What happened to wallpaper?

With the invention of printing processes in 16th century Europe, not only could books be printed in volume, but block printing on paper lead to an early version of what we know today as wallpaper. Various royalty and dignitaries commissioned prints, which could be used in their homes. Popularity grew and in 1599 the first paperhanger’s guild was established in France.

As print technology has improved over the centuries, so has wallpaper. Wallpaper can add color, texture, depth, and design to a room. It can be applied as a border, for an accent wall, or be used for an entire room. While many of us saw wallpaper in our grandparent’s home, it is far less popular today.

As with anything fashion related, there is no single answer, but tastes change. As fashion has begun to change with greater speed, wallpaper cannot keep up. Stripping walls, removing old adhesive, and preparing the walls for new wallpaper is far more involved than repainting. During resale, your taste in wallpaper may not match those of a potential buyer.

Wallpaper also makes wall repairs difficult. During a wall repair, the wallpaper will need to be replaced as part of the repair. If whatever is on the wall is no longer available, due to fashion tastes changing, then the entire wall or room may need to be redone. With paint, only the repaired section may need to be redone.

New painting techniques have also introduced options for color and texture that did not exist in the past. Painting techniques can now offer a version of venetian plaster, marble, multi-spectrum applications and more. For those that do not like a wall expanse of a single uniform paint color, these techniques provide options.

Another factor that is becoming more common in new construction is the application of texture on walls. Popcorn ceilings were replaced by knockdown ceilings over the last 30 years and now knockdown, orange peel (a very light texture technique), and other textures are more common on walls. It is not advised to attempt putting wallpaper over a heavy texture. Getting everything lined up between sheets might be impossible, and it is likely that the texture would come off with the wallpaper when it is eventually removed.

This is not to suggest that wallpaper is no longer an option. Wallpaper still exists, it simply is not as popular as in the past. There are fewer installers out there, but they do exist. They may have a waiting list, but your turn will come. If you want wallpaper, there is no reason not to get it, just be aware of the topics noted above.

While Mr. Handyman does not install wallpaper, we have prepared walls to receive it. This includes filling all holes, repairing any drywall damage, sanding walls smooth, and applying a coat of primer. A prime coat, or paint, gives wallpaper adhesive a solid bonding surface. Wallpaper applied directly to drywall will tend to pull the face off that drywall when it is eventually removed. It is also more difficult to remove the old adhesive still on the wall when it was not previously painted, as using water and a sponge to soften the adhesive makes a mess of the wall.

And if you have decided that drywall is not your thing, then we are happy to paint your wall or room. While onsite we can also do a full range of home maintenance, home repair and home improvement projects.