Type I 15oz and Type II 20oz both refer to commercial grade wallcovering. This is not the same material you would put in your kitchen or living room. Type I and Type II wallcoverings are specially made for high traffic commercial spaces. Some examples would be hotel lobbies, patient waiting rooms, and office meeting rooms. You can’t use regular wallpaper in these spaces because it’s too lightweight and not very durable to daily high levels of traffic. It would look horrible in a matter of weeks due to all the people and things bumping and rubbing up against it.
The difference between Type I and Type II wallcovering is quite small. Both are thick and durable but Type II wallcovering is thicker and therefore can withstand more wear and tear. You will notice how much stiffer and rigid Type II 20 oz. is when compared to Type I 15 oz. if you were to run your hand over the both of them.
By law, to qualify as a Type II wallcovering, according to CCC-W-408D specifications, a vinyl needs to meet or exceed a specific requirement in:
It should be noted that both Type I and Type II wallcoverings are required to have the same flame spread and smoke development, under Federal Law.
Keep in mind that a 20 oz. vinyl will cost on average 50% more than 15 oz. vinyl. Consider how much traffic you will have in an area because you may be able to go with the lightweight option. Hallways will typically need Type II wallcovering because people are more likely to scratch the walls due to the narrow space. For waiting spaces and relaxing areas, you can choose a Type I that doesn’t need to be able to withstand nearly constant ill-treatment.
As an industry trend, we are noticing that the Type I is being phased out. It used to be more or less even, but currently there are quadruple the amount of 20 oz. options versus the 15 oz. Many of the manufactures have stopped making Type I vinyl with their whole collections consisting of solely Type II. This is because, when given the choice, most decision makers just go with a Type II. The difference between low traffic and high traffic can be highly subjective and even smallest one-person office can get damaged over time by that one person bumping his chair against the wall, behind him, on a daily basis.
It’s also worth noting the higher end designer commercial grade vinyl will always be Type II – like Candice Olson, Stacey Garcia, Thom Filica, Barclay Butera, Ronald Redding, Kenneth James, and Patty Madden for example. They have never had a single Type I vinyl in their collection from the time they were started.
If cost is an issue and you really need to make your budget stretch then you can get away with Type I if there won't be a high amount of wear and tear overtime. However, if cost is not that much of an issue, we have found that Type II last the longest and is typically the best way to go for most commercial spaces.