Classic Vinyl

The design capacity and durability of vinyl wallcoverings

Whether in an office, restaurant, retail shop, or family den, a room’s walls experience constant abuse. While paint and wallpaper are versatile decorating tools and establish a minimum defense, they are not effective in protecting a room’s interior against the impact of constant human traffic. That’sajob for a vinyl wallcovering.The first recorded use of wallcoverings dates back to ancientEgyptian nobles and decorative papyrus. Commercial applications of paper wallcoverings most likely didn’t begin until 14th-centuryGermany,when the invention of the printing press made manufacturing more cost efficient. Since then, the technology behind wallcoverings has improved to include polyvinyl chloride (PVC)plastic alternatives, which bring durability and ease-of-maintenance to these 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 more easily and retain their appearance far longer, which can make them a better investment.

Depending on the degree of wear and tear, many paint finishes often endure only three or four years before requiring reapplication and touch-ups. Vinyl wallcoverings typically last about a decade—ifnot longer—and can be better equipped to sustain abuse. In most cases, paint inevitably reveals every ding and scratch on a wall, with marks standing out like rust on a car door. Vinyl is better at hiding similar 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 is arguably the easiest wallcovering to hang, available three ways:

a vinyl sheet attached to a paperback
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, natural surfaces so flawlessly, that it is almost impossible to tell the difference between them. With such a wide array of covering options to choose from, 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 more challenging to install than in solid colors, they can be ideal for aging buildings or spaces with dent-riddled walls, where soft but distinct design successfully masks unsightly marks.

When installed with a tight seam, vinyl creates a nearly impermeable seal against moisture, protecting walls from splashes or spills. This makes them especially well-suited for bathrooms, kitchen areas, and healthcare facilities. The surface of vinyl wallcoverings can also hold up to washing and thorough scrubbing, which helps control germs and bacteria.

Installation and repair
Prior to installation of the wallcovering, have substrates such as gypsum wallboard primed properly so that any future removal does not damage the walls. Vinyl wallcoverings are installed to last and sustain damage, which can make their removal more challenging than that of paper or paint products. For a remodel, it is important for wallcoverings to be installed before the wall has sustained too much damage. Preparation and application can become more difficult on an older wall that has built up dirt and grime,compromising the effectiveness of the wallcovering paste. In such cases, select an installer who values the importance of surface prep.Routine maintenance will let vinyl sustain its original beauty and live up to its full potential. Washing the walls regularly helps keep wallcoverings looking fresh for years, outlasting virtually any paint job.

About the Author

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.