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Contact Paper Vs. Wallpaper: Which To Choose For Your Home Project?

So you're torn about whether to use contact paper or wallpaper to spruce up your walls. Both products share a variety of attributes that cater to different preferences, but they also offer limitless creative opportunities to brighten the place. To help you decide, we've written this article to highlight some of their best features.

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Contact paper is material that has been pre-cut to small sizes. It comes in a peel-and-stick form, which makes it perfect as decor and accent. Wallpaper, however, comes in long sheets of paper that are more challenging to remove and are meant to cover entire walls.

If you're going for temporary decor, contact paper is your best bet. Wallpaper is best for large-scale projects such as room renovations or building a brand-new home.

Contact paper and wallpapers are extremely versatile decor pieces, and there are a ton of ways you can use them for your home. We've laid them down for you, so keep reading to find out.

A collaged photo of a contact paper and wallpaper, Contact Paper Vs. Wallpaper: Which To Choose For Your Home Project?

What Is The Difference Between a Contact Paper and a Wallpaper?

As mentioned above, contact paper is a more removable solution to your interior decorating woes, while wallpaper is better suited for long-term solutions as it is stickier and comes in large sheet rolls meant to cover entire walls.

Rolls of contact paper

Contact paper is also perfect for those on a budget, as they are cheaper but of high quality. On the other hand, wallpaper tends to be on the pricier side due to its size and material which is usually vinyl or linoleum. These types of materials tend to last longer than contact paper.

Pros and Cons of Contact Paper and Wallpaper

One of the best ways to know which product to choose for your project is to know its pros and cons, so we've broken them down for you below.

Pros of Using Contact Paper

  1. Easy to use. Unlike wallpaper, all you have to do is peel off the backing of the contact paper and stick it to the surface. It's an effortless task to do, and you might even be able to do it on your own.
  2. Versatile. Since contact paper often comes pre-cut in small sizes, you can use it not just on your walls, but also on other surfaces such as your drawers, cabinets, tables, countertops, and more.
  3. Removable. One of the best features of contact paper is that it can be easily removed without leaving a residue. This feature makes it perfect for those who live on rentals or just looking for temporary home decor.
  4. Inexpensive. Contact paper costs almost dirt cheap, allowing you to save up a few bucks for other project expenses.
  5. Durable and long-lasting. Almost every contact paper out there has a waterproof coating that aids in its durability and a little bit of resistance to low heat.

Cons of Using Contact Paper

  1. Challenging to apply. Contact paper might come in a peel-and-stick application, but it requires a precise hand to ensure a smooth, bubble-free application.
  2. Might require buying more. Since contact paper is often pre-cut into squares and strips, you might need to buy more than one quantity to cover an entire space. You may opt for rolled variants if you need to cover a large area.
  3. Non-permanent. Over time, your contact paper can have the tendency to peel off or lift, especially when it's frequently in contact with dust or extreme heat.
  4. Needs additional reinforcement. When installed in humid areas such as the bathroom, you might need to apply a layer of caulk around the edges to further strengthen the paper and ensure the material's long lifespan.

Pros of Using Wallpaper

  1. Permanent. Wallpaper, unlike contact paper, is made using stickier adhesive, which can help in making sure it stays on for many years to come. It's a great alternative if you don't want the hassle of painting the walls.
  2. Hardwearing. As previously mentioned, wallpaper is often made from PVC and vinyl material, which easily makes it a great choice if you're looking for something that can stand the test of time.
  3. Stylish. There are endless choices of wallpaper designs, so you can be sure you'll never run out of prints and patterns for your home project.
  4. Easy to clean. Due to its protective coating and material, you can seamlessly clean up any wallpaper with a damp cloth or dust it off with a soft brush to keep it looking pristine. Some can even be scrubbed with a light brush and some detergent.
  5. Comes in large sizes. Since wallpapers are meant to cover up an entire wall, you can easily buy them in large rolls, ensuring you can have an ample supply of wallpaper.

Cons of Using Wallpaper

  1. Difficult to remove. Wallpapers that are laminated and made from vinyl are among the most challenging to remove on the market. To be able to remove your wallpaper with ease, you're going to need to arm yourself with the right set of tools. Otherwise, you might end up having a lot of wallpaper residue on the surface.
  2. It can be costly. Good quality wallpaper can be expensive due to certain factors such as materials, installation, and maintenance.
  3. Styles aren't evergreen. If you're the type to care about having your home follow the trends, then patterned wallpapers might not be for you. There isn't a wide availability of wallpapers with solid colors, so it's a common occurrence to go with fancier styles, which could come across as a con once it goes out of style. Replacing them isn't as much of a breeze, either.
  4. Requires professional installation. Due to its size, putting up wallpaper on your own is almost impossible to do. Calling up a professional ensures a smooth and seamless installation, but that would mean additional costs.
  5. Not suitable for all rooms. Exposing the wallpaper to heated or humid areas could cause the wallpaper glue to weaken and eventually cause the wallpaper to fall off. This means the bathroom or the sink isn't a suitable place for wallpaper to be put up.

A blue colored sofa with a light pink colored throw pillows with a floral designed wallpaper on the back

How To Apply Contact Paper on Surfaces

Green patterned contact paper

Before installing your contact paper, have your tools on-hand to make the process seamless. These tools include a measuring tape, a smoothing tool, and a utility knife or a pair of scissors.

  1. Measure the width and dimensions of the surface, allotting an additional 3 inches for good measure. If your contact paper is pre-cut, this process should also be done in order to ensure accuracy. Trim any excess paper if necessary.
  2. Unroll the first few inches of the contact paper and stick the exposed adhesive to the surface, slowly removing the backing as you go through. Use the smoothing tool to help reduce the appearance of air bubbles.
  3. Smoothen the surface again once you're done.

How To Hang Your Wallpaper

Man applying glue on the wallpaper for the living room

Hanging wallpaper and contact paper share almost the same process. Here are the tools you need to have on hand for the project.

  • Paint roller
  • Painter's tape
  • Sponge
  • Utility knife or a pair of scissors
  • Smoothing tool

Once you have these tools ready, follow the steps below.

  1. Cover the floors with plastic or a dropcloth to protect them from residue. Be sure to turn off the breaker if the wall you're using has any active outlets, then clean the surface with a sponge.
  2. Create a plumb line on the wall to ensure a straight and precise application.
  3. Measure the surface and the wallpaper, adding 4 inches to the original measurement so you can align the sheet easily.
  4.  Unroll the first few inches of the wallpaper and stick it starting from the ceiling, carefully smoothing it downwards. You can use painter's tape to temporarily hold it in place if the sheet is unraveling.
  5. Smooth out the surface using a clean paint roller, getting rid of the air bubbles.

How Long Does It Take for Contact Paper And Wallpaper To Dry?

Contact paper can only take up to 24 hours to dry, but it's best to wait a little longer than 24 hours to ensure that the adhesive has fully bonded to the surface. Wallpaper, however, could take 2 to 7 days to set, so patience is the key if you're planning on using this option.

Can You Paint Over The Wallpaper And Contact Paper?

Wallpapers and contact paper can be painted over, but it is recommended to apply a paint primer over the walls beforehand. Oil and latex-based paints would have a hard time adhering to the surface if the paper isn't properly primed, which could only result in a mess nobody wants to clean up.

Check out this paint primer on Amazon.

In Conclusion

A collaged photo of a contact paper and wallpaper

Choosing between contact paper and wallpaper for your designated home project doesn't have to be a daunting task. Simply put, if you're undecided and frequently switch up your home interiors, contact paper is the way to go as they're semi-permanent.

But if you're aiming for long-term commitment and don't mind having the same style for many years to come, then you surely won't mind choosing wallpaper for your project.

Found this post helpful? Check out these related topics before you go.

How Long To Let Primer Dry [Inc. Before Paint, Before Sanding, Before Wallpaper, Or Between Coats]?

Should You Wallpaper A Whole Room Or Just An Accent Wall?

27 Awesome Bedroom Wallpaper Ideas