How to Strip Paint from Drywall

How to Strip Paint from Drywall

Difficulty:The novice can do this.

Time:Depends on how many layers of paint and the size of the room. A bedroom size room would take 1 ½ to 4 hours depending on difficulty.

Sometimes, you need to strip paint from the original drywall if it was a poor-quality paint, has multiple paint layers, or if it was applied unevenly. Follow these tips below to effectively strip paint off drywall surfaces.

Step 1 - Check for Lead-Based Paint

Use a paint testing kit to determine if there is any lead-based paint on your walls. This may be the case in homes built before 1979. If your paint test shows negative for lead, proceed with stripping the paint yourself. If your test is positive for lead in the paint, do not attempt to remove such paint yourself. Contact a professional restoration service for lead paint removal, because the drywall itself may have to be removed.


TIP: Doityourself’s painting consultant Edward Kimble, author of Interior House Painting Blog, adds, “The lead base paint can be removed, but it requires special clothing, respirators, disposal, and the area must be contained. It can be encapsulated. The easiest fix for lead paint is to cover it with paneling.” Find important information on lead abatement at his blog.

Step 2 - Prepare Room for Paint Stripping

Move all furniture out of the room if possible. If not, distribute it in several areas throughout the room at least 2 feet out from the walls. If it is all in the center, it will be a very big obstacle. Think several small islands instead of a huge continent. Cover the furniture and floors with drop cloths. Open windows or bring in a fan for adequate ventilation. Take down curtains and blinds, and remove them from the room.

Step 3 - Apply Paint Stripper and Peel off Old Paint

Use the paint roller to apply paint stripper for the type of paint on the walls, whether oil-based, latex or acrylic, used to paint murals. Peel off the paint stripper with a broad putty knife once it has penetrated most of the paint layers. Wear goggles, a respirator and rubber gloves when using paint strippers. Note that if there are 3 or fewer layers of old paint over the drywall, do not use any paint stripper. Its chemicals will severely damage the drywall. In most cases, paint stripper will also strip off some of the paper layer of the drywall.

TIP:Edward reminds you, “Give paint stripper enough time to work, but do not let it dry up. Apply the stripper to a small enough area so it does not dry before you get to it.”

Step 4 - Sand off Remaining Paint

You can rent an orbital sander from a building supply center for a day. Be sure to use one that has a dust extraction feature, to keep your work area cleaner. Attach a 60 or 80 grit sanding disk to the sander and, while wearing goggles and your face mask, move it in all directions over the wall to sand off the remaining paint. If paint is very thick and uneven, switch to a 40-grit sanding disk. Use rotating motions, up and down, and sideways. Do not let the sander linger over any spot, as it may gouge the drywall. Try not to sand or scrape off the paper surface of the drywall. Use just enough pressure to take off paint without tearing the paper surface. Wear ear plugs. Not only are they noisy, the motor's sound is very high-pitched. You can sustain damage to your high-frequency hearing quickly from exposure to sound at this frequency level.

TIP: Edward says, “This is the way things are actually done to remove the paint in the easiest way, but it creates a tremendous amount of dust, and usually wet sanding is recommended. However, the wet sanding is done by hand and may actually hurt the surface of the wall, so the dry sanding is okay. No matter how you sand or strip the paint off, some of the paper surface of the drywall will probably be broken, and may require spackle or joint compound repair.”

Step 5 - Clean Up the Room

Sweep, then vacuum dust off the walls and floor. Dust off the walls with a large dry rag, preferably made of polar fleece fabric, which is superb at trapping dust. Do not wash the drywall surface as it is porous, and will be damaged by water or any chemicals, soaps or detergents.