What kind of wallcovering adhesive should I use?

There are many types of wallcovering adhesives, each formulated for various performance characteristics. These characteristics fall in two general categories:

  • How they bond the wallcovering to the wall surface.
  • How they apply to the wallcovering (this is a major consideration for the installer).

Wallcovering adhesives are formulated for specific applications. Some adhesives are formulated for lightweight and delicate fabrics, while others are designed to adhere heavyweight vinyl and acoustical coverings. Adhesives vary in level of wet-tack, solids, open-time, stripability and ease of application. All wallcovering adhesives contain a biocide system. These systems are designed to prevent bacterial contamination and mildew/fungal infestation, both "in-the-can" and in the dried adhesive. Wallcovering adhesives are generally applied on the back of the wallcovering either by roller or pasting machine.

There are three main categories of adhesives:

  • Clear adhesives are either corn or wheat based. They are generally considered to have more open-time and are easier to clean up than clay-based adhesives. Clear adhesives are designed for both the retail customer and commercial installer.
  • Clay adhesives, like clear adhesives, are starch based, but clay is added as a filler to increase the wet-tack. Clay adhesives are harder to clean up than other clear adhesives.
  • Vinyl-over-vinyl and border adhesives contain synthetic polymers and are specifically formulated to bond to vinyl. In addition to the synthetic polymers, these adhesives may contain some starch and other ingredients to assist in their application. These adhesives require extra attention during application because once they are dried, they are permanent. Vinyl-over-vinyl adhesives are specifically designed to hang new wallcoverings to existing wallcoverings or borders to wallcoverings.

When choosing a commercial wallcovering application, keep in mind that some high-end or specialty-contract wallcoverings require special care for perfect installation.

Note the following special considerations for textiles:

  • Natural fiber color variation, slubs and knots are an intricate part of each textile design and are used to enhance the beauty and texture of each pattern.
  • Textiles are generally designed to be installed non-reversed, but always check the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Extreme care must be taken to keep adhesives from the face of a textile wallcovering. Adhesives on the surface may prove to be difficult or impossible to remove without staining. Clear adhesives that are designed as nonstaining should be used.
  • Selvage (excess trimmed edge) should be removed from the wall and seams closed within one hour of wallcovering installation.
  • Acrylic-backed or unbacked textiles should be dry hung.
  • The walls should be pasted with a paint roller. Paste a section 4 to 6” wider than the width of the wallcovering. In some cases, the adhesive should be allowed to tack sufficiently in order to provide greater adhesion and prevent adhesive bleed-through.

Note the following special instructions for fabric-backed vinyl:

  • When installing textured or non-matched patterns, reverse-hanging of alternate strips may be required to ensure color uniformity from strip to strip.
  • Apply adhesive to the back using a pasting machine or roller. Work the adhesive to cover the back completely, especially near the edges. Fold each end forward, pasted sides together, aligning edges carefully so they do not dry out. Caution: Do not crease wallcovering. Allow to relax or “book” for 10 minutes. This will allow the adhesive to penetrate the wallcovering fabric, which is important for successful installation.

Source: Wallcoverings Association (www.wallcoverings.org)


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