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.

Bill and Kevin Burnett will attempt to answer your questions, although the volume of e-mail sometimes makes this impossible. Contact them at sweat-equity@comcast.net.


Send a Letter to the Editor for publication.
Send a comment or news tip to our newsroom.
Please include the headline of the story.

Show Comments Hide Comments
Sign up for Inman’s Morning Headlines
What you need to know to start your day with all the latest industry developments
By submitting your email address, you agree to receive marketing emails from Inman.
Thank you for subscribing to Morning Headlines.
Back to top
Only 3 days left to register for Inman Connect Las Vegas before prices go up! Don't miss the premier event for real estate pros.Register Now ×
Limited Time Offer: Get 1 year of Inman Select for $199SUBSCRIBE×
Log in
If you created your account with Google or Facebook
Don't have an account?
Forgot your password?
No Problem

Simply enter the email address you used to create your account and click "Reset Password". You will receive additional instructions via email.

Forgot your username? If so please contact customer support at (510) 658-9252

Password Reset Confirmation

Password Reset Instructions have been sent to

Subscribe to The Weekender
Get the week's leading headlines delivered straight to your inbox.
Top headlines from around the real estate industry. Breaking news as it happens.
15 stories covering tech, special reports, video and opinion.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
Unique features from hacker profiles to portal watch and video interviews.
It looks like you’re already a Select Member!
To subscribe to exclusive newsletters, visit your email preferences in the account settings.
Up-to-the-minute news and interviews in your inbox, ticket discounts for Inman events and more
1-Step CheckoutPay with a credit card
By continuing, you agree to Inman’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

You will be charged . Your subscription will automatically renew for on . For more details on our payment terms and how to cancel, click here.

Interested in a group subscription?
Finish setting up your subscription