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I just bought my first house, and before moving in I’ve been doing a little bit of small-scale DIY stuff. I just removed an awkwardly-placed walk in closet in the primary bedroom, and the paint on side wall it was connected to started peeling (no big deal), but then I noticed the peeling was pretty thick. Maybe they put mud and paint over wallpaper? I thought the side wall might be plaster before I took apart the closet wall (which was added by the last owner). For context, the house was built in 1910, but I think the closet was added in 2000/2001.

Paint peeling

I also can’t totally tell what’s beneath the peeling. It looks like maybe it’s just wood? There’s this screw that’s now exposed:

Screw in wall

How can I patch this? I was thinking maybe I can cut a straight line in it and peel to there, then sand the edge, mud over it, sand, prime, and paint. Would that work? What kind of mud should I use? I’ve never patched a wall before, and I’m going to practice a little first just by patching some holes from where the closet shelves were drywall anchored in (to a different wall that is drywall). Any help is appreciated – thank you!

Update: I looked closer at what looked like wood and noticed what looked like a leaf design. I scraped away and found plaster: enter image description here

I think I’m going to at least start by scraping away at the rest of the wall and then either applying a skim coat myself or call a plasterer to do it for me. Thanks for the help!

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  • It looks to me more like multiple layers of paint over multiple layers of wallpaper.
    – mikes
    Jul 31, 2023 at 11:43
  • It was probably someone just slapping paint on the wall without doing any prep work. Prep work is about 80 or 90% of a good paint job. Remove all loose paint, sand, clean, dust, wipe down, clean again and then you might do a good paint job.
    – crip659
    Jul 31, 2023 at 12:04
  • That sure does look like wood to me. What happens if you poke it with a screwdriver?
    – Huesmann
    Jul 31, 2023 at 12:08
  • Standard warning about lead paint: don’t sand it without professional-style abatement measures. Flakes are reasonably okay if you clean up and don’t have infants chewing on them. See the EPA website for more info. Jul 31, 2023 at 12:13
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    @AloysiusDefenestrate I'm doing an at-home test today to get an idea if there's lead!
    – Peter
    Jul 31, 2023 at 15:10

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There isn't any mud in your picture. It looks like someone has painted over wallpaper, wallpapered, then painted over it again. This is a nightmare amount of work - to the point where I would contemplate rehanging drywall.

There isn't a right way to get rid of this mess or an easy way out. You have to take off all layers to start over - even a flat layer will fail over time. What you end up with is drywall terribly messed up after. Hence might as well rip out the sheet and put up new drywall as new drywall will require less mudding and work.

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  • Circa 1910 likely horse hair and wood lath plaster was involved or even steel mesh. I agree to consider redry- walling. A good place to learn the skills is doing a closet
    – mikes
    Jul 31, 2023 at 21:14
  • It turns out the thing that looks like wood is actually more wallpaper… I scraped it away and found plaster
    – Peter
    Jul 31, 2023 at 23:40
  • Wallpaper can get very very wood like and thick if it has a few coats of paint on it. Especially lead paint and oil based. I still think it is a waste of time. Also the more you work on it you may need to remediate which if you have to remediate a closet for lead (and you have no children around eating walls) it is a complete hassle and waste of money.
    – DMoore
    Aug 1, 2023 at 18:35

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