When remodeling the walls of your house, there are two main options: painting or wallpapering. Both can change the mood of the room dramatically, and both have their own pros and cons.
Here, we will discuss some of the important areas to consider when choosing between paint or wallpaper, so you can make a better informed decision before choosing one.
Let’s begin with the first one.
Material and Supply Costs
Both wallpaper and paint can fall in a pretty wide spectrum. Some can be extremely affordable, some others very expensive, and most will fall somewhere along the middle. However, here is the general picture to compare the necessary expenses between painting and wallpapering:
- Wallpapers can be as cheap as $5 per roll, while the mid-range options can range between $10-30 per roll. The luxury options can be more than $100/per roll. Keep in mind that usually we will need to buy the “double roll” to accommodate our higher ceiling than when wallpapers were first invented. So essentially you’ll need to spend double.
- In general, you wouldn’t need to invest on too many supplies. In most cases, you’d only need a smoother that is around $3.
- The cheapest paints start around $15/gallon (keep in mind that a gallon of paint can generally cover more areas than a roll of wallpaper). Expensive options can range around $50/gallon.
- Will require more tools and supplies (trays, rollers, brushes, etc.), and will cost you another $50.
Conclusion: If material cost is your main concern, then wallpapering is usually the cheaper alternative.
Installation & Removal Difficulty and Costs
Wallpapers are generally more difficult to install and you will most likely need the help of a professional installer. On the other hand, if you have the tools, you can do the job by yourself.
Professional wallpaper installation can range around $1,000-$1,300 to a 12’x18’ room (that’s around $6 per sq ft). On average, it will cost you around $50-$70 to hang a double roll of wallpaper. This cost can climb when there are cracks in the walls or uneven surfaces. On the other hand, the cost for a professional house painter is usually cheaper at around $2 to $5 per square foot.
We should also consider the difficulty and costs of the removal process, in case we’d like to remodel the wall some time in the future. Older or cheaper wallpapers are very hard—and often impossible— to remove without damaging the walls. However, newer wallpapers have tackled this issue where we can now remove it relatively easily. It’s also worth noting that it is possible to paint over wallpaper if the surface is perfect without any trapped air bubbles or peeled surfaces.
Paints are relatively easy to “remove”, where we can easily apply a new color over it. Or, even if we want to change to wallpaper, we can easily hang it over the paint. An exception is when we have textured paints on the walls, which are relatively hard to remove.
Conclusion: Hiring a professional painter is usually cheaper, and if it’s a relatively small painting job, you can do it yourself.
Both wallpaper and paint can last more than 10 years with proper care. However, paints will need touch ups every couple of years or so, while wallpapers will only need repairs when there are any small damages.
However, when there are damages like scratches or discolorations on painted walls, we can easily reapply the paint to retouch it—even for major damages—. On the other hand, when there’s a major tear on the wallpaper, we will need to replace it with a new one.
Conclusion: This one is a tie, paint is slightly more versatile with damage repairs, but will need regular touch ups every year or two. Wallpaper, on the other hand, require very little maintenance, but once there’s any major damage, it’s very hard if not impossible to repair.
Probably this is the main reason of choosing wallpapers over paints. With wallpapers, we have virtually unlimited options for different patterns and pictures. While creating specific designs and patterns with painting are certainly possible, they will be time-consuming and not to mention, expensive.
On the other hand, if you prefer solid colors, paint is your best bet.
For textures, again, we generally have more choices in wallpapers. However, keep in mind that textured wallpaper options are generally harder to hang, and will require professional installation (which can be even more expensive).
We can also apply textures in paints with special techniques, but generally we won’t have as much detail as in wallpapers.
Conclusion: Wallpapering is the winner here for more versatility both in pattern choices and texture options. For solid colors, however, paint is superior.
Another important factor is how resistant wallpaper and paint are to moisture, which will be an important decisive factor when we are going to apply them to damp areas like kitchens or bathrooms.
In general, paints are more moisture-resistant, so they are generally the better choice for damp areas. Wallpapers can easily peel off overtime in moist rooms, and can also show mildew and mold in the long run. If the kitchen or bathroom is relatively small and well-ventilated, however, a wallpaper might be durable enough.
Conclusion: Painting is almost always the better alternative for moist and damp areas.
Last but not least, the resale value—and ROI— of painted walls is generally much higher, and a bit more fluctuate with wallpapers. If a buyer like the unique design or texture of the wallpaper, it will give you an easier time to sell the house.
On the other hand, buyers might not want to buy a house where they didn’t like the wallpaper. The cost of removing wallpaper can be expensive and not to mention, will be time-consuming.
Conclusion: Painting the house generally has better resale value. So, if you are planning to flip a house, this is the better bet.
There is no absolute answer whether paint or wallpaper is the better alternative, as each of them has their own strong points in certain areas, and disadvantages on the others. In the end, the answer will lie on your own preferences and your needs.