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Related Readings:
Wallpaper Removal
Choosing Quality Wallpaper
Seams & Adhesives
Stripping Wallcoverings
Glass Textile Wallcoverings
Wallcovering Adhesives
More Paperhanging Tools
Other articles in this issue:
Paintable Wallcoverings
Primers: Choosing the Correct Primer
Keys to Sales Success
Faux Finishing Ideas
Textured Coatings
Sprayed Faux Finishes
Estimating: Architectural Specs
Contractor Profile: Woods Painting Co.
Paint Product News
Painting Tips


PaintPRO Archives



Wallpaper, Paintable Wallpaper

For aesthetics and problem solving, it's paintable wallcoverings to the rescue! They can be matched to any color. Faux finishes look fabulous. And changing the decor or refreshing the look is as simple as applying another coat of paint.
By Susan M. Brimo-Cox

Paintable wallcoverings. If you think of them like hybrids-offering the best of two "parents" — you'll begin to realize the advantages these products offer. Paint is one of the "parents" and it's this paintable aspect that gives all the paintable wallcoverings a good deal of their flexibility and longevity. They can be matched to any color. Faux finishes look fabulous. And changing the decor or refreshing the look is as simple as applying another coat of paint. Depending on the paintable wallcovering used, you can apply up to 10 coats of paint or more before a covering's texture begins to disappear.

Texture is the other "parent" shared by paintable wallcoverings, but only in the broad sense. A variety of patterns abound. Because of the different materials used to produce each type of paintable wallcovering, the specific properties of the textures and patterns vary as well. Some textures and patterns are embossed. Some are deep designs mimicking elaborately carved wood and plaster reliefs. Other patterns resemble fine and coarsely woven fabrics. Depending on the look you wish to achieve, there is a paintable wallcovering to suit your needs.

European inventions
British inventor Frederick Walton, of linoleum fame, used a variation in the manufacture of that product to create Lincrusta in 1877. The name Lincrusta is a combination of the Latin words linum — which means "flax" and refers to linseed oil, a main ingredient — and crusta — a "hard shell." Lincrusta is a deep-texture product available in a variety of patterns as wallcovering, dado panels, friezes and borders. Lincrusta is frequently used in restoration work and where the look of a plaster relief or ornate carving is desired. It is also exceptionally durable for heavy traffic areas, such as staircases, hallways and below the chair rail. Because it is a heavier product, it can hide a multitude of wall surface imperfections.

In 1887, another British inventor Thomas Palmer patented Anaglypta. This lightweight alternative to Lincrusta used a manufacturing process that embossed a cotton and pulp base. The name is derived from the joining of two Greek words, ana — meaning "raised up" — and glyptos — meaning "engraving," such as a cameo. Today, there are more than 100 patterns of Anaglypta wallcoverings, dados and borders, ranging from basketweaves and herringbones to florals and pressed tin designs. Among the product lines available, Anaglypta Original is a low-relief product, SupaDurable is an extra-deep relief embossed paper product and the texture of Armadillo, the latest introduction, is so durable the firm claims it cannot be flattened. While Lincrusta and Anaglypta are the most readily recognizable names in their product subcategories, other manufacturing companies do offer competing products.

The third subcategory of paintable wallcoverings is the glass textile products. In 1960 following the development of the Owens Corning technology of Fiber Glass yarns, Tassoglas was introduced in Sweden. Originally developed to reinforce old cracked plaster walls, use of the product spread across Europe. The Johns Mansville Company purchased the Mitex factory a few years ago and the Tasso factory in 1998 and now also offers Textra, another glass textile wallcovering, from the Mitex factory. Twenty or so patterns are available between the two product lines. The very nature of woven glass textile — made of sand, lime and clay — makes them environmentally friendly. They exceed Class A fire ratings and toxicity requirements. Where mold and mildew may be a problem behind a wallcovering, glass textile products are highly breathable when painted with quality latex paint. They can also be installed over a variety of problem surfaces, such as block, brick, tile and wood paneling.

Glass textile products-simple and forgiving
Of the paintable wallcoverings, the glass textile products are probably the easiest to work with. Deborah Roos, vice president of Deerfield, Fla.-based Roos International, the exclusive representative for Tassoglas in the United States, says surface preparation is pretty basic. "If there's old wallpaper, remove it. If the wall is painted, it needs to be sanded and primed. Wash old wood paneling with tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) and prime it, making sure there are no popping seams. With regard to the grooves in the paneling, some of the heavier texture patterns will go right on without sinking into the grooves. For masonry block, brick and tile, fill the joints with non-shrinking mud, such as Durabond 90, and hang a heavier texture to help hide the imperfections."

"A professional will find hanging glass textile wallcoverings very simple to do," reports Phyllis Sharp, a business director (recently retired) in the Engineered Products Division at Johns Manville in Denver. These products look great on new walls, but, because they also bridge joints and cracks, glass textile products "cover up a lot of sins, if you have a wall that's less than perfect. These products form nicely around corners. And they reinforce the wall, giving it more durability," she explains.

"A painting contractor can make extra [money] if he or she can hang it and paint it," observes Roos. Unprimed glass textile wallcoverings require a primer coat followed by a topcoat of paint. Pre-primed products require only a topcoat. Use a latex paint and primer when breathability is important. Where durability and cleanability are important, such as in high traffic areas, you can use enamel or epoxy paint. Glass textile wallcoverings have a lifecycle of 30+ years and can be repainted eight to ten times without losing the pattern, depending on the texture.

"People don't realize the breath and scope of what you can do with [these products], all the innovative techniques with paint," says Roos. "Faux finishes, metallics and glazes can be used for beautiful effects. You can even stain it," she adds.

"Certain patterns work exceptionally well with certain finishes," explains Sharp. "Sponging is very effective and attractive. Flecking metallic on glass textile patterns brings out nice highlights. And the good thing is, if you mess up, you can repaint it."

Maintenance is a pretty simple matter as well. You can wash away dirt and touch up scuffing with paint. If fibers are raised, sand lightly and touch up with paint. If you have to repair the wallcovering, just double cut the material, paste in the patch and repaint.

The versatility of Anaglypta and Lincrusta With these products, "it's always going to be 'custom,' and custom is highly-prized. You could see the same pattern installed in several applications and not recognize it as the same," observes Darlene Vosika, president of Crown Corp. N.A. in Denver, the first and primary importer of Anaglypta and Lincrusta in the United States. "Trends come and go with wallpapers and their printed patterns, Anaglypta and Lincrusta are timeless and ageless because you can repaint." For Lincrusta and Anaglypta, surfaces need to be relatively smooth, clean, dry and primed with latex primer. "The thing to look for if you're covering imperfections is to avoid a pattern with a lot of flat areas," Vosika says. To apply these products over block, tile or wood paneling, you need to spackle the seams, grooves and other imperfections first.

Pat Niehaus, a certified paperhanger, consultant and owner of Wall Doctor in Mulberry, Ind., says Lincrusta is the more difficult of these two products to hang. It's a heavier material and is easier to install with two people. "Measure and cut Lincrusta from the back side, and cut to the exact measurement required, because it is not flexible," Niehaus advises. "It won't bend or wrap corners, so you need to cut it like molding. You'll caulk or spackle the gaps and seams." The surface of the Lincrusta needs to be wiped with mineral spirits before priming with an oil-based primer-latex and acrylic primers will not adhere and eventually flake off. After priming, Niehaus says you can use any type of paint you desire to achieve a wide variety of effects. "You can paint it, apply a glaze to give it an antiqued look or make it resemble wood."

"Lincrusta dados are attractive in marbleized faux finishes. Friezes are fabulous when hand-painted, gilded or done in the Wedgwood-look," Vosika says. Some patterns, painted red and antiqued with an umber glaze look like tooled leather, she adds.

Anaglypta is hung more like traditional wallpaper, applying the paste to the back, book-folding and then hanging it after the recommended soak time. "It gets a little tricky because the material will expand differently if you're not exact with your soak times," cautions Sherrie Culpepper, owner of Paper Dolls in Lilburn, Ga. A non-strippable clay-based adhesive is recommended, as it won't wet out the embossed pattern as much as some other adhesives. Unlike the other Anaglypta products, Armadillo is typically dry hung.

Use only a latex primer on Anaglypta to avoid raising the grain of the wallcovering. Once the Anaglypta is primed, you can use whatever topcoat or finish you desire-paint, antiquing, glazes, metallics or a clear coat.

Using Anaglypta for ceiling applications is growing in popularity, reports Culpepper. "It's because of the looks you can achieve. Metallics are popular with the ceiling work, especially the pressed, aged tin look and the antiqued look. But definitely work on a trial board first." Lincrusta and Anaglypta can be repainted up to about 15 times without loosing the emboss, according to Niehaus. When patching Anaglypta, tear the paper to match the desired shape and the repair will be less noticeable than if you use scissors.

Interest in paintable wallcoverings is growing The use of paintable wallcoverings is increasing in hotels, hospitals, schools, government facilities, retail stores and restaurants — everywhere that durability, color, texture and design flexibility are important. "These products are good for commercial uses. Even if they are only painted, the patterns give some dimension to wall surfaces," Niehaus explains.

In residential applications, paintable wallcoverings are also making inroads, especially if there are children in the house. People are learning that an embossed pattern doesn't show dirt as easily as a smooth surface and the painted finishes are easy to keep clean. "It's coming into use more and more as people see it in display homes. As more and more people are exposed to it, more people want it," Culpepper reports.

For more information, visit the following Web sites or call:

Anaglypta and Lincrusta
(800) 422-2099

(800) 888-2776

(888) 724-4574


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