Should she paint over wallpaper?

By Peter Hotton
Globe Correspondent / December 16, 2010

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Q. I have heavy wallpaper in my kitchen. My house is up for sale and several visitors have stated the wallpaper dates the house and should be taken down. The wallpaper is up very firmly and is fruit and flowers — bright colors. The house is 15 years old and we moved in 10 years ago and it was up then. I’ve spoken to a person who has taken down wallpaper and he said it will likely take a lot of work to remove and cost over $1,000. He said that many times drywall work must also be done after the wallpaper is removed.

What are your thoughts on painting over wallpaper? I have been told that it is successful if the wallpaper is up firmly. I’ve been told to use the following process: Lightly sand the paper and wipe with a damp cloth. Paint walls with oil-based Kilz. If seams show, use orange peel spray or mud/sand paint with any other paint.

Can you advise?

CHERYL, by e-mail A. You bet I can. Are you kidding? Were those visitors there with intent to buy? If so, they’ve got a lot of nerve saying the paper dates the house. In a house 15 years old? They must be designers, who would love you to spend your money. Heck, you have tolerated the paper for 10 years so I don’t think it is that horrible. Ignore them, and why not leave the paper on and check the would-be buyers to see if they rejected the house because of the paper or in spite of it. Wallpaper is a matter of taste, and I am sure you will find various opinions of it.

Besides, new buyers often change whatever you do anyway.

If you really want to paint, and feel this might affect the sale and price, then whoever suggested how to paint it is well on track. Sand lightly with fine sandpaper, wash with TSP cleaner, use oil-based Kilz as a primer and apply two coats of an eggshell finish latex paint. The paint will disguise any seams. Don’t bother with anything else. The paper is impossible to remove without messing up the wall.

One more thing. You can paper over the old if you size the walls first. But then again you will find haters and lovers of it. I am sure you will find a buyer soon, and close to your price.

Q. My house is 34 years old with a center chimney, serving a fireplace that is not hooked up to my furnace. The bricks are very absorbent, and water has saturated them and leaks appear in the attic and the fireplace. A chimney man sealed the outside brick five years ago above the roof with some kind of silicone, but I am still getting leaks. I have a steel chimney cap. What should I do?

MARY, from Milton A. The silicone traps water inside the bricks and chimney. Some of the moisture is coming from inside the chimney, created by burning fuel. So, you must get rid of the silicone. Ask the man who put it on to take it off. Once the silicone is off, then have a chimney sweep apply Chimney Saver, which seals the brick from the outside but also lets the brick breathe, keeping moisture inside the chimney from resoaking the bricks. If you have trouble removing the silicone, you can have the chimney rebuilt from the roof up, using a hard, nonabsorbent brick.

Q. Workmen found some rotted sill on my house where the sill comes very close to the driveway and earth under it. I plan to have the sill replaced, and to dig a trench along that area to allow water to drain away, then fill the trench with gravel. I plan to put flashing over the wall under the siding so water cannot get to the sills again. What kind of flashing?

ERNEST HUBER, Carlisle A. A good flashing for this purpose is Ice & Water Shield, usually used on roofs. Sold by roofers, it is flexible enough to turn a corner as required by your situation. But keep that trench open. It must stay open to allow 6 to 8 inches of foundation to show. Slope the trench to allow water to flow away safely. And be sure to use pressure-treated wood for the sill replacement.

Globe Handyman on Call also appears in the Sunday Real Estate section. He is available 1-6 p.m. Tuesdays to answer questions on house repair. Call 617-929-2930. Hotton ( also chats online about house matters 2-3 p.m. Thursdays. Go to