Sunday, 17 August 2008

Whether you want a much-needed face-lift or a dramatic impact, wallpaper is one way to change the tone and mood of a room. The design and pattern is important, but durability and easy of application is also up there, especially if youíre doing it yourself. We find out more about this item in the decoratorís toolkit.


The Basics

  • Depending on material and pattern, a roll of wallpaper can cost you anywhere from $18-$250 per roll!

  • There are different materials to consider:

    • Solid vinyl-coated wallpaper has a vinyl front with a paper backing. It’s very durable and can easily be scrubbed clean.

    • Vinyl-coated paper is treated with a vinyl coating to help it resist soil and water, but it can be permeated by grease and water.

    • Natural textures like string cloths and grass cloths are made from natural and synthetic fibres. They can add warmth and texture to a room, but not without cost. They can be easily damaged and soiled so they’re recommended for low-use, dry areas. (If you have cats or kids, think twice about this type of paper. It’s irresistible to both.)

    • Fabric-backed vinyl is washable, but not scrubbable, so it’s not great for high-use rooms. It's better in a more formal living room.

    • Anaglypta is plain, thick, embossed paper that's normally painted over.

    • Flocked is usually ornate and considered "old fashioned”. It includes a raised felt pattern that looks and feels like velvet and contrasts with the background colour.

  • When it comes to application, there are two basic types of wallpaper:

    • Pre-pasted requires water, a paint tray to hold the water and some smoothing tools like a wide stiff brush, a seam roller and a straight edge. Some pre-pasted wallpapers don't need water – you just stick them up and they're good to go!

    • Non-pasted requires special wallpaper adhesive, as well as the same tools as pre-pasted to apply. Non-pasted paper is definitely trickier to handle than pre-pasted.

  • Choosing a design and type or paper can depend on the type of room you want to decorate:

    • For a smaller room, think less about pattern and more about tone-on-tone. Lighter colours make the room appear bigger. Papers with vertical lines make ceilings look higher.

    • Kitchens, bathrooms and rec rooms And homes with kids and pets demand a more durable wallpaper, e.g. something vinyl-coated.

    • You also want to consider your furniture so you can complement the look.

  • The pattern you choose can directly affect how difficult it will be to hang. For instance, a geometric design is tricky to hang when your walls aren’t perfectly square. It’s not very forgiving, and can add a lot of time in order to match the seams.

  • How Much to Buy? Calculate the square footage of your room, then divide by 25 to get the number of single rolls required. Buy one extra roll, just in case!

Other Considerations

  • Application tips from our helpful experts:

    • Preparing your walls is probably the most important thing before you start to hang. Wall surfaces need to be free of holes, smooth, clean and primed before you apply.

    • Key tools to have on hand: smoother, sharp blade, rag and glue (if not pre-pasted).

    • Cleaning the glue off the seam makes for a better finish; otherwise, in certain light, you’ll be able to see the dried glue.

    • If in doubt, and if you’ve chosen an expensive paper, consider having it hung professionally.


We wanted to find a wallpaper that's durable and easy to hang, so we tested:

  • Vinyl-Coated (pre-pasted): $73 per roll
  • Vinyl Adhesive (pre-pasted – no water necessary!): $40 per roll
  • Anaglypta (requires glue): $30 per roll
  • Grass Cloth (requires glue): $47 per roll

Hanging Test

  • The first thing we noticed as beginners was that applying the adhesive ourselves made for a bit of a mess. The pre-pasted types weren’t a whole lot easier, but they were much more forgiving.

Grime-resistance Test

We dirtied each sample piece to see how easy they were to clean:

  • The vinyl stood up to the necessary scrubbing to get the dirt off.

  • The anaglypta and grass cloth were much more delicate. Some of the paper even rubbed off.

Fade Test

We sent test pieces to a tanning salon to see if it affected the colour:

  • The anaglypta was the only one that changed colour, which is probably why it’s recommended that you paint over top.


In the end, our choice was based on amateur application and keeping it clean. We definitely preferred the vinyl-coated paper.



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