Read our exhaustive guide on wall coverings, from the options available in the market to the pros and cons of each
The purpose of wall covering has long since moved on from serving a merely functional purpose, which was to cover walls with seepage problems or to conceal ugly pipes and wires. With the advent of new materials and ideas in the market, wall cladding is now being used to give a statement look to a space.
Opulent, glamorous, rustic- it’s possible to create spaces within each of these distinctive styles with the help of different kinds of wall coverings.
‘’Broadly, wall coverings could be divided into two main categories based on their application or purpose --internal and external cladding,” says Ranjit S S Dhody, director, Beautex. “Wall paper, fabric, vinyl and glass are ideal for internal cladding and timber, stone, composite material, metal, aluminium and glass can be used externally,” he adds. Traditionally, wallpapers, stones, tiles and wood have been popular in India.
“Ranging from leather panels to hard wood, MDF, textured fabric, tiles, metal sheets, back painted glass and veneers… choices for wall coverings are now several. However, wallpapers are the most commonly known coverings,” says Prashant Chauhan, architect and Creative Director of ZERO9.
To achieve the best in physical performance and aesthetics, it is imperative to choose a product specific to an elevation or exposure. Let’s have a look at the options available in the market.
Wallpapers: “They are the most cost-effective option available, but they can be the most expensive item on your home renovation list, what with Swarovski-studded wallpapers,” says Prashant. These are usually quick to install and involve least amount of hassle at site, and hence are widely preferred.
However, if you are looking to solve moisture issues, wallpapers are not a good option. “People prefer a hard material cladding like stone, tile or wood even indoors so as to maintain a slight air cavity between the wall and cladding through a sub-structure. While this adds to the wall thickness by an inch, it surely guarantees that whatever happens to the main wall isn't exposed,” says Ranjit.
Tiles: Traditionally used more for functional purposes, like in bathroom and kitchen space, they have grown in aesthetic appeal. “Tiles can emulate any other material in appearance with unlimited options in design and colour. They are great for a feature wall. At the same time, since they don’t absorb moisture, they are ideal if you want to solve the dampness problem,” says Poonam Gupta, Director, Surfaces FCML. With contemporary designs and finishes, tiles have made the transition from the old world to the modern smoothly. “You even have 8 feet by 11 feet tiles that resemble laminates,’’ adds Poonam.
FCML’s design initiative, FCDI, has recently brought out a range of tiles in collaboration with designers Abraham & Thakore, Pero by Aneeth Arora and JJ Walaya, each of which tells a story. “With these kind of stones, it’s the creative way in which you lay them
that makes the look unique,’’ says Poonam.
The good thing is they are also maintenance-free. “Tiles can be easily wiped and are more dust-proof compared to some absorbant materials,” says Prashant.
Stones: Nothing can match the natural beauty and richness of stones, another traditional choice. “But by that very nature, stones cannot be as versatile as tiles,” says Poonam. “Also, owing to the thickness of some stones, the wall needs to be of a specific type or thickness, thus escalating the cost of installation a bit,” she says. They are a popular choice for elevations and facades. “Weather-resistant granite is good for exteriors as well as interiors where they can introduce a feeling of sophistication and royalty. Marble, although expensive and requiring relatively more maintenance than other stone tiles, has still remained popular (in India),” she says.
Leather Panels: They come readymade in different shapes, sizes and colours, and can also be custom-made. Installed using adhesives, they impart a textural edge to the space. ‘’Depending on the kind of filler, they also absorb sound and could become a good choice for home theatres,” says Prashant. This is a good option when doing up spaces that need a masculine feel.
Hard wood and veneer: If you are looking at a more refined style, this is a good option. “Wooden wall paneling creates a more mature and refined sense of space, though it may add to the timeline since it needs polishing,” says Prashant.
If used efficiently for exterior walls and facades, they lend a certain character to the structure, while also protecting it from heat and cold.
MDF: A wide variety of textured MDF sheets are readily available that can be customised to suit varied tastes. “These sheets can be painted, polished and stylised as per the theme. With this alternative, you can expect a three-dimensional visual texture,” says Ranjit, adding, “The most artificial options are strong against the sun and rain, but they do lack the rich feel of a natural product.” They are also weather-resistant and suit varied budgets.
Fabric cladding: This option brings a textural vibrancy to a space. “Depending on the kind of backing used, this cladding could also be acoustically suitable for spaces with double height and more echo. With a variety of material and print options, these can be customised in terms of stitching patterns,” says Prashant.
Back painted glass: If you are looking at a uniquely customised look, back-painted glass is the most convenient and works as a flexible alternative, according to Prashant. “Printable and paintable, glass can be treated with countless possibilities of processes to create a perfect wall covering,” he says.
Metal sheets: If you want to play with light and shade, and add a touch of sheen to the walls, metal panels like copper, steel and aluminium do the job perfectly. “Usually laser cut into intricate patterns these sheets bring in a visual transparency to the more solid backdrop. They add a certain gloss to the surroundings, but are not advisable for acoustical purpose as they reflect sound,” says Prashant.
With such a wide range of choices, the parameters for selecting the right product too are varied. “It all depends on the applications, cost, strength, durability, eco-friendliness and appearance,” says Poonam.
“Due to great product variety, there is a big divide between the prices as well. You could buy fiber cement cladding for
about Rs 50 per square feet or a composite or a laminate cladding for Rs 150 per square feet or a natural timber cladding for Rs 350 upwards,” says Ranjit.
Now that you are equipped with all this information, go ahead and get the wall covering that suits your taste, budget and style.