How To Fix Torn Drywall Paper

We’ve all been there.

You want to repaint a room in your house.  You remove the trim, but maybe you (or your demo hubby) don’t score the trim and sure enough… the paint pulls the paper on your drywall right off.

Be honest, how many of you have just painted right over the torn paper?

You can’t see it, but I am raising my hand right now.
I admit it… and the paint job ends up looking terrible.

Those days are over, folks!

Please note:  Obviously, the best thing you could do is to not have this happen.  When removing trim, baseboards or anything that has been painted or caulked on a wall, score it with a utility knife.  It will save you lots of time.

Step 1 – Clean up the paper
Using a utility knife, remove all loose paper from the wall.  You can cut more of the paper off, that’s no problem, you just want to have clean lines.

Step 2 – Sand 
I use my mouse sander, but you can also use sand paper and do it with a little muscle power.

Step 3 – Prime It!
Using a good primer, you’ll want to prime the paper.  Why?  We’re going to be filling in this area with joint compound.  If you don’t primer it first, the paper will basically suck up the moisture from the joint compound.
I use Zinsser for everything.  It’s oil based, but you can use oil or latex based paint over it.  I think it gives the best coverage of all primers I’ve used in the past.
I used a small foam roller and rolled on 2 coats (it dries super fast).
Step 4:  Joint Compound
Using your putty knife, slather on a layer of joint compound.  Try to feather out the edges of the compound.
Step 5 – Let It Dry, Then Sand
This joint compound is thin and takes several hours to dry.  Resist the urge to flatten out the high points and just let it dry completely.  Then you’ll sand the wall.  Be sure to sand it smooth!
You’ll notice that once I sanded the wall smooth, the line where the paper was torn is visible again.  That’s perfectly fine, as long as there are no pieces sticking out.  I will close my eyes and rub the wall.  If it doesn’t feel smooth, sand it more!
Step 6 – Repeat
My drywall paper tear was pretty bad, so I needed to repeat steps 4 and 5.
Step 7 – Prime Again
After you have sanded the wall smooth, add a final coat of primer.  This seals everything in and makes your wall ready to paint.  If you don’t primer the joint compound before painting, “flashing” will occur.  This is when the sheen from the patch shows up differently from the sheen of the paint.
After the coat of primer, your wall should be ready to paint!
Nice, right?!
Here’s a side by side.
Now you have a perfect fix for torn drywall paper!
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  1. I never thought to prime before using the compound. Such a great tip!

  2. we have a corner that needs some love so I'll be keeping this for reference when we finally tackle it ~ thanks heaps Leanne

  3. I have done this fix before, it takes a lot of time but it does work!

  4. thanks for sharing..a great tip

  5. Great tutorial Karrah! In our first house, all walls were covered in some 80s wallpaper and we scrapped every single inch of them. The walls were in a terrible estate so we had to do a lot of "fixing" with them 🙂 I'm visiting from "Building a Framework" 🙂

  6. I admit I probably would have just painted over it – I love this though and it looks so much better. x

  7. I hate hate house improvements. Well I hate doing them but this seems easy enough and looks great.

  8. Tired of redecorating says:

    I am exhausted and deflated. At least the wallpaper was on only one wall but the wall is now a bigger version of those pictured on this site. Used the scribing wheel, gel paste remover, just a waste of time and effort. The drywall still peeled down to the brown fuzzies. When I stop crying I will try fixing using this technique…

  9. Just to be safe if i were you i would go to a lowes a home-depo somewhere like that hell even warlmalt and assomeonene who know about repairing walls and such. got any friends that are contractors??

  10. Tired of redecorating says:

    I’ve decided to use the sanding process and prime the wall without re mudding. I purchased some victorian looking paintable raised pattern wallpaper that i will put over the damage. Painting it a bright colir will make it an accent wall instead of an accident wall haha get it? I’ll let you know how it turns out.

    • Mrs. Do It Herself says:

      Yes please do! Can’t wait to see it!

      • Tired of redecorating says:

        Mudding, sanding and priming complete! It’s not pretty, but should be good enough to put the textured wallpaper on.

  11. Tired of redecorating says:

    I know I said I wasn’t going to mud but the primer sucks into the damaged drywall paper if you don’t give it something to bite.

    • Mrs. Do It Herself says:

      Yes, that’s why I prime the paper (to get it to hole all the paper flakes down), then mud, sand and re-prime. It takes a bit longer, but I’m telling you, the results are beautiful every time!

  12. Tired of redecorating says:

    Can’t believe it’s almost July and I’m NEARLY finished. The ravaged wall turned out great with the paintable wallpaper. The professional hanger said I had done a good repair job so I’ll just take that compliment. For some reason my pix are too many kb to post. ?

  13. Will Bairstow says:

    Would this method work for smaller tears? We are taking down some 20-30 year old wallpaper now and I have 10-15 areas the size of a quarter that I need to fix.

  14. You can save a step or two if you use a razor knife to bevel the paper and remove the loose pieces. A trick I’ve used for years, started as a drywall finishing apprentice when I was 16.