EXPERT GUIDE TO WALLCOVERINGS

True wallpapers – pure paper with a printed design – are probably the wallcoverings with which most people are familiar, but there are wallcoverings made of other materials as well, such as plastics and woven fabrics.

There are wallcoverings which are particularly good at covering up uneven surfaces or at coping in areas where they are likely to be subject to damp conditions. Some are ideal for places round the house where they will have to put up with heavy wear; others are more fragile and are best used purely for decorative effect.

Surface printed papers are among the least expensive wallpapers. They are colourfast. And can be printed in up to 20 colours in any one design. Thinner types need careful hanging to avoid them being overstretched and then tearing. They can usually be lightly wiped when dirty but must not be washed, so don’t use them on walls which are subject to wear. Hand-printed wallpapers are much more expensive. They are sold in a variety of roll widths and lengths and usually the side edges need trimming to match patterns. Cross-lining is also recommended. Don’t hang these where there is steam or condensation.

Washable wallpapers come in two types. The first is really just printed wallpaper that has been given a clear protective coating of polyvinyl acetate (PVA). The second is printed with water-resistant inks. Both types come in standard sized rolls and are ideal in rooms where a washable wall surface is required.

Washable wallpapers should not be scrubbed, or rubbed too hard or you’ll break through the coating. Coated washable papers can be difficult to remove – you need to score the surface before soaking and stripping.

• To clean a non-washable paper make a firm dough of flour and water and a few drops of detergent. Stroke the wall with wide, even movements, turning the dough to expose clean parts as it becomes dirty. Smallish marks can be rubbed off with a slice of white bread.

– When buying wallcoverings check the batch number to make sure the rolls come from the same printing to avoid a mis-match.

– Flocks and other fabric effects should be gently cleaned with the dusting or upholstery attachment of a vacuum cleaner. ‘Whites’ or relief wallpapers are made from thicker paper (Anaglypta and other paper-based types) or from cotton fibres (Supaglypta), and once hung are intended to be painted over with emulsion or resin-based paints. The surface is embossed to give a textured finish ranging from a random linen weave to repeating sculptured reliefs. Because the texture disguises lumps and bumps, they are ideal for use on poor surfaces, on both walls and ceilings. They’re all sold in standard-sized rolls.

They are suitable for areas that need regular wiping, but heavily embossed types will be damaged by heavy wear. The decoration can be changed by a new coat of paint. However, once overpainted, this kind of wallcovering can be hard to strip.

Ingrain or woodchip wallpapers are plain papers with a textured oatmeal surface made by impregnating the paper pulp with woodchips and sawdust during manufacture. Roll sizes are usually standard, although double-length (20.1 metres/22yd) rolls are made by some manufacturers. They are painted over like the relief papers previously described, and are ideal for use on walls in reasonable condition.

Flock wallcoverings are made by sticking the pile of silk, wool or synthetic fibres to a paper backing so the pile stands out in relief, forming a pattern. Colours are usually limited to tone-on-tone effects, though sometimes two or three colours are used. Ordinary flock papers can be difficult to hang since care must be taken to avoid getting paste on the front, but with vinyl flocks this is no longer a problem. Rolls of all three types are standard-sized.

Paper flocks should only be used on areas which don’t get much wear, condensation or dust but vinyl flocks can be hung almost anywhere as they are tough and washable.

Foil wallcoverings are made by fusing a metallized plastic film onto a paper backing giving a shiny, reflective surface. Rolls are standard-sized.

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