Materials

Modern buildings and homes use various types of decorative wall panels to cover hallways, serve as feature walls, section rooms and double as wall art. There are hundreds of products to choose from, covering a wide range of colours, finishes, textures, and patterns. A current favourite among interior designers and homeowners are 3-dimensional decorative wall panels which instantly add elegance and dramatic looks to any area. Not all wall panels, however, are made alike and the finer details surrounding the manufacturing process can result in more or less resistant properties, flexibility and durability.

Basic process behind decorative wall panels

Wall panels are often made of cellulose material or other resin such as PVC. Cellulose material is obtained by shredding or grinding wood fibres to a fine pulp. Additives and fillers are mixed with the wood fibres and then dewatered so that they can be shaped into plane sheets. The sheets are compressed further and left to harden through air-curing or under specific pressure, temperature and humidity conditions. Applying heat and pressure simultaneously allows the dried fibres to take on a desired form.

Variations in thickness and strength can be achieved through additional processes such as infusing sheets with resins so that they harden and combine with other MDF panels or other raw core material without the need for additional adhesives. Multiple layers of the same material may be sandwiched between sheets of some protective material.

The compression process uses pressure plates which compress the resin and simultaneously give the mixture its structure. The resulting product is one that is scratch resistant, impact resistant, and abrasion resistant. Unlike timber materials, the boards which comprise decorative wall panels have flame retardant properties.

Environmentally conscious consumers may also find green products among the choices of wall panels. The green products rely on the natural adhesive properties of the cellulose fibres obtained from wood raw materials, instead of adding bonding agents. Heat and pressure activates the bonding action of the natural lignin in the wood fibres.

Depending on the intended use of the panel, special coatings such as UV resins, anti-bacterial agents and other solutions may be added to create a surface which is receptive to printing and images. Laminating films may be applied for added protection.

Heat and compression are important steps in the manufacturing process and the right equipment can provide the right pressure and temperature needed for decorative wall panels to gain their desired texture and strength. How wall panels are manufactured impact design, durability and other properties. Prospective buyers are advised to inquire about the manufacturing process along with other important factors such as design choices, colours, and costs.

Wood panels enhance the look of interior spaces, adding elegance, warmth and natural beauty to homes and offices. The demand for construction timber, however, has led to indiscriminate logging activities that contribute to global warming, cause the extinction of wood species and wreak irreparable damage to the environment. Innovative solutions such as composite panels are ideal ways of incorporating the aesthetics of timber without the harmful consequences on the environment.

About composite wood panels

Composite panels containing wood, also known as engineered wood composites, are typically made of wood fibres or sawdust obtained from real hardwood which may be shredded or ground to a fine pulp. The extracted fibres are then dried and mixed with epoxy or other binding agent and formed into sheets under high levels of heat and pressure. The resulting products may be known in the market as particle board or hardboard.

Advantages over timber

Less timber used: The engineering process behind composite wood panels uses smaller dimensions of timber as raw material, yet it can be manufactured to create larger dimension composite decorative wall panels.

Lighter than timber: The dried wood fibres that are found in the composite material carry less moisture and weigh less than ordinary wood materials. With their lighter weight, shipping and installation costs are lower, and many homeowners are able to work with composites using ordinary tools at home.

Stronger than timber: Its lighter weight, however, does not make it a weak material. Without the breaks in the natural fibre of ordinary timber, composite wood panels tend to be stronger and are suitable for standing walls, furniture frames and other heavy duty interior purposes.

Eco friendly: Composites use only smaller dimensions of ordinary wood, allowing manufacturers to obtain raw materials from smaller trees which are easily replanted for sustainability.

Resistant to warping: The manufacturing process involves heat and pressure which leave the composite products with low moisture content, making them resistant to warping, twisting and distortion. The finished product ordinarily retains its shape and size.

Depending on the manufacturing process used, composite wood panels may possess high density core resin material with proprietary acrylic coverings for a wide range of durability, strength and design options. High quality composite wood panel systems are ideal for indoor use although more high quality panel systems may be engineered for exterior use as well. Composite panels are readily available in the market and may be sourced online.

Decorative wall panels can be made from many different materials, including wood, stone, fibreboard, polymers, and last but not least, bagasse, which is made from crushed sugarcane stalks.

Fibreboard
Usually moisture resistant, fibreboard has a raw face and a white melamine back. The raw face can be finished in many different patterns, depending on the 3D finishing technology the provider offers, and on the needs of the customer. This material is durable and resistant. The fibre sources come from Australian forests, mostly softwood. Fibreboard is one of the greenest materials used for decorative wall panels, meeting GECA standards.

Polymers
18mm polymer is often used for outdoor decorative wall panels because of its durability and remarkable properties. Besides being light, strong, and flexible, it is also self- extinguishing, pest-resistant, non-corrosive, and waterproof. Moreover, it can be installed in multiple ways, including through drilling and screwing.

Stone
Granite, slate, onyx, and sometimes even marble are all used for decorative wall panels. These are usually mounted on a support base, to make them easier to handle and install. The base is always concealed though, so in terms of appearance, these panels look just like the authentic stone. Decorative wall panels can have a face that mimics castle stone, field stone, garden stone, cut granite, stone wall, and even coral block.

Woods
There are many varieties of decorative wall panels made of wood. Both softwoods and hardwoods are used. Many companies have developed their own technologies for copying realistically the appearance of wood, without actually using wood but recyclable materials, thus minimising the negative impact of their products on the environment.

Bamboo
Some Australian manufacturers offer bamboo decorative panels, often 100% handmade. Bamboo wall panels can be used both inside and outside, as bamboo is durable and long lasting, and if subjected to the right treatment, weather resistant even in bad weather. Bamboo wall panels typically maintain the original appearance of bamboo.

Bagasse
3D decorative wall panels made from bagasse are increasingly popular in Australia. They are green products, made from a 100% biodegradable material obtained from sugarcane stalks. Bagasse panels are also pleasing visually, being typically milky white, decorated with 3D patterns.

These are the basic materials used by Australian manufacturers for decorative wall panels. But you have to keep in mind that many companies constantly develop new wall panel manufacturing technologies and improving existing processes, often by using new raw materials. Things are constantly changing in this field.