Last edited 09 Apr 2021



These fabric wallcoverings date back to some time in the 15th century. At its height, the medieval tapestry weaving industry employed approximately 15,000 people.

The tapestries here, known as the Lady with the Unicorn, illustrate the story of the five senses (taste, hearing, sight, smell and touch) along with a sixth and most elaborate panel that depicts "À Mon Seul Désir" - "my one desire".


[edit] Introduction

Wallcovering is a general term to describe the materials used to cover or protect interior walls. It is also associated with wallpaper products when they are used for commercial or industrial applications. For residential applications, see Wallpaper.

Wallcovering products are typically used in high-traffic areas such as lobbies, corridors, hotel suites, schools and healthcare facilities. They can bring texture, pattern and style to a space while protecting walls with a durable coating.

[edit] History

Early wallcoverings included tapestries, painted cloth, decoratively painted animal skins, furs and other types of wall hangings. Some of the oldest existing examples go back to the third century, although these are extremely rare. These were often used for their thermal as well as decorative properties, providing insulation and reducing radiant heat transfer with wall surfaces.

However, it wasn't until the 13th or 14th century that tapestries became more commonly used, often found on the walls of buildings associated with power and wealth.

In churches, tapestries were used like stained glass windows to tell Biblical stories to illiterate members of the congregation. In castles, tapestries became status symbols for the aristocracy and were sometimes treated as currency and traded.

Production techniques evolved, resulting in more affordable wallcoverings. Expensive tapestries were replaced by block printed wallpaper, which began to appear in the 16th century.

[edit] Types of wallcoverings

Modern wallcoverings are varied and can be made from numerous types of materials such as vinyl, wood (veneer), cork, glass fibre, textiles and so on. They have been put into general categories by the IGI (the Global Wallcoverings Association).

Founded in 1950, the IGI has developed a system of quality assurance that is applicable worldwide. The organisation oversees the designation of measures to confirm product standards by awarding the IGI Quality mark in the following categories:

  1. Wallpaper - simplex (including whites for subsequent decoration)
  2. Wallpaper - duplex (including whites for subsequent decoration)
  3. Solid vinyl - paper-backed
  4. Solid vinyl - other backing (specify)
  5. Blown vinyl - chemically or mechanically embossed
  6. Textile wallcoverings
  7. Woodchip
  8. Non woven - direct printed or coated and printed
  9. Non woven - backed solid vinyl
  10. Non woven - backed blown vinyl

[edit] Wallcovering product standards

Product categories can be determined based on CEN (European Committee for Standardisation) definitions:

[edit] Wallcoverings in the UK

In 2005, IGI partnered with the British Coatings Federation to form the Wallcoverings Sector Council (WSC). The British Coatings Federation represents the interests of the decorative, industrial and powder coatings, printing inks and wallcovering manufacturers.

The partnership resulted in the formulation of the WSC Technical Committee. This organisation reports to the Council and provides updates on topics such as PVC recycling, construction product regulation and climate change agreements.

[edit] Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki

[edit] External resources

Designing Buildings Anywhere

Get the Firefox add-on to access 20,000 definitions direct from any website

Find out more Accept cookies and
don't show me this again