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Wallpapers are also now called wallcoverings as many of them aren't made of paper.
Wallpaper is becoming fashionable again after years of being removed for refurbishments, and certainly never used in new buildings.
Many designs are available. A green wallpaper pattern, and eco or green designs, can enhance modern eco-friendly homes.
People prefer natural finishes or traditional designs such as those based on the Arts and Crafts designs of William Morris, described as swirly patterns made of organic shapes.
If buying wallpaper, find out if it is made with or without toxic dyes. Use a low-emitting (low solvent) paste for installation.
This might seem pointless but as a decorator it is far easier to work in solvent free environments. Also the fumes hang around after the decoration has finished.
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Wallpaper can also have an insulating role, especially if used with an underlay.
Various products can be used.
One is Sempatap, which is thermal insulation on a roll. It is put up like wallpaper. It makes little mess and can be decorated with virtually anything, such as paper or emulsion paint. It is possible to hang tiles on it.
Sempatap has been used in the UK for over 15 years by local authorities and housing associations.
Sempatap Thermal is an Energy Saving Trust 'recommended product'.
Also Polifoam wallpaper underlay improves the heat insulation of cold walls. It has a closed cell structure, made of chemically cross linked polyethylene foam, laminated to paper on both sides. This is not a green product as such, but can be used for its insulating capabilities.
Cork and bamboo, jute etc
Cork wall coverings have a natural look and are popular nowadays. There are several styles of natural cork laminated to a gold, brown, red and black backgrounds. Various other styles are available to suit any decor.
Cork underlay can be applied to bathroom walls.
Tightly woven strips of bamboo can also be used as a wallcovering.
Many different natural materials can be used as wallcoverings. This moves into panelling, where stronger materials are used.
Do not use vinyl wallcoverings. Disposal of vinyl a problem at the end of its useful life since it releases hazardous chemicals during incineration. Also many vinyl wallcoverings include phthalate plasticisers which can cause health problems.
Most vinyl wallcoverings are not permeable, so they can easily trap moisture behind them on the wall. This will cause mold growth.
Not using vinyl will reduce your range a bit, but there are plenty of natural types available.
Paste can be home-made to ensure natural, non-toxic chemicals. Or use a low VOC adhesive for light to medium-heavy paper-based wall coverings.
Removal of old wallpaper
Steam tools are usual for paper removal. Wallpaper stripper is a a toxic chemical and so should not be used.
There is a new method called Wallwik. This uses a highly absorbent fabric sheets that are presoaked in powerful but non toxic paste-dissolving solution. These sheets adhere to the wall, the solution in the sheet penetrates through the wallpaper, and so dissolves the paste. The whole sheet is then removed with the paste.
See our other article on Wallpapers DIY >