Wallcovering Glossary



abaca (aka Manila Hemp) Long fibers harvested from the trunk of the abaca plant that may be dyed, used for the weft of abaca wallcoverings along with a warp of cotton thread.

Abrasion Resistance Federal standard for measuring the ability of a wallcovering to withstand mechanical actions such as rubbing, scraping, or scrubbing that may progressively tend to remove material from the surface.

abstract Pattern or design based on unstructured or amorphous forms.

acoustical wallcovering Products predominantly made of man-made polyester and olefin fibers that absorb sound into a wall. A Noise Reduction Coefficient (NRC) rating indicates the amount of sound absorbed—the higher the number, the more noise absorption. Acoustical wallcoverings are designed for use on vertical surfaces, panels, operable walls and any place sound reduction is a primary factor.

acrylic Family of plastic resins that can be used in making synthetic fibers, surface coatings, or pigment binders.

acrylic primer Primer that forms a more water resistant film than a latex primer, and bonds to the most difficult surfaces, promotes strippability, and dries as a translucent film.

all-over design Usually floral, foliage, or scroll patterns which cover an entire panel without any particular feature standing out.

analogous colors (aka related colors) Colors that are adjacent to one another on the color wheel (e.g., red/orange, yellow/green, blue/purple)

animal print Design or pattern resembling the fur, skin, or hide of an animal.

antimicrobial Compound commonly added to a coating to inhibit the growth of bacteria, fungi, and algae on the surface of a finished product.

ASTM International (formerly American Society for Testing and Materials) Global organization recognized for publishing voluntary, consensus-based technical standards for a wide range of materials, systems, and services.

ASTM D5034 (see Elongation)

ASTM E84 (aka Steiner Tunnel Test) Standard test method for measuring the flame spread and smoke density of surfaces such as walls and ceilings when exposed to specific fire conditions. Class A wallcoverings have a Flame Spread Index of 0–25 and a Smoke Developed Index of 0–450; Class B have a Flame Spread Index of 26–75 and a Smoke Developed Index of 0–450; Class C have a Flame Spread Index of 76–200 and a Smoke Developed Index of 0–450.


base Vinyl sheet or ground that provides the surface on which the design and color, or decorative layer, is printed.

bleed In printing, an allowance of image that extends beyond the design outline or trim edge.

BildenWood™ Reconstructed veneer wallcoverings assembled from different components of genuine wood species. Each veneer has a consistent, repeatable arrangement, making it appropriate for interior applications where a more uniform look is desired.

bleeding Appearance of one color showing through another.

blind corner Corner in a room where a wallcovering pattern will not match and can easily be hidden, usually behind a door.

Blocking Resistance Federal standard for measuring the resistance to sticking between two surfaces of a wallcovering that touch under uniform loading and temperature conditions.

bolt Roll of wallcovering of a given length.

booking When applying adhesive onto wallcoverings, the process of temporarily folding (not creasing) pasted surfaces to each other for easier handling. Booking allows time for the adhesive to soak into and relax the paper, keeping it tacky until ready to hang.

book match The most common wood veneer match used for wallcoverings, where every other veneer is turned over like the pages of a book. This creates a symmetrical pattern of mirror-image pairs.

border A narrow band of wallpaper commonly used along ceiling lines, around door and window frames, or at chair rail height in place of wood molding.

botanical/floral pattern Design based on a representation of herbs, plants, flowers or other botanical objects.

Breaking Strength Federal standard for measuring the ability of a wallcovering to withstand a pulling force.

breathable Wallcovering that allows water and air to pass through to reduce the possibility for mold and mildew to grow. Vinyl wallcoverings can be perforated to reduce the risk of moisture accumulation.

burlap Woven fabric usually made from fibers of the jute plant that are spun into coarse threads. Both the warp and weft may be made from jute, or the fabric can be woven together with another natural fibered yarn. The woven material may be dyed, and is laminated to a paper backing to produce a wallcovering.

butted seam Most common type of wallcovering seam in which the edge of two strips of wallcovering are tightly butted together without any overlapping or spacing between the strips.


Cal 01350 (California Section 01350) Standards developed by the State of California that cover environmental performance and public health considerations in the selection of building materials. Materials are screened based on emissions testing protocols, hazardous content, and avoidance of mold and mildew.

Cal Prop 65 (California Proposition 65) As of October of 2018, this regulation requires that products sold to California, which may expose individuals to chemicals known to the State to cause cancer and/or reproductive harm, must provide a warning notice. There are currently over 800 chemicals and substances on the Prop 65 list, which includes seven phthalates: BBP, DBP, DEHP, DIDP, DINP, DnHP, and DnOP. The majority of mills that produce vinyl wallcoverings and upholstery distributed by Wolf-Gordon have eliminated, or are in the process of eliminating, these harmful phthalates. Products that are determined by our manufacturers to have a Prop 65-listed chemical present, at a level above the determined threshold, will have the following warning indicated on Wolf-Gordon’s Order Acknowledgement:

WARNING: Cancer and Reproductive Harm—www.P65Warnings.ca.gov Prop 65 requires this warning if this product is shipped to California, as it may result in exposure to harmful chemical(s).

calendering Process of compressing a material into a film or sheet by passing it through a series of precision rollers. Vinyl wallcovering is made by calendering a vinyl compound into a film or sheet, then backing it with a textile material.

cellulose Organic compound made from the cell wall of green plants, including cotton, hemp, and wood. Used in wallcoverings that consist of paper, rayon, and wood pulp.

cellulose adhesive Wallcovering paste derived from an organic compound that is non-staining and odorless, and frequently used in hanging natural materials such as grasscloths, linens, and silks.

centering When hanging a wallcovering, placing the dominant motif of a pattern at a focal point in a room—usually at eye level—to establish a starting point.

CFFA (Chemical Fabrics and Film Association) International trade organization that represents manufacturers of polymer-based fabric and film products used in building and construction, and many other industries. CFFA established the quality standards for vinyl-coated commercial wallcoverings.

chair rail (aka dado rail) Molding that is fastened to a wall at the height of a chair back. Coordinating wallcovering patterns are sometimes used above and below a chair rail.

chevron pattern (see herringbone pattern)

CLAIR® PVC-free wallcovering that meets all the performance standards for Type II. The olefin composite material can be cleaned with a 1:10 bleach/water solution, 70% isopropyl alcohol, 4.5% hydrogen peroxide, as well as cleaning and disinfecting agents that meet the EPA's criteria for use against Covid-19.

clay adhesive Starch-based paste that has clay added as a filler to increase the wet-tack and level of solids, having the lowest water content (40-50%) of any adhesive in general use. Developed for hanging fabric-backed, commercial vinyls and heavy wallcoverings that require superior tack.

cleanability Ability of a wallcoveirng to be cleaned easily, without damage, using mild soap and water or a more stringent cleaner recommended by the manufacturer.

clear adhesive Paste based on natural polymers such as wheat or cornstarch, or on synthetic polymers, with water content ranging from 60-70%. Developed for all-purpose use, ranging from very light vinyl to heavy wallcoverings. May be designated for use on bare sheetrock to allow for future stripping. Generally considered to allow for more open-time and ease of clean-up than clay-based adhesives.

Coating Adhesion Federal standard for measuring the strength of the bond between the surface coating and backing or substrate of a wallcovering.

coatings Thin protective surface layer, usually made of vinyl, which is applied to wallcoverings to provide washability and durability.

Cold Crack Resistance Federal standard for measuring the ability of a wallcovering to resist cracking of the coating or decorative surface when folded, during exposure to low temperatures.

Colorfastness Federal standard for measuring the ability of a wallcovering to resist change or loss of color caused by exposure to UV light over a measured period of time.

colorway Individual color or color scheme in which a specific pattern is offered.

complementary colors Colors directly opposite each other on the color wheel (e.g., red/green, yellow/purple, and blue/orange).

contract wallcovering Product made for non-residential markets, such as hospitality, healthcare, office, institutional, and other commercial interiors.

cool colors Hues of blue-green, blue, blue-violet, and most grays. Cool colors tend to recede, calm, and soothe.

coordinates Two or more patterns related to each other in color, design, subject matter, and/or technique, which work well when used together.

cork/cork veneer Wallcoverings with a variegated texture and no definite pattern, made from cork stripped from the bark of a cork oak tree, which regenerates every 9-10 years. The natural cork is formed and laminated to a nonwoven substrate or paper that may be colored.

Corner Burn Test (see NFPA 286)

cornice Horizontal molding or combination of moldings, which finish the top of a wall.

cotton Soft, fluffy staple fiber harvested from the plentiful and rapidly-renewable cotton plant, which is spun into yarn or thread and woven into fabric. Used for woven textile wallcoverings and for the weft of some grasscloths.

cove ceiling Ceiling that is rounded where it meets the wall.

Cradle to Cradle Framework developed by McDonough Braungart Design Chemistry (MBDC), a global sustainability consulting firm, that can be applied to assessing the human and environmental health characteristics of materials throughout their life cycle. The framework considers product recyclability/biodegradability, effectiveness of recovery and recycling, renewable energy use, water stewardship, and social responsibility. This criteria is used to recognize a product as Cradle to Cradle CertifiedCM—in four levels: Basic, Silver, Gold, and Platinum—making it eligible for LEED credits.

Crocking Federal standard for measuring the degree of color transferred from a wallcovering onto another surface by rubbing.


damask pattern Design that simulates a jacquard woven fabric, usually with a floral, foliage, or other decorative theme.

Declare™ Transparency tool that supports the Living Building Challenge sustainability certification program. Also relevant to other programs seeking product health and source location information. Declare provides a label similar to the Nutrition Label seen on food products, as well as a publicly accessible database of building products.

delamination Condition when the backing of a wallcovering begins to separate from the vinyl facing.

digital pattern Design that consists of, or resembles, computer-generated elements such as pixelated or fractal shapes.

digital printing Process where an image or pattern is generated and/or finalized by electronic systems, and printed by a computer-controlled printer. Images are generally printed with UV-resistant inks on a washable, latex-reinforced substrate, which is clear coated for long-lasting protection. Substrates include a wide variety of vinyl-embossed textures, Mylar™, canvas, window film, self-adhesive, natural, and fabric materials.

directional print Printed pattern or embossed texture that is intended to be installed and viewed from only one direction in order to be aesthetically pleasing. Also used to describe a pattern in which motifs are oriented along one or several directions.

double cutting Technique to obtain perfectly fitted seams, used in situations where it is necessary to overlap two strips of wallcovering while avoiding a raised ridge. A straightedge is placed at the center of the overlap and a razor knife or blade is used to cut through both layers. The top cutoff section is removed followed by the bottom cutoff portion, leaving a tightly butted seam.

drill cloth Coarse linen or cotton cloth with a diagonal weave, known for its strength and durability.

drop match Hanging technique used for patterns with elements intended to align, but not in a straight-across manner. With a Half-drop Match, each adjoining strip aligns halfway between the vertical pattern repeat, so every other strip will start at the same ceiling line, and the design elements will run in a diagonal direction. A Multiple Drop Match is similar to a half-drop match, except that it takes more strips before the pattern on the first strip is repeated.

dry-erase material (aka whiteboard) Vinyl or polyester laminated substrate used for creating a writing or drawing surface for non-permanent markings made with a dry-erase marker. Material is prepared to be easy to erase and resistant to inks, stains, and solvents. Surface is commonly white, and is also available in light and neutral colors, printed with light guidelines, or suitable for projection use.

durability Ablility to resist long-term wear and maintain original appearance. With vinyl wallcoverings, the appropriate level of durability is measured by type, e.g., Type I is for light duty, low-wear applications; Type II is for medium to heavy duty, high-traffic applications.

dye lot (aka run number) Set of numbers and/or letters that represent a particular batch of wallcovering rolls that were printed on the same print run. Since slight color variances can occur with each reprinting, it is important to ensure that all rolls of the same pattern have the same dye-lot number before beginning a job.


EcoView™ Brand name for J. Josephson’s osnaburg-backed Type II wallcovering, which contains 30% post-consumer recycled content.

Elongation Test method that evaluates the ductility of a textile wallcovering, by measuring the increase in length after it is subjected to stretching. ASTM D5034 (aka Grab Test) is the standard method where a specimen is gripped in a machine under a specified amount of tension until it ruptures. Test results measure the breaking strength along with the elongation, in both the warp and weft directions.

embossing Raised effect created by impressing a pattern, grain, or design into a wallcovering using either pressure or heat. Can be done during the film formation process or at a later operation. An in-register emboss is a technique where the ink colors are applied at the time the paper is being embossed, generally resulting in an embossing that duplicates the printed pattern.

end match Used to extend the apparent length of wood veneer wallcoverings. Wood strips are book- or slip-matched and installed end-to-end and side-to-side, producing the most pleasing continuous grain pattern.

engraving Rotogravure printing process that utilizes cylinders (rollers) etched with a specific design or pattern to transfer ink onto a substrate to reproduce the design.

etching Process of using a strong acid bath to slowly cut a design into a copper plated steel cylinder used for rotogravure printing.

exotic pattern Design that is influenced by less familiar objects, themes, or cultures, or unusual in an interesting way.

extrude Process in which heated or unheated plastic is forced through a shaped metal die to produce one continuously formed product, such as film, sheeting, or tubing.


fabric-backed vinyl Wallcovering with either a woven or nonwoven fabric laminated to the solid vinyl decorative surface. Woven backings are most common and are made of scrim, osnaburg, or drill cloth. Nonwoven fabric backings are made from a mixture of cellulose, textile fibers, pigments, and binders that form a very stable substrate, which allows for dry hang applications where the adhesive can be applied directly to the wall with a roller.

faux effect pattern Design that imitates the texture or look of a natural material, such as marble or wood. Taken from the French word meaning "fake" or “false.”

Federal Specification CCC-W-408D Manufacturing and performance standards for vinyl wallcoverings established by the US Government together with the Chemical Fabrics and Film Association (CFFA) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). Federal specifications define the following categories by strength (not weight): Type ILight duty: generally produced on a scrim or nonwoven backing, minimum weight is 7 oz per square yard (10-1/2 oz per linear yard for 54" width); Type IIMedium duty: backing is osnaburg, drill cloth, or nonwoven fabric, minimum weight is 13 oz per square yard (19-1/2 oz. per linear yard for 54" width); Type IIIHeavy duty: usually produced on a drill cloth backing, minimum weight is 22 oz per square yard (33 oz per linear yard for 54" width).

Flame Spread Index Federal standard (ASTM E84) for measuring the ability of a wallcovering to resist flames spreading at a fast rate along walls and ceiling when wallcovering is exposed to a source of ignition. The Flame Spread Index for Class A wallcoverings ranges from 0–25; Class B ranges from 26–75; and Class C ranges from 76–200. Federal Specification CCC-W-408D requires a maximum Flame Spread rating of 25 for all vinyl wallcovering types.

flat cut The most common wood veneer cutting method, where a log is sliced parallel to a line through its center. Flat-cut veneers yield a combination of cathedral and straight grain patterns.

flexographic printing (aka flexography) Process that utilizes flexible cylinders (usually rubber) that print a design with raised areas onto a substrate, with much less ink than surface printing. This technique allows for more delicate designs and some tonal effects that aren't possible with nonflexible surface rollers.

flitch Thin timber cut lengthways from a tree trunk. The flitch is stacked in sheets and laid in sequence when used for Wood Veneer Wallcoverings in order to maintain a consistent grain pattern.

flock wallcovering Produced by a machine that shakes very finely chopped fibers over a design that was printed on paper with a slow drying paint or varnish, giving the appearance of velvet or damask.

fluoropolymer Synthetic polymer with a very high resistance to solvents and acids, and therefore, staining. Also used for added cleanability. Teflon® is a brand name used for several fluoropolymers.

FSC certified Signifies that a product comes from environmentally appropriate, socially beneficial, and economically viable sources. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is an international, not-for-profit organization that promotes responsible management of the world’s forests.

FSC Controlled Product from sources that meet the FSC categories of acceptable material. These sources have not been FSC certified, but follow regulation allowing product to be mixed with FSC Certified material.


gapped seam Small space that appears between strips of wallcovering that are hung side by side.

geometric pattern Design based on non-representational shapes such as lines, circles, ellipses, triangles, rectangles, and polygons in a structured pattern.

grasscloth Handcrafted wallcovering made by weaving dried native grasses or plant fibers, such as abaca, hemp, or sisal, on a loom that is strung with cotton threads for the warp. This yields netting that is laminated to a paper backing or substrate, and the wallcovering is generally trimmed to a 36" width. Grasses and backing may be dyed. Grasscloths are intended for areas where no moisture or grease is present, as they cannot be scrubbed or washed. For high traffic areas, there are a number of vinyl wallcoverings that are excellent imitations of grasscloths.

gravure printing (see rotogravure printing)

grille/ironwork pattern Design that reflects architectural motifs commonly used for decorative iron railings, grilles, and fences.


HAP-free ink (hazardous air pollutant-free) Printing inks that are recycled in an oxidizer that reduces energy consumption. This generates heat that is returned to the printing process, virtually eliminating any hazardous emissions of carbon dioxide.

header strip Strip of wallcovering intended to be hung above a door or window.

Health Product Declaration (HPD) Third-party tool used for reporting the contents of building products and the potential human and ecological health impact once the products are installed. The HPD defines the critical information needed to support supply chain disclosure by manufacturers and suppliers, and informed decisions by building designers, specifiers, owners, and users. LEED v4 includes credits that require a manufacturer to disclose material ingredients in HPDs.

Heat Aging Resistance Federal standard for measuring the ability of a wallcovering to resist deterioration of the coating or decorative surface when exposed to elevated temperatures over an extended period of time.

hemp Common name for the coarse fibers extracted from a high-growing variety of the Cannabis plant, which closely resemble other grasses used for grasscloth wallcoverings, except with a much finer weave. As with other grasscloths, hemp contains irregularities in color and pattern.

herringbone pattern (aka chevron pattern) Geometric design composed of a horizontal or vertical sequence of “V” shapes used either singly or in a series to form a zig-zag pattern.

horizontal repeat Measurement (usually in inches) between a specific point on a motif or design and where the identical point appears next across the width of the wallcovering panel.

hot spots Shiny spots on wallcovering caused by a chemical reaction.

houndstooth pattern Design made of broken checks or abstract four-pointed stars, inspired by textile weaves of the same name.

hue Pure state of any color, without a tint or shade. Colors with the same hue are often distinguished with adjectives referring to their lightness and/or colorfulness, such as with "light blue," "pastel blue," or "vivid blue.”


Indoor Advantage Gold Brand name of the Scientific Certification Systems (SCS) certification of materials that comply with rigorous indoor air quality emissions standards.

intaglio printing (see rotogravure printing)

intensity Strength or brightness of a color.

INVISICAP Clear protective film that can be applied to certain wallcoverings, so they can be cleaned and disinfected with virtually any cleaning, disinfecting, or other chemical agent, including solvents, acids, oxidizers, and salts.


jute Long, soft, and shiny fibers from the rapidly-renewable jute plant, which are spun into strong, coarse threads used for making burlap. For a jute wallcovering, the woven burlap is often backed with paper. Jute is considered the most sustainable of fibers since it is durable, colorfast, insulates against sound and heat, and can be recycled more than once.


kenaf Fibers cultivated from the stem of a rapidly-renewable plant of the Hibiscus family, with similar characteristics to jute. Kenaf can be used as the core component of a sustainable, organic wallcovering when combined with PLA and backed with recycled paper.

kill point Inconspicuous area in a room where an installer will arrange to have the final strip of wallcovering placed. This is important when working with patterns, to avoid a miss-match at this junction.


lamination Process of building up thin layers of natural or synthetic materials and bonding them together with an adhesive as one product, under heat and pressure.

latex acrylic backing Applied to textile wallcoverings to provide stability and improved hanging.

LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Third-party green building certification program developed by USGBC, which recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. To receive LEED certification, building projects must satisfy prerequisites and earn points (credits) to achieve different levels. Projects may earn one of four levels of LEED certification (Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum) by achieving a given number of credits within one of the five rating systems.

leaf A sliced sheet taken from a veneer flitch.

life cycle Series of stages in form and function through which a product passes, beginning with the manufacturing of raw materials to the end of the product’s useful life.

Life Safety Code (NFPA 101) Establishes minimum requirements for new and existing buildings to protect building occupants from fire, smoke, and toxic fumes.

linear yard (LY) Measurement of the length of a material, while a square yard is a unit of area. Example: If a wallcovering has a width of 54" and it is sold by the linear yard (36), when you buy 2 linear yards you get a 72" x 54" piece.

linen Finely woven textile made from the spun fibers of the flax plant, which is backed with paper to form a wallcovering. Textile wallcoverings with a linen-weave texture, even when made of non-flax fibers, are sometimes referred to as "linens.”

Living Building Challenge (LBC) Advanced sustainability certification program for building products that requires compliance with seven areas (known as “petals”)—Site, Water, Energy, Health, Materials, Equity, and Beauty. The petal was created to encourage transparency, non-toxicity, and socially equitable use of materials. LBC can be applied to both new construction and renovation of buildings, and is more rigorous than green certification schemes such as LEED.

low emitting Materials used for indoor applications that contain low amounts of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), as determined by LEED and/or other rating systems.

Lurotex® Protector Environmentally friendly, waterbased finish that helps prevent oil or water-based splashes from penetrating and staining wallcovering.


machine printing Method for printing on wallcovering that employs a rotary press and a series of cylinders that operate at high speed.

masonry pattern Design resembling the look and/or structure of building components such as brick, stone, marble, and concrete.

matte finish A dull sheen on the surface of a wallcovering.

memo sample Cutting taken from a wallcovering or textile—usually of a standardized size—and provided to a customer to evaluate actual color and texture.

mica wallcovering Crushed pieces of a silicate mineral (aka vermiculite) adhered to a metallic paper backing to create a highly reflective and textured surface.

microventing (see perforation)

Mildew Resistance Federal standard for measuring the ability of a wallcovering to deter the growth of fungal mildew on the decorative surface.

mix & match This method of creating a wood veneer wallcovering can incorporate any variety of woods in a specified stripe pattern. WonderWood works best for this application, due to its consistent, linear finish.

molding Ornamental strip of wood or plaster that protrudes from a ceiling or wall surface.

monochromatic Design of one color or in different light-to-dark values (shades).

mural Wall decoration with a pictorial design that continues over two or more strips of wallcovering and is intended to cover part or most of a wall without a repeat.

muted color Color with brightness that has been lessened or moderated, often by its complementary color.

Mylar™ Trademark of DuPont for a polyester film made of metal sheeting, which can be applied to the decorative print of a wallcovering. Although similar to foil wallcoverings, Mylar will not tear very easily, but will burn; foils will tear easily, but will not burn. Both Mylars and foils will show any imperfections in a wall surface, so extreme care should be taken in wall preparation.


neutral colors Whites, beiges, browns, and grays which coordinate well with most other colors.

NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) International nonprofit organization recognized for publishing voluntary, consensus-based technical standards for reducing the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life.

NFPA 265 Standard method for determining the contribution of interior textile wallcoverings to room fire growth and fire spread beyond the room, during specified fire exposure conditions.

NFPA 286 (aka Corner Burn Test) Standard test method for evaluating the contribution of walls and ceilings to room fire growth. Considered more indicative of real world fire hazards than ASTM E84.

Noise Reduction Coefficient Average rating of how much sound an acoustic product can absorb. (How much quieter a product can make your space.) Like a sponge absorbs water, an acoustic product absorbs sound, and the NRC indicates how much sound that product can soak up.

non-directional pattern Design that looks the same when viewed from any direction.

nonporous (aka non-breathable or non-permeable) Characteristic of vinyl wallcoverings that have little or no ability for moisture vapor to pass through. Can be an important benefit in terms of durability, cleanability, and wall protection.

nonwoven backing Dimensionally stable substrate produced from a mixture of long-fiber cellulose pulps and textile fibers combined with binders and additives to provide wet strength and absorbency.

nonwoven wallcovering Substrate made from both natural and synthetic fibers, such as cellulose, wood pulp, and polyester, developed as an alternative to vinyl wallcoverings.

NSF/ANSI 342 Comprehensive sustainability standard for wallcovering products developed through a partnership between the Wallcovering Association, NSF International (a public health and safety organization), and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). This standard takes into account the environmental impact of all types of wallcovering products across their entire life cycle, from raw material extraction through end of life disposal. Both the manufacturer and the distributor must qualify to bring a certified product to market.


ogee pattern Design made up of an onion-shaped or double curve motif resembling an elongated “S”.

olefin (see polyolefin)

ombre Color treatment that is shaded or graduated in tone, sometimes achieved through stripes of progressively smaller widths.

open time Time period between the opening or activation of an adhesive and its application, before it dries.

Optical Art (aka Op Art) Abstract design that creates a visual effect, such as the illusion of movement, vibration, or an exaggerated sense of depth.

organic pattern Design inspired by natural elements, utilizing curvilinear or amorphous shapes and flowing lines, with little structure.

osnaburg Coarse, heavy cloth commonly made of cotton or as a cotton/polyester blend, used as the backing for Type II vinyl wallcoverings intended for medium–heavy usage areas.

out of register When two or more printed images are not aligned properly.

overlapping seam Method of hanging wallcovering in which strips overlap slightly.


parquet match A wood wallcovering design achieved by cutting veneer sheets into multiple equal-sized squares. These cuts cannot be provided by the supplier; the must be field cut by the installer.

paisley pattern Design of Persian origin, based on a teardrop-shaped motif.

palette Group of color, shades, or designs selected for a particular pattern or collection of patterns.

paper-backed vinyl (aka solid sheet vinyl) Solid sheet of vinyl laminated or bonded to a paper backing, forming a durable surface that is scrubbable, peelable, and resistant to moisture and stains.

paperweave Wallcovering with characteristics similar to a grasscloth, but woven from paper products composed of cellulose that are cut into thin strips. Strips are then twisted and/or spun into lengths of yarns (hanks) that are woven and laminated to a paper backing. The paper yarns and backing may be dyed. Paperweaves are intended for areas where no moisture or grease is present, as they cannot be scrubbed or washed.

pattern match (also see straight match, drop match, and random match) Area on a wallcovering where the pattern repeat matches at the seams. The pattern repeat and match should be considered when determining how much wallcovering to order. For instance, a large repeat with a straight match will require more wallcovering than a small repeat with a drop match. A random match has the least waste factor because no allowances need to be made for matching the pattern.

pearlescent finish Pigment added to a clear liquid vinyl to obtain a coating with a color and sheen similar to a pearl.

perforation (aka microventing) Process of creating tiny holes in the surface of a vinyl wallcovering to allow the passage of water vapor, increasing permeability. The nearly invisible holes allow the wallcovering to "breathe" so water vapor is not trapped behind the surface where it can contribute to mold growth.

permeability rating Measure of the amount of water vapor (moisture) that can pass through a specified material in a specific amount of time, expressed in units referred to as Perms. Materials with high Perm levels will allow more moisture or water vapor to pass through than those with lower Perm values. Although no specific test procedure has been officially sanctioned, the ASTM E-96 is used by many wallcovering companies to measure permeability.

phthalates Group of chemicals used in vinyl to make it soft and flexible. These seven phthalates: BBP, DBP, DEHP, DIDP, DINP, DnHP, and DnOP are currently listed on California Prop 65 as being "known to cause reproductive harm." Safe harbor levels have been established to determine whether a consumer warning is required. The majority of Wolf-Gordon's vinyl wallcovering and upholstery manufacturers have developed products that replace these harmful phthalates with other plasticizers. This will help reduce human exposure to avoidable chemical hazards.

pigmented primer/sealer Wall primer that dries white (instead of clear) and bonds to most difficult surfaces, and promotes strippability. A pigmented primer can be used to hide drywall joints or patterns, and can be tinted to match a wallcovering color for gaps at seams.

plaid/check pattern Designs consisting of crossed horizontal and vertical lines, or alternating squares.

plumb bob Weight, usually with a pointed tip on the bottom, that is suspended from a string and used as a reference to produce a vertical line on a wall to assure that each wallcovering strip is hung perfectly straight.

polyolefin Fibers made from polymers or copolymers of propylene used to form yarns that are woven to give the aesthetic appearance of a natural textile, while adding increased value in stain and abrasion resistance. Polyolefin textiles are backed with an acrylic or paper backing to make textile wallcoverings.

polylactic acid (PLA) Biodegradable, thermoplastic polyester derived from renewable resources such as soy and corn. This thermoplastic component acts as a structural element and topcoat for organic wallcoverings composed of kenaf and backed with paper. PLA provides the ultimate fire rating, since it turns to water vapor when heated or burned.

polyvinyl acetate (PVAc) Rubbery, synthetic polymer used as a wallcovering adhesive.

polyvinyl chloride (PVC) Polymer essentially derived from petroleum and salt, which through several chemical processes results in a fine, white powder or resin. The vinyl resin is combined with chemical additives and modifiers into a compound, in order to achieve the properties required for wallcovering. These additives dictate the needed performance criteria, including color, flexibility, thickness, and UV resistance. The vinyl compound is made into thin and flexible sheets through calendering, and can be clear or opaque, or made to match any color. PVC's relatively low cost, biological and chemical resistance and workability have resulted in its use for a wide variety of applications.

pre-trimmed Rolls of wallcovering from which the selvage has been trimmed by the manufacturer.

primary colors Three colors—red, yellow, and blue—that cannot be produced by mixing any other pigments together. All other colors are created by combining various amounts of the primary colors.

primer Paint applied to the walls or ceiling to provide a more uniform surface prior to installing wallcovering. The primer can also improve the removability of wallcovering and decrease the chances of wall damage.

production run Process of producing one pattern in one combination of colors, from beginning to end.


quarter cut A wood veneer cutting method, where a log is cut parallel to a radius line through the log segment, yielding veneers of graduating widths. Quarter-cut veneers have a straight, consistent grain pattern.


railroading Technique of hanging wallcovering horizontally (side to side) rather than from ceiling to floor. Can be used with non-directional wallcovering patterns when installed above or below windows and doors.

RAMPART® Flexible wall protection product engineered to provide abrasion and impact resistance comparable to rigid sheet goods.

RAMPART® Resolve™
Flexible wall protection product engineered to provide abrasion and impact resistance comparable to rigid sheet goods, but without polyvinyl-chloride (PVC).

random match Installation technique used for a pattern with no specific match point, where each strip is positioned randomly. Stripes, textural patterns, and grasscloths are examples of this type of match. The top and bottom of each successive strip are generally reversed to minimize visual effects from edge-to-edge, such as shading or color variations. In cases where a design has a directional quality, a Straight Hang may be indicated. Note: Random match wallcoverings will produce less waste because there is no repeat distance to take into account.

random plank A wood wallcovering design where veneer strips from a specific species are cut a specified width and varied lengths, and then assembled in a random pattern similar to wood-plank flooring. Wood species with pronounced grain and color variation work best.

rapidly renewable resources Raw materials from plants and other natural sources that typically are harvested within a ten-year cycle. Examples include bamboo, straw, cork, cotton, hemp, and wool. By producing materials using these rapidly growing plant-based products, the number of forests and other resources that take decades to regenerate can be reduced.

rayon Man-made textile fibers and filaments regenerated from cellulose.

REACH A European regulation that aims to improve the protection of human health and the environment through the identification of the intrinsic properties of chemical substances. This is done by the four processes of REACH: registration, evaluation, authorization and restriction of chemicals. Manufacturers have the responsibility to gather information on the properties of their chemical substances, which will allow their safe handling, and to register the information in a central database.

ready-to-use cellulose Adhesive recommended for hanging delicate papers, strings, and grasscloths where bleed-through or staining is a concern. Since this adhesive is very low in solids and strength, it should not be used to hang vinyl wallcoverings.

receding colors Cool colors that tend to make surfaces appear farther away or smaller.

recyclable Ability for a product to be recycled into the same or different product, generally preventing the waste of potentially useful materials and reducing the consumption of raw materials and energy usage.

recycled content Pre-consumer (aka post-industrial): materials generated by manufacturers or product converters, such as trimmings, overruns, and obsolete products, which are incorporated back into the manufacturing process of a similar or different product. Post-consumer: a material or product that has served its intended use and has been diverted or recovered from waste destined for disposal. Simply, it is the waste that individuals routinely discard into a receptacle or landfill.

Red List Materials and chemicals that the International Living Building Institute has designated may not be used in construction that seeks to meet the Living Building Challenge, due to health/toxicity concerns. The Red List is updated as new science emerges.

reedcloth Handcrafted wallcovering in which individual reeds are inserted into a warp of cotton threads on a hand-made loom, similar to that of grasscloth. Like other natural materials, the reeds vary in thickness and color.

Regional Materials Credit category used by the LEED 2009 rating system, defined as materials that are extracted, harvested, and manufactured within a certain distance of a project site, historically within a 500-mile radius.

relief Making a design prominent by raising it or by cutting away the surface or background of the design.

repeat Horizontal or vertical measurement (usually in inches) between a specific point on a motif or design and the identical point where it appears next in the pattern.

reverse hang Technique for hanging wallcovering in which every other strip is installed in the opposite direction from how it comes off the roll.

rift cut A wood veneer cutting method, where a log is sliced at a slight angle from the radius of the flitch. This method is most often used with oak woods to minimize the "ray flake" effect that can occur.

room lot Unit consisting of enough rolls of a pattern for a given room.

rotary cut A wood veneer cutting method, where a log is center-mounted on a lathe and peeled along its growth rings. This yields wide leaves with a random grain, making difficult to match veneers.

rotary screen printing (see screen printing)

rotogravure printing (aka gravure or intaglio) Machine printing process where chrome-plated copper cylinders (rollers) are engraved with a design, and the recessed areas of the rollers pick up the ink and deposit it on the wallcovering surface. There is a separate roller for each color, and the depth of the engraving determines the strength of the color. This process allows for very fine detail and reproduction of images with photo quality. Rotogravure is the most costly manufacturing process.

rushcloth Handcrafted wallcovering in which rush—a juncaceous plant—is inserted into a warp of cotton threads on a hand-made loom, similar to that of grasscloth. Like other natural materials, rushcloth has a natural shading effect.


screen printing (aka silkscreen printing) Process using either flat or rotary hand screens, where the design image is reproduced onto a flat mesh screen held within a frame. The screen area is covered with a resist, such as wax, which blocks all of the screen openings, except in the area of the design image. A rubber squeegee is used to push ink along the screen surface, forcing it through the openings in the design area onto the wallcovering substrate. One screen is needed for each color. This process is most often used for specialty and customized products.

scrim Durable plain-woven fabric, commonly made of cotton, used as the backing for Type I vinyl wallcoverings intended for light construction areas.

scroll pattern Design made up of a ribbon-like motif, similar to a partly rolled scroll of paper.

scrubbable Wallcovering that can be safely washed with a sponge and detergent while still on the wall.

seam roller Small tool used to roll or press wallcovering seams to make them adhere to the wall when dry.

secondary colors Result of combining any two primary colors; i.e., red+yellow=orange; yellow+blue=green; blue+red=purple.

Second Look® Wallcoverings manufactured with 20% recycled content, including a minimum of 10% post-consumer material, that meet many of the sustainability standards for contract wallcovering.

selvage Blank strip along the edges of a wallcovering roll that may include register marks used to ensure color registration. Wallcoverings with a selvage must be hand trimmed on a table or double-cut on the wall after installing.

shade Color produced by adding black to a pigment.

shading Effect that can sometimes be seen along the seams of plain all-over designs or textured wallcoverings due to color variation during printing. A reverse hanging technique will eliminate this appearance.

shrinkage Problem that may occur when hanging some wallcoverings, since the substrate expands slightly when wet and shrinks somewhat when it dries. Shrinkage can be avoided by applying the correct amount of adhesive—too much can keep the wallcovering from grabbing properly; too little may prevent wallcovering from sticking to the wall. Improper booking time can also cause shrinkage, since the adhesive may not have had time to fully activate. Another common cause is when seams are rolled too soon, forcing out paste prematurely. Waiting as long as two hours for the adhesive to set before attempting to roll seams, is often recommended.

silk wallcovering Fabric woven from yarn that is produced from the cocoons of a silkworm. The fine strands of raw silk that make up the yarn are woven on a loom, and the material is commonly backed with a paper substrate.

silkscreen printing (see screen printing)

sisal Stiff, durable fiber extracted from a sisal plant that is used in producing grasscloth wallcoverings.

slip match Wood veneer strips are joined side-by-side in sequence to produce wood veneer wallcoverings. Color and grain may not match, and not all species blend well with this pattern.

Smoke Developed Index Federal standard (ASTM E84) for measuring the concentration of smoke a material emits when exposed to a source of ignition. The Smoke Developed Index for Class A, B, and C wallcoverings ranges from 0–450. Federal Specification CCC-W-408D requires a maximum Smoke Development rating of 50 for all vinyl wallcovering types.

solid pattern Design with the appearance of one overall color when viewed from a distance. A solid may have an embossed texture or subtle printed pattern.

Stain Resistance Federal standard for measuring any change in the appearance of a wallcovering after application and removal of specified reagents.

stain resistant coating Topcoat used on a wallcovering to protect against staining and assist with cleanability.

straight hang Technique for hanging wallcovering in which every strip is installed in the same direction, starting at the ceiling line.

straight match Technique used when design elements of a wallcovering are arranged in a repeat pattern that should align on successive strips. The same area of the pattern will start at the same ceiling line.

string wallcovering Wallcovering made from very fine threads laminated in a vertical direction to a paper type substrate.

strip A length of wallcovering, cut to fit the height of the wall.

stripe/vertical pattern Designs that consist of bands or stripes that customarily run along the length of a wallcovering, or patterns that have a strong vertical orientation.

strippable Wallcovering that can be dry-stripped from the wall, leaving a minimum of adhesive residue and without damage to the wall's surface.

(faux) suede Material made from polyester alone or in combination with polyurethane to form a soft suede-like surface texture, used for wallcovering or upholstery applications.

surface printing Process used to reproduce a stencil-like effect through the use of lightweight urethane print cylinders. The print design coincides with raised areas on the roller. Once inked, the roller is pressed against the material to be printed, transferring the design onto a moving web of wallcovering. One roller is required for each color.

sustainability (see NSF/ANSI 342)

swatch Sample cutting of a wallcovering or textile.


Tear Resistance Federal standard for measuring the ability of a wallcovering to resist the propagation of an existing tear.

texture Tactile surface quality of a wallcovering, perceived through touch. A texture can also be printed to create the appearance or illusion of another surface, such as a fabric, wood, or metal.

textile wallcovering Wallcovering produced by laminating a woven material made of natural or synthetic fibers to a backing. Backings are usually acrylic or paper and are used to enhance dimensional stability and prevent an adhesive from coming through the surface. Textile wallcoverings made of natural materials, such as linen or cotton, are commonly used in low traffic areas. Polyolefin/Synthetic textile wallcoverings, which offer increased stain and abrasion resistance, are appropriate for higher traffic areas.

tint Color produced when a pigment is mixed with white.

tone Color that has been toned down by adding its complement or gray.

tone on tone (aka ton sur ton) Design made up of different shades and tones of the same color.

total weight Combined weight of a wallcovering, including the backing and coating, measured in ounces per square yard.

TPO (thermoplastic olefin) PVC-alternative wallcovering composed of a polymer/filler blend, which yields performance and cleanability similar to Type II vinyl without chlorine chemistry. TPO wallcoverings also possess sustainable attributes such as extremely low VOCs, no phthalates or formaldehyde, and printing with waterbased inks.

trompe l'oeil French term meaning “fool the eye,” for designs that use light and shadow to portray a three-dimensional effect.

Type I, II, or III wallcovering (see Federal Specifications CCC-W-408D)


up the roll Direction that a wallcovering comes off of the roll.

U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) Membership-based nonprofit organization that promotes sustainability in how buildings are designed, built, and operated. USGBC is best known for its development of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) green building rating systems.


value Lightness or darkness of a color.

vertical repeat Measurement (usually in inches) between a specific point on a motif or design and the identical point where it appears next along the length (up the roll) of the wallcovering panel.

vinyl (also see polyvinyl chloride) Man-made material formed by the polymerization of vinyl chloride into a compound that is made into thin, flexible sheets used for wallcoverings. Because of its many performance attributes, including durability, flexibility, fire resistance, colorfastness, and easy maintenance; as well as its design versatility and relatively low cost, vinyl wallcovering is a popular choice for commercial interiors.

vinyl-over-vinyl adhesive Paste specifically designed to bond fabric- or paper-backed vinyl wallcovering to an existing vinyl. Extra care needs to be taken to clean these adhesives off while they are wet because of their added bond strength.

VOC (volatile organic compound) Compound chemicals, such as formaldehyde and benzene, that off-gas readily into the air and are associated with a range of health effects. Short-term effects include dizziness, headaches, and eye, nose and throat irritation; longer-term exposure can lead to cancer, damage to the liver, kidney, and nervous system.


wainscot (aka wainscoting) Wood paneling used to cover the lower part of an interior wall, above the baseboard and below a chair rail. Wallcovering is also used below a chair rail as a substitute.

Wallcoverings Association (WA) Trade association dedicated to representing and supporting manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers of residential and commercial wallcoverings, in North America. WA provides its members with information on market trends, leading business practices, and industry-specific education through national events, newsletters, and media partners.

warm colors Hues of red, orange, and yellow, as well as tans and browns. Warm colors tend to advance or appear more active.

washability Ability to be cleaned with a sponge, mild soap, and water.

WonderWood® Wallcoverings fabricated from slices of high-yield wood species sourced from sustainable tree farms, instead of harvesting mature trees from rainforests. These veneers are dyed and reconstituted to imitate both domestic and exotic wood species.

wood veneer wallcoverings Thin sheets of genuine or engineered wood, cut from a wide variety of tree species, that are laminated to a fabric backing. Veneers are cut from four major sections of a tree, which produce different graining. Leaves of wood may be arranged on a sheet in several different match types. Flexible, rolled sheets are customarily prepared in 18 to 24 inch widths, and in lengths up to 144 inches long. Wood veneer wallcoverings are applied with a special waterbased adhesive, and demand a delicate installation technique.

woven effect pattern Design that simulates the look of a woven textile or other material.