How to Choose a Wallpaper
Walls can be decorated in many different ways, but one of the simplest and quickest ways to bring about a change of scene is to hang a wallcovering — there is a wide choice available.
Standard wallpaper is available in a wide range of patterns and prices, including expensive hand-blocked and hand-printed papers that demand specialist handling. Standard papers are not washable or stain-resistant.
Washable wallcoverings have a transparent plastic protective finish that makes them stain-resistant. They can be wiped or lightly sponged, but not saturated.
Lining paper – plain, inexpensive paper used before painting or under an expensive wallcovering. It is hung vertically before painting or horizontally before papering.
Ready-pasted wallpaper – a dried crystalline paste on the back is activated when immersed in water. It is easy to hang because there is no need for paste or brushes, but you may still need to paste down any seams that start to lift.
Vinyls – tough and scrubbable. Vinyls must be hung with a paste containing a fungicide, and it is important to ensure that the seams do not overlap.
There are three main types of vinyl wallcovering.
Heavy-duty ‘contoured’ vinyl is sometimes called tiling-on-a-roll. Blown vinyl, where the pattern stands out in relief can be bought uncoloured, for over-painting. Blown vinyl is washable, but the surface scuffs easily. Foamed polyethylene is lightweight, slightly spongy and warm to the touch. It is hung by pasting the wall, which makes it easy to work with, although it scuffs easily.
Foil – metallized plastic film fused to a paper backing and overprinted with a pattern. Foil can be difficult to hang, and care must be taken around electrical fittings. The shiny surface shows up any imperfections beneath.
Relief or embossed papers – heavy-duty papers with a raised surface. Good for covering up poor plaster. They are designed for overpainting, usually with emulsion or eggshell, but are tough enough to take an oil-based gloss paint.
There are three main types of relief or embossed wallpaper. Woodchip contains chips of wood to create a texture like oatmeal or porridge, with different grades from fine to coarse. It is a cheap type of wallcovering and is ideal for covering less than perfect surfaces.
Anaglypta is a trade name. This paper can look like finely modelled plaster, and some patterns relate to specific period styles. It is made from wood pulp or cotton fibres, or a vinyl version is available.
Lincrusta is made from linseed oil andand formed into panels rather than bought on a roll. It is often modelled to resemble panelling and used on the lower part of the wall, then painted or stained to resemble wood. This paper is difficult to hang.
Flock is a different type of embossed paper, with a velvety pile. It is expensive, and difficult to hang and to clean, although a washable vinyl version is easier to handle.
When you buy
Make sure all the rolls you buy have the same batch number. Choose the right paste for the paper (check the advice on the roll label, and make sure you have enough. A paper with a pattern repeat will need to be matched at every join. Sample books and the wrapping label will give the repeat
measurement, and the larger the pattern the greater amount of wastage you will need to allow for. For a large, bold pattern you may also need to allow for a dominant element to ‘sit’ well on the wall — awkward breaks such as headless animals are less noticeable at the bottom of the wall than at the top.