Southern Living Mag – Vinyl Wallpaper in a Humid Room – I Beg to Differ

In the January 2014 issue of Southern Living Magazine, I was pleased to see one of the feature homes showcase several rooms with wallpaper.

One of the rooms was a laundry room, and the interior designer made the point that since the space was exposed to more moisture, she chose a paper that had a glossy vinyl coating – “to protect it from water damage.”

Oh, folks! Let me get up on my soapbox! This is a big issue with me, so much so that I often give my clients touch-and-feel samples of what to buy and what to not buy. While it’s correct that splashes of water will run right off a solid vinyl wallpaper, if that wallcovering has a paper backing, as most do, humidity can be the death of it. Based on what I have seen in homes over the last two decades, I always advise AGAINST paper-backed vinyl in humid rooms like laundries or bathrooms.

The reason is that the paper backing will absorb humidity from the air. The paper backing swells; the vinyl surface does not. So the paper stretches and the vinyl can’t, so it curls. As time goes on, the vinyl might even delaminate (detach) from the paper backing. You end up with seams that curl forward and leave gaps at the wall. These are not loose seams, and cannot be pasted back down.

Now, there are ways to deal with this – In most of the rooms I have seen, the previous installer did not use a primer before hanging the paper. And proper ventilation of the room is a must. In addition, these days, there are options of woven fabric-backed solid vinyl papers, and also the new non-woven materials, both of which hold up to humidity better than the old paper backings.

If in doubt, ask me.

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