Wallpaper
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Wallpaper vs. Painting- The Complete Comparison Guide

Is your living space looking a little tired or dated? Learn about the differences between a fresh coat of paint or application of wallpaper and which one is right for your home.

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Why Wallpaper?

Wallpaper has gone in and out of style for centuries, but it’s always been a good choice to create an attractive design without permanently altering your walls.

You can easily take advantage of trends in interior decor like strong patterns or accent walls. Use a stylish pattern to make a wall pop with color or texture. That’s tough to achieve with another design treatment.

You can also choose from several different types of wallpaper to match your needs for appearance, ease of installation and environmental preferences.

  • Vinyl or vinyl coated:
    • Popular.
    • Easy to hang, clean and take down if needed
    • Comes in both rolls and solid sheets, as well as a wide range of colors and patterns.
  • Non-woven:
    • Long lasting
    • Breathable
    • Adds texture
    • Doesn’t use any vinyl but can be cleaned and installed almost as easily.
  • Printed:
    • Has flat, printed patterns.
  • Relief:
    • Has texture you can feel.
  • Pre-pasted:
    • Includes a layer of dry adhesive that you wet down to adhere without the need for glue.
  • Grasscloth:
    • Natural fibers with extreme levels of texture that provide a specialized look.
    • Harder to clean and install.
  • Non-traditional:
    • May include foil, cork or unbacked fabric for a specific look.

Painting Interior Walls

Painting walls never goes out of style. It’s an excellent way to bring color to a room, whether you use a flat, low-textured look or a patterned, raised paint technique. Choose from one of the many different types and finishes available:

  • Latex-based: Cleans up easily with soap and water.
  • Oil-based: Hard to clean up, but long lasting.
  • Textured: Uses additives for a range of textures; some types of application techniques make the surface more textured as well.
  • Flat: Does not reflect much light and may be harder to keep clean.
  • Eggshell: Has a slight sheen and is washable.
  • Semi-gloss: Has a moderate sheen and is very washable.
  • Gloss: Has a very shiny look and is very washable.
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Pros & Cons of Wallpaper versus Paint

Wallpaper and paint each have their benefits, no matter which type or style you choose. This guide aims to provide answers about their differences and help you determine which is best.

Wallpaper Paint
Colors & Designs
  • Wide range of designs.
  • Few solid colors.
  • Good for solid color.
  • Hard to create designs.
Textures
  • Many options available.
  • Only with special additives or application techniques.
Cost
  • Roll costs $15 to $30.
  • Gallon costs $15 to $50
  • Supplies will cost another $50.
Durability
  • Can last up to 15 years.
  • Can last 5 to 15 years with touch-ups.
Moisture Resistance
  • Can peel if used in moist areas.
  • Good choice for kitchens & bathrooms.
Installation
  • Challenging to hang and align properly.
  • Professionals charge $250 to $1,000 per room.
  • Relatively easy if using the right applicators.
  • Professionals charge $200 to $700 per room.
Removal
  • Can be pulled off in strips
  • Is sometimes very tough to remove.
  • Hard to remove
  • Usually just painted over.
DIY
  • Must match seams and align strips correctly.
  • Simple but prep work is time consuming.
Resale, ROI
  • No return on investment.
  • A new coat could allow you to recover costs.

Colors and Designs

Wallpaper
Pros

  • Endless pattern options.

Cons

  • Few solid colors available.

Paint
Pros

  • Can color match exactly.

Cons

  • Creating patterns or designs is possible but time consuming.

Widest variety of design options: Wallpaper

Textures

Wallpaper
Pros

  • Can be very smooth or highly textured. Relief papers have raised patterns that not only display nicely but can be felt when you run a hand over the wall surface.

Cons

  • Textured options are harder to adhere and will likely require professional installation.

Paint
Pros

  • Simple designs are easy to achieve with a stir-in additive. Special application techniques allow for more involved textures.

Cons

  • You can’t get very detailed.

Best design Variety: Wallpaper

Cost

Wallpaper
  • Costs between $15-$30 per quality roll; less expensive options start at $5.
  • Need fewer tools to prepare and install. A plastic smoother costs less than $5.
  • Higher-end brands cost up to $100 per roll.
Paint
  • Inexpensive at $15 per gallon.
  • High-end brands cost up to $50 per gallon.
  • Requires about $50 worth of supplies, including brushes, trays, rollers and cleaners.
Least Expensive: Wallpaper
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Durability

Wallpaper
Pros

  • Can last up to 15 years with proper care.

Cons

  • Can peel and tear, requiring repairs like gluing down corners and patching small holes.

Paint
Pros

  • Can last on a primed and well-prepared surface for 5 to 15 years, though it will need touch ups every year or two to cover scratches and dings.

Cons

  • Scratches or shows its age after a year or two.

Longest Lasting: Wallpaper

Moisture Resistance in Kitchens & Bathrooms

Wallpaper
  • Some types can be used in small areas of well-ventilated kitchens and bathrooms. Apply exactly as directed.
  • Can peel when applied in moist areas; may show mold and mildew.

Paint
  • Surfaces repel moisture and stand up to the wear and tear that a kitchen or bathroom receives over time.


Best for Moist Areas: Paint

Installation

Wallpaper
Pros

  • An experienced installer will prepare walls properly and align patterns.

Cons

  • The cost of professional installation may be higher than a pro painter at $250 for a smaller bedroom to $1,000 for a larger living room.

Paint
Pros

  • Pros have all their own supplies so you don’t have to buy them.
  • They also cost about $200 for a small room to $700 for a larger area, which is less expensive than wallpaper installation.

Cons

  • You may be able to do simple painting jobs yourself.

Cheaper Pro Install: Paint

Cheaper & Easier to Remove

Wallpaper

  • Pros – Newer brands allow you to remove it easily in strips.
  • Cons – Older materials are nearly impossible to remove and can damage walls.

Paint

  • Pros – Don’t like the color? Just apply a new coat.
  • Cons – Textured surfaces can be hard to remove.
Easiest to Change: Paint
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DIY Removal & Installation

Wallpaper
Pros

  • Self-adhesive backings can be simple to install, especially to match patterns.

Cons

  • Getting patterns matched and hung properly can be frustrating; you may still see imperfections.

Paint
Pros

  • Easier for homeowners to apply.

Cons

  • Additional supplies required, including brushes and trays.

Best for DIY Project: Paint

Resale Value & ROI

Wallpaper
  • The unique look of a pattern or texture adds visual interest to a room and attracts buyers who appreciate interior design.
  • Buyers hate the idea and cost of removing wallpaper and may pass up a home with it.

Paint
  • Fresh paint is inexpensive and can make a home look cleaner and more attractive.
  • Chips and scratches look ugly and may turn buyers away.


Best ROI: Paint

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Wallpaper Over Paint

You should be easily able to install wallpaper over painted walls. Glossy painted surfaces will need to be deglossed, usually with a course-grit sandpaper, to make the wallpaper adhesive stick properly.

For best results, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines as closely as possible and don’t skip any steps. It’s better to spend more time preparing than must remove installed paper and start over.

Can You Put Wallpaper on Textured Walls?

The exception to installing wallpaper on painted walls: Textured paint. The bumpy surface will prevent the wallpaper from sticking properly to the wall. You’ll need to remove the texture by:

  1. Sanding for fine grit or scraping for more course finishes.
  2. Applying a primer coat of paint to fill in holes and smooth the surface.
  3. Letting the primer dry completely before installing wallpaper.

Painting Wallpaper

It is possible to paint over wallpaper, but only if the papered surface is perfect. If you see any bumps, bubbles or peeling surfaces, you won’t be able to paint over the wallpaper. These blemishes will show through on the painted wall.

Can You Paint Over Textured Walls?

Any texture below your paint will show up, and probably not in an attractive way. If you have textured wallpaper, it may need to be stripped before you can begin painting.

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FAQs

What’s the Difference Between Wallpaper Primer and Paint Primer?

Primer allows wallpaper or paint to adhere to the surface. Oil-based wallpaper primer can also hide a dark paint color beneath, help smooth a drywall surface and keep latex paint from getting soft when exposed to the wallpaper adhesive. Paint primer can also help hide darker colors and provide a smooth base but does not include any component to help the wallpaper adhere better.

How Long Does Wallpaper Last?

Wallpaper can last 15 years with proper installation and maintenance. Lower-quality wallpapers last as little as 5 years.

Which is Cheaper – Wallpaper or Paint?

The two are similar in cost:

  • Wallpaper – $15-$30 per roll
  • Paint – $15-$50 per gallon

Expect to pay an additional $50 for painting supplies. Professional installation is slightly less expensive for paint.

Is Wallpaper Better at Hiding Bad, Blemished Walls?

Hide badly blemished walls with wallpaper isn’t common because it can enhance imperfection or fail to adhere properly. You will have an easier time priming, applying a spray texture product to hide blemishes, and then painting a damaged wall. Ideally, you’ll scrape and prime the wall surface before applying any type of wall covering.

Does Removable Wallpaper Damage Paint?

Removable wallpaper is not supposed to damage paint, but it can dull the surface and make it look flat. Once you remove wallpaper, you will probably prefer to apply another coat of paint or new wallpaper.

Is Wallpapering Your Kitchen a Good Idea?

Wallpaper doesn’t perform well in moist areas like kitchens. It can be hard to clean if you splash or spill. Install a backsplash around sinks and behind stove areas to minimize getting the wallpaper surface wet or dirty. Consider using wallpaper on one wall of a well-ventilated kitchen as an accent rather than applying it throughout the room.

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