Painting VS Wallpaper

Wall finishing gives the biggest bang for the buck to refresh your home. The feel of a room can change drastically by a simple layer of paint. A large space can instantly feel cozy just by changing the color of the wall. For the longest time, homeowners default to painting their walls. Now, we have more options. Wallpaper has come a long way over the years. Speed and variety of finishes and patterns sometimes even make wallpaper a better option.

Here are key factors you should consider before painting your home:

  • Preparation and Speed [anchor links]
  • DIY-ability
  • Cost
  • Durability
  • Design

In Summary

If you want the cheapest option, this is the way to go due to ease of DIY and availability of cheap paintsMore character and flexibility in design
Safer bet in terms of design or if you have no preferenceLonger life, can last up to 25 years

Shorter life, usually up to 5 years for a repaint


Requires stripping out old wallpaper when redoing walls

Hard to DIY; labour component likely more costly

Preparation and Speed

Painting usually requires priming and usually takes about 2-3 layers. Each layer requires time to dry. Oil based paints take approximately 6 to 8 hours to dry per layer. It’s common practice to wait 24 hours before applying the next layer of paint. However, curing may take up to 3 to 7 days. Water based paint take faster to dry, approximately 1 to 2 hours. It’s safe to apply the next layer of paint in 4 hours. Unfortunately, water based paint may take up to 30 days to completely cure. The drying and curing time is dependent on the temperature and the amount of moisture in the air. It is suggested to allow ample time for paint to cure, if possible. After it’s done, the volatile organic compound smell remains. This unhealthy smell usually lasts 14-24 weeks.

Wallpaper is does not have the odour and health issue. Its application is faster and you can start enjoying your new room once it’s done. However, when you want to redo your walls, you will need to stripe out the wall paper, which requires specialized equipment to not damage your walls.


Painting has been around for a lot longer than wallpapers. Even if you have not painted, you must have seen people paint. Anyone with access to YouTube can generally teach themselves how to paint. Wallpapers are a harder to DIY and takes more skill. You may need 2 people to hold the corners at the top, a guy to pull off the adhesive backing, and another one to stand afar to make sure it’s straight. Basically that’s four people in total, which is quite hard to DIY. This process has to be repeated more than 10 times. Then we go in to cut the holes for fixtures and outlets. Hopefully, the patterns are seamless. It’s very easy to screw up and professional wallpaper hangers are strongly advised.


Wallpaper hanger typically charges $30 to $40 per roll of approximately 60sf of wallpaper. This works out to an approximate $0.50/sf to $0.68/sf.

Painting cost about $190 per 270SF. Which also works out to be about $0.70/sf. The labor cost about the same, painting is easier to DIY so we consider it cheaper.

As for the material, both paint and wallpaper can range from low to high end. Wallpapers can range from $30 to $450 per roll. Paint cost can range from $30 to $95 per gallon. Lower quality paint may be more translucent, thus requiring 3 layers instead of 2. This will add to your material cost. Wallpaper is more expensive on average because of labor. Do note that there are expensive paints that require professional to apply as well. However, painting can generally be done by homeowners to save cost.


The durability of material has a direct association with the cost. Wallpapers are more durable than paint. Paint may fade in color, flake due to moisture, or chip by damage. Heavy traffic areas usually required to be repainted every 5 years. I have seen wallpapers that lasted 25 years and all you see is a little peel at the corner. High moisture areas require more attention. Wallpaper may peel off faster than usual. Paint performs better than wallpapers. While normal paint may flake due to condensation behind the paint, there are moisture resistance paints that will perform better in Bathroom or Kitchen.


Both paint and wallpaper come in many varieties and colors. Many say that you can achieve anything with either, but we believe that one way would be easier than the other. If you are into a safe, monotonous color wall then go with paint. If contrasting color pattern with the varied material finish is your thing, then definitely go with wallpaper. Stencils are not big enough, and it would be way too expensive to hire someone to do a mural with paint.

Compared to paint, wallpaper is more of a personalized novelty item. It gives you the freedom to express yourself by creating unique rooms in your home. It is very unlikely to have someone coming to your place and say they have the same wallpaper.


If all you’re looking to be safe and get a newer version of what you already have, then go with paint. But if you are feeling adventurous and have friends with steady hands, definitely give wallpapers a try. I suggest starting in small rooms to get the feel before taking over your living room.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *