Wallcoverings can be used in virtually any residential or contract environment. Since there are many different types of wallcoverings on the market—some for very specific uses—it is important to understand the qualities of each type and in what type of environment the wallcoverings will be used.
- When selecting wallcoverings the first variable to consider is the amount of traffic the area will receive.
- Paper and natural wallcoverings are most appropriate where traffic is minimal. They are more delicate than their vinyl counterparts yet offer ample durability and a special style to a variety of placements.
- Vinyl and synthetic textiles, with their maximum durability and ease of cleaning, are especially appropriate for hospitals, sporting arenas, schools and other high traffic situations.
- While wallcoverings are categorized by residential and contract segments, it is not uncommon to use residential wallcoverings in contract settings, like assisted living facilities for a homey feel, for instance, or to use contract wallcoverings in some of today’s more avant-garde homes.
Contract wallcoverings are produced specifically for use in hotels, apartment buildings, office buildings, retail outlets, schools and hospitals. They are manufactured to meet or surpass minimum physical and performance characteristics set forth in Federal Specifications CCC-W-408.
The most popular types of wallcoverings for contract installations are as follows:
- Vinyl Coated Paper – wallcoverings that have a paper substrate on which the decorative surface has been sprayed or coated with an acrylic type vinyl or polyvinyl chloride (PVC).
- Paper Backed Vinyl/Solid Sheet Vinyl – wallcoverings that have a paper (pulp) substrate laminated to a solid decorative surface. These types of wallcoverings are very durable since the decorative surface is a solid sheet of vinyl. They are classified as scrubbable and peelable.
- Fabric Backed Vinyl – wallcoverings that have a woven substrate of fabric or a nonwoven synthetic substrate. In either case, the substrate is laminated to a solid vinyl decorative surface.
General categories of these types of wallcoverings include:
- Type I (Light Duty) – is designed to be used in areas of light to moderate traffic. Typically the weight is between 12 and 19 ounces per linear yard.
- Type II (Medium/Heavy Duty) – is for use in high traffic areas, such as corridors, public spaces, schools, etc. Typically the weight in this category will be between 20 and 28 ounces per linear yard.
- Type III - is for use in most heavily traffic areas where greater wall protection is needed. Typically the weight in this category will be between 33 and 36 ounces per linear yard.
A special category of wallcoverings is used in highly specialized circumstances or for areas of light traffic. Many of these types of wallcoverings have been replaced by vinyl wallcoverings that simulate the same look with greater durability. Nonetheless, many of the types of wallcoverings outlined below have historical importance, and can be produced by specialty manufacturers or custom firms. They are highly decorative, and appropriate for use in any contract area where a dramatic look is desired.
- String Effects – wallcoverings that have very fine vertical threads laminated to a papertype substrate. Most suitable for offices, boardrooms and areas of light traffic.
- Natural Textile Wallcoverings – natural textiles usually laminated to a backing to enhance dimensional stability and to prevent the adhesive from coming through to the surface. These backings are usually acrylic or paper. Textiles are manufactured in a variety of widths and are constructed of natural fibers. Natural textiles can be finely designed or coarse in texture depending on the desired look.
- Polyolefin/Synthetic Textile Wallcoverings – woven and non-woven looking wallcoverings developed to give the aesthetic appearance of a natural textile while adding an increased value in stain and abrasion resistance. These products are generally put up with an acrylic or paper backing. Many of these products are comprised of polyolefin yarns, which are olefin fibers made from polymers or copolymers of propylene. These types of wallcoverings are appropriate for higher traffic areas.
- Acoustical Wallcoverings – designed for use on vertical surfaces, panels, operable walls and any place sound reduction is a primary factor such as meeting rooms, offices, theaters, auditoriums, restaurants as well as corridors and elevator lobbies. These products are predominantly made of man-made polyester and olefin fibers, and are tested for a special sound absorption rating known as a Noise Reduction Coefficient (NCR) rating. This rating indicates the amount of sound absorbed into the wall. The higher the number, the more noise absorption.
- Cork and Cork Veneer – with variegated texture with no definite pattern or design. Cork veneer is shaved from cork planks or blocks and laminated to a substrate that may be colored or plain. Offers some degree of sound resistance; can be used as bulletin boards.
- Digital Wallcovering – Borders, Murals, and Wallcovering. Unlimited supplies of designs, ideas, and colors. Digital Wallcoverings allows the person the freedom to express any theme, style or design on a ground of their choice.
- Wood Veneer – wood wallcoverings mostly laminated to fabric backing. They are usually made in sheets 18 to 24 inches wide and provided in any length up to 144 inches long. Due to characteristics relative to environmental and grain matching, wood veneers are used mostly in the office or conference room environment along with some other specialty areas, such as large columns.
- Foils – a thin sheet of metallic material with a paper or fabric substrate. Popular in the 1960s and 70s. Require a very smooth surface and extreme care when installing. Usage is limited; highly decorative.
- Mylar (by DuPont) – wallcoverings ground made of vacuum-metallized polyester film laminated to a substrate. Offers a highly reflective surface with an appearance similar to foil with less stiffness.
- Flocks – resemble cut velvet and very popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. Also popular in the 1970s. Produced by laminated shredded fibers to paper, vinyl, Mylar or foil. Highly decorative, period wallcoverings; limited abrasion resistance. For use in low traffic areas.
- Underliner – blank stock-type wallcoverings. Comes in different weights such as light, medium and heavy. Can be plain paper stock or a non-woven type material. Liner can be used on almost any wall surface, such as plaster, sheetrock (drywall), paneling and cinder block. Its purpose is to provide a smooth surface for the installation of wallcoverings.
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