Can you wallpaper over wallpaper? We tell you what you need to know

Hands on wallpaper roll over top of wallpaper on wall
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Can you wallpaper over wallpaper? Why not, it saves a lot of time and effort and you can have your smart new wallpaper up in no time at all. But while it might look good to start with, if you haven’t done the right prep, it could start to look shoddy pretty quickly.

Knowing how to wallpaper is key to making sure that your wallpaper stays put when covering old wallpaper. But even with these key skills in your arsenal you still need to make a judgement call on whether or not to go ahead. Here we look at the questions you need to consider before you start and tell you how to prepare your old wallpaper ready for your new wallpaper. 

Can you wallpaper over wallpaper? Yes, but it's not as simple as you think 

The simple answer is yes you can, but it depends on a whole host of factors that can determine whether or not it's a good idea.

The first thing you need to do is take a good look at the current wallpaper on the wall and determine if it's fit for purpose. Ask yourself What type of wallpaper is it? If it's vinyl wallpaper you are better off stripping off and starting again. What condition is it in? If severely damaged, ripped or peeling you need to get rid of it. 

How many layers of wallpaper are there on the wall? If more than one (not including lining paper) you typically want to strip back to bare walls. Can you repair it? If a few corners are peeling you can repair with a specialist adhesive like Solvite ready mixed wallpaper repair adhesive from B&Q.

Does the wallpaper need a primer? Generally, no, but if you have vinyl wallpaper you don't want to remove you could paint with a primer to give a surface that new wallpaper can adhere to. If you decide you’re painting over wallpaper, then you will need a primer. 

Finally, is it easier to remove the wallpaper and start again? If in any doubt on the state of your current wallpaper then your best bet is to remove the old wallpaper and start afresh. 

How do you hang new wallpaper over old wallpaper? 

Before you can start to hang any new wallpaper over your old wallpaper there are a few steps you need to take to prep the old wallpaper.  

1. Check the wall 

Before dealing with any wallpaper issues, check the wall for any obstructions, holes and loose plaster. Look for any nails and screws that might be protruding from the wall and remove to stop them ripping your new wallpaper. If there are any holes fill with patching plaster or a general purpose interior filler like Tetrion All Purpose Powder Filler from Amazon

If you find any loose plaster, get a Stanley knife and gently cut the through the wallpaper and plaster around the loose plaster and remove with a filling knife or similar. Then use a stiff brush to remove any loose debris, fill, wait for it to dry and rub down.  

2. Seal up seams 

Identify any raised seams or loose corners on the wallpaper and fix with a wallpaper repair adhesive and a seam roller like the ProDec Rosewood Seam Roller from Amazon. If you have any bubbles in the wallpaper, get a sharp knife, put a slit in the bubble, add repair adhesive under the bubble and roll flat with the seam roller. Wipe off any excess adhesive with a damp cloth. 

3. Clean walls  

After you have finished the previous two steps you need to give the walls a final clean. Get a stiff brush and brush down the walls from top to bottom. Finally, get a sponge, bucket and a sugar soap solution and wipe down the walls and leave to dry. Check out our in-depth What is sugar soap guide for more tips and hints. 

What is the fastest way to remove old wallpaper? 

If you have decided it is better to get rid of your old wallpaper then you need to consider how to get rid of it. Typically, the reason that you are getting rid of old wallpaper is because it is peeling or ripped. If this is the case you should be able to literally rip off the old wallpaper. This will probably leave you with patches that are not so easy to remove. 

Here you can score the wallpaper with a specialist tool or use a Stanley knife to mark the paper before soaking it with warm water and a sponge. To finish use a wallpaper scraper like the Coral Endurance Scraper Tool from Amazon or a more general purpose scraper like the Ally-MAGIC Stainless Steel Wall Scraper from Amazon.

The alternative is to use an electric wallpaper steamer like the WAGNER Steam Wallpaper Stripper SteamForce from Amazon. This is a better choice for more stubborn wallpaper. 

Check out our complete guide to removing wallpaper for more tips and hints.  

Do I need a primer to paint over wallpaper? 

Rather than applying new wallpaper over your old wallpaper you could give it a coat of paint to get it looking like new. But before you start painting you will need to do some prep to get the wallpaper ready for painting (see above).

The type of wallpaper will determine how you apply paint when painting over wallpaper. If you have previously painted lining paper, Anaglypta or similar you can prep and emulsion over if the colour contrast isn’t too great. But, if you have a vinyl or a heavily patterned wallpaper you will need to apply a primer before adding a top coat. Zinsser Wallpaper Cover-Up paint from Amazon is an excellent all-in-one primer that covers strong wallpaper prints, blocks stains and makes a great base coat. 

Man painting over patterned wallpaper with roller

Painting over wallpaper is an easier and quicker alternative to wallpapering over wallpaper.  (Image credit: Getty Images)
Steve Jenkins

Steve is Homebuilding & Renovating's DIY content editor, and has been a writer and editor for two decades. He is an avid DIYer with over 20 years of experience in transforming and renovating homes. He specialises in painting and decorating, but has strong all-round building skills, having previously worked in the industry for 10 years.