Grounds and Substrates


There are many different grounds and substrates used to make wallcoverings. The combinations or constructions of these various materials provide the individual characteristics typical in each type of wallcoverings (degrees of strength or durability, scrubbability, washability, stain resistance, abrasion resistance, colorfastness, etc). The specific qualities of an individual wallcoverings product will be listed on the label, bolt, or sample book.

Most wallcoverings consist of three layers, each of which performs an important function.

This section outlines what those layers are and how they add to the performance of the product.

Starting from the surface of the wallcoverings and working to the back, the layers are:

  • The Decorative Layer – The thinnest layer in most cases, this is comprised of the inks applied to the top of the intermediate layer. This decorative layer supplies the "look” of the product and is normally the major reason wallcoverings are chosen. The decorative layer may also have a protective polymer coating to provide added performance characteristics.
  • The Intermediate Layer – This layer, also called the ground, provides the surface upon which the decorative layer (ink) is printed. It also provides the background color that, while often off-white, can be any color depending upon the design. This layer can range in thickness from less than one mil to as much as 10 mils as in heavier-weight, "solid-vinyl" products. Note that a mil is 1/1000 of an inch.
  • The Third Layer – The substrate or backing is the portion of the wallcoverings that goes against the wall. The surface of wallcoverings products usually commands the majority of attention paid to wallcoverings, but the backing of these products is just as important from a functional value. This backing can be of a wide variety of materials ranging from woven and non-woven fabrics to lightweight paper products.

The various types of backings are:

  • Paper Backings – used on paper-backed vinyls, vinyl coated papers and specialty products.
  • Woven Fabric Backings – commonly referred to as scrim or osnaburg. Scrim is used mostly in light construction areas while osnaburg is installed in medium to heavy usage areas such as commercial corridors.
  • Non-woven Fabric Backings – in different grades these offer improved printing techniques while maintaining the tear strength qualities necessary for commercial installations.
  • Latex Acrylic Backings – used on fabric wallcoverings to allow for stability and improved hanging qualities.


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