What’s the Value of Wallpaper?

Today’s durable, eco-friendly – and just plain gorgeous – wallpapers give paint, and even architectural details, a run for their money.

Got an uneven or blemished wall? 3-D wallpaper camouflages, while adding drama. Image: Graham & Brown

There are a bazillion types of wallpaper out there – vinyl, paper, grasscloth. But the nonwoven variety has captured our attention. It’s user-friendly, durable, and an environmentally kinder choice, because nonwovens are typically made from fibrous materials, not vinyl.

What really ratchets up its cool factor is that nonwoven wallpaper can be reused and doesn’t tear. Paper, for instance, can tear easily, especially during removal.

Tip: When it’s time to move, take your nonwoven wallpaper with you. It earned the nickname the “renter’s wallpaper,” because it’s easy to remove without chemicals or tools.

More nonwoven facts:

  • Won’t contract or expand when exposed to moisture from wallpaper adhesive or to humid conditions.
  • Breathes and this inhibits mold growth.
  • Washable and durable making it a great choice for households with kids, dogs, and a lot of traffic.
  • Many are low VOC.
  • Easy to DIY. Check out the video:


Why are Some Wallpapers Bad for Your Home?

There’s a health issue:

  • Vintage and many conventional wallpapers leak VOCs.
  • Vinyl and plastic-coated wallpapers can trap moisture, causing mold to grow under the paper.

They’re hard on walls:

  • The chemicals and tools used to remove vintage and many conventional types of wallpaper can damage drywall and plaster surfaces.
  • Many vinyl papers can be peeled off, but they’ll leave some of the backing on the wall, which has to be scrubbed off.

Tip: If you want to push the eco-friendly envelope, look for the following when shopping for nonwovens and other types of wallpaper:

  • Eco-friendly printing using nontoxic pigments or water-based paints.
  • FSC-certified paper. That means it’s made from wood harvested from a responsibly maintained forest.
  • Recycled content or materials from sustainable sources.
  • Water-soluble adhesive that’s acrylic and solvent free.

Tip: When in doubt about the green factor, check the manufacturer’s website for eco-friendly details.

Wallpaper vs. Paint

So what about the economics of wallpaper compared with paint?

You’ll likely spend more upfront to wallpaper than paint:

  • A  56 sq. ft. roll of non-woven wallpaper can cost as little as $10, but the average price is  $40.
  • A gallon of interior primer covers about 200 sq. ft.; average price, $25.
  • A gallon of interior paint covers about 350 sq. ft.; the average price, $35.

But wallpaper looks fresher longer.

  • Wallpaper lasts up to 15 years.
  • A quality paint job lasts about 10 years, and you need to touch up chips and scrapes every couple of years.

Tip:Have dinged-up walls? Unlike painting, 3-D wallpaper – comes in nonwoven versions — can hide blemished walls without the hassle of repairing and patching holes in walls.

Tip: Paintable wallpaper can give you the best of both worlds. Since it’s textured, or has a raised pattern, it’s designed to cover less than perfect walls.

Wallpaper that Fakes Architectural Details and Features

Besides pattern and color, wallpaper is also a worthy option when you want to add cool detail to your home without the expense of real-McCoy architectural upgrades. Here are a few examples: 

  • Bead-board wallpaper. A great way to add some old-timey character to a new home. A 56 sq. ft. roll starts at around $20.

Related: Do You Know the Rules of Thumb for Chair Rail Height?

  • Tin ceiling tile wallpaper. Tin would cost thousands to install while a 56 sq. ft. roll of the paintable stuff costs about $20. There are also photorealistic choices out there, which look like the real deal. But keep in mind photo realistic wallpapers are a more expensive option. Here’s a idea using tin ceiling wallpaper to jazz up and protect staircase risers.
  • Paintable ceiling tile wallpaper.

Related: More Cool Ceiling Upgrade Ideas 

  • Stone and wood wallpaper. Instead of building a feature wall out of brick or reclaimed wood.

Tip: Many architectural wallpapers, from like bead-board wallpaper to border-sized wallpaper that averages at 7.5 inches wide, are paintable.

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