My Favorite Tool for Taking Down Wallpaper (that you probably already own)

Taking down wallpaper is a pain. That’s why there are so many blog posts and online articles about how to do it. There really is no way to make this process not messy, and unless you have strippable wallpaper, it’s going to take awhile. We were lucky enough to have strippable wallpaper in one part of our new house, not so lucky in the kitchen and bathroom.

The previous owners put washable/waterproof wallpaper in the kitchen and bathroom (which makes sense, I don’t blame them for doing that). The problem with taking down washable wallpaper is that you have to strip off the entire top layer in order to get to the backing and take that off. The previous owners clearly were wallpaper hanging virtuosos or paid a professional to do it, because it was hung very well with tight seams  and the right glue and all that jazz. Doesn’t really make it any easier to take down.

The tight seams were actually a problem when trying to take the wallpaper down. I couldn’t get my fingernails under the top layer anywhere to strip it off. That’s where my favorite wallpaper removal tool came into play. And it’s not the paper tiger (though I use that for scoring the backing). My favorite tool is the humble utility knife!

It allows you to pull up the top layer from one of those tight seams by sliding it under the top layer. Just be careful not to gouge your wall. I did a few times, but with how the utility knife sped things up and saved my fingernails, I’m happy to just patch the damage I did.

Image of utility knife pulling up wallpaper corner
Utility knife ftw!

Tearing down wallpaper and starting on the kitchen

Mr. Geek and I started off easy and started tearing down wallpaper and traded out some outdated light fixtures. Thankfully at least some of the wallpaper was strippable, so that part of the wallpaper removing process is done! The part that was strippable was the entryway and back hallway to the bedrooms. In the eat-in kitchen and ’70s/’90s era bathroom, we were not so lucky.

Wallpaper and bare wall comparison shots
Wallpaper and bare wall comparison! This hallway had the strippable wallpaper and it didn’t take long at all to tear it all down.
Old brass light fixture and new nickel light fixture
Old brass light fixture and new nickel light fixture. Still need new high efficiency daylight bulbs for the new fixture, but glad to have the old gaudy fixture gone.

 We’ve also started in on the kitchen. We definitely saw at our last place what a huge difference a coat of paint makes to a kitchen (again sorry about lack of photos), so we’re painting the kitchen cabinets and replacing all the hardware. I think I’m going to try painting the bottom cabinets a darker color than the top. It’s seems sort of faddy to me, but we plan to tear out and replace the kitchen in the next 5 or so years anyway, so I’m going to see if I like it.

The kitchen before we got started.
The kitchen before we got started.


Image of kitchen with the cabinet doors off.
Kitchen with the doors off. We’ll also probably do something with the counter tops. Since we won’t be replacing them right away, we’ll probably just use one of those Rustoleum kits to redo the surface. Still pondering this one.

Tomorrow I take a break for laundry and homework. Did I mention I’m working on a graduate certificate? But I plan to get some more wallpaper removal done. We REALLY need new toilets (and yes, those two thoughts are related). The ’70s era toilet is a 7 gallon flush. We’ve pulled the toilet out, but I need to get the ’90s wallpaper removed before we put in the new toilet.

Image of mint colored 7 gallon flush toilet and '90s wallpaper.
Mint colored 7 gallon flush toilet and ’90s wallpaper.