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On a Wall


Wallcovering Installation Tips


By Cassandra Balentine


Part 1 of 2

Blank walls provide an ideal canvas for imaginative marketers and individuals. Based on the type of media, installation techniques vary. Wallcoverings are a fast-growing application among digital print service providers (PSPs). However, they also present several issues. “The challenge is related to the term wall—what kind of wall is it? The substrate in question is the key to how adhesives stick to it, how long it lasts, how it looks, and even how it removes,” notes Rick Moore, senior marketing director, MACtac Graphic Products.


Self Adhesive

Surface preparation is important for the application of self-adhesive products. Media manufactures recommend that walls be clean, smooth, dry, and non porous. Freshly applied paint should be allowed to cure for a minimum of three full weeks prior to wall graphic application, points out Lisa Humrich, marketing manager, Oracal USA.


Robert Rundle, viscom marketing manager, Ritrama, suggests cleaning the wall with a tack cloth to remove dust.


The compatibility between adhesive and wall surface is ensures the success of an adhesive-backed media wallcovering installation. “We recommend testing compatibility for each job. Sample prints for testing are acquired through your local distributor or sales representative,” says Chad Russell, director of business development, Arlon Graphics, LLC.


Depending on the surface texture and the paint type, heat aided installation may be necessary. Additionally, firm pressure—especially at the top of the graphic—allows for as much adhesive contact as possible to ensure proper adhesion, notes Rundle.


Humrich lists a variety of factors that may cause insufficient adhesion or product failure, such as highly textured paint, poor initial paint bond, badly painted wall edges, patched areas not primed, moisture behind drywall, high humidity areas, contaminates on the wall, wallpaper or other wallcovering that is not securely bonded, cuts made to the graphic during installation that penetrate both film and substrate, and freshly painted walls not cured.


Installation Tips

MACtac recommends that professional installers be used for graphic application, although its IMAGin wallNOODLE, IMAGin ROODLE, and IMAGin DecoSatin are made with thicker face stocks that are inherently easier to apply and could be handled by a retail store or facilities manager.


Russell also suggests professional installation. “The application is not necessarily difficult, but wallcoverings usually come with high expectations for performance. Knowing this, a professional installer greatly increases the chances for a successful project for all involved parties,” he adds.


Arlon provides users with technical assistance guides for tips on installation, which include testing surface adhesion and outliers as well as understanding how paint and finish affect the applied graphic.


John D. Peterman, EVP, sales and marketing, Big Systems LLC, considers installation for its removable adhesive products to be straightforward, even for a novice. “I have many end users installing these products,” he says, explaining that the adhesives are very forgiving. “If the person performing the application accidentally sticks the material down wrong, or it if sticks to itself, it can be peeled off and reapplied without destroying the graphic.”


Photo Tex Group, Inc. offers a self-adhesive product that is re-positional at anytime. “Depending on the width, you may need two people for installation,” says Walter Gierlach Jr., president, Photo Tex. He notes that to install, users place the Photo Tex print face down on a clean, smooth surface. Gently pull back the backing paper across one edge about six to eight inches, fold the paper back, and crease it so that there is a strip of adhesive showing. Stick that edge to the wall, lining or positioning the exposed adhesive. Remove the backing paper about six to eight inches at a time to maintain squareness. Use a plastic squeegee to smooth out the material as it is installed.


Top Value Fabrics also provides a self-adhesive product, environmentally friendly 4 oz. PVC-Free Fabric Self-Adhesive Wall Covering. Non-toxic and phthalate-free as well, the repositionable wallcovering is easy to install on flat surfaces, corners, and simple curves. The pressure-sensitive adhesive releases if accidentally adhered to itself during the installation process. Media can be applied and reapplied without leaving residue behind. Water resistant, the product dries quickly and doesn't wrinkle or tear.


Framing Systems

In addition to vinyl self-adhesive solutions, printable media for wallcoverings come in other forms. For example, Ultraflex Systems, Inc. offers self-adhesive fabric for wallcovering applications—FabriTac; Wallscapes, featuring four unique embossments; as well as its fabric and clamping framing system—Descor.


The Descor complete system consists of fabric, track, and recommended installation team—equipped with tools. Or, it is sold as individual components, such as high-quality textile for traditional textile applications. It is suggested that Descor be hung by a professional.


Ultraflex supplies two primary types of tracks/profiles as part of the Descor solution. Both types are available in white or black. The universal profile—for wall and ceiling graphics; and the ceiling profile—for ceiling graphics only.  Descor for ceilings is installed by mounting the universal track/profile that attaches to the ceiling or by mounting the ceiling track/profile that attaches to the wall. Descor for walls is installed by mounting the universal track/profile but instead of attaching it to the ceiling, it is attached to the wall.


Magnetic Systems

The use of magnetic media is a growing segment of digital wide format print. One benefit is the ease of installation once a magnetic backing has been placed to accept magnetic-receptive media.


For Visual Magnetics LP, wall preparation includes painting the wall with the company’s Micro-Iron latex-based primer, which is applied using quarter-inch nap paint rollers. Then the magnet is applied, which may require the use of a level. Finally, graphic installation is possible.


“End users install and remove the graphics easily. We recommend professional installers for the one-time painting and magnet application, especially if a large area is to be covered,” says Dan Halkyard, director of marketing and product management, Visual Magnetics.


Melissa Thompson, sales manager, flexible magnetic products, Master Magnetics, Inc., notes that no special tools or training are required to “stick” a magnet to any ferrous/metal surface. “For placement of a magnet or receptive material, it is easiest when the material is in roll form. Starting at one end, roll the material out across the surface, smoothing out any air pockets created until it is completely unrolled and flat,” she offers.


Paste it Up

For commercial grade applications using vinyl wallcoverings, media requiring paste and wall primers are available.


DreamScape offers a full line of vinyl commercial grade printable textured wallcoverings for commercial and residential applications. In addition to the vinyl, the company promotes two eco-friendly non-PVC wallcoverings, Terralon and Nolar. It also provides an adhesive-backed WallWrap.


For a paste install, basic wall preparation includes filling holes, sanding, and removing any grease or stains. Following that, the wall should be primed with a good quality vinyl wallcovering primer, which is available at paint and wallpaper stores. “The primer has several functions; it provides better adhesion for the paste, helps prevent mold, and allows for easier removal,” says Peter Spotto, sales manager, DreamScape.


Vinyl wallcovering paste is applied to the back of the wallcovering with a paint roller. The ends are then folded over to the middle, pasted sides together, and allowed to set for ten minutes. “This is called booking. It allows the adhesive to penetrate the fabric backing for good adhesion,” explains Spotto.


The panel is aligned to the wall and checked that it is square using a level. A brush is used to smooth the wallcovering. The next panel with the image or graphic is matched with a one-inch overlap between panels. Cutting a small notch every 12 to 18 inches along the overlap helps installers see under the overlap position for an exact match.


Once the panel is brushed smooth, the overlap seam is cut down the center using a straight edge and a utility blade. Remove excess cut strips and press the two cut edges of the panels together on the wall. Wipe any excess paste off the wallcovering with a damp sponge or microfiber cloth and be sure all excess paste is removed.


“Installation for commercial wallcovering is mostly handed by professionals,” says Spotto. However, he suggests that anyone familiar with hanging wall murals should be able to master the technique. “Many PSPs who have installed adhesive-backed wall media can install commercial wallcoverings. The main difference is using paste to adhere the media to the wall,” he adds.


Garry Hollis, business manager, KoroGraphics, a division of RJF International Corporation, also recommends that commercial wallcovering installers perform the installation for optimal results. “However, we find that those who install pressure-sensitive wall wraps can be very successful if they follow the installation procedures available on the KoroGraphics Web site,” he adds.


LexJet Corporation also offers wallcovering media that requires paste installation, WallPro. Jeff Leto, product manager, LexJet, offers a few installation pointers. “Don’t apply the paste too thickly. This can cause the paper to become soaked and could result in a tear. Once the panel is applied, check the alignment marks with a level. Don’t rush, as it is important to continue checking positioning.”


Hewlett-Packard (HP) provides its PVC-free Wall Paper, which is a sustainable wet strength pre-pasted paper wallcovering. “Unlike competitive traditional vinyl products, HP PVC-free Wall Paper installs easily without the use of third party pastes,” notes Ben Matlock, product manager, HP. Because it is a pre-pasted product, installers add water to activate the paste, which is coated on the backside of the media. The product is fully cured and ready to install immediately off the printer. “It is easy to work with and allows for peeling back and repositioning until the paste dries,” he adds.


Part of the Process

Just like the walls they apply to, wallcovering media comes in many shapes and sizes. Depending on the application space, additional factors—including the length of time the graphic is intended to remain up, or how often it will be changed out—should be considered when choosing the best media. While Installation is a key part in the process, the removal of a wallcovering is equally important. Care to not dent, discolor, or mark up a wall must be made. The next part of this series addresses concerns regarding wallcovering removal and techniques to prevent errors.

Click on the link above to get more information on the vendors mentioned in this article.

Nov2012, Digital Output  DOWL1211

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