What do we mean by commercial and contract fabrics?
Contract fabrics, commercial fabrics, fabric for pubs, fabric for restaurants, café fabrics, office fabrics, fabric that can be used in nursing and care homes… Basically, any fabric that is used in a setting frequented by the public and not in someone’s home – what we mean is any fabric that is not required for a domestic setting and is instead required for commercial premises. This includes cafes, pubs, restaurants, nursing homes, meeting rooms, waiting rooms, gyms, prisons…the list is endless.
Contract fabrics by their very nature need to be hard wearing, easy to clean, whilst also being attractive to customers. Obvious choices are vinyls and robust washable flat weave plains, but with the advancement of easy clean technology’s, fabric performance in general and the ability to flame retardant a number of domestic fabrics (bringing them into line with fire safety regulations) the choices are now huge. Here at Weave, we offer a number of beautiful collections suitable for contract environments, see here for our gorgeous collections of commercial and contract fabrics.
Because commercial premises include large numbers of the public congregating in enclosed areas increasing the risk of fire, the law requires a higher standard of fire safety and retardancy in fabrics used in these settings. The requirements can often be met on many standard domestic fabrics by applying a crib 5 back coating, which can be applied by us here at Weave. Increasing the level of fire retardancy in this way ensures the fabric is suitable for commercial settings. Essentially using fire retardant fabric means the fabric burns slowly or in some instances can even self-extinguish, this in turn reduces the heat building up which helps to prevent rapid fire spread.
The Furniture and Furnishings Regulations 1988 (Fire Safety) sets out the standards for UK upholstery. The standards test how quickly fire will spread on a particular piece of fabric and dictates what level of fire retardancy (FR) a piece of fabric requires, depending on its use. Some fabrics are inherently FR such as 100% wools. Other fabrics come with FR as standard whilst others require a back coating applied by us – which is where you will see the different price points in our collections.
Fabrics used in domestic settings for curtains or soft furnishings do not require any FR. Upholstery or large and/or fixed furnishings in the home require FR at ‘domestic’ level. For commercial premises a higher standard than that of domestic is required which we call contract FR.
Another area for serious consideration is the Martindale Rub Test. The Martindale Test, or Martindale Rub Test, is an assessment undertaken to measure the durability of a piece of fabric. The fabric is repeatedly rubbed and the score indicates how many times this can be done before the fabric starts to show visible signs of distress. The fabric is then graded numerically to indicate its durability – essentially the higher the score the more the fabric can withstand higher usage. Any fabric with a score above 30,000 indicates it could be suitable for commercial grade use. Other criteria such as fire retardancy also need to be met as the Martindale test only indicates how durable the fabric is.
How the test works
The fabric is pulled tight across the lower part of a testing machine. Small discs of sandpaper, wool or other abrasive surfaces are continuously rubbed against the fabric in circular motions. The test is complete when the fabric shows signs of change or the fibres start to break. The number of rubs it took before the appearance of the fabric changed is the Martindale rub test score.
The following can be used as a guide for Martindale scores.
- 10,000 and under is recommended for decorative use.
- 10,000 – 15,000 is suitable for light domestic use
- 15,000 – 25,000 is suitable for general domestic use
- 25,000 – 30,000 is suitable for heavy use in domestic settings.
- 30,000 + is suitable for all contract settings, such as pubs, restaurants, cafes, waiting rooms, offices etc.
Choosing a look for your commercial setting
Vibrant, patterned fabrics are great at hiding tough stains and so lend themselves perfectly to a contract setting, whilst also looking great. We tend to first concentrate on wall and floors coverings when decorating a room, and so if you are planning on patterned cloths for your commercial premises consider more neutral and plain tones for your walls and floors. Whether your aim for the atmosphere is bold and vibrant or neutral and calming, clever use of fabrics are key in achieving your desired aesthetic.
When planning patterned fabrics, consider the shape of your furniture. Some boxier type shapes are easier to cover with patterned fabrics, whilst curved or more unique shaped pieces will be more difficult to match the fabric on. A couple of things to think about when it comes to the fabric design repeat:
- If the repeat is large, it’s worth thinking how it would sit on the job – remember this can also alter the amount of fabric required to do a project
- If you are covering something long, like bench seats, consider a railroaded fabric. A railroaded fabric is where the design runs horizontally across the piece, not vertically. Basically if the design was a stripe, it would look like railway tracks from above.
If you prefer a plain fabric, we offer a beautiful range of easy clean fabrics at Weave, which would lend themselves perfectly to a contract setting. Browse our Abundant collection here or our Swish collection here. Our easy clean fabrics use an exciting new technology that penetrates the yarns, rather than a coating that sits on top of the fabric. This prevents dirt from penetrating the fabric and enables you to literally wipe away the toughest sharpie stain – perfect for busy public spaces whist still adding a touch of simple class to any environment.
Generally speaking, blues, purples and greens create chilled vibes whilst reds, yellows and oranges provide energy and warmth whilst making a room feel smaller and cosier, whilst light and neutrals create a more spacious feeling.
For more inspiration on how to choose a colour scheme, check out our recent article on choosing colour here.
So, when choosing your upholstery fabrics for your commercial settings, remember the three main areas for consideration – fire retardancy, martindale rub test & durability, and aesthetics. Browse our beautiful collections of commercial and contract fabrics here , which tick all of the required boxes for commercial premises, and do get in touch if you’d like to discuss a particular project with us.