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What is Lincrusta?

By B. Turner
Updated: May 16, 2024

Lincrusta is a heavy-duty wallpaper with a richly textured surface. It dates back to the late 19th century, when it was used to mimic the elaborate plaster molding popular in Victorian design. Lincrusta allowed middle class families to enjoy this style of design in place of the more expensive molding of the period. Modern lincrusta may resemble traditional plaster wall coverings, or may take the style of embossed metal or pressed leather design elements.

Manufacturers produce these wall coverings using oil from the linseed plant, which is also used to make linoleum flooring. It starts with a base of standard wallpaper, which is covered by a thick layer of linseed oil paste. The paper is then pressed against decorative plates made from cast iron or steel, transferring the design of the plates into the linseed paste.

One unique feature of this material is that it can take years, or even decades to dry completely. As the linseed oil slowly cures, the material gets harder and more durable. Because the surface may be vulnerable to damage early on, it's often coated with a layer of varnish to protect it from breakage. This varnish may be applied only to the lower portion of the wall, or the entire surface.

Lincrusta can be found in homes and businesses, particularly those of a Victorian design. This wall covering is often used to create a grand, elegant style in hotel lobbies, ballrooms, or train stations. Modern applications often involve restoration work, where the installer attempts to apply new lincrusta to match existing finishes.

This material serves as an effective way to hide cracks or damage in existing walls. While these signs of damage may show through standard wallpaper, the thick texture of lincrusta makes it easy to cover up ugly walls. Many finishes and patterns are available, though custom products may be required to match some existing finishes. Once it's applied, lincrusta can be stained or painted with virtually any oil or water-based product.

Though it resembles wallpaper, lincrusta poses some special challenges for installers. It's much heavier than standard wall coverings, making it difficult to handle. It may also be difficult to find matching products without investing in custom plates and paper. Installers also require some skill to line up the sheets of lincrusta properly to match lines and patterns. Finally, this material can only be installed when temperatures are relatively warm, as colder temperatures could cause the lincrusta to crack during installation.

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