railroading, eliminates the chance of seam overlaps with the finish layer of wallpaper. 
  •  You will need to use a high-quality paste such1 as ROMAN PRO-880 Ultra Clear or another ROMAN Product better suited to your specific condition.
  • ​Bridging material should dry for at least 24 hours before hanging the wallpaper. Once it is completely dry, you are ready to hang your wallpaper.

Ready to Hang the Wallpaper

Regardless of which method you choose for covering over textured drywall, once you have prepared the wall you are ready to hang the wallpaper. ROMAN Products is the nation’s #1 source for the highest quality removers, primers and adhesives. ROMAN wallpaper remover is available in different formulations and sizes and ROMAN PRO-466 is a favorite among contractors. 

ROMAN PRO-999 Rx-35 has long been a mainstay with professionals for priming walls and ROMAN PRO-880 is the #1 choice for wallpaper adhesive. Contact us today at ROMAN Products for helpful videos and advice for the DIYer and the professional contractor, or call us directly at 708-891-0770.