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We have a north facing 1st floor bedroom (above a kitchen) which has always typically had some damp issues. It has 3 external walls with blank but painted over wallpaper, that gets replaced every 10 years or so. Wallpaper is peeling away badly and some basic mould over part of it, especially higher. With a basic moisture meter I have, it suggests 20-24%. House was built ~1870. Central heating, but only a small radiator in that room.

What I'm wondering is, is it likely blank/painted wallpaper is used as some form of dealing with the damp/condensation/mould (its the only room in the house with wallpaper) ?

enter image description hereIf I were to strip it all off and just paint it all (maybe with some anti-mould/condensation paint), would it be ok, or trap some moisture/cold somehow in the walls causing a problem there ? (I'm not so bothered about a perfect smooth finish, more bothered about keeping the old house structurally good).

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    Usually better to prevent moisture coming in from the outside than trying to block it from the inside. Would check the sealing of the outside wall. 1870 might have a brick/stone external facing/sidling that is letting moisture in/though. Would check the roof also since you said it was worst higher up on the wall.
    – crip659
    Nov 13, 2022 at 21:45
  • Thanks, I am looking at that as well as some other bits, but just wondering in the meantime, if there is any reason for wallpaper there at all (other than simple visual effect)?
    – Ian
    Nov 13, 2022 at 22:03
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    Wallpaper usually just visual, paint can add a tiny bit, but usually does not bind/stick well( for a long time) to wet/higher moisture surfaces.
    – crip659
    Nov 13, 2022 at 22:19
  • Wallpaper has to be replaced every 10 years because the wall it's attached to is wet. The same will hold true for paint on that wall (give or take a couple of years). You need to protect it from the outside, then rest comfortably knowing that whatever decorations you put up inside will last.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 14, 2022 at 16:47

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To directly answer your question: it is quite unlikely that wallpaper is specifically to manage moisture. Latex paint does a better job of being a vapor barrier than wallpaper typically does.

As to the water getting in to the wall, here is a fantastic starter article about how water can get in to walls. There's a ton of these out there, and GBA is a great spot to start for articles about way more than you ever wanted to know about water and moisture in the wall assembly. It's useful to know that when your house was built, it was quite common to both ignore most water damage, for buildings to be uninsulated, and to heat them up enough at various points in time so that the moisture was driven out. If you care long-term about the structure, you should do whatever is possible to minimize moisture getting in to the structure.

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