Quieter rooms, better acoustics, more insulation and a better selection of colours and patterns --- those are just some of the advantages of covering a wall with fabric instead of paint or wallpaper. Hanging the fabric with glue, as you'd do with wallpaper, negates some of those advantages. Stretching the fabric over a framework or over padding makes the best use of fabric's qualities as a wall covering.
A number of companies sell commercial systems for hanging and stretching fabric on a wall or a portion of a wall. Most employ a track system, similar to the tracks that hold window screens in their frames. The companies fabricate plastic or metal frames measured to fit your wall precisely and incised with a narrow channel.
Once you've attached the frames to the wall you use a special tool to push the edges of the fabric into the channel, which grips it securely. Manufacturers can create tracks in any shape, which allows you to create curved patterns and inserts on the wall. You can easily remove and replace the fabric for cleaning or to provide variety.
A lath framework for stretching fabric costs less than a custom-made commercial track system and can be just as attractive. The simplest frames consist of strips of wood lath nailed to the top, bottom and sides of the wall you want to cover. Working from the centre outward in both directions, stretch and tack the fabric to the lath with upholstery tacks at the top and bottom of the wall. After you tack the sides to the lath frame, cover the nail heads with piping or upholstery trim.
For superior insulation and sound absorption, try a variation of the lath stretcher frame. Nail or staple wood lath flat against the wall at the top, bottom and every 4 to 6 feet vertically from side to side. Cut fire-retardant quilt batting to fit the framework and staple it to the wood lath, butting the edges against each other. Starting at the centre, attach the fabric to the lath with upholstery tacks at the top and bottom, stretching it as you move to each side. Finish the wall by covering the upholstery tacks with piping or trim.
If the fabric you want to hang is lightweight, such as cotton or gingham, a frame of hook and loop tape allows you to hang and remove fabric whenever you want. Heavy-duty glue holds the hook side of the tape to the top, bottom and sides of the walls you want to cover. Sew the loop side to the edges of the fabric.
Starting at the centre, press the fabric to the top strip of tape. Stretch it firmly and press the bottom strip to the tape on the bottom of the wall. Work outward in both directions, smoothing and stretching the fabric as you go. For more insulation, attach batting to the wall before stretching the fabric across it.
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