Q: We built a new home in 1984 and hung grass cloth on one wall. The wallboard was not textured, but the remaining walls in the area were. I would like to remove the grass cloth and either wallpaper or paint the wall. Can I paper or paint over it?
A: Let’s see, grass cloth wall covering – was that before or after shag carpets and harvest gold appliances?
Whether you paint or paper, you’re going to have to cut the grass. If you’re lucky, the grass cloth will come off in nice big strips. Try thoroughly wetting the wall first with a mixture of fabric softener and warm water. If that doesn’t work, you will have to rent a wallpaper steamer. Be forewarned, it is a hot, wet and messy job. But it should be tolerable on a cold winter’s day.
Protect your floor (wood or carpet) with a drop cloth. Remove any glue residue. With time and patience, you will be left with a nice, smooth, unfinished wall – a fresh canvas.
If you decide to repaper, start with an acrylic wall-covering undercoating. This special primer for wall covering is available at any paint, wallpaper or home improvement store. After that’s dry, hang your new paper.
If you decide to paint, it’s likely that you will want to texture the wall so that it matches. Buy a 12-inch drywall knife and tray. Use premixed drywall mud and thin it with water to the consistency of toothpaste. Apply the mud with a light hand and a straight wrist, dragging the mud on the wall. This will produce a skipping effect, thus the name skip troweling.
This technique takes a little getting used to, but with patience, you should be able to reproduce nearly the same look that is on your other walls. In this case, close is good enough. When done, give the wall a light sanding to knock down any burrs or ridges. Then prime and paint as you normally would.
Incidentally, unless the wall is going to be a different color, be prepared to paint the entire room.
Tip of the week: If you’re finished painting for the day but you’re not finished painting, there’s no need to spend time cleaning your equipment. Wrap up your brushes and roller covers in aluminum foil, place them in a plastic bag and put them in your freezer. They’ll be good to go the next day.
For your paint, add a skim of water (latex paint) or mineral spirits (oil-based paint), then seal the can or bucket. This prevents that annoying film that can develop on the surface of the paint and eliminates the need to strain the paint prior to every use. When you come back to your project, just stir the water or mineral spirits into the paint.
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