We just moved into an old house which I’m told has distempered walls, what is the best way to re-paint them with the least amount of trouble? 

(Angela Mitchell  Rathgar)

Distemper is an old painting method long since done away with but there’s still some of it around and it can be a real pain in the neck.

It will appear slightly soft and if you wipe your hand over it may be dusty or powdery and is useless for accepting new decoration. It must either be sealed or removed.

The easiest way that I know of is to use a product called Emulsa-Bond (or E-B) as this will allow you paint directly on top of the distemper without having to remove it. 

First vacuum or brush off whatever you can and then mix about 40% E-B into your first coat of emulsion assuming you are using same.

After mixing and applying, the E-B percolates into the distemper binding it together whilst at the same time holding the coat of paint on tightly on the outside. 

(Should you wish to use an oil based paint, mix about 40% Owatrol Oil into your first coat of oil paint)

If you wish to remove the distemper you can use the same method as for stripping paper, but it is a very messy alternative.

Failure to deal with distemper will lead either to new paint flaking off, or to the new paper failing to adhere properly.