When embarking on a redecorating or remodeling project, one question will undoubtedly surface: What about the walls? While paint can easily and affordably add color to a room, wallcoverings can offer colors — and then some: textures, patterns, protection, durability, longevity, and more. Understanding the various attributes of different wallcovering types can help homeowners and designers achieve desired aesthetics while also standing up to years of wear and tear.
Location matters when seeking durability
Kitchens and bathrooms are typically exposed to harsher elements than other living areas. Bathroom walls endure substantial humidity plus exposure to beauty products like perfumes and hairsprays. Kitchen walls can fall victim to humidity, splatters, spills, heat, light, and even smoke. In these spaces, fabric-backed vinyl wallcovering is a highly durable choice. It can be scrubbed and easily cleaned with a sponge, warm water, and mild detergent. When properly installed with tight seams, these vinyl wallcoverings are nearly impermeable to moisture.
Because fabric-backed vinyl is heavy, it’s also a good choice for high-traffic areas like hallways and stairways. These areas are susceptible to hard knocks by kids and pets or when moving furniture. Pattern options are more limited with fabric-backed vinyl because it’s tricky to print much detail onto its thick surface. So this wallcovering usually boasts a simple monochromatic pattern, rich texture, or flattering imitation of a natural material like grass cloth.
In lighter-traffic areas like bedrooms and offices, paper-backed vinyl features the durability needed for such living spaces. In addition, it offers a wider selection of creative prints and patterns. This is because the vinyl sheets are printed first and then applied to pulp-based layers underneath. They are as washable and low-maintenance as their fabric-backed counterparts but not designed to withstand frequently humid conditions.
Durability and affordability?
Those who choose paint over vinyl wallcoverings because of cost may be surprised to learn that long-term wallcovering investments are often more economical than paint. In fact, under typical usage conditions, vinyl wallcoverings can last up to five times as long as paint. A life cycle analysis comparing the durability of paint versus vinyl wallcoverings revealed that, while the initial vinyl wallcovering investment is higher, wallcoverings can yield a 30% savings or more over time. This is because vinyl wallcoverings are designed to retain their original appeal and performance for 15 years or more. In contrast, painted surfaces generally chip or crack. In addition, they need to be redone every three to four years to maintain an optimal appearance. Thus, the longevity of vinyl wallpaper makes it a clear winner in terms of a long-term investment.
As with any substantial home improvement, expert wallpaper installation can help ensure the beauty and lasting performance of vinyl wallcoverings. A professional wallcovering installer who is experienced at working with fabric and paper-backed vinyl will know the proper steps required for priming walls before application. They will also be skilled at creating tight seams that not only look flawless but are necessary for proper moisture resistance.