Textiles inside buildings have a long history. They were initially used for dividing rooms as, for instance, in Japanese architecture. The Assyrians and Babylonians were probably the first to paste them onto existing walls. In England, textile wallpapers were produced during the fourteenth century. In the beginning they were woven and embroidered like a tapestry, which meant that they were in a price class that only kings could afford. During the fifteenth century, the Dutch began painting


Grafton Wallpaper designed by William Morris, 1883.


Grafton Wallpaper designed by William Morris, 1883.

simple figures and ornamentation onto untreated linen. The price of wallpaper dropped a bit, and rich merchants, statesmen and higher church o/cials could afford it.

About 100 years later waxcloth wallpaper arrived, which consisted of a simple sacking of hemp, jute or fax covered with a mixture of beeswax and turpentine. A pattern could be printed on the surface. Waxed wallpaper was much cheaper than the earlier types of wallpaper, but it was only when it was being made from paper that prices fell and everyone had a chance of buying it. It was first available in 1510, initially as small square pieces of paper in different colours, pasted up as a chequered pattern. During the eighteenth century, the first rolls of wallpaper came on the market with hand printed patterns, and around 1850 the first machine printed wallpapers arrived.

An analysis ofthe many wallpaper patterns throughout history gives a good indication of cultural trends.William Morris's organic, flowery wallpapers tell ofthe great need tokeepintouchwithnatureduringindustrialization'sfrstepoch (Figure 15.33).Something ofthe same longing can be seen today on the panoramic photographic views of South Sea Islands, sunsets, etc.

Wallpapers of natural textiles are most often produced with fibres of jute or cellulose. Other fibres like wool, flax, sugar cane, silk, hemp and cotton can also be used. The textile fibres are woven together and glued to an underlay of cellulose, viscose or plastic. One particular wallpaper is made with rye straw woven together with cotton threads. Some products will have water repellents, flame retardants and fungicides added. They can also be dyed, and dye fixers can contain heavy metals. Wallpapers of natural textiles can offer a substantial contribution to the buffering of moisture in the indoor climate.

Wallpapers from synthetic textiles are mainly woven with fibre-glass. The fibreglass is often used in combination with polyester thread. This is usually given a coating of paint based on polyvinyl-acetate (PVAC) or acrylates to prevent it from losing fibres. It is also common to add fibreglass to an otherwise pure natural textile in order to strengthen it.

Paper wallpaper is made from cellulose, often in the form of recycled paper. Some products are bleached with chlorine. Amounts of small wood shavings can be added to form a structure. In certain products a thin plastic coating is used to increase resistance to water and improve wash-ability. Printed patterns are often based on animal glue paint, emulsion, oil oralkyd paint to a total share of 15-20% of the total weight of the wallpaper.

Plastic wallpaper is produced from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) fixed in a structure of paper or natural textile, and can be smooth or textured. The PVC has phthalates added as softeners. The products can also contain flame retardants and fungicides.

All wallpapers are glued to the underlayer. For paper products, starch glues and glues based on methyl cellulose are mostly used. Heavier products are usually glued with PVAC. The glues can have biocides added.

Fibreglass fabric is made from quartz sand, which can be found in abundance. Plastic products are based on fossil oils. Wallpapers of natural textiles are based mainly on renewable raw materials. When recycled cellulose is used, the consumption of energy and water in production is substantially reduced.

Most plastic wallpapers and other products with a plastic coating have low vapour permeability, which means that moisture buffering properties in the underlayer will be less accessible. Considerable emissions of styrene have been measured from fibreglass reinforced polyester wallpaper, increasing in damp environments (Gustafsson, 1990). Products of PVC emit phthalates and several other compounds that may irritate the mucous membranes. In some of the used glues, mould can arise when exposed to continuous damp. Large amounts of dust can also gather on rough textile coverings, creating a basis for growth of mould and dust mites. Dust can collect on plastic wallpapers due to electrostatic charging with the same effect. Wallpapers of PVC also become sticky if they are heated (for example, when situated close to heating systems) and emit more gases.When renovating or demolishing, it is usual to remove old wallpaper from walls. This is quite easy with paper wallpapers. Steam or hot water can be used on the soluble pastes. It is more difficult with plastic wallpapers. Products in bathrooms with a foamed underlay of PVC are almost impossible to remove, and will often take a piece of the wall or plaster with them.

Wallpapers have no recycling value. Paper and natural textiles can be composted providing they have no polluting or potentially dangerous additives or adhesives. Fibreglass wallpapers containing polyester, and PVC wallpapers, have to be deposited on special tips. They can be burned for energy recovery if the incinerator is provided with special smoke filters and the ash is taken care of.

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