Vinyl Wallcoverings: The Differences Between Type I, Type II, and Type III

vinyl wallcovering types
Photography Courtesy of Koroseal Interior Products
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When it comes to ornamenting the walls of an interior space, there is no shortage of options out there today. But few products offer more durability and ease of cleaning than commercial grade vinyl wallcoverings, which are produced for use across the sectors of hospitality, residential, workplace, retail, education, and healthcare. Not all vinyl wallcoverings are created equal, and it is important to understand the characteristics that distinguish each type before sourcing for specific interiors. Knowing that wallcoverings are assigned a type by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the information below breaks down three different types of vinyl wallcoverings and underscores the advantages of each for various applications.

Type I and Type II Vinyl Wallcoverings

When searching for a wallcovering that will work in a low traffic space such as a restaurant or workplace, a Type I vinyl wallcovering can fit the bill with its light duty, commercial grade material. Type I vinyl wallcoverings will typically weigh between 12 to 19 ounces per linear yard and are most commonly quoted for use in hotel rooms, waiting rooms, and for other budget-conscious projects—given its economic advantages—as well as for use along ceilings and areas of light abrasion. However, in spite of Type I’s plausible plusses for an abundance of less-circulated spaces, these wallcoverings are often in the shadows of those deemed to be Type II.

Able to withstand more wear and tear, Type II wallcoverings are made of medium to heavy-duty material, weighing in between 20 to 28 ounces per linear yard. As such, Type II is the considered to be the most widely specified category for commercial interiors and is more aptly suited for for a broad range of high-traffic applications, including hospitality, healthcare, office, retail, education, and any interiors that endures moderate to heavy scuffing.

By law, both Type I and Type II wallcoverings are required to have the same flame spread and smoke development, and they are both manufactured to meet or surpass the minimum physical and performance characteristics as set forth by Federal Specifications. Though the differences between Type I and Type II wallcovering are not extreme by any means, it should be noted that it is possible to distinguish between the two just through touch. It can be argued that one can perceive the rigidity and hardiness of Type II wallcoverings as compared to Type I by simply running a hand over both surfaces.

Type III Vinyl Wallcoverings

As the most durable and robust of the contract wallcoverings, Type III vinyl wallcoverings are used in the most heavily trafficked areas and typically weigh over 33 ounces per linear yard. Type III wallcoverings must meet the highest federal requirements for abrasion resistance, breaking strength, and tear resistance, and are best utilized in locations where more durable wall protection is needed, such as healthcare environments. This type may also be required for low-height areas—including hospital corridors or elevator banks—that are often exposed to very heavy traffic by movable equipment or rough abrasion. A Type III wallcovering is also manufactured to meet the minimum physical and performance characteristics set forth in Federal Specifications.

With an embedded resilience makes them ideal for commercial environments, vinyl wallcoverings offer a practical and in-demand approach for accenting interiors. “The vast array of designs and textures that can be achieved in vinyl make it a highly desirable finish,” says Dan Brandt of MDC Wallcoverings. “Specifiers have unlimited aesthetic choices, and vinyl wallcoverings offer extraordinary value, durability, and low-maintenance costs, placing them amongst the most economical surfaces available.” As outlined above, Type I, Type II, and Type III vinyl wallcoverings are each designed with different degrees of durability to meet specific physical performance levels. Thus, when outfitting an interior, it is imperative to approach the task with an understanding of the amount of traffic that the environment will accommodate.


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