Novamura Nightmare

Do you remember it? Novamura – the wall covering where you paste the wall not the “paper”. I used it once in my very first house (£9,705.00, if I remember correctly). It felt a little like extremely fine polystyrene and was quite fragile so care was needed when brushing it onto the wall to exclude air bubbles. The point was that “normal” wallpaper expands when pasted; the drops get wider by about ½ inch, hence the need for pasting and soaking. (Aside: I’ve never been able to work out why the paper doesn’t shrink back to its original size when it dries out but …) Novamura was “inert” and didn”t change size, so the wall could be pasted instead of the “paper”. I haven’t seen it at all recently and had completely forgotten about it.

Yesterday, since my mother is away this week, I started decorating her second bedroom. First day: strip the existing wallpaper. What a rude awakening. The walls were covered with Novamura. I’d hung it once, many years ago, but never stripped it. It is very light and quite fragile and, apparently, sticks like a limpet. It is also completely impervious to water so you can’t dissolve the paste beneath by soaking. Neither is there a backing paper from which the surface can be peeled like modern vinyl wall coverings. A phoned request for internet support to my buddy, Carol,revealed that other poor unfortunate folks had been having problems stripping the accursed stuff also. Reports included one poor fellow using a steam stripper which, “just melted the Novamura to the wall”. Yikes! At least I don’t use a steam stripper.

I did discover, by trial and error, that there did seem to be something of a grain and, if I pulled from the correct corner (top right, as it turned out) , I could get reasonable strips of the damn stuff off dry. It was, however, a deeply unpleasant and tedious experience. Hopefully, Novamura has gone the same way as crimplene suits.

Capital punishment should be re-instated for the folks who developed a wall covering that so steadfastly resists being stripped. 😐

Posted in Life@Home
6 comments on “Novamura Nightmare
  1. Liz says:

    I know this post is six years old but just felt that I needed to say that the problem with removing Novamura is still in existence! I thought that I’d strip a small bedroom ready for decorating and was thinking of a day for the complete removal. How wrong can you be? I’ve been working on it for two days and only removed a small fraction of the total coverage. I reckon it’s going to take me about ten days, the way things are going. The Novamura must have been on the walls for at least 35 years so perhaps that’s why it’s so difficult to remove. Just so grateful that it’s no longer available because wouldn’t want any one else to have to deal with it’s removal. So glad it’s only been used in one room!!

    • JC says:

      I must’ve been away when you wrote this, Liz, and missed it. I do apologise.

      All I can say is that I feel the pain you felt. Novamura was a classic example of technology gone mad. [And I am – or was – a technologist.]

  2. Michael Green says:

    Managed to peel top layer,but backing stuck to wall in several places and peels when painted,how do I shift backing?

    • JC says:

      Yikes, Michael, I’m glad you found this but now you’re challenging my memory – too many bottles of wine ago, I imagine. 😉

      I don’t remember any magic solution, otherwise I think I’d have documented it. As far as I recall, all I could do was strip as much as possible and use a stiff, sharp-ish scraper, blade held at a shallow angle with a lot of downward force, to painstakingly remove the residue.

      We are certainly well rid of the devilish stuff.

  3. Steve says:

    Wall paper over the top.

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