WallCoverings: wallpaper or wall wrap? There’s a big difference. We explain

Wallpaper and wall wrap are both decorative wallcoverings. But before looking at what makes wallpaper wall paper and what constitutes wall wrap, we’d like to get it out up front when you should consider wallpaper and when is it appropriate to use wall wrap to cover your walls.  

Wallpaper: use it to cover relatively smooth walls made of drywall or plaster in dry areas.

Wall Wrap: use it to cover walls in wet and moist areas and where surface is hard to stick (like tile),


A quick check to see if you’re dealing with wallpaper or wall wrap is to tear it in half by hand. If it’s wallpaper it will tear rather easily. Since the wall wrap is a plastic film it will be more difficult to tear, and it will stretch significantly before you’re able to tear it in half. 

Wallpaper is printed on paper and adhesion is made by applying a wet paste or soaking the paper to activate a glue.

Wall wrap, on the other hand, is printed on a film and has a pressure sensitive adhesive layer that is activated when you press down on the film.

There also may be an additional top film layer on wall wrap to protect the printed image from scratching and uv exposure, which will dull the print over time and discolor the image.

It is not recommended to use wallpaper in bathrooms or other areas, such as the kitchen or outdoors, where there is steam or potential of exposure to moisture.

Wallpaper could be painted over while you can’t paint over wall wrap, since its smooth film finish won’t allow paint to adhere to it adequately. You can’t get the tactile rough texture on wall wrap like you could on wallpaper. 

Wall wrap will stick to ceramic and other slick surfaces, like tile in the shower. While you may be able to coat wallpaper with a custom adhesive to bond to tile, the paper will quickly deteriorate because of the moisture.  

Wallpaper is easier to position on the wall since you are applying it wet, allowing the paper to slide where you want it. While wall wrap is applied dry, the adhesive is sticky and you need to stretch it into place. Although there are some wall wraps, like V-Wrap, that give you the option to wet the surface with water to make installation easier.

You’ll get more shine and light reflection from wall wrap since film will bounce light while wallpaper will tend to absorb it. If you need a softer room, a TV room, for example, wallpaper might be the better choice.  

Removing wall wrap is easier and less complicated than removing wallpaper. Since the wallpaper face is paper, it breaks in sections when pulled from the wall. It separates from the adhesive and you’re left needing to scrape the adhesive from the wall.

Since wall wrap is a film and holds the adhesive securely in place, when pulled from the wall, the adhesive is pulled along with the film. Since wall wrap’s face is film, it does not tear easily and releases complete or in large sections. When removed from painted and surfaces prone to delamination (dry wall, etc), the adhesive will remove the paint.

The ability to custom cut is an advantage that wall wrap has over wallpaper. By the nature of wall paper, if you cut and expose all sides of the wallpaper, you will get frayed edges as the fibers in the wallpaper begin to loosen. Wall wrap will remain with clean edges when cut, to create a tile, for example.

Wallpaper has been around for centuries and wall wrap could be considered an infant, made possible by technology, design, and advances in chemistry. Each has its place, but with the invention of wall wrap, wallcovering could now be expanded into areas where wallpaper could not accomplish satisfactorily.

Related: “Five Reason to Consider Wall Wrapping Your Kitchen & Bathroom Wall Tiles”

Related: 15 kitchen & bathroom wall wrap designs under $500