By John Jacob
The design capacity and durability of vinyl wallcoverings
Whether in an office, restaurant, retail shop, or family den, a room’swalls experience constant abuse. While paint and wallpaper areversatile decorating tools and establish a minimum defense, they arenot effective in protecting a room’s interior against the impact ofconstant human traffic. That’sajob for a vinyl wallcovering.The first recorded use of wallcoverings dates back to ancientEgyptian nobles and decorative papyrus. Commercial applications ofpaper wallcoverings most likely didn’tbegin until 14th-centuryGermany,when the invention of the printing press mademanufacturing more cost efficient. Since then, the technology behindwallcoverings has improved to include polyvinyl chloride (PVC)plastic alternatives, which bring durability and ease-of-maintenance tothese once merely decorative products.
Getting what you pay for
At a glance, wallcovering can seem more expensive than paint.However,for commercial spaces and high-traffic areas,wallcoverings clean moreeasily and retain their appearance farlonger, which can make them a better investment.
Depending on the degree of wear and tear,many paint finishesoften endureonly three or four years beforerequiring reapplicationand touch-ups. Vinyl wallcoverings typically last about a decade—ifnot longer—and can be better equipped to sustain abuse. In mostcases, paint inevitably reveals everyding and scratch on a wall, withmarks standing out like rust on a car door. Vinyl is better at hidingsimilar damage as well as common wear and tear.
Not only can vinyl be the most versatile and durable option,vinyl wallcoverings are continually becoming easier to apply,partly due to improvements in wallcover pastes. In fact, vinyl isarguably the easiest wallcovering to hang, available three ways:
a vinyl sheet attached to a paper back
a vinyl sheet attached to a cloth back
vinyl-impregnated cloth attached to a paper back
Selecting for styleVinyl coverings can duplicate the look of more expensive, naturalsurfaces so flawlessly, that it is almost impossible to tell the differencebetween them. With such a wide array of covering options to choosefrom, it is important to select a color suitable for its environment.Generally, darker or more neutral colors diminish visible wear in high-traffic areas, while lighter hues—though more susceptible to aging—tend to brighten a room. Although patterned coverings can be morechallenging to install than in solid colors, they can be ideal for agingbuildings or spaces with dent-riddled walls, wheresoft but distinctdesign successfully masks unsightly marks.
When installed with a tight seam, vinyl creates a nearlyimpermeable seal against moisture, protecting walls from splashes orspills. This makes them especially well-suited for bathrooms, kitchenareas, and healthcarefacilities. The surface of vinyl wallcoverings canalso hold up to washing and thorough scrubbing, which helps controlgerms and bacteria.
Installation and repair
Prior to installation of the wallcovering, have substrates such asgypsum wallboardprimed properly so that any futureremoval doesnot damage the walls. Vinyl wallcoverings are installed to last andsustain damage, which can make their removal more challengingthan that of paper or paint products. For a remodel, it is importantfor wallcoverings to be installed beforethe wall has sustained toomuch damage. Preparation and application can become moredifficult on an older wall that has built up dirt and grime,compromising the effectiveness of the wallcovering paste. In suchcases, select an installer who values the importance of surface prep.Routine maintenance will let vinyl sustain its original beautyand live up to its full potential. Washing the walls regularly helpskeep wallcoverings looking fresh for years, outlasting virtuallyany paint job.
John Jacob is the commercial sales manager for Hester CommercialPainting, a division of Hester Decorating Co. He attended Chicago,Illinois’ Washburne Trade School, where he was a NationalWallcovering Panel Contest winner.