March 6, 2022

How to Choose Durable Wall Coverings: Your Complete Guide

Wall coverings can add color and warmth to your home, but they can also protect your walls and stand up against heavy use in highly trafficked areas. If you’re updating your home this season, you may be looking for durable wall coverings.

Let’s take a closer look at your options, how to care for your walls and which types are best for your budget.

Types of Wall Coverings

There are several types of wall coverings, some more durable than others or less expensive. 

Durable Wall Coverings for Entryway Walls

Your home’s entryway is one of the most trafficked areas of your house. Depending on the size of your family, you may have people in and out all day. Along with everything you track into the house, you have people touching the walls and everything else.

To keep your entryway looking its best, it’s worth the time and investment to install durable wall coverings. Not only will it be easier to keep clean, but you won’t have to worry about replacing it every few years. 

Faux Stone


A faux stone wall will add texture, character and durability to entryway walls. They look and may even feel like stone, but they’re made from cement and other natural materials. 

You can find panels, veneers and columns in a wide range of colors and styles that make it easy to install faux stone inside of your home. 

Wall Tile


Tile is an unconventional option for entryway walls, but it’s a durable one that’s especially great for mud rooms. The only gripe with tile is that it can be cold and unwelcoming if you choose the wrong colors or go overboard.

Here are some tips to help you avoid these mistakes:

  • Rather than tiling the whole wall, try focusing on the bottom third – the areas that see the most traffic. Take the same approach as you would installing wainscoting or beadboard.
  • Choose a bright, fun color to warm up the space, like cerulean blue.
  • If you prefer neutral colors, consider warmer tones like a light beige or warm gray to make your space feel welcoming.

Although durable, tiling a wall can be expensive and labor-intensive. The end result can be impressive, but keep this in mind before you dive into this project.

Wainscoting, Beadboard or Shiplap


Wainscoting, beadboard or shiplap can add a touch of elegance to your home while protecting your entryway walls. 

Traditionally, beadboard and wainscoting are installed along the bottom third of the walls. Shiplap, on the other hand, typically covers the entire wall or two thirds of the wall.

White is the traditional choice for these panels, but you can choose any color you please. 

While you can build your own wainscoting, beadboard or shiplap, panels will make the job easier. Just cut them to your desired length, and install. You can also find peel-and-stick shiplap and beadboard for an even easier install, but these may not be as durable as their wood counterpart.



Wallpaper is a highly durable option for wall covering. Although time-consuming to install, it’s a simple way to add color and interest to a room while protecting your walls. 

There are so many styles and options available, from solid colors to floral patterns, geometric shapes and more. You also have eco-friendly options available.

Wallpaper can be made from:

  • Vinyl
  • Non-woven (a vinyl-free option)
  • Easy-walls, which are VOC- and PVC-free
  • Grasscloth
  • Bamboo 

Keep in mind that your color and design options may be more limited with non-vinyl wallpaper, but they’re generally more environmentally friendly and less harmful to your indoor air quality.

Inexpensive Wall Covering Ideas 

If you’re on a tighter budget, there are plenty of inexpensive wall covering ideas that can transform your space without breaking the bank.



Paint is a tried-and-true wall covering. It’s inexpensive and can instantly transform the look and feel of a space. For example:

  • A fresh coat of paint can cover up imperfections or make a space feel larger. 
  • Painting an accent wall can add a splash of color to brighten up the room.
  • Sponge painting can add texture and turn your wall into a work of art.

The great thing about paint is that it isn’t permanent. If you’re not happy with the color, just choose a different one and get to work. Other types of wall coverings are more labour-intensive to install and remove. 

Still, paint will likely set you back $50-$100 or more, depending on the size of the space. So, make sure that you’re choosing a color you love. 

Grab some paint samples and see how they look. Many paint manufacturers also offer color visualizer apps that let you “try on” colors using augmented reality. While they can give you an idea of how a color will look, they can’t compete with actual paint. So, use these for brainstorming, and stick to real paint samples when narrowing down your final options.

Peel-and-Stick Wallpaper


Want the look of beadboard, wainscoting or shiplap without the hassle and expense of using real wood? Use peel-and-stick wallpaper. You can find options or all three of these types of wood paneling as well as:

  • Wood planks
  • Stone
  • Tile
  • Artistic patterns
  • Floral designs
  • Geometric shapes
  • Concrete
  • Reclaimed wood
  • Fabric, and more

On top of adding beauty and interest to your space, peel-and-stick wallpaper will add an extra layer of protection to your walls. They’re an excellent option for high-traffic areas, like children’s rooms, the kitchen and foyer.

Vinyl Wall Decals


If you love the idea of a mural wall or just want to spruce up a bare wall, vinyl wall decals are a great option. They’re easy to install, inexpensive, and you find a wide array of design options, including:

  • Full murals depicting nature or whimsical designs
  • Quotes
  • Geometric shapes and patterns
  • Half-wall designs, like branches of a tree extended from the top of the wall towards the floor

You can also purchase multiple small decals and arrange them in a pattern-like way to create a look that’s similar to wallpaper. 

Cork Panels


If you love the look of wood panels or want to create a usable wall, cork panels are an affordable option. They’re relatively easy to install yourself, and they can be cut to your desired shape.

Cork panels come in a range of colors, patterns and textures. They’re lightweight, durable and eco-friendly, too. 



When you think of wall coverings, fabric may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but it can be just as beautiful as wallpaper without the high cost. 

Fabric can usually be purchased in bulk for a lower price. You can experiment with different textures and patterns, too. 

Best of all, fabric couldn't be easier to install. All you need is some laundry starch. If you want to remove your wall covering in the future, you can do so without damaging the walls.

Fabric is a breeze to work with, but select your patterns carefully. For example, if you choose a large pattern, you’ll need to take the time to line everything up to create a seamless look.

Gallery Wall

If you don’t want to be bothered with paint, wallpaper or other types of conventional wall coverings, a gallery wall may be a good fit for you. 

A gallery wall is a great way to show off your collection of photos and works of art. Display them in frames with similar colors and styles to bring everything together and create a sense of balance. 

How to Clean and Maintain Your Wall Coverings

Once you’ve chosen and installed your wall covering, you’ll need to clean and maintain it to keep it looking its best. Your cleaning and maintenance routine will depend on the type of wall covering you’ve installed. 

How to Clean Wallpaper

Vinyl wallpaper is easy to clean and maintain. All you need is a little soap and water to get the job done. Be gentle and use a clean cloth to dry any areas that you’ve wiped down.

For stubborn stains, use a mixture of 1 cup of water and 1/2 cup of white vinegar. Sponge the solution onto soiled areas and towel dry when you’re done.

How to Clean Paint

Paint can be either be tricky to clean or an absolute breeze. It all depends on your paint’s finish.

  • Paints with a matte finish are notoriously difficult to clean.
  • Paints with a glossy finish are much easier to clean and maintain.

Semi-gloss and high-gloss paints can typically be cleaned with a damp sponge or cloth. For more stubborn stains, use a mild soap or a paste of baking soda and water.

For flat, satin or eggshell finishes:

  • Avoid using degreasers or harsh chemicals when cleaning.
  • Avoid scrubbing too hard, as you’ll strip the paint.
  • Use a sponge that’s barely damp to remove spots.

It’s important to be gentle when cleaning any type of paint. Don’t scrub too hard and use a microfiber cloth whenever possible.

How to Clean Wainscoting, Beadboard and Shiplap

Wainscoting, shiplap and beadboard are all easy to clean. 

  • For unfinished wood, use a damp cloth (microfiber is preferred) to wipe away dirt and grime.
  • For finished wood, use a mixture of vinegar and water to remove stains.

Use a clean microfiber cloth to remove surface dust in between cleanings.

How to Clean Cork

Like any other wall covering, cork should be cleaned regularly to keep it looking its best. 

Here are a few do’s and don'ts when cleaning cork:

  • Don't use solvents or abrasive cleaners.
  • Do use a lightly dampened clean cloth to wipe down your walls.
  • Do use soap or diluted vinegar on stubborn stains.
  • Don’t allow cork walls to sit in direct sunlight.

Sun exposure can make cork brittle and lighten its color over time. If you want to maintain its rich color, use curtains or blinds to protect your cork walls from the sun’s damaging rays.

How to Clean Tile

Tile is highly durable and easy to clean, but it’s important to be consistent and diligent to keep the grout from becoming discolored and unsightly.

To keep your tile clean and shiny:

  • Use a mixture of warm water, soap and vinegar. Only add a small amount of soap (half a tablespoon or less) to the mix. Too much soap will leave a filmy residue.
  • Use a clean sponge to clean your walls. 
  • Pat dry with a towel.

If you notice that the grout is looking dull, dingy or dirty, use a grout brush and a mixture of vinegar and baking soda to restore its color.

How to Clean Fabric Wall Coverings

Fabric walls can be a little tricky to clean, but weekly maintenance will keep you from having to perform regular deep cleanings.

To keep your wall fabric looking great:

  • Vacuum regularly – at least once a week.
  • Dust corners and along the top and bottom of the wall. 
  • For spots or stains, blot the soiled area with a clean cloth and soap and water. Pat dry with a clean towel. 

Be gentle and take your time when cleaning your fabric.

Which Options are Most Expensive or Inexpensive?

Budget will be a determining factor in which wall covering you choose. Some wall coverings are more economical than others. 

Of all the types of wall coverings we’ve shared, which ones are the most expensive, and which ones are the most affordable?

Most Expensive Options

  • Tile ($1-$20/sqft)
  • Wallpaper ($25-$50/sqft)
  • Faux stone ($5-$10.75/sqft)
  • Wainscoting ($7-$40/sqft)

Least Expensive Options

  • Peel-and-stick wallpaper ($2-$5/sqft)
  • Cork ($8.99-$11/sqft)
  • Paint ($2.20/sqft)
  • Beadboard ($0.50-$1/sqft)
  • Shiplap ($2.50-$7/sqft)

While cost is an obvious concern, it’s also important to consider quality, your personal taste and how much durability you really need. It’s often worth the extra cost to invest in higher-quality wall coverings because they don’t need to be repaired or replaced often.

Additionally, consider maintenance and cleaning. If you have a busy schedule, coverings that are easy to clean will save you time and frustration. 

Take your time when choosing your new wall covering. If you can, get samples and compare your options to see which ones best fit you and your family. Even with inexpensive options, buying and installing wall coverings is an investment, so make sure you get it right.

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An interior design professional with a Master's degree in Architecture and 14 years of practical experience.
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