There are two popular reasons for using an out-of-the-ordinary wall covering: Either the wall surface is rough or your taste in decoration dictates something special. In either case, applying specialty coverings can be as easy as applying standard coverings.
Washable, durable, and heavier than regular printed papers, vinyl wall coverings are available in extra-wide rolls that can reduce the number of seams and trims. They are usually more strippable than ordinary papers. Perhaps their greatest value, though, is that vinyl wall coverings can cover up defects that paint or thinner wall coverings can't hide.
Because vinyl is not as fragile as printed paper, you don't have to worry about punctures or ripped edges.
Vinyl wall coverings work best if the seams are butted and rolled. Vinyl will not stick to itself, so if you have to resort to a lap seam you'll need to have some vinyl-to-vinyl adhesive on hand.
Most vinyl-to-wall adhesives come premixed, another advantage over paper and mix-it-yourself wheat pastes.
You can spread the adhesive on the vinyl with a paint roller equipped with a mohair or wool roller cover. Afterward, apply the vinyl strips to the wall as you would any other wall covering, but use a smoothing brush with 3/4-inch bristles, which are shorter and sturdier than the longer-bristled brushes used on paper.
With really heavy-weight vinyl, even a short-bristle brush may not do an adequate job of smoothing. If that's the case, use a straightedge, such as a strip of hardboard or a yardstick.
Smooth three or four vinyl strips on the wall and then go back to make the trims and look for blisters. Puncture blisters with a needle or the tip of a single-edge razor blade and then squeeze out the trapped air or excess adhesive.
Ordinarily, fabric wall coverings are seen more in offices and business settings than in homes, even though they are good at giving texture and imparting a cozy look to walls. Fabric wall covering, which is expensive compared to more common papers, is usually sold by the yard instead of by the roll. But one of its chief advantages is that it's available in 45-, 54-, and 60-inch widths.
Most of the fabric coverings designed to be used on walls are backed with paper. With these you can use either wheat paste or a stainless cellulose paste. Unbacked fabric is far more difficult to deal with and is not recommended, especially for do-it-yourself paperhangers. If you do purchase an unbacked fabric, however, use a powdered vinyl adhesive and brush it on the wall, not on the back of the fabric. No matter which kind of fabric covering you decide to use, be sure to put lining paper on the walls first so you are able to get a good bond between wall and fabric.
Paper-backed fabric can be smoothed either with your hands or with a smoothing brush. Unbacked fabric requires that you trim off the selvages with scissors before pasting the fabric to the wall. Another disadvantage to unbacked fabric is that fabric will often absorb moisture from the adhesive on the wall. The extra weight makes it heavy and gives it a tendency to droop. Moisture also may allow the fabric to stretch, which can be hazardous because as the adhesive dries and the moisture evaporates, the fabric may shrink and seams may open. If possible, pat and smooth the fabric on the wall with your hands, pulling it taut but not out of shape.
Both expensive and delicate, foil wall coverings are often used to add dramatic sparkle to entire rooms, entries, or alcoves. Foil coverings must be carefully applied in order to avoid imparting the wrong kind of drama to a space. Most foil coverings are backed with either paper or fabric and should be used with a vinyl adhesive, since water in wheat paste can't evaporate through the foil.
Install foil wall coverings over a lining paper; because of the reflective surface, foil wall coverings tend to emphasize the tiniest bumps or pockmarks in a wall. Be very careful when you put it up, as it is easy to wrinkle or crease the foil. And instead of a smoothing brush, which may scratch the foil, smooth it on the wall with a sponge or a folded towel. Bond the seams the same way, because it's possible that a wooden seam roller may dent the foil.
Wallpaper can be a great addition to your home, and wall coverings have come a long way from the floral patterns of the 70s. Besides being easier to handle and more rip-resistant, they're also more durable. You now know how to handle a wallpapering project at any stage, from start to finish. It's time to hit the hardware store and start papering.
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