What is the difference between residential wallpaper and commercial wallpaper? The most straightforward answer is that there isn’t any difference…but there is.
Conventional residential wallpaper is used in commercial spaces all the time and what’s considered “commercial grade wallcovering” is also sometimes used in homes.
Both Can Technically Be Used Everywhere
There’s no hard and set rule that a commercial space HAS to use Type I or Type II commercial grade vinyl. Most commercial vinyl will be a faux linen, grasscloth or textured design. This is fine for most businesses because those types of patterns tend to match with everything, but as soon as you want more elaborate patterns there is a dearth of choices.
If there isn’t too much heavy foot traffic, many salons, spas, offices and other medium to small businesses choose conventional vinyl coated, solid vinyl, non-woven or paper wallpaper. As long as it is Class A Fire Rated, and most papers that are made in the United States will be, it will be fine and perfectly passable with the fire marshal.
Note: Beware of buying European made wallpaper for commercial spaces. Europe does not have the same fire standards of the United States and Canada. Most fire marshals will fail the inspection if you cannot certify that the wallpaper is Class A ASTM E-84 Fire Rated. We have seen instances where businesses had to tear down thousands of dollars’ worth of wallpaper because it was produced in Europe and didn’t have a spec sheet that conformed to US building standards.
On the flip side many homeowners have been using commercial grade vinyl in their bathrooms, laundry rooms, hallways, and basements for decades. They like the durability and washability of fabric backed vinyl wallpaper. We recently spoke to a man who is just now pulling down commercial grade wallpaper from his kitchen after 30 years. Safe to say he really got his money’s worth. The point is just because it says commercial doesn’t mean it can’t be used in homes, RV’s and yachts.
Residential Wallpaper (In A Nutshell)
Generally speaking, however, when residential wallpaper is mentioned we’re talking about the following patterns:
In a heavily trafficked space like a hotel or large conference space you would not want to install those types of wallpaper. It would look great the first day and by the week’s end be dirty and torn and ripped to shreds.
Also, worth noting is the sizes for these “residential patterns.” They come in 20.50, 27- and 36-inch widths. They are also sold in single and double rolls. When you’re dealing with a large space this will result in a lot of unsightly seams. Bear with us, we will talk about how commercial goods are sold in a minute.
Commercial Wallpaper (In A Nutshell)
Generally speaking, when commercial wallcovering is mentioned we’re talking about the following patterns:
These are wallpapers (commercial space uses the word “wallcovering”) that you would want to put in places that receive a revolving door of people because they can take a beating and keep on ticking, while staying beautiful in the process. Unless you are the Incredible Hulk it’s very hard to tear a piece of Type II wallcovering by hand. It can withstand moving furniture, luggage, chairs, tables and anything else you can throw at it.
Now, let’s talk about how commercial grade wallpaper is sold. Remember when we talked about the seams? Commercial wallpaper is made much wider than residential wallpaper. It’s almost double. Type I, Type II and Acoustical wallpaper is 54 inches wide. This is because it is specifically produced with the intent of installation in large commercial spaces.
Additionally, forget all about rolls when you are thinking about commercial vinyl. This confuses a lot of people. There are no single rolls or double rolls in commercial land. Just like fabric, this wallpaper is sold by the yard and usually in 30-yard increments (or what we refer to as bolts). If you ordered 60 yards then you would receive two long 30-yard bolts via truck.
Wallpaper Installers Usually Don’t Hang Both Residential and Commercial Wallpaper
Installation can be tricky when it comes to either residential or commercial wallpaper. Costs vary widely per location so good luck trying to find the average cost of each. Cost is totally dependent on the contract installer and there is no standard to go by. However, we have found that wallpaper installers will usually prefer installing one type over the other.
Here’s a typical breakdown of what you can expect:
Commercial installation = less pay per yard but more volume
Residential installation = more pay per yard but far less volume and tighter spaces
There are some installers that only do residential wallpaper and refuse to do commercial because it’s heavier and takes a larger toll on their body to work with. They won’t touch 54” vinyl goods. They also require slightly different tools to install commercial goods efficiently, like a pasting machine and/or scissor fork.
On the flip side, there are installers that don’t want mess with residential wallpaper. Yes, it pays more per job, but it’s one little bathroom. They would much prefer having a small team working on hotels or convention centers where there is thousands of dollars and one job will last for weeks or months. Once a person has the right team and tools, they can knock out a long hallway in the blink of an eye. To them, doing onesies and twosies, including having to drive and set up at each individual house, while wearing booties when they walk in, is a complete waste of time. In fact, many commercial outfits roam the country from job to job, with the whole crew, looking for work.
You’ll also find that many commercial painting contractors also do commercial wallpaper work. If you can’t find a wallpaper installer in your area to hang your commercial goods then try large painting companies.