Stay Away from Pre-Pasted, Paper-Backed, Solid-Vinyl Wallpapers

Pre-pasted paper-backed solid-vinyl wallpapers are often a very economical option. They sound good, because of the low price, and also because manufacturers tout them as “water resistant,” and “washable,” and “suited for kitchens and bathrooms.”

However, in my experience, they are prone to problems, specifically curling at the seams. This is because that thick, gritty, paper backing is thirsty and, in humid conditions (such as showering in a bathroom) it will absorb moisture from the air. Once the paper absorbs moisture, it swells, and as it grows, the only direction it can go is out – so it pushes itself away from the wall. This results in a curled seam.

The condition exacerbates when the paper backing delaminates (separates) from the vinyl surface.

The paper is not loose, and it cannot be glued back down. It is the two materials actually coming apart, as well as the paper pushing away from the wall.

Even when there is no delaminating of layers, the seams often aren’t flat.   See fourth photo.  It’s just the nature of the material. I don’t like the look. I hope my clients will steer away from these types of papers.

Norwall is a notorious brand, but there are others.

A little more info….

The “satin” look (textured) papers tend to be more problematic. Papers with a smoother surface tend to be more cooperative.

Not all of what you see are due to curling seams – some has to do with edges that have not been cut exactly straight by the manufacturer – what we call “gaps and overlaps.” This is pretty common, even with more expensive papers.

Sometimes a liner will help minimize curling seams. A liner is a felt-like paper that is applied to the wall before the wallpaper goes up, and provides an absorbent base that helps to “lock down seams.” But this adds an additional day of labor, as well as the price of the liner – and no guarantee the job will look better.

One of the downsides of buying things on the Internet is that you see a beautiful pattern, but can’t see or touch the actual product, or know how it will perform. Photos on the Internet tend to be a close-up of the pattern motif, or are shot from a distance, so you don’t see details or seams.

I try to steer people away from these paper-backed solid vinyl papers, both through information in my initial Info Pack, on my blog, and during the in-person consultation and other on-line communications.

As an alternative, a paper paper, or a non-woven paper will look better and ware longer.

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