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Painting VS Wallpapering: Which One to Choose?

Painting VS Wallpapering Painting VS Wallpapering: Which One to Choose?

Color is the least expensive thing to put in a house– LA decorator Ruthie Sommers

That may be true, but picking the right color and style is often the hardest thing we have to do when decorating our home. Picking a color will set the mood for a room, and the house for years to come, so getting it wrong can have long-lasting consequences. Add to that the choice between paint and wallpaper then the combinations become almost infinite.

Changing the color on the walls of our homes can instantly transform a space, and set the mood. Scientists haven’t yet worked out exactly why there is a link between color and mood, but it has been proven. So the color we decide to live with for years to come will undoubtedly have an effect on our wellbeing.

If you decide to paint or wallpaper a room, whatever the dominant color you choose, it is going to have an effect on how you feel about the space in the future. Warm colors such as reds, yellows and greens, will make large rooms appear intimate, and small rooms smaller. Cool colors such as blues, purples, and greens, give the rooms the appearance of being bigger, and also a more chilled feeling. A dominant primary color such as red, blue or yellow can often overpower a space. However, blues often have a calming effect, reds the opposite and are more energetic, whereas yellows are more cheerful and energetic.

Now comes an equally tricky question of whether to paint or wallpaper your walls.

The walls

The answer often lies in the walls themselves, their current condition, if they have already been painted or wallpapered, and how much time you have to do the work. Uneven or imperfect walls can often be hidden by wallpaper. It is a quick fix if you do not want to repair the plaster or have the time to do so. However, changing color is much easier than stripping and hanging new paper, so if you are someone who likes to regularly change your home environment, it may be worth spending the time and expense to get the walls perfect for painting.

The room

paint or wallpaper

The size of the room also can have a bearing on your choice of paint or paper. A small room can look bigger and feel bright and airy with paint. If you have a large room, then the pattern of wallpaper can make it feel more cozy and intimate. Remember, wallpaper does not work well in humid conditions such as bathrooms or kitchens unless it is a type specifically designed for that environment.

The choice

Nowadays modern mixing techniques mean that almost any color and shade can be mixed on demand at a neighborhood home improvement store. So we have the complete color wheel to choose from. There are also thousands of wallpaper styles and designs available. However, be careful when working out how much wallpaper to buy to cover a room, as there are two distinct widths available. The smaller 20.5 inch (52cm) width, is sometimes referred to by old-school decorators as French-size.

This is often the size used for more elaborate and expensive wall coverings. The wider and most common size is 27 inches (68 cm) wide. Rolls will also be either 13.5 feet (4.11m) or 16.5 feet (5m) long. Also, check on the pattern repeat length to see how it will fit in the space you want to wallpaper.

The application

It’s much easier to paint something, as it is quick to get a handle on how to apply paint evenly to a wall. Wallpaper is not as simple, and getting it wrong can be a costly business. Some people use a professional home decorator to apply wallpaper, as the extra expense is balanced out by the longer time the paper will be on the walls.

So what are the pros and cons of paint and wallpaper?

Positives for wallpaper


The design and texture of wallpaper can have a huge impact on the décor of a room. It can be either a focal point in a space or used to blend with the furniture to complete the look.

That blending with the style of a room can provide warmth and depth, which blocks of color from the paint can never achieve.

By wallpapering just one wall in a particular room or space can give a feature that can not be obtained from merely painting.

Wallpaper can add not just color, but texture to a wall, with the various types available. There are a vast variety of effects possible such as embossed, or raised ink, beaded and foils, and natural fibers like grasscloth.

If your walls are smooth then putting up wallpaper is easy, as it can adhere and slip into place easily, and if not it can hide any imperfections in the wall’s surface.

If properly hung, wallpaper can last for fifteen years or more, and will usually last about three times longer than paint, so can prove to be cost-effective in the long term.

Negatives for wallpaper

The preparation and application of wallpaper take much longer than painting.

If you are not happy with the wallpaper and want to change it by painting over it can be difficult. Wallpaper needs to be prepared before over-painting.

Removing old wallpaper can be very time-consuming. Modern papers are designed to be removed easily, a strip at a time, but that may not always work. If wallpaper has been in place for a long time, specialist tools such as steamers sometimes need to be used to remove the old paper.

Getting the wallpaper straight and the pattern to match is not easy for the beginner. The first piece up will act as a guide for all the other wallpapering, and that has to be right otherwise things will look wrong, and if it’s going to be up for many years to come it will always niggle you if it is not perfect.

Positives for paint


To cover a wall paint is almost always going to be much cheaper than wallpaper. Getting a good finish is relatively easy, provided all the preparation work has been done correctly.

Most people have the ability to do a simple painting job themselves.

It is relatively easy to over-paint one color with another, or even to paint over wallpaper if you get bored with what’s there already.

Negatives for paint

The variety of finishes that come with paint are limited, from dull matt to a high shine gloss. The contrast between either end of the spectrum can be attractive, but there can never be the same range of finishes as found with wallpaper.

Over time paint has a tendency to chip and crack, and so there will be a need to touch up more often.

If you’re not careful when applying paint can go everywhere and be very messy indeed. It is important to make sure that the areas you don’t want to be painted are correctly masked, and that any furniture or flooring is covered to avoid splashes.

Heavier oil-based paints such as some high gloss finishes, dry very slowly and have a tendency to pool and drip, so they need to be carefully applied.

These oil-based paints and others with no-water based carriers can release volatile organic compounds which are hazardous to health. When painting with these types of coatings, it is advised you wear eye protection and a face mask.

A good paint job should last up to ten years, but there is a likelihood you will be painting your walls more often than that.

The bottom line

Both painting and wallpaper can be cost-effective for the homeowner. It often comes down to personal choice, and the style and image you want to portray in the space you are dealing with. Often the best idea is to have a combination of both, where a painted or wallpapered wall can become the focus and give an accent to a room.

Whatever you decide there is one important thing to remember, and that is the preparation for painting or wallpapering is crucial. Without a thorough preparation of the surface the finish will not be as good as you can achieve, so don’t cut corners when preparing for your next home makeover.