Fabric wall coverings

Fabric wall coverings, such as hessian, which is made from jute, should not be hung on newly plastered walls. Allow the wall to dry out for at least six months. After this, rub down the surface with medium glasspaper and apply an alkali-resistant primer.

Old plaster should be washed down, starting at skirting level, allowed to dry and then roughened, to provide a good key. Any cracks should be filled.

Unbacked fabric

Before hanging an unbacked fabric, the walls should be lined. Use a lining paper of the same colour as the top cover, then if joins do pull apart, the gaps will be less noticeable.

Fabric wall coverings are best applied with the adhesive recommended by the manufacturer. Generally, backed fabrics are hung with a heavy-duty wallpaper paste, while with unbacked fabrics, a thick PVA or latex-based adhesive is used.

Paste is generally applied to the wall unless the fabric has a backing sheet.

Paper-backed hessian

Paper-backed hessian is more expensive but is easier to hang as the backing prevents stretching and wrinkling.

Paste can be applied to this but ensure that the fabric is not made too wet. Use a felt-covered roller to smooth out each length, taking care not to press too hard Heavy pressure will stretch the fabric and may cause adhesive seepage from the joins.


Hessian coverings provide a range of coloured or neutral, textured wall effects. Backed or unbacked fabric can be painted with either gloss or emulsion paint.


Fabric coverings may have slight variations in the weave. Make sure that the weave matches, as well as possible, at eye level in the room.


Tools required are the same as for normal paper-hanging, plus a foam-roller and a rubber roller.


Good preparation of the wall surface is needed. Lining the wall is worth the extra trouble and is essential if an unbacked fabric cover is to be used. Use scissors or a sharp knife against a steel straight-edge, to cut the fabric. Allow, in the cutting, for trimming and shrinkage.

Starting from a corner, measure the fabric width, and chalk mark on the wall a vertical line 25mm less than the width of the fabric from a corner. Do this for the entire area to be covered, marking, each time, 25mm less than the fabric width.

Next, measure and cut the first length, with a 25mm overlap at top and bottom for trimming.

Apply adhesive, section by section, to the wall, using the foam roller, to within 25mm of the marked line. Hang the first length to this line so that the fabric overlaps at both top and bottom and 25mm around the corner side.

Gently pat down the fabric and then smooth with the rubber roller. Work from the centre down and outwards to make sure that no entrapped air is left to casue blistering.

Hang the next section so that it overlaps the previous by 25mm. Hang the rest of the lengths, pasting each wall section separately, leaving the overlap edges unstuck and untrimmed.

Once the paste has dried, flatten the loose edge on the join and cut through the middle of both pieces, using a straightedge and a handyman’s knife. Paste the wall immediately beneath the join and press down the fabric. Finally, trim top and bottom edges. A seam roller can be used, very carefully, to smooth the join.


Linen is made from flax and can be either backed or unbacked. As this is a thin fabric, paper-backed linen is hung in the same way as ordinary wallpaper. Adhesive is applied to the paper backing. Unbacked linen is hung on a pre-pasted wall.


Cork wall covering consists of very thin sheets of cork or cork shavings bonded to a paper backing. The warm, textured honey tone of cork is most attractive when used in a décor scheme. A PVA adhesive should be used for hanging.

Grass cloth

Grass cloth is a textured wall covering, consisting of bark and grasses held together with thread, stuck to a paper backing. When hanging, make certain of the shading as the pieces may vary quite widely in colour. The edges should be trimmed with a sharp curved blade to prevent fraying. Grass cloth is fairly difficult to hang successfully, but the lighter types are easier to hang than the heavier.


This is an attractive wall covering. It has the décor advantage of being available in a wide range of colours and in widths of up to 700mm.

When using a wide covering, such as felt, roll the length on to a batten. The batten can be suspended between two step ladders to deal with the unwieldy size. Start positioning at the skirting level, leaving untrimmed overlaps for later butt jointing.

To butt joints, the edges of the felt should be slightly ‘teased’ to create a less harsh line, so helping the two lengths to blend together.


Silk is an extremely elegant, but very expensive wall covering. Paper backing is essential as the adhesive used in hanging would stain the delicate fabric. The paper also gives the silk more ‘body’ and makes it easier to handle.

As silk wall covering is expensive and not particularly easy to work, this may be a job for the expert.

Synthetics and natural fibres

Any material of synthetic or natural fibres can be used to achieve a particular decorative effect. If the fabric is to be used on walls, a plastic sealant coat can be applied.

This is done commercially and has the effect of making the fabric easy to clean, yet does not alter the surface finish or affect the colour.

When using plastic-coated fabric, use an adhesive recommended by the firm that carries out the plasticizing finish.


This is a heavily moulded wall-covering material composed of linseed oil and fillers, fused on to a backing paper made to simulate wood panelling, stonework, tiles, wrought iron and fabrics. Some materials are supplied coloured; others are bought plain, ready for hanging and finishing.

Lincrusta is hung in the following way: prepare the walls, size and apply lining paper with a starch glue and allow to dry; trim off the selvedge of the Lincrusta with a sharp knife against a steel straight-edge; sponge the back of the length with warm water, and allow to soak for at least 20 minutes.

Remove any excess moisture with a cloth; apply Lincrusta adhesive with a 760mm wide brush, making sure the paste is applied right up to the edges; place in position and smooth the length into place with a rubber roller.

Work from the centre outwards towards the edges, to push out any air, and sponge off any adhesive that seeps on to the surface.

Lincrusta tiles are supplied in 11m long rolls, in 55mm2 and 110mm2 modules. The tiles are produced in pastel shades, and in red, black and white. They have a high gloss finish and are easily cleaned.

When fixing Lincrusta tiles, a matching border should be fixed. A small wedge or fillet of putty or paint is fixed along the top edge of the border to prevent water seeping behind the border and tiles.


This is available in several weights. The papier-mache effect is achieved by using bonded, high-quality cotton fibres in manufacture. It is an extremely durable material, highly resistant to cracking, and looks rather like plaster. It is available in high- or low-relief versions.

Low-relief, lightweight Anaglypta should be hung with a starch paste. The surface to be decorated should be clean and dust free. If there is a tendency to flaking, a sealant should be applied.

Size the wall, hang a lining paper and allow to dry. After pasting, the paper should be folded in pleats of 460mm and allowed to soak for a few minutes. Low relief is then hung in the same way as ordinary wallpaper.

Supaglypta is a very strong, high-relief version of Anaglypta. Heavier grades of Anaglypta and Supaglypta should be hung with a Dextrine paste. Soak the back of the panels until they are supple.

Dextrine paste is very firm and is best applied with a knife to the edge and contact points of the relief panels or mouldings. Panel pins may be used to secure the heavier panels until the adhesive has set.

Panels and motifs simulating plaster mouldings are available. If the Anaglypta is stuck to a firm, carefully prepared background surface, it will last for years. It can be painted with emulsion or oil-based paint.

Self-adhesive wall coverings

Self-adhesive wall coverings are more expensive than ordinary wallpaper. The adhesive is activated by putting the paper in a water tray, pasted side outwards.

Pull out the paper from the top, allowing the paper to brush against the lip of the tray; this removes excess water. Pre-pasted paper is smoothed out with a sponge and not a brush.

Other wall coverings


Cotton wall covering can be used for badly cracked walls and ceilings.

This is a wallpaper with a highly glazed surface. When hanging, great care must be taken not to crack or scratch the surface of the paper.


Thin wooden shavings in roll form.

This is a type of embossed paper, figured to give the appearance of antique leather.

09. June 2011 by admin
Categories: Featured, Handyman Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Fabric wall coverings


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