Do It Yourself Project to Fix Cracked Walls and Ceilings with Paintable Textured Wallpaper

Susanna Sisson's picture
New York SD Breakers Gold Room

If you’re a homeowner or do-it-yourself-er this may interest you to know, especially if you own a home with cracked walls and ceilings. Rather than carry heavy drywall or put up a million squares of ceiling tile you may want to fix cracked walls and ceilings with paintable textured wallpaper.

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I have a house that was built in 1898. I spent a good seven years remodeling two of the 3 above ground stories essentially by myself and I wanted to do repairs that would last. What has surprised me is that after 20 plus years the paintable vinyl wallpaper I used to cover cracks in the ceiling is the only thing that doesn’t need to be redone and hasn’t peeled off, even in bathrooms with high humidity. The great thing is this type wallpaper comes in lots of different patterns. I think mine was called Canterbury and you can find it online, at most hardware stores like Lowe’s and Home Depot or on eBay.

I wanted tin ceilings to fit in with the age of the house and many of the building in the historic downtown nearby, but after pricing tin squares I found it to be cost prohibitive. I was in Lowe’s one day and saw vinyl wallpaper that looked very much like the pattern of tin I wanted and was paintable.

I took a leap of faith and decided to purchase enough to do an upstairs bathroom. The technique I found worked best was to start in the corner and put the wallpaper on the ceiling using pushpins. This is the best way to get the right fit and you’ll need a sharp box cutter to gently cut the paper. What you don’t want to do is try to saw or slice because you can damage the raised pattern so you may have to make small stabbing cuts, but it won’t take long to figure out how to cut without tearing.

Paintable Textured Wallpaper

The easiest method of working a room I discovered was to have two ladders and a step stool if the room is big enough. The second ladder will help support the roll of paper so it doesn’t unfurl more than what you are going to need. Once you have the first strip of wallpaper up on the ceiling with pushpins, you are going to start in the middle of the room and remove the pins from half the paper and allow it to hang down. You are then going to use a paintbrush and cover a foot or two of the ceiling with heavy duty industrial wallpaper glue. You’ll also need a spray bottle filled with warm water. As you paint the glue onto the ceiling spray the wallpaper with water and gently work the wallpaper back onto the ceiling getting all the bubbles and excess glue off with a large damp sponge. This works best if you can hang a small bucket of water (even a child’s sand bucket will do) on the ladder. Keep working a foot or two at a time and putting the pushpins back in their original place until you have the entire half of the strip back on the ceiling and glued and pinned in place.

Once you have half the strip done, you’re going to use the same process on the other half of the ceiling. Remove pins, paint one to two feet of ceiling with glue, spray the paper with warm water to activate and smooth upward pressing gently to remove bubbles and excels glue, replacing the pushpins in inconspicuous areas of the paper. Continue this process until the whole room is covered with paper. Just remember to line up your pattern so it looks continuous.

If your ceiling is peeling or covered with cottage cheese texture you can remove that easily by spritzing hot water on the ceiling and then scraping it off. You want your ceiling surface to be as clean as possible.

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Let the paper dry on the ceiling for at least 48-72 hours. Once dry you can remove all the pushpins at once and you’re ready to paint.

I took the term “gilded ceilings” to heart when choosing colors for my home but quickly realized gold leaf is a big pain. So, I shopped around for spray paint that looked authentic and would match my wall color or wallpaper.

The first room I painted using metallic gold paint turned out beautifully but, since it was my first try my technique was a little spotty so I painted over a few areas later. What I learned was that when using any metallic paint you must have enough to do the whole area, you cannot take breaks and you absolutely DO NOT want to use a second coat or over spray areas you may have missed after they are dry because of a chemical process called “lifting”. If you spray a second coat of paint it literally lifts the color off the first coat and will give you a spotty look. So, inspect your work while it’s still wet and cover any light areas immediately. (Note – You will want to use a mask or respirator when working with spray paint and will need protective eye wear.)

The next room I used the same technique to put the wallpaper on the ceiling and used a copper paint. This actually looks better now because it took on a little bit of green patina just like copper coins do and blended even better with my wallpaper border.

My daughter wanted baby blue wall paint with an angel border that had silver in the border. Since she suffers from seasonal affective disorder I decided to paint her ceiling silver to really make it bright in her room even though it gets the most sun of any room in the house. I found silver seems to “lift” worse than gold or copper.

Finally the pièce de résistance was the upstairs hallway and stairwell. One day while perusing the paint aisle at Lowe’s I found 18 karat gold spray paint and it happened to be on sale for about a little over a dollar a can. I purchased all they had which was about 15 or 20 cans. It looked absolutely stunning when finished.

So, if you like the gilded look and the antique appearance of tin but are working on a shoestring budget, you may want to nix the idea of real tin ceilings and go with a more affordable choice like paintable wallpaper. Your friends won’t be able to tell the difference.

What you will need for this project:

• 2 ladders with pull down paint shelf
• Heavy duty industrial wallpaper glue
• Spray bottle
• Several boxes of push pins
• Paintable vinyl wallpaper
• Paint brush for glue
• Large sponge
• Protective eyewear when using spray paint
• Mask or respirator
• Spray paint or roll-on paint (if you choose roll on paint you will need a thick roller and will need to touch up areas with a brush since this wallpaper is heavily textured)
• Plastic sheeting to protect floors.

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