Tropical textured vinyl wallpaper

This tropical paper backed vinyl wallpaper would be a match for any humid bathroom. Buy it here.

Is Vinyl Wallpaper too Good to be True?

Vinyl is used everywhere; vinyl flooring, vinyl siding, you name it. So it’s no wonder that vinyl wallpaper also exists. After all, vinyl is an extremely practical material, being as durable and water resistant as it is. But what are the differences between the different types of vinyl wallpaper and how do they compare to other wallpaper materials? Stick around to find out the many benefits and possible concerns of vinyl wallpaper.

rustic worn vertical wood boards vinyl wallpaper

Vinyl is a great material that can support convincing textured looks. Buy this wallpaper here.

What is Vinyl Wallpaper?

Vinyl is a synthetic material and a type of plastic. This is why it has a slightly plastic-feeling texture to it. Vinyl wallpaper is most often a non-woven wallpaper, meaning that the vinyl is attached to some sort of backing. The vinyl on the front side can either be applied in liquid form as an acrylic type vinyl that is sprayed on, or, as a solid polyvinyl chloride (PVC) sheet laminated to a backing of some sort. The backing of a wallpaper determines how it is hung and non-woven will always be easier to hang than paper – meaning vinyl is easy to hang. As a material, vinyl is cheap, durable, light and water resistant, and in some cases, even fire retardant.

Types of Vinyl Wallpaper

There are several different types wallpaper that use vinyl, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Choosing the right type of wallpaper for your situation is vital to having a long-lasting fresh look. While this information will add to the depth of your wallpaper knowledge, unfortunately, most manufacturers don’t directly label wallpaper as being vinyl or not. Many vinyl wallpapers will be simply labeled as non-woven (but not all non-woven wallpapers are vinyl). This is the struggle when you are looking specifically for vinyl wallpaper. Alternatively, simply looking at the care symbols on the wallpaper will also lead you to finding an appropriate wallpaper for you walls.

“Paper” - Vinyl Coated Paper

Most ‘paper’ wallpaper is actually vinyl coated paper wallpaper and this is one of the most common type of wallpaper sold and used in peoples homes (see this Ebay article for more information). Pure paper wallpaper will feel much more like printer paper while vinyl coated paper will be much smoother to the touch. This protective acrylic type vinyl coating is simply sprayed on top of the paper backing. This type of wallpaper is usually quite durable and can be water resistant and scrubbable. This makes it suitable for high traffic areas like halls and areas that might come into contact with water like kitchens.

“Fabric” - Vinyl Coated Fabric

Similarly, uncoated fabric wallpaper is rare and most is actually coated in vinyl. In this case, an acrylic type vinyl is applied in liquid form to a fabric backing. This wallpaper is much more breathable, making it less ideal for areas with moisture that can be absorbed and become trapped behind the wallpaper. However, it is usually just as scrubbable and therefore, suitable for high traffic areas like hallways, mudrooms and play areas.

“Paper backed Vinyl” - Solid Sheet Vinyl with Paper Backing

Solid sheet vinyl is typically PVC laminated to a paper backing – therefore, a non-woven wallpaper and very easy to hang. The surface is completely water resistant and scrubbable; however, steps should be taken to ensure no water or air moisture due to humidity is able to seep in at the seams. As well, the surface of this type of vinyl wallpaper is not entirely impact proof, so avoid putting it in areas like playrooms or storage places.

“Fabric Backed Vinyl” - Solid Sheet Vinyl with Fabric Backing

This is a sheet of PVC laminated to a fabric backing and is the best type of vinyl to put in bathrooms or other areas dealing with humidity and frequent temperature fluctuation. The fabric backing will not grow and shrink with temperature fluctuation as paper backing does, and thus, it won’t peel from your bathroom walls if the edges are well sealed. As well, solid sheet vinyl with fabric backing is the best type of vinyl wallpaper to cover bumps and other imperfections on the wall below. The fabric below can conform any unevenness while the surface stays flat.

For more information on wallpapering in bathrooms or other wet/humid spaces, check out our article "Can I Wallpaper My Bathroom?

magnetic vinyl wallpaper bronze

Hang pictures and cute messages on this magnetic vinyl wallpaper. Buy it here.

The Benefits and Concerns with Vinyl Wallpaper

Vinyl wallpaper has a polished, clean cut feeling and comes in a huge range of looks. It will feel fresher longer than any other wallpaper. On top of this, it is tactile and adds a subtle depth to your walls through the use of texture.

Besides looking great and being easy to hang, vinyl wallpaper is relatively cheap and extremely low maintenance. Because of how cleanable and water/vapor resistant it is, vinyl wallpaper really can be suitable for most spaces, even kitchens and bathrooms. Some vinyl is even fire retardant! If hung properly, vinyl wallpaper can be expected to last 10 – 20 years.

But could vinyl wallpaper be to good to be true? It’s probably not the first time that you’ve heard about plastics not being particularly good for your health. PVC especially gets a lot of negative attention for it’s reported toxicity, though officially, it has been found to really only be an issue during manufacturing. According to the US National Library of Medicine’s Toxicology Data Network, PVC dust is really all that is hazardous and this mostly concerns the workers manufacturing it. PVC is not a carcinogen and as a consumer product, PVC is rated to be completely safe and this is why so many consumer products do, in fact, use the material. I mean, that and it’s one of the most practical and versatile materials ever.

For more information about wallpaper and the environment, read our article, "The Environmental Impact of Wallpaper".

Would you use vinyl wallpaper in your home? If you do already, tell us how you find it!

To Summarize

  • Vinyl is a popular material – there’s even vinyl wallpaper!
  • Vinyl is a type of plastic coming with all advantages and concerns about this material
  • Vinyl wallpaper can either have paper or fabric back, and be a solid sheet of PVC laminated to this or an acrylic type vinyl spray on as a coating. Each combination has its own strengths and weaknesses
  • Vinyl wallpaper can be very durable, waterproof, light-fast and even fire retardant
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