Why is it that you can spend months on a home project but until you hang the cute animal pictures you don’t hear a single positive comment?

This summer Lauren and I finally wrapped up William’s (kiddo #2) bedroom. A two month hospital stay in the NICU tends to put home projects on a standstill.

Besides, our nesting habits to be a bit more involved than the average DIY fan. On this project, the main source of our heartburn was what to do with the original grass cloth wallpaper.

Nothing says mid-modern more than grass cloth walls. And, wallpaper in general is experiencing a trendy resurgence (in the right places). Reluctantly, we settled on painting. We simply couldn’t find a way any other way to cover up a water stain beneath an old window. Taking down the original wall covering sounded like an absolute nightmare.  

Homeowners in the Midwest understand water stains.   A conservative estimate on how many Omaha homes I have sold that have had a prior water stain is somewhere north of 99.9 percent. It happens.

Thankfully the solution is more annoying than costly. After months of research here are my recommendations. Nearly all painting contractors I spoke with recommended two types of paint for water stains: Kilz oil-based primer or Zinsser B-I-N Advanced.



Zinsser BIN Advanced is a low VOC paint meaning it has nearly no harmful odor which is why we went with this option. Zinsser BIN is a shellac-based product that covered the stain and adhered to the grass cloth texture amazingly well.

Applying two heavy coats of the primer was definitely necessary (as expected with any paint) and I would estimate we used 2.5 to 3 gallons for the 13 x 12 room. The only thing I wish we had done was tint the primer the color of the final coat.

For the final color Lauren, she is always the brave one, picked out something completely out of our comfort zone. Sherwin Williams 6627 Emberglow. The color was just orange enough not to remind of burnt Texas orange which I would have refused (Go Skers).

DIY take-aways from this projects:

  • Oil or shellac based primer paint is 100% necessary to cover water stains
  • The Zinsser Shellac has 0 VOCs making it odor free.
  • I promise you, regular paint or skim-coating with drywall mud will NOT cover up water stains.
  • Textured walls is trending so YES it is perfectly fine to paint over grass cloth and other textures.