How to deal with problem walls

Painting over wallpaper. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Painting over wallpaper. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos - Credit: Archant

From a fresh coat of paint to wallpaper or even replastering, there are plenty of ways to get rid of an unsightly cracked, chipped or uneven wall.

1. Painting over wallpaper is an easy way to transform walls, and using a basecoat emulsion makes it even easier. Basecoats are designed to cover patterns and strong colours in fewer coats than it would take with standard emulsion, saving you time and effort. The problem with painting over wallpaper, especially if it’s been up for years, is that it will eventually start to come away from the wall, usually at the seams. If it’s already doing this, you can sometimes cut out the unadhered sections with a craft knife and then cover and blend with filler, but it isn’t a great long-term solution.

2. You can also, of course, paint textured wallpaper, but this only works if you like the texture. Textured wallpaper is often used to cover less-than-perfect walls, so be prepared to replaster if you want to get rid of the wallpaper. Plaster can come away with the wallpaper when you strip it off and it’s usually in a poor state underneath.

3. If you can’t face the cost and mess of replastering, filler (or, if the wall’s really bad, DIY plaster repair and skim products) can work wonders, but filling and sanding walls in a poor state can be very time-consuming and will only go so far. Some walls are beyond repair and must be replastered, but even this has its problems. Newly plastered walls and ceilings can develop hairline cracks, especially over lath and plaster or if the plaster is ‘force’ dried too quickly. However much you fill them, cracks have a habit of reappearing and if this happens and you can’t live with them, lining paper or wallpaper should do the trick, but it’s a shame to wallpaper newly plastered walls.

4. Blown plaster (plaster that’s spongy and moves slightly when pressed on) can also be held in place with lining paper, as long as you don’t put any weight on it, such as tiles, shelves or coat hooks. However, removing the plaster and replastering (see my How-to tip) is a much better and longer-term solution. Blown plaster can be skimmed over (by a plasterer), but this isn’t a good idea because the blown plaster isn’t adhered properly and may fall off.

5. If you don’t mind the fact your walls have seen better days, it’s important to use the right type of paint on them. The best way to disguise uneven walls is to paint them with a chalky or flat-matt emulsion. Paint with any kind of sheen, such as silk emulsion, will emphasise the flaws, so avoid at all costs.