By Cassandra Balentine
Part 1 of 2
There are many benefits to digitally printed wallcoverings. Ease of install is one of them. However, a novice installer should be diligent investing in the right media and technique before attempting an install.
There are two common installation types of digitally printed wallcoverings—peel and stick and pasted. In part one of this two-part series we focus on peel-and-stick options.
Peel-and-stick media for wall graphics is touted as the easiest to adhere, with amateur installers able to take on the job.
Peel-and-stick, self-adhesive wallcoverings are designed for faster and easier installation often by novice installers as compared to pasted wallcoverings, offers Jodi Sawyer, strategic business unit manager, FLEXcon Company, Inc. “In comparison to other techniques such as pasted wallcoverings, peel-and-stick, self-adhesive materials offer the benefit of faster installation with fewer supplies and tools and little to no clean up.”
The growing trend of DIY home décor products includes wallcoverings. “Installation of most peel-and-stick wall applications can be done by a beginner for a simple space. We just recommend that all the pre-planning steps are followed,” notes Roy S. Ritchie Jr., president, Dreamscape.
In the past few years, peel-and-stick wallcoverings have become very popular, agrees Amanda Lowe, director of marketing, Drytac. “They allow most at home DIYers to transform a space within a few hours without the need for messy paste from traditional wallpapers.”
Michele Pistone, marketing manager, Neenah, adds that peel-and-stick wallcoverings are a relatively new and accessible way to update and elevate the home environment and something most semi-adventurous DIYers can handle without professional help. “It’s easy to set yourself up for success by doing a little research and selecting materials and tools that will make the project go smoothly. Using a removable wallcovering with breathability or air egress, taking the time and effort to clean the surface, and taking your time when installing are paramount. Preparation and patience allow for a successful installation for most DIY adventurers.”
Depending upon the product, a novice could install a peel-and-stick wallcovering with a few simple directions and general understanding. “If installing wallpaper in a large commercial space, an experienced install would be recommended simply for the level of difficulty in such a large scale project,” suggests Lowe.
The panel size, number of panels, wall surface type, condition, accessibility, and end use location requirements are factors that will determine the complexity of the install and whether it can be done by a novice installer or if it would be better left to a professional, offers Sawyer.
Overall, she believes self-adhesive wallcoverings are ideal for installing a panel or series of wall panels on a flat, smooth painted wall in good condition in an area that is easily accessed. With these conditions, installation can be done by a novice with good results. “When a wallcovering involves installation over a certain height—this can vary based on local requirements—and the use of safety equipment and scaffolding and/or ladders to access the wall surface, a professional installer would be best practice,” she adds.
Ritchie Jr. agrees, adding that if the wallcovering is going on a ceiling, a very large surface area, or counters, it might be best to seek an experienced installer.
When it comes to peel-and-stick graphics, depending on the specific application it can be rather straightforward. Patience is essential when it comes to installation.
The first step is to select your focal wall with care. “Excessive light switches, electrical outlets, and other obstructions will add more of a challenge,” suggests Pistone.
“Open areas such as doorways, inside/outside corners, and high-traffic areas are at higher risk of damage. Trim the graphic five millimeters or 0.1875 inches from the edge in order to minimize the risk of damage and lifting,” recommends Lowe.
Media selection is also essential. Ensure the media is user friendly. “Breathability is a key feature for novice installers,” offers Pistone.
Installers should mock up the wallcovering on the wall with masking tape to be sure it all fits and to determine where you place the seams. Be sure to account for the bleed, this will hide wall imperfections at the ceiling and floor, continues Pistone.
A clean surface is also key. “Clean the wall thoroughly using a ten percent Isopropyl alcohol water mixture—scrub with a cloth in circles. This will aid in adhesion,” she recommends.
Select a manageable panel width. “Most DIY commercial panels are between 25- to 30-inch widths. This makes for a much smoother installation for a DIYer. 48-inch and larger panels really should be saved for the professionals,” comments Pistone.
Lowe suggests positioning the graphic and pressing the adhesive onto the surface. “Take care the first panel is straight to avoid misaligned graphics.”
Pistone recommends starting at the top, slowly pull back just a couple of inches of the backer paper and start sticking in the middle using a felt edged squeegee, and working your way outwards until you get to the floor.
“With the image side down on a flat surface, peel back the release liner approximately ten centimeters or four inches. Fold the liner firmly to give a strip of exposed adhesive,” explains Lowe. She suggests beginning from the top edge and working horizontally, using the squeegee with firm, overlapping strokes to apply the graphic. Move from the center outwards to the edges to avoid trapped air. Continue to remove the liner and apply the graphic in approximately 20 centimeters or eight-inch installments. Apply enough pressure to give a good bond between the adhesive and the substrate.
Go over the whole graphic and check for pockets of trapped air. If these cannot be squeezed out, use a sharp knife to create a tiny hole and allow the bubble to be pushed flat. Give edges an additional squeegee to ensure good adhesion and avoid lifting.
Then it is time to fix mistakes. “No worries, it happens. Simply pull the wallcovering back up slowly, reposition, and reapply,” offers Pistone.
Start the next panels very carefully by aligning the artwork from floor to ceiling. “Don’t pull the wallcovering hard as you install to avoid stretching,” she warns.
Decide on your seams. Sawyer says overlapping seams are recommended for full wall murals.
Finally, trim out all your edges to remove the bleed. Use a sharp snap blade and snap off a new segment on every cut.
Tips and Tricks
Starting with the surface, Sawyer recommends flat, smooth—non vinyl—wallboards. “A semi-gloss painted surface provides best adhesion. Flat paint or textured finish can be problematic along with any anti-graffiti coating because these finishes can interfere with adhesive wet out and bond.”
There are several professional trips that set an installation up for success, including surface inspection and cleaning.
With any installation, preparation is key. “This includes how the wall is wiped down, that outlet covers and air vents are removed, and how the panels are laid out prior to installation. From there, the three Ts—tape, tools, and team,” says Jay Kroll, product management, cut, transit & wall solutions, General Formulations.
He suggests marking alignment between panels with painters’ tape, and then using the tape to hold the panel in place during installation. “I prefer using the hinge method, cutting a strip of liner out two-thirds of the way up the panel to tack the graphic in place, then working up and down from there,” adds Kroll.
Wide squeegees, like the TM-100 from YelloTools, can help keep tension on the width of the graphic and make for faster, smoother installations. “These installs are made easier with two to three people to ensure proper tension on the full width of the panel during install for straight lines and to reduce wrinkles,” offers Kroll.
It is also important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, as some products will want you to prepare the surface by cleaning it first to remove contaminants that could prevent good binding. “Low VOC paints in particular can create a challenge for many self adhesives,” he warns.
In addition to a clean surface, Lowe recommends that installers test a small sample of the peel-and-stick wallpaper prior to the full install. “Keep in mind textured surfaces will impact adhesion by reducing the contact surface area for the adhesive and may cause the wallpaper to peel off. Before installation, unroll the film on a clean, flat surface and let it acclimate to the room conditions.”
All surfaces should be tested for compatibility and removability. “Factors such as the smoothness and cleanliness of the surface, as well as print, process, installation method, and size of the decal may impact the adhesion and success of the application,” says Sawyer. All wall surfaces should be inspected to determine if repairs are needed prior to application. Bubbles, cracks, or any other imperfections must be repaired before application. If repair requires the use of spackle, it should be primed over and painted, and allowed to cure. If the wall is freshly painted, refer to the paint manufacturer’s statement regarding dry time. If the wall surface needs cleaning only, clean with soapy water and dry with a lint-free towel.
“It’s always wise to test an area first. Not all surfaces are created equal and there is no product that performs perfectly on every surface,” offers Ritchie Jr. He says most product manufacturers are generous with sample prints—take one, stick it where it needs to be, and observe the behavior.”
To properly test media, Sawyer suggests adhering a small swatch of the printed graphic to the prepared wall surface in an inconspicuous area and allow the swatch to dwell for 72 hours. Slowly remove the graphic at a 45 to 90 degree angle and inspect for possible damage to the wall. If any paint is removed, re-inspect the wall surface for cure of the paint to the wallboard. “If the decal is lifting within 72 hours, reprinting is suggested as well as confirmation that all solvents have completely dried if printing solvent inkjet. I suggest post-cure inspection if printing with UV inks.”
Temperature also plays a role. Sawyer says a minimum temperature of 50 degrees Fahrenheit with 50 percent relative humidity is ideal. “Avoid applying to an area directly near a heater or source of condensation.”
Peel-and-stick graphics require a dry application.
“When completing an interior wallcovering application, an installer needs to do a lot of prework before recommending a film. The typical information they need to gather is what is the surface where the film will be applied? Is it smooth/flat or is it textured? What kind of paint is on the surface being applied to and when was the surface last painted? What printing capability does the converter have if they are going to digitally print the graphics?” suggests Joey Heiob, technical service representative, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions. “It is the responsibility of the installer to test and qualify the film on any interior surface.”
Another common question about peel and stick is how long after install can it be removed. “Two years is a pretty standard answer, however it is important to understand that varying humidity levels of the environment can change this timeline. Dry climates will shorten the removability while humid climates will increase it. It is important to know that even if the wallcovering hardens to the wall, it can still be removed, it just may require a little wall repair after,” notes Pistone.
Peel and Stick
As DIY options penetrate the décor space, peel-and-stick media offers an excellent option for amateur installers. However, several steps should be taken into account to ensure success.
Kroll likens hanging vinyl to learning the guitar. “Anyone with a little patience can learn, but it takes time to master the techniques and tools that make for a truly great install. Still, peel-and-stick wallcoverings are quite easy to work with and have been put up by varying degrees of talented individuals for decades. Thanks to the easy repositionability of the material and the simple setup and tools, application of this material is open to anyone.”
The next article in this series looks at the installation of pasted wall graphics.
Nov2022, DPS Magazine