This article helps you choose a wall finish for your project. It applies to all sorts of rooms, from bedrooms to kitchens/bathrooms. It’s important to understand that there’s no such thing as a perfect solution for your walls, each option has its own advantages/disadvantages; understanding these advantages/disadvantages will help you make an educated decision in regards to what is best for your circumstances.
⚪ Different colours
⚪ Options for gloss/matt/mould resistant versions
⚪ Not suitable for all areas
⚪ Requires regular maintenance over the years
This is probably the least expensive option. Depending on the area you’re using it, you can get it in different colours and in different options (like satin/gloss/mould resistant and so on).
Your project most likely it’s going to have the ceiling painted or skimmed & painted. For bathrooms & kitchens, this is not always the case, since you could get UPVC panels instead for the ceiling. UPVC panels are great because they are easy to maintain and you don’t have to repaint in the future. The cost is also similar to skimming/painting.
If the walls/ceilings are in a bad shape, skimming won’t be enough to cover any defects and you might need some plastering as well.
If you want to buy the paint yourself, try buying a good quality one. You have options from Dulux, Valspar or even Farrow & Ball. While these paints might be expensive compared to cheaper options, it’s just a small fraction of the total costs and not worth the savings going with cheaper versions. Most of the brands mentioned here can be found in DIY shops like B&Q, Screwfix, Toolstation and others.
For our larger projects, we use an airless spray machine. This gives the best finish you could get. The disadvantage is that setting up the machine takes a lot of time so we only use this for large projects (at least a large room to paint).
⚪ Relatively inexpensive
⚪ Can create a great look
⚪ Unlimited options for customisation (including personal photos)
⚪ Not suitable for all areas
⚪ Somehow obsolete
Wallpaper is not as popular as it used to be, but it’s definitely still widely used. It can be bought in a wide variety of options and it’s can really change the aspect of a room.
There’s a reason why wallpaper was much more popular in the past. Old buildings have a lot of structural movement and if you simply have the walls plastered/skimmed, cracks will appear. Wallpaper is relatively elastic and concealer this cracks; sometimes you find walls/ceiling papered instead for the same reason.
While you can still find this in DIY stores, the variety is much larger on the internet. Places like the World of Wallpaper have thousands of options in stock.
There are even options for waterproof wallpaper. Westone Bathrooms sells some nice waterproof wallpaper. Although their website show wallpaper used inside the shower area, we don’t recommend using it there. Finally, you can even print a photo on a wallpaper using CustomWallpaperPrinting.co.uk .
⚪ The most popular option
⚪ Relatively inexpensive
⚪ Easy/quick to fit
⚪ Almost seamless joints & maintenance free
⚪ Large format (1000×2400)
⚪ Sharp objects can break them
⚪ They have a non-textured surface
There are many UPVC panels you could choose from. We use only one type, the 10mm version; you could find as thin as 5mm, but we won’t fit those since they are too fragile. UPVC panels are very popular these days, especially for wet areas since they are completely waterproof. They are not very expensive and easier to fit compared to other options. They are also tongue & groove, which allows for an almost seamless design, without the need of regrouting or other maintenance.
Their main weakness is that they have a honeycomb design. This means that they are strong enough to use as a panel, but a sharp object (including a very sharp shampoo corner for example) might damage it. We had a single customer so far that managed to break a panel, but it’s possible.
Many times we use Ceiling2Floor to supply our panels, you might want to visit one of their showrooms and check their range.
⚪ Stronger than UPVC panels
⚪ Tongue & Groove (optional) for a seamless look
⚪ A lot of design options
⚪ Deep scratches could destroy the panels
⚪ Harder to fit compared to UPVC panels
Another option, considerable more expensive are plywood panels. This is similarly constructed to your kitchen worktop, has a layer of plywood and some melamine on top. There’s also an MDF option, but we consider the plywood ones much better since they are stronger and more suitable for wet areas.
They can come in tongue & groove option as well, at an extra cost. Their main disadvantages are that, if melamine is scratched, slowly the plywood would rot. It is much stronger than UPVC panels, but not as waterproof; plywood panels are better than MDF panels for things like scratches since plywood is more resistant to moisture, but not completely waterproof.
Another advantage for panels is that they can come with a textured surface. This gives a better feeling for touching the area, it looks a lot like a wallpaper.
Compared to UPVC panels, plywood & MDF panels are custom built. This means that they can offer a lot of options for panels, but they are not readily available to buy. It takes at least one week to manufacture. Our usual supplier is NuStyle in Aberdeen; if you look online you might see their products under Perform Panel branding. There are some other suppliers producing MDF bathroom boards, but as far as we know they are the only ones selling plywood panels nationwide (they might be sold under a different name, but they are the same ply panels)
⚪ Very strong
⚪ Looks like a quality finish
⚪ Comes in very large formats nowadays if you want
⚪ Some of them can be inexpensive
⚪ You’ll have some grout, no matter how large the tile format is
⚪ The labour is more expensive
⚪ Not waterproof on their own
Similar to what we said in our flooring post, tiles have been around for thousand of years. A good quality tile can offer one of the best finishes you could get in a bathroom. Nowadays you can get tiles in very large format (2700×1000), which are basically from the floor to the ceiling.
Tiles are not perfectly straight, but there are nowadays tools that allow us to ‘bend’ the tiles a few mm to align with the other tiles. This is really important especially with large format tiles, which are actually slightly flexible by a few mm.
They come in multiple options: ceramic (the most affordable), porcelain (better strength), travertine (quite soft, but great in certain areas), quartz and granite (extremely strong, suited for heavy commercial applications). There are some options for marble tiles as well, but they can stain quite easily.
Our preferences are for very large format tiles. This means that you have very little grout. Ceramic tiles differ slightly in size between tiles meaning that you have to use larger grout space to hide this, but with other tiles, you can use a small grout area.
If you take a supply & fit and quote from us, we’ll use CTD tiles as our tile dealer. Of course, you can choose different tile suppliers like Topp Tiles . They both have branches throughout the UK so you can see some of their ranges. If you want to order online, then you can try places like TotalTiles; online prices are slightly better, but you have into account that you must order a certain quantity in order to qualify for free delivery, otherwise, you’re better off buying from a local tile dealer. If you choose the online option, order samples before ordering the full amount!
When looking for tiles, have this items in mind:
- Ideally, you should only look for rectified tiles
- PEI rating: Measure the hardness/durability
- Thickness, generally the quality ones are 8mm or 10mm thick at least.
The above won’t apply to glass tiles or mosaic border. The glass tiles tend to be used as a feature wall or a few design patterns inside the bathroom. Of course, you could use these in the whole bathroom, but the labour & material costs are very expensive. We fitted mosaic tiles in the past that cost over £400 per square meter! Mosaic tiles are sometimes used for flooring when it comes to wetrooms (since it’s easier to arrange the mosaic tiles rather than cut the tiles for a wetroom) or for non-slippery properties. If you go to your local pool, you’ll probably see that the shower area has mosaic tiles on the floor; the non-slippery part comes from the fact that it has a lot of grout area).
One more option for tiles is the custom printed tiles. For example, TileFire.co.uk have options for custom printed tiles which are amazing.
The prices also range significantly, they can be very inexpensive or very-very expensive.
We are a little bit biased towards tiles since this offers the most ‘quality feel’, but in some cases, you simply can’t use tiles.
⚪ Very strong, probably the strongest option you could get
⚪ Comes in custom sizes, up to 3000×2000!
⚪ No grout
⚪ Completely waterproof
⚪ Single colors
⚪ Can be very expensive
This is another option if you’re interested in single colours. The acrylic panels tend to imitate glass, but you can also get options for mirrored ones or metallic effect. They are used in the construction industry for a variety of purposes, including roofs, signs and others. It might not be that expensive if you only have them in a shower enclosure for example, a feature wall or above the kitchen worktop; if you want them in the whole bathroom, prepare to spend considerably.
The thickness can vary greatly, for a kitchen splashback you won’t need more than 5-6mm thickness, which is relatively affordable since you don’t need a lot of it. But for other applications, you might need other thicknesses which can increase the costs significantly.
For example, a 10mm coloured acrylic sheet starts from £160 /square meter. You can check Simply Plastics that have some option for acrylic panels. For example, the frosted glass look starts from £260 / square meter, which can really add up for a large area.