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Commercial Wallcoverings vs. Residential Wallpaper

At Prime Walls, our wallpaper is divided into two main categories: residential wallpaper and contract wallcoverings. Based on the name of the categories themselves, it can be tempting to take the differences at face value; residential wallpaper are for homes and other living spaces, while commercial wallpaper is for public spaces and other commercial settings.

However, there are some other major differences between residential and commercial wallpaper. In this article, we’ll be discussing some of the most important things to keep in mind when comparing these two wallpaper categories.

Usage and Installation

As mentioned above, when comparing residential wallpaper and contract wallpaper, one of the easiest differences to spot is the name themselves. Residential wallpaper is generally used in the home, whether it’s for a small living, a large bedroom, or a hallway. Most vinyl residential wallpaper are classified as “Type I,” meaning it’s suitable for light duty usage, such as low traffic areas.

In contrast, contract wallcoverings are manufactured with a specific purpose in mind. Vinyl wallcoverings are typically classed as “Type II,” which are medium to heavy duty wallcoverings that are geared more towards higher traffic areas. Contract wallcovering products are used in settings such as retail stores, healthcare centers, schools, and business offices.

Due to the nature of its usage, contract wallcoverings must be produced in accordance to specific performance standards. One example of this is its fire rating and safety classifications. When exploring our collection of contract wallcoverings, be sure to keep an eye out for the Product Info & Features, which lists these classifications. The installation process for contract wallcoverings generally results in fewer seams compared to installing residential wallpaper.


Width and Weight

The actual physicality of the product differs depending on whether it’s residential wallpaper or a contract wallcovering. Residential wallpapers typically have a smaller width, averaging around 21”. These wallpapers are also lighter in weight.

Contract wallcoverings have an average width of 54” and vinyl contract wallcoverings can weigh approximately 20 oz per linear yard. While typically used in commercial design projects and other public settings, an emerging popular trend we’re seeing is the usage of these 20 oz vinyl wallcoverings within the home in spaces such as basements and powder rooms. The added durability of Type II wallcoverings is quite versatile!

Contract Wallcoverings: Treated Surfaces

Contract wallcoverings can be produced with a Bio-Pruf coating, an antimicrobial agent on the treated surface of the product. It protects against the growth of mold and mildew, while also preventing bacteria growth. This makes certain contract wallcoverings the obvious choice for high traffic areas such as hospitals and other healthcare-related centers, educational settings (e.g. schools, training centers), food-related atmosphere (e.g. kitchen, dining space), and salons/spas.


Contract wallcoverings are made with durability in mind. They must withstand day-to-day wear and tear, but also bumps, scratches, and other physical contact. Most contract wallcoverings feature a surface that’s easy to clean and maintain. Be on the look out for terms such as “scrubbable” and “washable.”


A popular substrate for contract wallcoverings is vinyl because of its added durability and easy maintenance. This can range from fabric backed vinyl to wallcovering surfaces coated with an acrylic. What you will find with many residential wallpapers today is the use of non-woven substrates, which results in easy and efficient installation due to its use of “paste the wall” technology.

For your next design project, why not add a more personalized touch? Our digital wallcoverings are easy to customize and can be printed on a variety of different substrates. We offer a variety of Type I and Type II substrates for both residential and commercial wallpaper applications. To learn more about the 50+ different substrates we offer at Prime Walls, check out our other guide, Everything You Need To Know About Prime Wall’s Digital Substrates.