I have been a Professional Decorator for 22 years now and I’ve come up against woodchip wallpaper many times over my career. Funnily enough, I have only ever been asked to hang it once, but removing it is something that gets asked of me regularly. So, what is the best way to remove woodchip wallpaper?
I can tell you right now before we get into it, removing woodchip is an absolute nightmare!! God knows what we were all thinking in the 80’s, but it looks horrendous. There are a few tips and tricks to make removing the stuff easier and quicker for you. I’ll do my best to explain them.
Perforate the Wallpaper
The idea is simple, you need to allow water to get to the paste on the wall and dissolve it, so you essentially damage the surface of your woodchip so water can pass. You could score it with a knife, run a scraper over it to remove some of the wood chips, or use a perforator (pictured below). Either way and regardless of whether you intend to use water or a steamer, this is an important step.
How to Keep the Room Clean When Removing Woodchip Wallpaper
Woodchip wallpaper may be difficult to remove, but once off the wall it turns to mush. Covering your floor with dust sheets alone will not prevent you from making a mess. You’ll ruin your dust sheets for a start!! But you’ll also walk that mush into other areas of your home, which will then dry, set and stick to anything it touches.
My advice is to get some old wallpaper or cheap lining paper and roll it out along the wall you’re working on. Get into the habit of throwing every scraper full of woodchip against the wall so it falls onto this paper. Always work on one wall at a time, then once you’ve finished that wall you can simply roll up the wallpaper or lining paper and dispose of it all in one go.
You can also use tape and drape plastic sheeting such as cover roll. The plus point of tape and drape is you can stick it to your skirting board, so you know water isn’t going to run off the wall onto your floor. The downside is you’re sending extra plastic waste to landfill, which isn’t very environmentally friendly.
Using Water to Remove Woodchip Wallpaper
The next step is to soak your woodchip wallpaper. Use hot water and add a little bit of washing up liquid before you start. This will slow the runoff of water from woodchip to floor and allow more time for water to soak into the paper. Better still, use some Zinsser DIF Wallpaper remover. DIF will do everything washing up liquid will do, plus dissolve the wallpaper paste more quickly. Click here to see online prices.
The most important line of the whole blog is coming up folks…. The best way to remove woodchip wallpaper is to LET THE WATER DO THE WORK!!
Perforate then soak your wall, have a brew and wait 10 minutes, soak the wall again, wait a few minutes, soak the wall again, then try to remove your paper. If it isn’t coming off very easily, get some more water on it and wait till the paper is easy to shift. Even when you’re working on removing your woodchip wallpaper, soak the wall every 10 minutes. If in total you spend an extra half an hour soaking walls, you’ll probably save 3 hours fighting stubborn paper. Soak, soak, soak and soak again!!
Wallpaper Steamers to Remove Woodchip Wallpaper
I have left this topic till the end because although a steamer can be useful to remove woodchip wallpaper, you need to take all the other steps as well. Perforate and soak your wall, then if you are still struggling, get your steamer on the go. A steamer will force moisture through your woodchip at a high temperature to melt the glue. On its own, a steamer will be fairly ineffective on woodchip, but if the wall is well soaked then you’re laughing. Click here to see online prices.
The Tools Needed to Remove Woodchip Wallpaper
No one likes spending money, but removing woodchip wallpaper is hard work, and it is made quicker and easier if you have the proper equipment. Good quality scrapers, Zinsser DIF, a steamer, anything like this will help speed up the job.
Skimming Over Woodchip Wallpaper
I’m often asked whether you can skim over woodchip, rather an removing it. Well you can and I will explain how, but this method isn’t exactly ideal. You will never get everything completely flat and you will be left with a weak paper membrane in your wall, which could fail at any time. However, for those of you who think the Mona Lisa should have a moustache, I’ll explain the easiest way to go about it.
First, you need to test to make sure your woodchip is going to stand up to the work. To do this I generally roll a small amount of water over the paper and check for bubbling. If you see any bubbling, abort!! There is no way your paper will stand up to a coat or two of wet, heavy filler.
If you decide to go ahead, run a scraper over the surface of your woodchip and remove some of the bigger chips. After that, you will need to seal the surface. I use Zinsser Gardz for this. You then have a base on which to work.
The next thing you need is a caulking board and a bag of EasiFill. Mix your easy fill, then apply to the woodchip in a nice even coat. Don’t worry if it isn’t perfect at this point. Allow to dry fully, give it a quick sand, then repeat the process. Once dry, lightly sand your wall or ceiling and you should be good to go. You may need to apply a mist coat, then spot fill any minor imperfections that are left.
Best Way to Remove Woodchip Wallpaper – by Mike Cupit
What Other Decorators Have to say About Removing Woodchip Wallpaper
An excellent article by Mike, full of useful tips.
I’d like to share with you my technique for stripping the dreaded woodchip or most other wall papers for that matter.
A great guide (Apologies in advance that it may appear to be “War & Peace”) with handy hints & tips.
First off, I start with boiling a couple of 2L household kettles, make a quick coffee & then use the remaining 4L of water to fill my steamer, accelerating the steamer boil time & whilst it’s reaching boiling point I start working on the paper whilst it’s dry.
I set up the steamer angling it’s head upward further along the wall from my starting point, so that I can maximise time etc & then situate my 5 Gallon Purdy skuttle (lined with a black bag) directly below the point of the wall or ceiling I’m working on.
I like to start by attacking it dry with a six-inch jointing knife. Simply use the corner tip of the knife to get into & under the top layer of the paper which has generally had several coats of paint over the years.
Steer the rest of the knife under the top layer of paper in an even manner attempting to get the full width of the paper if possible & you’ll usually find that once you’re in & under that the paper will come off in swathes, especially if it’s been painted multiple times as it’ll be quite stiff & rigid.
At this point you can grip the top of the sheet or multiple layers & simply peel off the wall in large sections revealing the backing paper or even better the substrate itself. From this point forward I then proceed to strip the remnants & old adhesive from the wall using the steamer, works a treat every time, especially on old lath & plaster walls, ya just need to be a little more delicate when working on plasterboard walls.
Hope you find it useful, all the best, cheers Al 😉
A great blog which is nice and easy to follow. I agree, the most important step when removing woodchip wallpaper is to keep wetting the surface with hot soapy water. There is no point in grafting like mad to remove the wallpaper if you can save time by, as you say, letting the “water do the work.”
I try not to use bags to keep the waste woodchip, although it probably is easier. I always think the mushy pulp you’re left with must decompose quite quickly at landfill, so it’s a shame to stuff it into something that takes 10,000 years to rot away. I simply put it in a bucket, then tip it to the wheelie bin outside the house.
Whatever you do, keep it off the bottom of your shoes!! I take mine off anytime I step off the dust sheets!! There is nothing worse than woodchip wallpaper pulp all over a client’s home!! It’s impossible to clean.
Nothing earth-shattering, but when stripping woodchip, I sand off the peaks first, then use a paper tiger to perforate the wallpaper. Mix Zinsser DIF with hot water and apply to the walls. Sometimes I cover with some ethereal plastic to hasten the reaction. Repeat as necessary until the woodchip is easy to remove.
I find the best way is to keep wetting the woodchip paper and let the water do most of the work.
Try dry scraping the paper first. Then use Fabric softener diluted with hot water in a hand pump sprayer. Keep spraying the woodchip and allowing it to soak. Then use 4″ filling blade to get under the paper and lift it off.
Not much help I know, but we woodchipped a whole manor house, ceilings and walls, back in the 80s that was being turned into a holiday complex. Plaster and lathe, so goodness knows how/if anyone has tried to remove it. So, if you are in the trade near Honiton, Devon…my apologies if you get the contract. 🙂
Use your Stanley knife or Olfa blade.
Cut through your woodchip many times everywhere.
Use hot water with soap in a garden spray bottle. Spray the walls and ceiling, leave for dry 5 mins, then go again with knife. Spray again properly, leave it 30 mins and then start to scrape it down slowly.
If it dries out, just spray over the wall with your garden sprayer.
I did few months ago whole house.
It’s took me 4 days with properly wetting it, but it works well.
It depends on a few things, but I mostly find that woodchip wallpaper comes off easy if it’s been painted a few times prior to stripping. You can usually get a scraper behind to get it off in big strips. The other way is scraping the ends off and then soaking like normal paper.