The use of wallpaper or wall coverings can be dated back as far as 200 B.C. Where it is thought the Chinese (who are traditionally credited with the invention of paper) glued rice paper to their walls. It is believed that papermaking appeared around Europe in the 12th Century with wallpaper being used in Europe shortly after.
Through the 17th century and onwards wall coverings became much more decorative with designers exploring new patterns and textures. Technologies and production techniques continued to improve including advancements in machine printing in the mid-19th century.
After WWII plastic resins such as vinyl were introduced which brought durability and strength to the wall coverings market. Companies also started to produce pre-pasted and pre-trimmed coverings to cater to the DIY market that was increasing in popularity.
Fast forward to today and domestic and commercial wall coverings are more popular than ever, and designs are almost limitless.
Advantages of Commercial Wallcoverings
Vinyl wallcoverings provide several practical and aesthetic advantages over paint:
Whilst paint is an easy to apply and somewhat durable option, when it comes to high traffic commercial spaces, something tougher is needed. Vinyl wallcoverings are more than capable of providing the defence required against the hustle and bustle of a busy office space. When cared for correctly they can last up to 10 years or longer before they require replacing, where as paint could last less than half that time before needing to be touched up or completely reapplied. Paint will also show marks and dings much more prominently where as vinyl, especially darker and patterned options do a great job of hiding wear and tear.
Although wall coverings should require very little maintenance, if they do require a clean it is as simple as wiping down the wall with a mild detergent to remove any moisture, grease and marks and return the covering back to its original glory. This should only need to be done a couple of times a year. Because of the properties of vinyl stains do not soak into the material as they would with domestic wallpaper.
One of the biggest advantages of choosing commercial wall coverings are the seemingly limitless design options. From stock manufacturer designs to custom prints. If pattern and colour doesn’t present enough choice then customers can also choose from textures as well, mimicking almost any material be it stone, wood or fabric.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to choosing the perfect wall covering for a space. Location and traffic are key. High traffic areas may encourage the use of darker colours as they tend to mask marks and general wear and tear more effectively. Lighter colours are a better choice for quieter areas and have the advantage of brightening a room.
Patterns, whilst tougher to install can help to hide imperfections in walls as any dents or bumps tend to be absorbed by the design.
The freedom of wall coverings allows companies to take their branding to the next level by incorporating brand colours, logos, slogans and portfolio pieces into the office itself or even add functionality to walls with coverings that double as white boards.
With the developments seen in digital printing there are even more striking, detailed designs to choose from than ever before.
There are different types of commercial wall coverings available. Whilst vinyl is the most popular choice, types of wall covering range from cork veneer to a Polyolefin covering which has a woven textile appearance. There are 4 main types of vinyl wall covering that are commonly used.
- Vinyl coated paper – Commonly used in domestic scenarios, whilst durable and resistant when compared to regular wallpaper, this form of vinyl is not suited for commercial applications as it struggles with long term exposure to moisture and wear and tear.
- Paper backed vinyl – Coated with vinyl plastisol, paper backed vinyl is thicker and provides greater durability withstanding stains, grease and moisture to a much greater extent than its coated paper cousin. This type of vinyl will survive in most residential and commercial scenarios but will not stand up to consistent abuse.
- Fabric backed vinyl – There are 3 types of fabric backed vinyl that are rated for difference commercial applications. Type 1 is for lightly travelled areas, suitable for guest rooms in hotels and low traffic office buildings. Type 2 is recommended for heavy traffic areas such as lounges, foyers, classrooms and corridors. Finally, there is type 3 which is rated as being suitable for heavy traffic in the form of moveable equipment or abrasive contact such as hospital rooms and corridors, storage rooms and food service areas.
Rigid vinyl sheet – This final type of vinyl covering is a solid sheet that doesn’t have any kind of backing and is applied using special adhesive. This type of covering is usually used where the potential for high impacts is an issue.
Whilst the initial cost for wall coverings does outweigh the cost of paint the longevity of vinyl will over time prove more economical as walls need repainting 2, 3 maybe 4 times before any vinyl may need replacing. The reduction in maintenance may be worth the additional up-front cost on its own.
Increasingly interior designers and specifiers are turning towards wall coverings to solve their design needs. Especially in the commercial space where company branding should be a constant consideration. Wall coverings can take the idea of company identity a step further and embed it into the building itself so that when visitors leave they not only leave with a memorable impression of the company and its services but also of its office.
By Andrew Mairs – Marketing Executive