Introduction: Wallpaper to Wood: a Bathroom Remodel

I have wanted to remodel our master bathroom since first buying our house. The wallpaper was hideous and boring. However, I spent two days struggling to remove some border paper from another room, and I became terrified to attempt removing wallpaper from an entire room. Five years later, I decided it was time. I'd seen some beautiful rooms with simple plywood walls and decided it was perfect. It would make the room more light and fun and cover the bad wallpaper if it was too difficult to remove.

In some of the early steps I'll mostly share my story because each person's project will be different in those aspects. In the later steps, I'll share procedures. These steps will be the same for anyone.

Step 1: Removing Wallpaper


Box Cutter

Screwdrivers (for removing plug and switch cover plates)

Portable Speaker with Phone or MP3 Player


My original plan was to simply cover the wallpaper, but it was already peeling and I was dying to know if it would be easier to remove than the last time I dealt with wallpaper.

There are different kinds of paper and different methods for removing it, so I'll leave you to determine the best course of action for your specific situation. This resource was a very basic place to start.

It turns out that my paper had a peel-able top layer. The top layer peeled off very easily. Then I realized that there was another layer of more traditional paper underneath. It also peeled off quite easily since it had aged and become stiff. Most of the paper came off with relative ease but there were areas where the top layer of drywall came off with the paper. After a while, I stopped worrying about it, because I was going to have to make repairs anyway. I just decided to get the paper off then deal with the repairs.


Begin by removing absolutely everything from the room including cover plates on switches and plugs as well as light fixtures.

Grab a portable speaker and some music to plug into it. It really helps pass the time to listen to your favorite jams while you peel. (Thanks to Ford and Instructables for the speaker!)

Turn the power off before removing light fixtures!

I hung a lamp from the door that was plugged in with an extension cord to the next room when I had to turn the power off. Sadly this room has no windows, but natural light would have been a nice option as well.

Score edges of countertops and door frames with a boxcutter to peel the paper off cleanly.

Start peeling at plugs and light switches where edges are easy to see and grab.

Step 2: Repairing the Drywall


Large Putty Knife

Joint Compound (I used very little of this massive box, though it only cost me $7. Let me know if you know any creative ways to use the excess.)

Drywall Joint Tape

Sand Paper

Oil-based Drywall Primer/Sealer


I found two methods online for repairing the drywall. Several said to paint with an oil-based sealer/paint, then use drywall joint compound to fill in and smooth the rough areas. Others said to just use the joint compound. I decided, that since I would be covering some of the walls with the plywood, it didn't matter if they were rough, but they would need to be sealed from moisture. Therefore, I sealed all the bare spots with a drywall sealer/primer and used joint compound to smooth out the rough spots on the two walls I planned to paint.


Apply the joint compound thickly with the putty knife. Then, quickly scrape off the excess so that all that is left is a thin layer in the low areas. Apply what was scraped off to a new area.

If the paper bubbles when the paint is applied, scrape it off while still wet and paint again.

Use drywall joint tape to cover particularly bad areas. I found a set of old anchors under the first layer of paper that needed covering

After the joint compound dries, sand down rough spots with a fine grit sandpaper.

Step 3: Prepping the Plywood


Plywood (I used 1/4")

Cutting area (I used two pallets to support the large pieces of plywood while cutting.)


Yard Stick


Circular Saw

Jig Saw

Measuring Tape

Paint Brush

Clear Wood Sealer

Sander or Sanding block



Measure the walls you want to cover in plywood. Be precise, but leave a few centimeters for wiggle room. You need there to be a bit of room for seasonal shifts in the wood.

Use a square and yard stick to mark your cuts. Be sure to measure twice and cut once. Also, pay attention to the direction of the grain. It's a stylistic choice that you want to make before you cut anything.

Don't forget to measure and cut holes for switches and plugs. Mark the holes and drill a hole in each corner large enough for the jigg saw blade to fit. Cut from hole to hole.

Make your cuts and sand off rough edges.

Make sure the boards fit where they belong.

Seal the back and sides of the boards. I used these nifty plastic pyramids to prop the pieces up off the ground while they dried. After they'd had a bit of time to dry, I propped them up on a clean surface to make room for all of them to finis drying.

Step 4: Front of Plywood


White Paint (acrylic or latex)

2 Paint Brushes

Clear Wood Sealer

Electric Sander (I used a large orbital sander.)


Sand the front of the boards smooth. Anywhere you plan to paint designs, will need to be extra smooth. This was the hardest and most time consuming part of this job. Wear a mask and glasses to keep the the dust from you face.

Water down some white paint to create a white stain.

Paint on the watery paint and let sit for about 5 minutes.

Wipe off the excess. This doesn't appear to change the color of the board much, but prevents it from bringing out the natural yellow of the plywood when the sealer is applied.

Set aside to dry

Apply wood sealer to the front and sides of the boards. DO NOT apply sealer to any boards you wish to paint the geometrical pattern on. You'll seal those after painting.

Set aside to dry.

Step 5: Installing the Wood


Stud Finder


1.5" Tack Nails




Find studs and mark the floor below them with some tape. Once you put in the boards, you'll need to be able to find the studs and, I don't know about yours, but my stud finder isn't likely to find a stud through a piece of plywood.

Unscrew light switches and plugs. (Don't forget to turn off the power!)

Set the first piece against the wall and pull any switches or plugs through the holes you cut.

Screw the switches and/or plugs back in on top of the plywood. This will hold the wood while you nail it.

Nail along the studs and at corners.

When installing two pieces next to each other, be sure to leave a small space for seasonal flexing. Putting a few pennies between them while you nail is effective.

Step 6: Paint


Painter's Tape

Indoor Paint (I used four colors including the color from the end walls, the color from the shower area of my bathroom, chalkboard paint, and white.)

Small Paint Brushes


Tape off triangles of various sizes and angles making sure it is stuck well at the edges.

Paint each triangle while avoiding painting toward the tape. Brush away from the tape as much as possible to avoid brushing the paint under the tape.

Let it dry and apply a second coat.

Let the paint dry again, and pull off tape.

Brush on wood sealer and let dry. Be sure to turn on any exhaust fans and use a box fan as well if possible. The sealer I used was low odor and did not have strong fumes.

Step 7: Other Details

Some of the other items I replaced, repaired, or added:

light fixture - Well, actually it was used. I got it for $4 at our local Habitat for Humanity Restore.

door handles - Another Restore find. It only cost me $3 each to replace all the knobs that were previously very scratched.

door frame - The door frames in this room were badly spliced and calked. I sanded some of them down before adding a new coat of paint and replaced one entirely.

painted walls - I decided to paint the two end walls to contrast with the other two plywood walls.

shelving - I bought a few small wooden boxes and assembled them to make a small shelf for all the items that used to clutter up the counter.

mirrors - The old mirrors didn't fit the new decor, so I took the mirror from the large one and created a new frame for it. I also bought a smaller mirror to hang high for my tall husband.

switch and plug covers - I replaced all the cover plates with metal ones to match the new light fixture.

Making small changes like these can really help improve a room.

Step 8: Enjoy

Thanks to Ford and Instructables for the Go Pro Camera that allowed me to properly document this project!

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