Wallpaper 101: How to Select the Right Type for Your Home

If you are giving your home a spruce up, one of the first questions that probably comes to mind is whether to simply paint your walls or cover them with wallpaper. Each option has its pros and cons. For example, applying a fresh coat of paint to your walls is often times a cheaper and faster option. Removing wallpaper can be quite a hassle when you decide to renovate your space in a few years. On the other hand, wallpaper gives a polished feel to a space, elegantly embracing a room. It is also highly durable and works well for high-traffic areas. Whether you decide to cover just parts of your wall with wallpaper or the entire space, you need to make an educated selection that matches your needs. So let’s go over the basics.

Types of Wallpaper

Paper Wallpaper

As the name suggests, this type of wallpaper is made out of paper. While it is one of the cheapest solutions on the market, it is also much less durable than the rest. Because it is paper-based, it’s prone to damage from humidity and can’t hide any defects of a wall. It’s difficult to clean and fades quite easily from direct sunlight.

Vinyl Wallpaper

Vinyl wallpaper is one of the most popular options and for a good reason. It is made of a paper or fibre layer, coated with vinyl material. As a result, it is durable, easy to clean with a water-based solution, and is highly resistant to fading. It is perfect for such high-traffic areas as kitchens, bathrooms, kids’ rooms, and dining areas. However, within the vinyl wallpaper category, there are a number of sub-categories, so make sure to pick accordingly:

  • Fabric-backed vinyl. The backing of this wallpaper is made of scrim, osnaburg, or drill. It is then laminated onto a solid sheet of vinyl. It is thick and, as a result, very heavy and non-breathable. On the plus side, it is highly durable and easy to clean.

  • Paper-backed vinyl. The backing of this wallpaper is paper (pulp) substrate, which is then laminated onto a solid decorative surface. You have a lot more options in terms of patterns and colours compared to fabric-backed vinyl and it is also easy to clean. However, if exposed to moisture for a long period of time, the vinyl sheet will start to separate from its paper backing, so it’s best not to install it in spaces with little to no ventilation.

  • Vinyl coated wallpaper. This is simply a wallpaper that has a vinyl coating sprayed on top. The coating offers additional protection to the wallpaper, however, it is much less durable than the other types.

Image source: Wayfair

Embossed/Textured Wallpaper

Made of woven grass or honeysuckle vine fibres, embossed wallpaper offers a range of texture options. It’s great for hiding small defects of a wall and can be easily painted over, giving you freedom to individualise it to your taste and colour scheme. Embossed wallpaper adds depth to your space, while mixing and matching it with other types of wallpaper or painted walls will give a beautiful contrast to your room. On the downside, the application process tends to be more complicated and specialised, so it’s best to hire professionals to install this type of wallpaper. Check out this article on the types of wallpaper paste for various surfaces.

Fabric/Flocked Wallpaper

One of the oldest types of wallpaper, flocked wallpaper is made of small nylon, wool, rayon, or polyester particles applied onto an adhesive surface. While it was considered to be an expression of wealth and style a century ago, in the last couple of decades this type of wallpaper was seen as tacky and old-fashioned. However, flocked wallpaper is making a come-back. Keep in mind that this wallpaper requires a decorative commitment, so should be planned and executed with a certain level of expertise. It is also not the easiest wall cover to clean, making it a poor choice for high-traffic areas.

Image source: Graham & Brown

Grasscloth Wallpaper

Grasscloth wallpaper is one of the most environmentally friendly options on the market. It adds a touch of nature to your home as it is made of such materials as arrowroot, jute, sisal, hemp burlap, reed, bamboo, and other types of grasses woven together. Because of the production process, no two sheets of grasscloth wallpaper are exactly the same. It can be an irritation for some and a charming imperfection for others. While this wallpaper is breathable, it does not do well with water. It is highly absorbent, so such scents as tobacco, strong food smells, or perfume are going to linger in the room for years. Read up on other advantages and disadvantages of grasscloth wallpaper here.

Foil Wallpaper

If you want to add drama to the design of your space, then foil wallpaper is the way to go. Made of thin metallic foil applied to a paper backing, it will not hide any imperfections of a wall, so requires meticulous prep work and expert application. Foil wallpaper is the latest trend in home design and produces eye-catching results. The foil surface is water-resistant – another reason this type of wallpaper is gaining traction among homeowners.

Image source: go wallpaper

Non-Woven Wallpaper

This type of wallpaper is made of a blend of natural and synthetic fibres. One of the easiest wallpapers to install, it is a popular choice among DIY enthusiasts. Tear-resistant and breathable, non-woven wallpapers come at a rather high price. They are easy to remove, washable, and environmentally friendly. Non-woven wallpaper is not as durable as vinyl-based covers, but its many advantages make it one of the most popular choices among homeowners.

When it comes to selecting wallpaper, you should remember that there is no single perfect option. You will have to make compromises, be it in terms of durability, maintenance, price, application, or breathability. That’s why we recommend you thoroughly map out the needs of every room, make a list of priorities, and identify your limitations before purchasing a single sheet of wallpaper.

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