Whether you’re moving in or remodelling, wallpaper is a popular alternative to paint. Not only does it allow you to quickly and cheaply create beautiful patterned and textured walls – papering allows you to cover cracks, plastered holes, and other imperfections that paint wouldn’t.
In short, it’s the easiest way to give a quick, professional look to any room. That, plus the wide variety of print options for wallpaper makes it a great choice for everything from full rooms to statement walls.
But, it’s also tricky to apply and getting it right, especially with pattern-matching, can take some practice. Hiring a professional to install wallpaper saves you the hassle.
However, on average, you’ll pay about £16 in labour and materials per square metre of wall. That works out to about £8 in labour per square metre. And, wallpaper can cost anywhere from £2 to over £100 per square metre, so costs can change a lot.
Why Wallpaper A Room?
Wallpaper is a popular option for a lot of reasons. However, the most obvious is that wallpaper offers a lot of design flexibility over paint.
If you want patterns, textures, or even dark colours, wallpaper can be significantly cheaper and easier than paint. For example, you can pattern your wall in florals, large-scale geometrics, or other designs at no extra cost with wallpaper.
With paint, that would involve hundreds of extra pounds and hours in having someone come in to paint the space. Wallpaper comes pre-printed in thousands of designs, from stripes to florals to damask and everything in between.
You can also choose textures with flock, matte, and even satin wallpaper options. That’s a lot more unique than paint allows.
Wallpaper is also a better choice for many older homes. For example, paper covers imperfections in the wall without requiring replastering.
If you have hairline cracks or have recently plastered over a hole, wallpaper covers it. For paint, you’d have to sand out and replaster those spots to cover them, requiring much more work. The wallpaper creates a seamless finish with very little extra work.
Finally, some wallpaper is actually more durable than paint. For example, a lot of wallpaper is designed to be wiped down. It’s also usually good for 5-10 years and doesn’t chip like paint does.
On the other hand, getting it wet can ruin it – so many people prefer to keep a roll of paper in the back of a closet in case an emergency happens. Still, you can spot-fix wallpaper very easily.
Wallpapering Room Costs*
In most cases, you’ll pay about £150 per day for wallpapering plus the cost of materials. However, in some areas, like London and much of Wales, you can expect to pay closer to £250-£300 per day instead.
*Please note, these cost estimates are based on quotes at the time of writing in May 2023. Actual rates are subject to change and may be different depending on the time of reading.
Costs very much depend on the day-rate of your team, the side of the room, and the cost per metre of your wallpaper. For example, if you look at the following costs
- Statement wall in 6 x 4 living room with high-end wallpaper – £500- £600
- Half-wall in 2×8 hallway with medium-quality wallpaper – £900
- Half-wall in 2×8 hallway with budget wallpaper – £560
- Small bedroom with budget wallpaper – £280
What Factors Influence The Price Of Wallpapering?
The largest factors influencing the cost of wallpapering are the cost of labour and the cost of the paper.
However, other factors will influence how much labour is needed, and those are also important.
Size of the Room
In most cases, professionally applied wallpaper starts out at around £14 per square metre for materials and application. In the upper range, you can pay over £80 per square metre for the same.
In addition, that’s per square metre of wall – not floor space. Because most walls are 2.5 metres high, a 6 x 4 metre living room is about 50 square metres of wall space, minus any openings for doors and any mantles you might not care to wallpaper.
However, if you go with very budget wallpaper, such as off the discount rack or from a budget store – you could reduce costs to as little as a few pounds a metre. For example, some budget brands at hardware stores cost as little as £8 for a 4 x 1.5 metre roll, meaning you can do a small room for about £32 in paper plus glue.
On average, you’ll want to calculate about £14 per square metre. You can take the costs much lower – or to about half depending on how much you want to stretch the budget in either direction.
Cost of Labour
Most decorators and general contractors will work out to about £8 per square metre in labour costs. That usually means £150 per day – with an average of 2-3 square metres of wallpaper per hour. Of course, papering could go much faster. However, you can expect that a small room will take one person a full day.
Often, you’ll hire a larger team, with 2 or more people. This means you’ll pay a higher day rate, but the work will be completed much more quickly. In addition, wallpapering usually goes faster, even in a single room, with one person rolling the paper and one person placing the glue.
Wallpaper can vary significantly in price. Sometimes this depends on the brand. In other cases, it depends on the type of wallpaper. For example:
- Peel and stick – £10-£80 per m2
- Traditional wallpaper (needs paste) – £2-£70 per m2
You’ll also have to consider that different formats cost more or less money. Tiled wallpaper usually costs more than smaller sections.
And, if you’re buying by the roll, you might be able to get wallpaper much cheaper. For example, you can normally do a 30-metre room with about 4 rolls of wallpaper. A roll of wallpaper will cost anywhere from £8 for a generic budget brand to over £150 for something like Laura Ashley or Farrow & Ball.
Finally, the texture and material of your wallpaper will matter a great deal. Simple vinyl and vinyl coated paper are usually the cheapest. However, high-end wallpaper can feature textures, fabrics, bamboo fibre, and flocking. That can add a lot of unique beauty to your room, but you will pay extra for it.
So, if you want a basic vinyl coated wallpaper in a simple colour, you might be able to get costs as low as £2 per m2 for your wall. On the other hand, if you want flocked colours and metallic gold trim, you’re probably looking at upwards of £30 per m2. And, of course, the brand will play into total material costs as well.
Amount of Labour
In an ideal scenario, your labourers will show up, paste the wall, roll the paper onto it, and you’re done. However, there are a lot of variables that could impact total costs.
- Do cracks or holes have to be filled? You could spend several hours patching the wall before papering it.
- Are there bumps or lumps that must be sanded away?
- Are their wood beams or trim that the team will have to cut around?
- Do you want pattern matching? How difficult is that with the paper you’ve chosen?
- What about old paper, do you have to strip that first?
- Is the paint in the room suitable for papering over? Old latex-based paint usually isn’t, because it peels away from the wall, which means your paper may fall off the wall.
Essentially, it’s important to assess how much actual work you have to do to prep the room and put the paper up. And, if you’ve chosen something like small patchwork tiles of paper, you can expect that aligning them and getting them to look good on the wall will take a lot of time.
Benefits of Wallpapers
Wallpaper can be a great choice for many homes. However, it isn’t right for everyone.
It’s important to decide if you want paint or wallpaper.
Wallpaper normally costs about £14 per square metre to purchase and apply professionally. Paint normally costs anywhere from £9 to £18 per square metre.
However, if you paint, you’ll also have to smooth the walls and make the underlying plaster look good as well. You’ll have to be careful of trim and doorways, and you’ll often have to do significant cleanup afterwards.
Wallpaper has flat rate costs, doesn’t require cleanup, and doesn’t require that you put it onto a perfect wall. The wall just has to be smooth enough that lumps and bumps don’t show under the paper.
That can speed up the job and reduce costs. For example, if you have to pay £300 to replaster the room and another £200 to paint it, the £350 wallpaper job is a lot more cost effective – and faster.
Wallpaper allows for creating unique and beautiful looks that you can’t get with paint.
For example, you can use different patterns and textures. You can layer and stripe different wallpapers to create a unique look. And, you can use fabric or flocking to get unique textures.
You can also choose simple colours to get the look of standard paint – without the hassle of redoing the wall.
While you can get patterns on a painted wall, it will cost significantly more time and effort. So, if you want a patterned or textured wall, paper is the way to go.
Easy to Clean
If you choose the right wallpaper, you can also steam it or wipe it down. For example, vinyl wallpapers are meant to be wiped down with a damp cloth. Fabric wallpapers are often designed to be cleaned using a steamer.
Of course, that won’t be the case if you choose a flocked or velvet wallpaper. However, it does mean that on average, you’ll be able to clean a wall by doing nothing more than wiping it down. That’s much easier than most paint – which can scratch and damage if the plaster underneath is old.
If you have cracks, discoloration, or imperfections in the plaster, paint will show those. Wallpaper smoothly covers any imperfections, giving you a professional looking wall without redoing the plaster.
That can save you a great deal in costs and time. However, you will still have to patch larger cracks and holes – as the wallpaper needs a flat surface to stick to.
Wallpapering is generally a straightforward process. On average, you can expect 1-2 days per room or up to 4 for a very large room.
- Prep the room by removing any old wallpaper.
- Scrub the walls with ammonia to dissolve old glue, latex paint, and grease or smoke residue.
- Hang the lining paper.
- Measure and cut the wallpaper to size. Cut for pattern matching if you want it.
- Apply adhesive to the wall one strip at a time.
- Slowly roll the wallpaper out, starting from the ceiling and rolling down, with someone holding the top in place. Don’t apply vertically unless the pattern requires it.
- Smooth the wallpaper out.
- Apply the next row of adhesive.
- Make cuts around radiator pipes and light fixtures as you get to them to ensure they’re precise.
- Finish with any tape or finishing panels and trim that you have.
Many people prefer to remove trim and moulding and then replace that over the wallpaper. This will also help to ensure that your wallpaper stays on more securely.
However, you can also opt to cut the wallpaper to size and then use a flat edge to press the edges under the moulding.
Painting Walls vs Wallpapering
Paint and wallpaper each have pros and cons. For example, paint can be cost effective, fast to apply, and easy to remove.
If you’re moving into a rental, paint is the easiest option to get rid of if you want something other than basic white. On the other hand, the wallpaper will likely take you more than a day of work per room to remove when you move out.
On the other hand, wallpaper can be more durable. If applied correctly, wallpaper can last up to 10 years. It’s unlikely that you’ll get more than 5 years out of most paint.
Wallpaper can also be easier to clean. However, that depends on the wallpaper and the paint. If you’re painting directly on textured plaster, it’s very difficult to wipe down.
Vinyl wallpaper wipes down with a damp cloth. On the other hand, flocked wallpaper is hard to clean. And, smooth paint is relatively easy to brush off. So, it depends which material you choose.
Should I Apply Wallpaper Myself?
If you have the time and patience, there’s no reason not to apply wallpaper yourself. However, it’s important to keep in mind that properly applying wallpaper takes time and patience.
Pattern matching can also be difficult. If you don’t know what you’re doing, a single wall will typically take you all day. This means you’re looking at 2-4 days per room, or about twice the time a professional will take.
In addition, if you do mess it up, you might not be able to save the paper – which could add to costs. Therefore, you probably don’t want to do wallpaper yourself unless you’re using budget paper and you have enough extra paper to practise.
- You don’t have to align schedules with someone else
- Buy and install paper as your budget allows
- It’s easy to make mistakes with measuring
- Getting adhesive right is hard
- Hanging wallpaper is labour intensive and dirty work
- Not getting prep and sealing right will mean bubbling and slipping wallpaper
5 Common Wallpapering Mistakes
There are plenty of things that can go wrong with hanging wallpaper. However, the following are the most common mistakes.
1. Not Prepping Walls
Wallpaper adhesive requires flat and clean walls. That means filling any holes or cracks with plaster and letting it cure. You’ll also want to clean the walls with ammonia or a similar cleaning agent to dissolve any fat or grease on the walls – as that will prevent the adhesive from sticking.
Finally, if you have old wallpaper or old latex paint, it will have to come off before you wallpaper. Otherwise, the wallpaper will eventually come loose.
2. Not Measuring Well
Calculating wallpaper requires carefully measuring the wall. You’ll also have to carefully measure your sections as you cut them.
Making a small mistake or cutting too quickly will ruin an entire sheet of wallpaper.
3. Using the Wrong Glue
Some walls and some wallpaper require specific kinds of glue. Wallpaper paste is not one-size-fits-all. It’s important to read the hanging instructions for your wallpaper.
In addition, it’s important to use enough wallpaper, to let it cure for enough time, and to add the wallpaper at the right time. If you don’t, your wallpaper could come loose – even within a few days of hanging it.
4. Not Finishing the Seams
Wallpaper should be pressed to the wall after you put it up. Then, you should finish the seams, either with tape or special adhesive. This keeps the edges from coming up – creating a beautiful and seamless look.
Finishing seams will depend on what kind of wallpaper you have. For example, many include shrinkage overlap layers with extra areas for more adhesive, so you don’t need tape over the outside.
Other wallpaper is intended to have decorative strips over the seams – which can add a beautiful and unique look. Either way, not finishing the seams will mean that they can start to raise.
5. Forgetting Shrinkage
Wallpaper shrinks after it’s hung. For this reason, you’re recommended to make allowances for shrinkage.
Using wallpaper lining will also minimise this problem. However, if you don’t allow for shrinkage, you will have gaps between your layers.
Final Hiring Checklist
Hiring the right person to do your wallpaper will make a big difference in the final job.
- Can I see references or reviews?
- Do you have any qualifications? Such as a decorator course or certification? What level?
- Which party supplies the paste and tools?
- Who supplies the wallpaper? (This is usually the homeowner.)
- Are you responsible for waste and rests?
- Do you have liability insurance? What about worker’s compensation? A workmanship guarantee?
- How many people are on the team?
- Can you provide a detailed (and competitive) quote?
- How long do you take per room?
In most cases, if the decorator offers a competitive quote, has good examples of previous work, and has good reviews, you can probably trust they will do good work.