Understanding the Differences between Wall Vinyl and Wallpaper of the Past

Wall vinyl has undergone several changes in the past ten years. Wallpaper sales decreased in the past 30 or 40 years, but more people now look to this wall covering option to update their home. Before purchasing any wall covering, property owners must understand how wallpaper and vinyl have changed over the years and what the benefits and drawbacks of each are.

They made wallpaper in the past using paper as the name suggests. However, users encountered many problems when using the material, and this led to the migration of wallpaper to wall vinyl products, ones laminated and meshed with fresh materials. As a result, today’s wall coverings are stronger and more durable. Nevertheless, there are drawbacks seen with each that consumers must know about before purchasing.


Breathability becomes an issue with any wall covering. Walls must breathe to release any moisture buildup. When the wall keeps this moisture, both wallpaper and vinyl bubble and mold may grow. Users find perforating the material helps to avoid these issues, much as car owners do when installing vinyl on the rear window of their vehicle. While the holes are tiny, they do negatively impact the quality of the picture.


Installing the material likewise presents challenges. The average person finds it hard to apply the material while ensuring it lies flat, and this holds true regardless of the adhesive system used. Air bubbles often appear in the middle of the wallpaper or vinyl, and the only way to eliminate this bubble is to remove the covering and try again or poke a tiny hole in the material to release the air. Fortunately, experienced wallpaper and vinyl hangers know proper installation methods to ensure they remove bubbles before they appear.

Shrinking and Expansion

Paper and vinyl shrink and expand. The shrinking agent found in vinyl causes many complications. Heat remains the primary culprit in shrinkage, and users must recognize this when installing the vinyl in a room with lots of natural light. Make certain the temperature in the room remains constant and the vinyl isn’t exposed to direct heat.

Paper coverings shrink at the time of installation, such as when the individual putting up the wall covering applies wallpaper paste or wets the paste already present in the paper. The wet paste on the paper may lead to bubbling, expansion, or shrinkage of the covering. Multi-panel wall coverings in particular remain prone to this issue when there is no overlap of the printed panels. When the panels shrink, gaps appear between them. This leads to a misaligned overlap which no property owner wants.

Furthermore, shrinkage brings about issues in the long run, because it interferes with the connection between the material and the wall. Corners have the least adhesion, and this is the area where the paper or vinyl peels and curls in. If the paste or adhesive cannot be removed, the wall covering cannot be repaired. Those coverings with removable adhesives may be repaired, but expect the problem to arise again.

Of paper and vinyl, paper remains the most fragile. For this reason, many men and women now opt for vinyl when it is available. Vinyl, in contrast, stretches more than 125 percent. For this reason, consider vinyl for your next wall covering, as you’ll find it lasts longer and allows your property to look great.


James Harrison: James, a supply chain expert, shares industry trends, logistics solutions, and best practices in his insightful blog.