Uncovering the Complexities of Transparent Finish Wall Paneling

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Architectural wall paneling, including transparent finish wall paneling, is used to enhance the style of many woodworking projects because it improves the aesthetic value. While most wall panels look stylish and beautiful, it is often a woodworker’s challenge to build architectural panels that meet both design specifications and AWI Standards.


The Importance of Wall Paneling

In any wall paneling project, there will always be complexities that must be addressed before the project begins. Complexities such as the layout fabrication, finishing, and installation of the wall panel design should be checked first. This is to ensure that the project meets the AWI Standards. Being able to meet the AWI Standards means that you are ensuring the quality of wall paneling work is consistently high. It also means that everyone involved has the same understanding of the project.

Wall paneling projects include wood veneer, solid wood, stile and rail wood, decorative laminate, solid surface, and solid phenolic products and any parts related to these. The AWI Standards help you understand the types of veneer, methods of slicing, matching of adjacent veneer leaves, and requirements for end-matching of the veneer.

Transparent finish wall paneling begins with the selection of veneers but doesn’t necessarily mean a particular tree or log. Rather than choosing wood for its color and quality, the size and availability of the species should be considered. Many wall paneling projects have had difficulties due to insufficient availability and this is one reason why the AWI Standards are important.

The AWI Standards specifications for transparent finish wall paneling include:

  • Panel sequencing, including pre-manufactured and made-to-order wall panels
  • Veneer flitch selection
  • Variations in natural wood products
  • High-pressure decorative laminates (HPDL)
  • Trims
  • Finishing
  • Fire retardants


Wood Veneer for Transparent Finish Wall Paneling

Most woodworking projects for wall paneling require wood veneer. Hardwood and softwood veneers are produced in a range of industry standards from a wide variety of species. Hardwood veneer can be domestic or imported and species include oak, ash, beech, maple, sycamore, and cherry. Softwood veneer supplies are often limited and the most commonly used tree species are Douglas fir, but pines are also used.

Veneer matching is important in standards of wall panels. This checklist covers veneer matching elements of architectural wall paneling:

  • Species of veneer
  • Method of veneer slicing
  • Matching adjacent veneer leaves
  • The layout of veneer leaves within an individual panel face
  • Matching from panel to panel
  • Requirements for end matching of veneer
  • Grain direction
  • Fire rating

A lot of construction professionals, especially design professionals, find it difficult to understand veneer and how to specify it, and it’s the same with finishing. The AWI Standards address veneer and finishing, and it can be a complex five to seven step process to get it to look the way your clients want it to look.


Transparent Finishing

Transparent architectural woodwork finishes are used to enhance the natural beauty of the wood. Quality finishes also provide more protection from damage to the wood caused by moisture, contaminants, and general handling. The standards highlight a range of factory and field finishing systems. 

Factory finishing is typically used for high-quality work where superior performance and appearance are needed. Field finishing is used when there is no superior demand for appearance. 

In general, many people think that transparent wood finishing is a simple job where all that is needed to do is coat the wood. But in reality, it is far more complex than that. For those working in a large woodworking project that includes a lot of wood veneer wall paneling, you will have many different factors to take into account. This includes the color of the wood, the need to add depth to the wood, different grains, etc. You will also need to meet the design professional’s specifications, and you need to ensure that the right finishing method is applied. There are 13 finishing systems within ANSI/AWI 0620 – Factory Finishing that you can use to suit each specification for the job you have. It is always important to refer to ANSI/AWI 0620 to ensure that you are using the optimal method for the job.


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