How Much Does It Cost to Remove Wallpaper?

Dawn M. Smith
Written by Dawn M. Smith
Updated January 24, 2022
The interior of a loft with a floral wallpaper
Vostok/Moment via Getty Images

The average cost to remove wallpaper is $785

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You’re thrilled you’ve found a house in your budget, but the walls come fully furnished with someone else’s taste in wallpaper. Don’t worry; your dream home is there. It’s just under layers of floral and striped wallpaper. The first step to getting a blank canvas in your home is speaking with a contractor about wallpaper removal costs.

Removing wallpaper typically costs between $420 and $1,190, but what you’ll pay can depend on the size of the room and how easy the wallpaper is to remove.

How Much Does It Cost to Remove Wallpaper per Square Foot?

You can expect to pay about $3 per square foot for wallpaper removal. For easy jobs, some contractors could charge as little as $0.60 per square foot. All in all, you can expect to pay about $535 for a 12-foot-by-12-foot room on average. A wallpaper removal contractor in your area will want to take a good look at the condition of the wallpaper and the size of the room before giving you an estimate. 

Although it may be a cool find, if your removal professional starts the job and uncovers unexpected layers of wallpaper or particularly ancient paper, they’ll bump up the price per square foot. If they need extra time to take down the wallpaper, the price per square foot increases. 

Here are more reasons the costs may increase:

  • Unprimed drywall (the wallpaper paste adheres directly to the drywall top sheet)

  • The need for scaffolding or tall ladders

  • Surprising spots or awkward corners and nooks

  • Stairwells

  • Type of walls (plaster vs. drywall)

  • Underlying drywall damage

Be sure to chat about all of these possibilities with your pro before they get started.

How Much Does It Cost to Remove Wallpaper Yourself?

Friends beginning to remove wallpaper
Gary Houlder/DigitalVision via Getty Images

If you have some free time on your hands, then you can take on wallpaper removal yourself. Wallpaper removal can be time-consuming, but it’s budget-friendly if you don’t run into problems like crumbling plaster. You’ll pay for materials and tools, some of which you might already have at home. 

Head to the garage and find a bucket, a plastic drop cloth for the floor, and a sponge. You can buy a pre-packed wallpaper removal kit, easily found at a home improvement store. They run about $20 for a set and include wallpaper remover concentrate, a wallpaper scoring tool, and a wallpaper scraper. 

For some types of wallpaper, like vintage, it’s easier to rent an electric steamer for $15 a half-day, or if you think you’ll use it more than once, invest in your own for about $50.

Wallpaper Removal Costs Breakdown

When you hire a professional wallpaper removal service, you’re mostly paying for intensive hands-on time to scrape and clean the walls. A contractor may also need to repair the damage that may happen during the removal process. You’re also paying for the use of their equipment and supplies, as well as the oh-so-important disposal of the mess.

  • Labor: $0.60–$10 per square foot. Ease of removal, wall type, number of layers, tall ceilings, stairways, and wall damage are all factors in this price.

  • Materials: $50–$100. Materials include scrapers, steamers, glue dissolving solvent, sponges, a perforator, and skim material. 

Depending on your contractor, they could charge you by the hour, between $30 and $40, or by the room. They may also charge you a fairly set amount, like between $500 and $700 for a standard-size bathroom teardown. This option is perfect if you just cannot look at the dated, peeling wallpaper in the bathroom for a moment longer.

How Much Does It Cost to Remove Wallpaper by Wall Type?

Finding out whether your walls are plaster or drywall is the first step in calculating how much it’ll cost to remove the wallpaper. Contractors usually start at $3 per square foot for wallpaper that’s fast and easy to remove from drywall or plaster, but this can rise to $10 if the walls are in bad condition, and it takes a lot of elbow grease to get the job done.

Plaster Walls

Contractors usually work a little more quickly with plaster walls because it doesn't absorb as much water during removal. However, plaster is often old and needs someone with experience working with the surface because it’s costly to repair later.

Drywall

If your home is a relatively modern construction, there’s a good chance your walls are drywall. Hopefully, the bare drywall had primer applied before someone hung the wallpaper because this material soaks up water quickly, and the wallpaper is difficult to remove. You might even find old water damage on the drywall.

How Much Does Wallpaper Removal Cost by Style?

Luckily, there’s more than one way to strip away wallpaper memories of homeowners’ past. Don’t be surprised if you, or the contractor, use a combo of methods to get the job done.

Stripping

The easiest, most efficient way to take down wallpaper is stripping—stripping wallpaper costs between $90 to $220 for a 144-square-foot room. To get a clue if the job is more or less labor-intensive, try to strip a corner and see if it comes down easily.

Soaking and Scraping

If luck wasn’t on your side this time and stripping didn’t work, the next level of labor is to soak and scrape the wallpaper with multiple tools like a putty knife and a perforator that pokes tiny holes for the wallpaper removal concentrate to seep in. 

After the soaking and scraping, contractors use a sponge to remove lingering paste and residue. There’s also the possibility the contractor will add a skim coat and sand it to perfect the drywall finish. Rates for this removal type are between $0.60 and $1.50 per square foot.

Steaming

For about $50 more, your pro could bring in an electric steamer to help the removal process move faster. After perforation, the steamer heats the adhesive and releases the wallpaper. There might be some hand scraping if bits and pieces linger.

FAQs About Wallpaper Removal

How do I know if I have plaster or drywall?

You can usually tell if you have plaster or drywall by touch (plaster is harder, colder, and smoother than drywall) or by tapping on it (drywall sounds hollow, and plaster doesn't). If you still can’t tell, peek under an outlet cover and check out the cut edges. The rough edges show the composition of the wall. You’ll see either drywall (two paper sheets sandwiching gypsum material) or only plaster material (no paper sheets).

Should I buy fabric softener to remove wallpaper?

Mixing fabric softener into water is a low-cost way to remove wallpaper that’s been passed around among DIYers for years but has limited success. It works on some wallpaper, but not likely on vintage styles. Also, be careful; it could interfere with the new wallpaper’s grip power.

Why should I pick an electric steamer for my wallpaper removal?

If you’re going the DIY route, you should pick an electric steamer if you’re not able to strip the current paper. Steaming wallpaper is no easy task, but professionals know how to monitor moisture to avoid damage, and they can use the steamer quickly.

What should I consider when I’m thinking about removing wallpaper?

Take the size of your project and the amount of time you have available into account. In large doses, wallpaper removal is hard for beginners, especially when hoping to avoid damage to the drywall or plaster. You should at least get quotes from a removal company or handyperson with removal experience before making the decision.

What other projects should I do at the same time?

Planning for another project, like a few coats of paint, post-wallpaper removal, is a good idea. Or, consider asking your removal crew how much it costs to hang new wallpaper. It’s common for contractors, painters, and handypeople to do both jobs.

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