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Can't Decide Between Wallpaper and Paint?

Posted on: May 07, 2020

If you’re getting ready to purchase a house, renovate your current residence, or finally start that remodel you’ve been wanting to do, you’re going to make a lot of choices. What kind of kitchen cabinets? What type of lights? Do you put a fan in the kitchen?

And that age-old question of questions – wallpaper or paint?

Paint is easy to put up, but wallpaper is so in right now! Do you go with the simple solution, or do you channel your inner Joanna Gaines and make your home look like it popped straight off of HGTV?

Talk about agony! If you find yourself in the midst of remodeling questions and wonder if you should roll up your sleeves and dive into paint or wallpaper paste, you’ve come to the right place. We’ll discuss all the pros and cons of both to help you come to a decision you’ll be happy with.

Ease of Installation

Ease of Wallpaper Installation

First, you know you’re going to commit hours to the job, no matter which you choose. So if you’re short on time and need to spruce up your place in a time crunch, which should you go for?

Paint! Pain wins this one by a landslide.

Now, don’t skip to the next section yet. Paint wins, but only marginally. Regardless of whether you decide to paint your walls or paper them, walls will need to be primed and sealed for best results. That part of the process is the same. Many people skip this step when they paint, but it shouldn’t be left out if you want painted walls that will look just as good ten years from now as they do today.

If you’re painting, you’ll need to sand your walls down to remove any texture, prime with a sealer, then paint. That does take longer, and many people jump straight to painting. It won’t look the best, but most people prefer getting the job done. If, however, you want a knock-out paint job, you need to sand and seal.

Now, for wallpaper. While paint can be forgiving in terms of prepping and priming, with wallpaper, it’s an absolute must. When you paper walls, if you leave texture, bumps, and other abrasions, and fail to prime your wall, you won’t just have a mediocre looking wallpaper. You’ll have paper that is prone to come down, peel, and show pockets of air bubbles just days after installation.

If you hire a professional paperhanger, they will perform what is known as a “Level 5 Finish” before one single sheet of wallpaper is hung. Priming the walls when hanging wallpaper is literally 50% of the work that goes into the entire job.

Now, after you’ve successfully sanded and primed your walls, you have the task of hanging your wallpaper. If it comes “unpasted,” you’ll also need glue. To save a smidge of time here, you can purchase pre-pasted and skip the step of slathering paste all over your walls or the paper back. Even though your pre-pasted, peel and stick wallpaper is sold as an easier version of the “unpasted” paper, installers will tell you that this option is actually harder to install. The paper doesn’t slide into place, and it’s a bear to match seam lines. If you choose a repeat pattern for your wallpaper, you’ll have to match the pattern dead-on for your walls to look uniform and even.


Cost of Wallpaper

When it comes to cost, paint wins this round, hands-down. The one caveat to this is if you’re going to hire a professional painter. How much space you need to paint, and how much time you have to do it, will likely determine whether you hire someone. If time is on your side and you’re trying to keep it budget-friendly, paint is very DIY.

If you decide to hire someone, you’ll need to do your homework before signing on the dotted line. Every man Jack is a painter these days, and some will do it on the cheap. However, skilled painters who know what they’re doing for complicated wall shapes, tight spaces, and expansive projects are less plentiful.

The best way to find a reputable painter is to check reviews and ask your friends and neighbors for a recommendation.

When it comes to wallpaper, finding an experienced paperhanger is a lot harder. In some areas of the country, it’s like finding a needle in a haystack. Unfortunately, not many new recruits are entering the trade, and it seems to be a dying art.

Those paperhangers that have taken up the mantle of beautifying homes are often booked solid for weeks, sometimes months, in advance. Since their work is specialized, and they’re in high demand, they can charge a lot more than painters.

Do note that some painters are also wallpaper installers. If you’re considering a dual tradesman, it’s essential to look into their work record, ask for samples of recent work, and compare how much wallpapering vs. painting they do on a regular basis. If a painter hung their fiance’s wallpaper, it doesn’t qualify them to be a professional paperhanger.

Hiring a professional paperhanger is critical if you want the job done right. It’s even more important if you want specialty wallpaper, like grasscloth. Never hire a painter or handyman to hang specialty paper since they won’t know the little details required to hang it correctly. For example, one splash of water or a dot of glue on the front of grasscloth will literally ruin the entire sheet.

If you fancy yourself a handy person who can figure things out and enjoys completing projects yourself to save money, paint comes out on top. A couple gallons of paint, a roller, tape, and plastic sheets to put on the ground will always be cheaper than wallpaper, tools, and glue.


Wallpaper Aesthetics

When it comes to the aesthetics, the look and feel of your walls, wallpaper shines. There is no other home décor that can so dramatically change a room’s look like wallpaper. If you want to transform an otherwise uninspiring and boring room into a masterpiece, then wallpaper is the way to go.

Paint is nice, and you can combine different colors to get an eclectic look if you so desire. However, if you want drama, intrigue, pizzazz, or want to tell a story, paint simply cannot do what wallpaper can. It can’t even come close.

Wallpaper creates a talking point for guests that invokes awe and imagination. The right wallpaper is like a living novel on your walls that reads to you when you walk into a room. It creates a theme, sets the mood, and can even alter the emotions and feel of the room.

If you want to make a statement, wallpaper alone will do the job.


Wallpaper Durability

When it comes to durability paint and wallpaper tie. When walls are properly primed and sealed, paint will last for years while still looking as good years from now as it does on the day you put it up. Wallpaper will also hold its look and shape for years.

The way you feel when you enter a room with wallpaper today will be the same way you feel ten years from now. Wallpaper and paint, when treated right, will hold up for years of use.

They’ll keep their colors, won’t fade, and will complement your home décor until you decide to change the look of your home once more and are faced with determining your answer to the great debate of paint vs. wallpaper all over again.  

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