Wallcovering Tips

When you think of wallcoverings do you have flashbacks to the floral wallpaper in your grandparent's house? If so, perhaps its time to reconsider this maligned form of decoration.

Modern wallcoverings come in an amazing variety of materials such as woven natural hemp, grass, jute and wood, as well as foil, vinyl, polyester and, of course, paper. These products are a relatively simple way to change the look of a room. With wallcoverings, you don't need to be a professional artist to add design and texture to your walls. All you need is some patience and a little courage!

When you visit a home decor store, you will discover thousands of products and designs. Choosing a suitable wallcovering can be an overwhelming task. Below you will find a brief introduction to several different products and some basic tips for hanging wallpaper.

Types of Wallcoverings:

Grasscloth

This handcrafted product is customarily made from arrowroot, a native vine from Korea. Weavers use looms strung vertically with cotton threads. The grass is weaved horizontally through the thread and together the grass and the thread form a tight weave. This material is then glued to a paper backing and left in its natural state or dyed. Grasscloth is versatile; it adds texture and subtle pattern to a wall while complementing a variety of interior designs. This type of wallcovering is not recommended for use in high moisture rooms such as the kitchen and bathroom.

Mylar

Mylar has become the generic term to describe metallic wallpaper, but it is actually the trademark name of a Dupont product. Mylar is a polyester film that is fused with a very thin sheet of metal such as aluminum. Unlike foil wallpapers, Mylar does not tear easily and is durable.

Paper Weave

This type of wallcovering is commonly made in Japan, and is very similar to real grasscloth. However, the weave is actually paper that has been cut into thin strips then twisted and spun into lengths of yarn. This yarn is then woven to resemble grasscloth. Paper weave wallcoverings provide delicate texture to walls and are often less expensive than grasscloth. Paper weave is not recommended for use in high moisture areas.

Hemp

Hemp wallpaper has a coarse fibre structure that resembles grasscloth, but has a much finer weave. The hemp fibres are glued to a paper backing to create the final product. The irregularities in colour and pattern of hemp fibres add to its unique charm, however, take care when applying the wallcovering so that the seams don't show.

Jute Weave

Jute is a strong coarse fibre traditionally used to make burlap. It is commonly produced in India and neighbouring countries. Both the warp (vertical weave) and weft (horizontal weave) of this product may be made entirely from jute or combined with yarn of other fibres. The jute weave is laminated to a paper backing.

Suede

'Suede' wallcoverings are manufactured to resemble leather with a napped surface. Various cloth and paper fibres are used in its manufacture. This product lends a unique look and feel to a wall. Due to the varying fibre content, check with the manufacturer regarding durability in high moisture areas.

Vinyl

Vinyl wallpaper is comprised of a thin flexible vinyl film attached to a paper backing. This product is perfect for high moisture areas and is washable. This product is available in a variety of textures from shiny to matte and designs range from solid to patterned.

Standard Wallpaper

Standard wallpaper is a paper substrate onto which the decorative print is directly applied. A thin vinyl coating is then applied to protect the surface. The vinyl coating does not provide complete protection against grease, moisture, etc. Standard wallpaper is usually the least expensive of all the products listed here. It comes in a wide range of colours and patterns. Embossed wallpapers have a raised texture and tend to be slightly more expensive than regular flat papers.

Applying Wallcoverings

Have you ever spent hours trying to hang wallpaper only to find that the patterns don't line up or you ran out of paper just before you finished?! Although applying wallcoverings can be a challenging experience, the following tips can make your job easier.

  • Calculate how much wallcovering you will need. The first step is to figure out the total wall area. Measure your walls and multiply the width by the height. Divide that total by the square footage (or square metres) of each roll. For example if the wall you plan to cover is 10' wide by 8' high the total square footage is 80'. If each roll is 45 square feet, you would need 1.8 rolls. Round up to two rolls and you may end up using some of the extra to match patterns. If the store will allow you to return unopened rolls, buy one extra just in case.
  • Ensure the wall surface is clean of grease, dust and dirt. A good cleaner is TSP (Trisodium Phosphate). Fill in any dents or picture-framing holes in the wall. Allow the filler to dry then sand to a smooth flat finish.
  • Make sure you have all these tools ready to go before you start: measuring tape, carpenter's square, pail, brush for applying glue, firm flat-edged brush for smoothing out air pockets, gloves, sharp craft knife, pencil and protective drop cloth for the floor.
  • Check the wallcovering for imperfections before you start. As you unroll and check it over from one direction, re-roll it in the opposite direction. Reverse rolling helps to flatten the product, which will make it easier to hang. If part of a roll contains an imperfection you can cut it out in a door or window frame
  • Start on the largest straightest, wall in the room. If you are right-handed, work from left to right and visa versa. Measure the height of the wall where you intend to hang the wallcovering. Because slight imperfections in the construction of walls and ceilings are common, you should take more than one measurement for each cut. Take a measurement approximately every 25 cm.
  • Use the carpenter's square to ensure your cuts are straight. When you have measured a piece and are ready to cut, place the carpenter's square against the edge of the roll. Most rolls are cut precisely so the edge should be a straight line. The other edge of the square should line up with your cut marks giving you a straight line at exactly 90 degrees from the edge.

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