Which is Cheaper Wallpaper or Paint: Cost Comparisons, Maintenance, & Hidden Costs

We're looking to remodel our home and are considering if it is cheaper to paint or wallpaper your home. Of course, many factors influence the overall price of painting or wallpapering your home, but, generally speaking, painting your home costs less.

Paint is usually cheaper upfront because paint, painting supplies, and the associated labor costs are generally more affordable and many choose to paint themselves. Generally speaking, professional painting costs about $1 to $6 per square foot or about $320 to $1920 per room. On the other hand, wallpaper tends to cost more to purchase and install. Generally speaking, professional wallpaper installation costs about $3 to $11 per square foot or about $960 to $3520 per room.

However, wallpaper is cheaper over its life because it can last 15 to 20 years, is durable, and is low maintenance. The table below shows the factors influencing pricing for paint and wallpaper. 

PRICING BREAKDOWNPAINTWALLPAPER
AVERAGE PRICEThe average cost per gallon is $15 to $40High-end paints cost as much as $100The average cost per roll is $25 to $50High-end wallpaper costs as much as $60 to $250 per roll.
SURFACE PREPARATIONIt costs less to prepare the walls for painting. Costs may include primer purchase and wall resurfacing. May not have to pay an expert to prepare the wall surfaces for paint.It costs more to prepare the walls for wallpaper. Costs may include primer purchase, wall resurfacing, painting, and wallpaper removal. Usually requires experts, who may charge $3 per square foot for wallpaper removal alone.
SUPPLIES NEEDEDIt will cost $10 to $100 to buy basic painting supplies. Materials will cost $0.39 per square foot to resurface the walls.It will cost $100 to buy wallpaper removal supplies. Materials will cost $0.39 per square foot to resurface the walls.
AREA TO BE DECORATEDA gallon of paint covers about 350 square feetA roll of wallpaper covers about 30 square feet. You need 12 rolls for a 350 square foot area
LABOR$2 to $6 per square foot to hire a professional painter$1 to $7 per square foot to professional wallpaper installer$3 per square foot to hire a professional wallpaper remover.
DESIGN INTRICACYIntricate designs such as murals cost about $7,000Intricate designs cost 3,300 to $6,750
FUNCTIONALITYIt can be used in both interior and exterior spacesSuited to interior spaces. You will need to spend more on exterior wall treatments.
MAINTENANCE OVER TIMEPaints are less durable. You need to spend more money to maintain your walls over time.Wallpaper is more durable. You will spend very little to maintain your walls over time.
VERDICTPaint is generally much cheaper than wallpaper when you consider the upfront costs. But the costs of maintenance could add up over time.Wallpaper is generally much more expensive when you consider upfront costs. But the costs of maintenance are much lower, thus providing more value in the long term.

In this article, we discuss the significant factors that influence the overall price of paint and wallpaper. Then you can determine what option will give you great value for money.

Average Price Of Paints & Wallpaper

Some products cost more while others cost less. That rule applies to paint and wallpaper. Based on product pricing, paint is much cheaper than wallpaper.

Paint

The average cost of paint ranges from $15 to $40 per gallon. However, most people tend to pay about $30. Some high-end paints cost as much as $100 per gallon. And each gallon of paint will cover approximately 350 square feet.

Typically, paints with a higher sheen tend to cost more. They usually last longer.

Wallpaper

On the other hand, wallpaper costs $25 to $50 per roll. And each of those rolls covers about 30 square feet. However, some designer wallpapers range from $60 to $250. 

Typically wallpaper made of tougher materials such as fiberglass tends to be more expensive. But they usually last much longer than the standard materials.

Surface Area To Be Covered

You also need to think about the surface area you intend to paint or cover. And the larger it is, the more money you should expect to pay regardless of whether what option you want. 

Generally, paint is much cheaper than wallpaper if you intend to decorate a large surface area. However, for smaller surfaces, self-adhesive wallpaper may be the more affordable option. You peel and stick it to the wall, and you are good to go.

Paint

Paint covers a larger surface area than wallpaper. We’ve already established that a gallon of paint can cover a 350 square foot area. Even if you need to paint your walls twice, you only need a second can. So, your total costs for the paint will range from $30 to $80, which is still very affordable.

Wallpaper

A roll of wallpaper covers about 30 square feet. So, you will need about 12 rolls of wallpaper to cover a 350 square foot area. Based on the average cost of wallpaper, you will need to spend about $300 to $600 for the wallpaper alone.

But there is the option of using removable wallpaper, which does not last as long as traditional wallpaper but is cheaper.  Lower-priced wallpaper costs $10 to $25 for a roll. This option works best if you live in a rental property or enjoy making décor changes often. 

Self-adhesive wallpaper is also worth considering for small surface areas about 30 square feet or less because you would not have to buy an entire can of paint.

Wall Preparation

Some work needs to go into the wall or any other surface that you intend to paint or wallpaper. The amount of work you need to do dramatically influences the costs of either. Preparing your wall for painting will cost you much less than preparing it for wallpapering.

Paint

On an unfinished surface, which may be porous (e.g., drywall that’s not painted) or those with stains, you may need to use a primer before painting. Areas that have extensive damage will require resurfacing first, though.

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And on a surface that has undergone extensive patching or has a darker coat, you would like to paint over, you may need to paint two coats to achieve the best results. The same rule applies to walls and surfaces in an area of high humidity, such as the bathroom.

If you need to use a primer on your wall, then you should prepare to spend more. Primers range in price from $15 to $80, depending on the type. It would be best if you also considered the cost of sanding and spackling to patch up the surface to be painted. 

Wall resurfacing will cost you an average of $2.21 per square foot if you pay for a professional who will charge for labor and materials. But if you buy the materials and do the work yourself or with the help of your family and friends, you could lower that cost to $0.37 to $0.42 per square foot. So, consider doing the work if you can.

Wallpaper

Quite a bit of work also goes into preparing a wall for wallpaper. You first need to fix bumps and any other kind of damage. Sanding is also part of this process. However, this step is unnecessary if your walls are painted and in excellent condition. 

The following steps are cleaning the walls and then seal them using a primer. The primer will prevent moisture absorption into the wall, which may encourage the growth of mold. After that, you can clean the wall again if need be and install the wallpaper. 

The cost of buying a primer and patching your wall surfaces may be similar to what it would cost you to paint. 

However, if you intend to install self-adhesive wallpaper, you also need to include the cost of painting if your walls are unpainted. That’s because this kind of wallpaper best adheres to walls with a satin or semi-gloss finish. But you can do some or all of these projects to save money.

If you have to remove old wallpaper, your budget needs to be even bigger. Wallpaper removal requires a high level of expertise because it’s easy to damage the surface underneath if you aren’t careful. And that professional expertise costs money.

The average professional cost of labor to remove wallpaper is about $3 per square foot, which translates to $1,050 for a 350 square foot area. 

Supplies Needed

If you hire a professional to paint or wallpaper your home, you may not have to pay for any supplies. Most of these professionals usually include it within their quotes. However, expect to pay more for wallpaper if you intend to buy the supplies.

Paint

If you intend to do some of the work on your own, you only need to factor in the cost of supplies. 

We have already established that paints are generally cheaper to buy than wallpaper. But they are not the only thing you need. You also need other painting tools and supplies such as paintbrushes, paint trays, tape, rollers, drop cloth, etc. These will cost you anywhere from $10 to $100 or a bit more.

You will also need to pay for supplies for resurfacing and sealing your walls if you opt to DIY. These include materials for sanding, fixing the drywall, and cleaning the repaired wall. 

The national average cost of resurfacing materials is $0.39 per square foot, though some are more expensive. So, expect to pay anywhere from $0.37 to $0.42 per square foot in terms of materials.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper removal supplies will cost you about $100 in additional supplies on top of what you would spend on wall resurfacing. And if you intend to install self-adhesive wallpaper, you also need to buy painting supplies and get the walls painted first. 

Paint Vs. Wallpaper Labor Costs

If you choose to take over the entire painting or wallpapering process, you don’t need to factor in the cost of labor. But that is not always possible, which means you must factor in the price of hiring the experts. 

Some professionals charge by the hour while others charge by the square foot. So, for example, you will probably pay more to hire a professional wallpaper installer than you would a professional painter.

Paint

Expect to pay $2 to $6 per square foot for a professional painter depending on your location, professional expertise, and work done.  That translates to $700 to $2100 for a 350 square foot area. 

Those that prefer hourly rates tend to charge $20 to $50 per hour. However, those in more expensive locations can charge as much as $100 per hour.

Wallpaper

We have already established that professionals charge an average of about $3 per square foot for wallpaper removal, which translates to $1050 for a 350 square foot area. 

But wallpaper installation costs are worth bearing in mind. It will cost you $1 to $7 per square foot to get wallpaper installed professionally. That translates to $350 to $2450 for 350 square feet.

Some experts charge by the roll with rates ranging from $25 to $35 per roll. That’s 300 to $420 for installation. Others charge hourly with averaging $25 to $80 per hour.

If you hire a skilled wallpaper remover and installer, expect to pay anywhere from $1350 to $3500 for those services. 

Design Intricacy Offered by Wallpaper & Paint

You can enjoy different designs and colors regardless of whether you choose to paint or wallpaper. But they don’t come at a similar cost. 

If you want intricate designs, wallpaper may end up being cheaper. Also, you are assured of getting what you pay for with wallpaper. With painting, you must rely on the artist’s skill and hope the finished product is what you want.

Paint

Paints come in many shades and colors. You can paint your walls whichever color combination you like. But technology has yet to advance to the point that manufacturers can create paints with intricate designs. 

If you want to enjoy seeing intricate designs on your wall, you need to pay a creative painter. Since a lot of work is involved, you will pay more. Artists will charge you an average of $4000 to paint a mural on 200 square feet of space. That translates to an average of $7000 to cover a 350 square foot space.

Wallpaper

With wallpaper, what you see is what you get. The design you choose is what gets installed. A wallpaper mural will cost you $100 to $300 per roll

A roll usually covers 30 square feet. So, a 350 square foot space will cost you about $1200 to $3600 in materials. Since professional installation costs $700 to $2100, and wall preparation costs $1050, expect to pay $3300 to $6750.

The Multi-Functionality of Paint & Wallpaper

Paint is much more multifunctional than wallpaper, which means it may end up being cheaper to use.

Paint

If you want to decorate your home’s interior and exterior affordably, paint is the best option. That’s because you can use paint both on the inside and outside. Additionally, it withstands moisture and heat better. So, you can settle on one color and type whose finish you are happy with and use it all over to save money.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper does not withstand moisture well. For this reason, it cannot survive for long when exposed to the elements. So, you can only use it to decorate your interior spaces. 

If you want to decorate your home’s exterior, you will likely need to spend more on paint or other wall treatments. Unfortunately, that means spending more money.

Paint & Wallpaper Maintenance Requirement

Over time, wallpaper provides better value for money compared to paints because they last longer.

Paint

Expertly painted interior walls with high-quality paint can last about 8 to 10 years. Exterior paint jobs will last for about seven years. You can repaint once every 2 to 5 years to ensure your home maintains its beauty. How often you do this depends on your environment and how often you use your space.

Some paints, such as oil-based and acrylic-latex paints, tend to be more durable. But they may also be more expensive. If you need to repaint every few years, the costs can add up quickly. So, in the end, painting and repainting could end up costing you much more than you anticipated.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper is usually quite costly to buy and install. But it lasts an average of 10 to 15 years. During this time, you won’t need to do much except wash the surface once in a while and re-glue peeling edges. 

Also, wallpaper made of fiberglass can stay 20 – 30 years without requiring replacement. This kind of wallpaper can be painted over and repainted severally during that time. The costs of maintaining wallpaper are, therefore, negligible. 

Final Thoughts

If you want to decorate now and have a limited budget, painting is the best option. Painting supplies are cheaper, the wall preparation doesn’t always require a high level of expertise, and professionals won’t charge you an arm and a leg so long as you don’t need intricate designs. So, it is affordable for most people.

However, if you are looking to reduce costs over time, opt for wallpaper. You will spend more upfront, but you won’t spend a lot of money maintaining your surfaces. In the end, it will give you the best value for your money.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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