Wallpaper vs. Peel and Stick: Which is Right for Me?

Wallpaper. Once a cringe-worthy thing of the past, now back and better than ever in overhauled and newly built houses all over the world. What is there to know about this renovation restoration?

There are a few different kinds of wallpaper: peel and stick, pre-pasted, and traditional. Each of these is applied differently and is made with different textures and thicknesses. They all yield the same beautiful result, but application and removal vary.

First, let’s break down how each kind of wallpaper varies from the other, and then we’ll go into how to decide what’s best for you.

Peel and Stick

The first kind of wallpaper is known by a few names: peel and stick, self-adhesive, and removable. Whatever you choose to call it, this method is to thank for the revitalization of wallpaper. This is the most user-friendly and the safest wallpaper option with regards to risk/reward.

The appeal of peel and stick is that it is easy to apply and easy to remove.

If you are looking at decorating a rental home, the room of a growing child, or are the type to change up their look every once in a while, this is likely the best option for you.

Removable wallpaper comes with a woven texture that is characteristic of the earliest wallpapers. Because of this, the colors do not always come through as vibrantly, nor do the designs appear as clear as the papery varieties found in pre-pasted and traditional papers.


This is, by far, the easiest wallpaper to apply. Think of it as a giant sticker. Yes, there are specific application techniques to employ, but the concept is simple: Peel it, and stick it! Additionally, the sticker effect means you can adjust and reposition it during application.

Peel and stick is the most DIY-friendly. You’ll probably want a second set of hands and eyes to make sure you don’t have any bubbling and that your pattern is straight, but this is something you totally can do by yourself.

Another thing to be aware of– Peel and stick paper does not go on textured walls very easily. If the wall is bumpy, you won’t have much luck getting it to stick. But if the wall is almost smooth, you can make it work. Just be patient and precise with it.


This is the hybrid wallpaper. Like mid to late 20th-century wallpaper, it’s flat, smooth, and papery. The biggest difference is that this kind requires water to activate the stickiness.

When removing pre-pasted wallpaper, you can use a sponge treatment to detach the adhesive, but the application process is very similar to Papier-mâché, wherein you dip the strips in water before placing them on the wall.

Because of this technicality, it is more difficult to put up yourself. In fact, you might consider hiring a professional to hang it for you. It is better to admit defeat and act humbly than to find yourself covered in paste and with crooked paper on your wall.

If you feel confident, go over this step-by-step guide to see if you’re up to the task.

While you can find a vast array of colors and patterns, pre-pasted wallpapers come in one, flat texture. It is less ornate than traditional paper but more vibrant and clear than removable wallpaper.


Traditional wallpaper is the thick, smooth paper from our childhood memories. It, like its wallpaper cousins, comes in rolls and in a wide variety of patterns and colors, and varying textures and styles are becoming more popular. But unlike pre-pasted and self-adhesive papers, traditional wallpaper requires wall glue and time.

Until the glue dries, you have the ability to adjust and smooth your paper, but as soon as it’s dry, that it. You’re stuck with it.

Because of its finicky nature, it’s best to employ professional help in your installation process. Traditional wallpaper is also the most expensive, so you’ll want to make sure it’s hung properly on your wall.

The science of traditional wallpaper has improved over the years, so it’s easier to apply and remove. The materials used in traditional wallpapers have advanced as well. You can now choose from these options:

  • Cellulose: This is the original formula for wallpaper. It is a wood pulp mixture and is not safe for chemical cleaners or exposure to water
  • Fabric: Fabric wallpapers make for some of the most ornate patterns They can be embossed and textured and very dramatic
  • Bamboo: Like cellulose and other plant-based papers, bamboo makes for a lovely, natural look, but is not meant for moist environments
  • Vinyl: If you’re looking for something durable and long-lasting, vinyl is the option for you. It’s not the most lovely or luxurious, but it’s the easiest to clean and maintain
  • Fiberglass: While it’s the most expensive option, the payout of fiberglass wallpaper is huge. It’s water and flame-resistant and will withstand most cleaning products. This is ideal for bathrooms and kitchens and will last for many, many years

If you are hoping to decorate a permanent home, one you are devoting a lot of love and money to, traditional wallpaper is ideal. You’ll have the most options for material, where you can put it, and how it responds to its environment.


On the whole, once your paper is on the wall, it’s not unlike any other kind of paper.

An important caveat, however, is the location of your paper in your house. Some kinds are more conducive for some rooms but not others. For instance, pre-pasted and peel and stick papers are not ideal for bathrooms and kitchens. The moisture in those rooms, as well as the grease and other kitchen debris, can jeopardize the integrity of the paper and its adhesive.

But because traditional wallpaper is meant to withstand almost everything, it would be a better fit for your kitchen or bathroom. Yes, it’s a bigger commitment, but it can be worth it.


There will come a time when you’ll need to clean your walls. Accidents happen, dust collects, and fingerprints accumulate. The kind of wallpaper you select impacts the cleaning process in your home. You might not only select a different material wallpaper, but also a different pattern, like one that hides dirt and scuff marks better.

Pre-pasted wallpapers are the easiest to clean because of their smoothness, but you want to be careful not to use water on your wall, as that’s what both activates and deactivates the adhesiveness in pre-pasted wallpaper.

If you need to clean your wallpaper, find the right products so you avoiding damaging the paper itself. Use non-abrasive and chemically potent products. “Dry sponges,” gum erasers, and dusters are the best options for cleaning supplies.

In more drastic cases, or if you want to be extremely careful, consult the manufacturer’s guide. That will provide a more accurate description of what you can and can’t use on your wallpaper, as well as what might happen to your paper if it’s damaged.

Some possible outcomes are faded colors, scratches, sanded down texture, and compromised adhesive, in the case of using water to clean pre-pasted paper.

Consider as many possibilities as you can when you’re deciding on a wallpaper. In a child’s room or areas of high traffic, you might consider vinyl paper, which is the easiest to clean without damaging the colors or material.


One sure-fire way to make sure your wallpaper lasts a long time is to apply it properly. Make sure your wall is prepped and cleaned beforehand, and don’t rush the process! You’re more likely to have a paper that comes off much sooner than you want it to when you apply it carelessly. Take the time to smoothen and align the designs properly.


Traditional wallpaper is certainly going to last the longest because it’s made to be permanent. The glue is designed to stay put no matter what. Yes, there are techniques that make removing it easy, but it won’t get tired and start peeling or bubbling around the edges.

If you want your wallpaper to stay on your wall till the end of time, traditional is the way to go.

Peel and Stick

Peel and stick is designed to be the most temporary. It won’t expire and fall off your wall after six months, but its purpose is to be easily removed after any amount of time.

Be cautious if you have young kids because peel and stick wallpaper is, by its nature, vulnerable to little hands pulling it off the wall. That will definitely not be possible with traditional wallpaper.

Let’s put it this way: peel and stick wallpaper will last as long as you let it.

Self-adhesive wallpaper cannot be used in a bathroom or place where there is considerable moisture. The moisture compromises the stickiness of the paper and can cause it to bubble.


Because it is supposed to be the middle man, pre-pasted wallpaper will last as long as you want it to, but it is still fairly easy to remove. Just as you apply it with water, you remove it with water.

Somewhat ironically, however, is that pre-pasted also does not belong in a bathroom or place with lots of moisture. Like peel and stick wallpaper, pre-pasted wallpaper is best in a bedroom, living room, or hallway.

Price Points

Regardless of the kind you choose, wallpaper is an investment. Choosing to put it in your home will not necessarily break the bank, though it is certainly an investment of time and stylistic choice.


Traditional wallpaper is definitely the most expensive, but not by a large margin. If you’re choosing an expensive-looking traditional wallpaper, it’s likely to be accompanied by an expensive price.

When looking at the traditional wallpaper options, you’ll find designer, metallic, and textured wallpapers. Depending on the features of the paper you desire, you’re looking at spending between $150 and $200 for roughly 75 square feet worth of wallpaper.

Of course, the fancier you get, the more expensive it will be. But if you’re willing to spend $300 on wallpaper for one room, you want your paper to be permanent and impeccable.


On the whole, the peel-and-stick wallpapers will be the most economical when taking into account the labor, the price per square foot, and its reusable nature.

The peel and stick wallpaper ranges from $50 to $120, but you get so much more paper for the price. For some rolls of peel and stick, you can spend $126 dollars and get 270 square feet of wallpaper. The peel-and-stick is undoubtedly the best deal.


Pre-pasted wallpaper is the cheapest but, depending on where you buy from, you risk not buying very much. On some sites, you can spend $30 on 8 square feet of paper. But on other sites, you can spend $50 on 60 square feet.

But for pre-pasted and traditional options, you’ll also want to account for any labor costs, should you hire someone to install it for you.


Most, if not all, companies that specialize in wallpaper will allow you to buy samples of as many papers as you’d like. These samples range from $5-$10 and are undoubtedly worth the cost.

If you’re not sure what kind of paper you want or want to test out different colors with your furniture, use samples! This will help you get exactly what you want and know what to expect.

Keep in Mind…

When buying wallpaper, it’s important to look at all of the numbers. You’ll need to take into account the area you need to cover, the dimensions of the paper you’re interested in, and the dimension options a particular store or website offers. Each site and store and designer will value the quality of their product differently.

Some websites sell paper priced by the square foot, while others will require you to do the square-footage math yourself, multiplying the height by the width.

It’s up to you to know the bounds of your budget and the needs of your home when you are deciding on your wallpaper and where you get it from.

Many wallpaper designer sites have blogs that clarify the different kinds of wallpaper, and how their product falls into those three categories. And while the rules for applying wallpaper are pretty universal, those blogs will have secret insider tips on how to maximize the effect of your paper.

Doing your research beforehand will help you know what you can expect from this process.

Good luck and happy decorating!

Ricky Kesler

With all of the projects I've done over the years, you'd think that I work on my house full-time. But I actually enjoy other things like spending time outdoors and time with my family.

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