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Fellow old house owner here - 1954 brick ranch with minor wall cracks/bad wallpaper, etc.

Some might hold that you can paint over the already bad painted over wallpaper with a couple of coats and it might get better. Might. Then again you might scream in frustration as the wallpaper lines are still visible. Better yet, it may start to peel at one point.

I would scrape off all the wallpaper with the paint on top of it to the bare walls first. You will find yourself engaging in some interesting behavior as you do this. Namely, you will curse and damn the former owner(s) to the deep bowels of hell for painting over wallpaper.

To scrape this off, get a good 1.5 or 2" scraper, and also a 5 or 6" scraper. The latter will be good for getting off the wallpaper in bigger sections, while the former will work for the tight areas or parts of the wall that are a little uneven that the big scraper won't reach. Get the rubber handled ones as the scraping will wear you out more quickly with a cheap handled one. I also suggest a wallpaper scoring tool. This is a couple of toothed wheels in some sort of handle or housing that you drag over the wall up and down and side to side and in circles to perforate the paint and wallpaper. Once you do this you spray it with wallpaper remover - I recommend Dif; I scraped down three rooms with it. Follow the instructions.

Once you get all the crap off the walls, you will need to patch. I used drywall joint compound. This will fill in nail/picture holes, and even out some dips in the wall as you'll probably find some, especially if your house is plaster like mine is. Spread with the big scraper, follow it smoothing it out at a 90 deg angle to your first spread, and once it dries sand it lightly. Sandpaper or drywall mesh (like sandpaper with holes to let through the drywall dust) will work to even it out. You may need multiple coats of the drywall compound to fill in larger holes as it shrinks some when it dries.

When you patch the holes, get yourself a trouble light to check the walls. These are the sort of light in a cage at the end of about a 25 foot cord that can be used for general work purposes. They're about $10 at Lowe's. You hold it sideways, so it is casting light on the wall at a very shallow angle. What this does is causes shadows to form in all the little dents and divots that you can't see with the light from the fixtures or windows coming in straight on to the wall. If you fill all these in using the oblique light technique, when you paint you will be MUCH more satisfied with the results. I thought I had gotten all the nicks in my dining room, painted, obviously missed a lot that the paint brought out, and had to re-do with the light and the drywall compound. Then as paint absorbs into drywall and takes on a different cast than it does on the wall proper, I had to paint again.

Generally I found that paint, no matter how expensive whatever the claims are on the can, will require two coats in an older house. My walls were funny looking with weird green primer on parts of them once I got off all the foul floral wallpaper. The first coat showed this primer a little. On a newer house if you're painting white over white, you might get away with one coat.

If you have lots of trim like I do get a good 1" and 2" brush for it. I suggest painting the flats of the walls first and don't worry about it getting on the trim if you're using a different color for the trim. It's easier, I find, to tape on the wall and mask off the wall from the trim than it is to put tape on the trim as the trim tends to be bumpier.

Good luck - if you're as meticulous as I am your house will be done, oh, a week before you decide to move.

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