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Can You Hang New Wallpaper Over Old Wallpaper?

Anyone who has ever stripped a wall understands just what a pain it can be. Stripping wallpaper can be time-consuming and difficult. You may have found yourself wondering “can I save time and effort by simply papering over my existing wallpaper?”.

While many see hanging new paper over old as a faux pas, we’re here to tell you that, in fact, it can be done. There are, however, a number of things to consider before you make the decision to paper over old wallpaper, so read on for our top tips.

Wood effect blue wallpaper, a great option for hanging wallpaper on top of other wallpaper
Add a bold splash of colour with this stunning wood effect wallpaper. Image by Emma Fishman (stylist) and Lizzie Orme (photographer).

1. Have you repapered before?

If the wall you are considering papering already has more than one layer of wallpaper, definitely stay clear of applying any more. We highly recommend not wallpapering over more than one layer. 

If you’re not sure, gently cut into the paper in an inconspicuous place to check.

2. Consider the condition of your existing wallpaper.

The condition of the wallpaper you are potentially papering over is one of the most important things to consider here. Anything texture or badly applied will mean lumps and bump will show up immediately under your new paper. Your base wallpaper layer needs to be impeccably smooth and clean for you to even have a chance at success.

The condition of the wallpaper you are potentially papering over is one of the most important things to consider here. Anything textured or poorly applied will mean lumps and bumps will show up immediately under your new paper. It’s also worth looking at the edges of the current paper; if these are raised, then they’ll likely be visible when you apply the new paper. 

Wallpaper that is peeling off or cracked will also cause problems when you try to hang new paper, so if your wallpaper is in this condition, we recommend removing it completely before you begin. It’s also worth investigating the physical condition of your old wallpaper to ensure there are no damp patches, which could lead mould or other deterioration of the newly applied wallpaper. 

This is also the case if you’re planning on wallpapering over old lining paper – this needs to be in the best possible condition before attempting to hang anything new. 

Ultimately, your base wallpaper layer needs to be impeccably smooth and clean for you to even stand a chance of success.

3. Think carefully about the colours of both wallpapers

The colour, both of your existing wallpaper and your new wallpaper, is also an important element to consider. If your existing wallpaper is extremely dark or patterned, or if your new wallpaper is light, some colour may bleed through and cause problems.

The colour, both of your existing wallpaper and your new wallpaper, is also an important element to consider. If your existing wallpaper is extremely dark or patterned, or if your new wallpaper is light, some colour may bleed through and cause problems.

If you are papering over existing wallpaper, you need to ensure your new wallpaper is darker than the base layer; for example, a dark patterned wallpaper over the top of a cream or white paper. To check this, order a wallpaper sample of your chosen new design and hold it up against the wall – you’ll easily be able to see whether the old wallpaper shows through. 

Floral cream wallpaper
Even light wallpaper can be hung over pre-existing paper, as long as your base layer in light in colour. Image by Melissa Kristyne.

In some instances, you could even paint over your existing wallpaper in order to create a light base for your new paper to sit on top of – just be aware that painting over wallpaper can make it very difficult to remove in the future.

4. Assess the quality of your new wallpaper

If your new wallpaper is thick or textured, you can use this to your benefit. Textured wallpaper styles will work to cover imperfections, making them a better choice if papering over existing wallpaper as you’ll be able to easily hide the patterns of the paper beneath.

5. Check to see if your existing wallpaper is vinyl-coated

If your existing wallpaper has a vinyl coating, it will be near impossible to paper over. Vinyl wallpaper, which has a plastic coating over a paper or fabric backing, is extremely durable and widely used for its water-resistant properties. As a result, adhesives will not stick, making it an impossible surface upon which to hang new wallpaper.

Additionally, attempting to wallpaper over vinyl wallpaper may also lead to mould growing between the two papers.

If you aren’t sure whether your wallpaper is vinyl-coated or not, you can perform a simple test with a damp sponge. Wet a small area of your wall, and if the water is absorbed and darkens across the surface then your wallpaper is not vinyl-coated.

Holden Decor Gatsby Teal Wallpaper in an on-trend geometric style
You can bring new life to your home by papering over dull and tired wallpaper. We love this teal geometric pattern wallpaper from Holden Décor.

If the water sits on the surface then your wallpaper has a coating. If this is the case, you’ll need to remove the wallpaper before you can put up anything new. 

How to wallpaper over existing paper

If you’ve considered all these steps and are confident that your wall is suitable to be papered over, we recommend you do the following to guarantee the best possible results:

  1. Ensure the wall is completely clear of any imperfections, such as tears, bubbles or lumps. Remove nails and fill in any holes in the walls using a wall filler, before sanding them down to be sure you have a perfectly flat surface to paper over.
  2. Make sure your existing wallpaper is firmly attached to the wall. If any sections are beginning to peel, be sure to restick them using a wallpaper adhesive, or you run the risk of the new layer of wallpaper also peeling away.
  3. Clean your walls by wiping them down with a duster and then with a damp cloth. When you do the latter, use painter’s tape to protect electrical sockets and prevent water from entering them. Ensure the wallpaper is free of dirt and dust and completely dry before you paper on top of it.
  4. Apply a wallpaper primer. Then, you’re good to go! Read our guide to hanging wallpaper for a detailed how-to guide and video.

If you’re looking to makeover your home, be sure to explore the extensive wallpaper collection at I Want Wallpaper. From geometric wallpapers to glitter, you’re sure to discover the perfect option to bring your home design ambitions to life.

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