Wallpaper or Paint — What Should You Choose?
Wallpaper or paint? This is by far the most common question we get from our clients when we take on their remodelling projects. Even though there are several options when it comes to wall treatment — exposed brick, wood panelling, fabric, plaster and the rest... It always seems to come down to paint vs wallpaper. These two are often seen as interchangeable — both are relatively inexpensive, highly versatile, come in a variety of colours and styles, and are easy to apply (in relative terms, of course).
So, today, we’ll be revealing some of the consideration points we provide our clients with when helping them make this decision. Remember, there is no right or wrong answer here. It simply depends on your budget, decorative preferences, and durability expectations. So, this quick guide will hopefully help you understand which option will suit your specific needs — we are big fans of both!
If you are the type of person who likes to “shake things up” every few years, this isn’t really a consideration for you, so you can skip to the next point. On the other hand, if you’re in it for the long haul, durability is very much a factor. Wallpaper is generally more durable than paint. Paint will last you 3-5 years. Wallpaper can last you 5-15 years.
However, what makes a big difference is the type of wallpaper or paint you choose for each room. For example, both come in a washable variety — which is always a smart choice for high-traffic areas or families with children. Places with high humidity — like a bathroom — is advisable to have a paint finish, because wallpaper tends to be more vulnerable in such environments. But that is not always the case. Sure, if you apply bamboo wallpaper, you can kiss your pretty bathroom goodbye in a few months. Vinyl, on the other hand, will withstand moisture and humidity.
Paint tends to be cheaper than wallpaper. However, if you are thinking long-term, the two end up costing around the same due to wallpaper’s longer lifespan.
The most important consideration is the quality of the material. The most affordable paint on the market will likely be of poor quality, so don’t get surprised if in a couple of years — possibly even in a few months — it starts to crack and chip. Furthermore, you will likely have to apply more than one layer of cheap paint due to its opacity. Same with wallpaper. Those on the lowest end of the price spectrum will start to peel off around the corners or fade quicker than you probably expect.
Both paint and wallpaper solutions will require some prep work. Newly plastered walls are of course the easiest to prep. You apply a primer and undercoat if you decide to paint, or a sizing solution if you go with wallpaper.
Older walls require more prep work. If you have old wallpaper, it will need to be stripped down, which is a time-consuming and laborious process. You’ll need to gently sand the walls to make sure the new treatment applies and adheres well.
The advantage of wallpaper is that you don’t have to fill in small holes, cracks, and other tiny imperfections of the wall. However, you should definitely do that, if you’re going with paint.
Many people believe that putting up wallpaper is something only trained professionals can do. While, yes, they will probably be better and faster at it than you, applying wallpaper is not that difficult. Plus, you put up one layer of wallpaper and you’re done. If your wallpaper is patterned, then we do suggest hiring a professional. If you don’t perfectly pattern-match, it will be a source of frustration for you for years to come. Paint, on the other hand, requires the application of multiple coats.
If you are going for simple, solid colours, you have endless options with both paint and wallpaper. Even finishes-wise, you can find a decent variety with paints. If you want to be bold and have your walls patterned, wallpaper will do the job faster and easier. Plus, there is a wider variety of choices when it comes to texture and finishes with wallpaper. Finally, wallpaper is a great way to add depth to your walls.
Environmental and health concerns
If you want to be safe and ecologically minded when considering your paints and wallpaper, do not worry... Volatile organic compounds (VOC) used to be an issue with many brands of paint, but due to strict regulations in the last couple of decades, it is no longer as much of a concern. If you have asthma or allergies, you can easily find no-VOC and non-toxic options.
Wallpaper also comes in a high variety of options. Vinyl, while by far the most durable type of wallpaper, is a synthetic material. For hypoallergenic, breathable options, we suggest more natural fibres – bamboo, linen, silk, sisal, and others — there are even vegan options available these days.
You can always use both!
At the end of the day, picking between paint and wallpaper is not an either-or decision. The two go beautifully together — so don’t be afraid to mix and match! You can add contrast to your space by wallpapering only one wall, for example, with patterned wallpaper, while keeping the other walls in solid painted colours. Or fully wallpaper one room (like a bedroom, for a more cosy feel) and go with paint for another (like your bathroom or children’s room). You really can have it all!