Why Is It So Expensive: Wallpaper

Why Is It So Expensive: Wallpaper

Why Is It So Expensive: Wallpaper

Ready to roll out the wallpaper of your dreams? Read our guide to the varying types of wallpaper on the market, and what makes some options pricier than others.

So you’re charmed by the punchy powder rooms, stunning statement walls, and chic ceilings taking the world by storm. Interior design has fully surrendered to the world of wallpaper and you can’t swing a stick without hitting an interior that makes good use of a roll.

But if you’ve done any research, you’ve learned that wallpaper can be expensive. Rolls can range from $50 per roll to thousands of dollars per panel, and that’s a pretty big spread. Thankfully, we’ve taken the time to explain what costs what and how you can find the right paper for you.

Materials Matter

Here’s the thing about wallpaper—paper is a pretty broad term. Wallpapers can range from delicate grasscloths, to vinyl sheets, to fabrics, to thick wood veneers. What you might think of as a traditional wallpaper is usually cellulose-based or might have a vinyl-component to help make them easier to clean. The more luxurious the material, the higher the cost.

Photo by Sonya Randell, Design by Joyelle West; Above image Photo by Seth Caplan, Design by Gianna Marzella

Printing Methods

Once you’ve got your base, there’s the matter of getting that pattern put on. From hand-painted panels (hello de Gournay) to digital prints, there are a range of techniques used to create wallpaper. Some of the most common methods include.

Block Print
Dating back to the 16th century, this is the artisan version of a rubber stamp. Carved wooden blocks (originally) are inked and hand-pressed to paper, usually with a separate block for each shade. The labor-intensive process makes for one-of-a-kind paper (and often textiles).

Surface Print
A mechanized version of block-printing, surface printing was first developed in the 1840s. This process is wet-on-wet, which means you don’t need to allow time to dry between color applications. While this is less costly than block printing, it still requires a lot of detail work, with most featuring hand-mixed colors. The results are extremely painterly, with light bleeding between the shades.

Screen printing
If you’ve ever made a screen-printed t-shirt you get the gist. Here, the paper is laid out on a screen is placed with the design face-down. Water-based ink is poured (or flooded) over the screen and then a squeegee is used to force the ink into open areas of the mesh. Each layer of this must dry before adding on another color. Papers that are screen-printed by hand require a lot of skill and time, but the finished product has a rich, tactile feel with crisp edges between colors. Rotary screen prints are slightly less expensive, but the process still requires a lot of wait time so don’t expect to get a sudden deal.

Gravure prints
This revolutionary method is similar to screen printing but adds in cuts to the roller, allowing production to control the amount of ink applied in certain areas. That means you can achieve many shades of one color, providing gorgeous tonal options to designs.

Digital prints
A fancier version of your at home ink-jet, digital wallpapers democratize the process and offer much more cost-effective alternatives to the handmade varieties. Plus the digital options mean it’s easier to customize designs—either with specific colorways or limited runs. But not all digital prints are equal and quality can range greatly. Samples are of utmost importance to ensure your image quality is high enough and that the printer is up to par.

Photo by Lauren Pressey, Design by Haley Weidenbaum

Photo by Christian Torres, Design by Liz Lipkin


One of the reasons wallpaper costs can seem to inch up is all of the coverage and allowance you’ll need. To properly calculate the amount of paper needed, calculate the room’s square footage by measuring each wall’s length, and multiplying the sum by the room height’s (excluding baseboards and moldings). You’ll want leeway for pattern matching and trimming so round measurements up and don’t deduct doors/windows/etc. Rolls are typically 27-30 square feet but you’ll want to check not just the size of the roll, but make sure the pattern repeat does not require additional paper.

What’s a pattern repeat you say? It’s the vertical distance between points where the pattern is identical (or repeats). Patterns can have a random match, a book match, drop match, or straight match to guide to place the sheets accordingly.


So now you’ve got your wallpaper, hanging it is a whole other consideration. To start, you’ll need to make sure your walls are properly prepped. Some textures require lining paper or sanding. If you aren’t using removable papers—and even if you are—you might want to leave the papering to the professionals. Because of the intense detail required and the many factors, it’s usually worth the cost to hire a painter or professional wallpaper installer for the job. The cost can range from $300 total to as much as $10/square foot for more specialty jobs.

If all of these options have you rolling in the aisles, let Homepolish help. We can set you up with a designer who can select the perfect paper for you (and we can help you shop your options). Sign up for Homepolish today.