Fabric Guide

Fabric selection is a crucial step in designing a project using the NOVAWALL system. This section provides information to assist in the selection and evaluation of fabrics. In using this information, any issues that the fabric may present regarding its compatibility with a NOVAWALL system will be resolved during the design stage, saving time and money.

A key advantage of specifying and designing with the NOVAWALL product is our extensive knowledge of contract fabrics. NOVAWALL Systems, Inc. has a vast library and database of fabrics that have been researched and installed in thousands of projects. This database includes detailed information concerning the fabric content, backing requirements, acoustical transparency, and any issues that arose with the fabric in the installation. If a fabric is not included in our database, we will obtain a sample and test the fabric for your project.

Considerations for Fabric Selection

While all NOVAWALL profiles can utilize a wide range of contract fabrics, some fabrics are better suited to certain NOVAWALL profiles. Other issues with fabric have to do with yarn content, acoustical transparency, and the use of lining material to eliminate optical transparency. Fabrics are designed for specific applications, a fabric manufactured for one purpose, may not be adaptable for another use.

Fabric Selection Guidelines

The following items should be considered when selecting fabric for a NOVAWALL application:


All Fabrics must be certified by their manufacturer as meeting national and local fire codes. The only test procedure that is acceptable by the national building codes for establishing the Class for a stretch fabric application is the ASTM E84 Unadhered (Steiner Tunnel Test).

Fabrics that have been tested using only the NFPA 701 OR CAL-117 procedures will not comply with national or local building codes. ASTM E84 Unadhered measures both the smoke developed and the flame spread of the test sample, without both of these elements the fabric cannot be said to comply with code.

Having a fabric treated with a fire retardant DOES NOT guarantee that the fabric will meet ASTM E-84 Unadhered unless the fabric is treated AND THEN tested by an accredited tested facility.


At this time no standardized test exists for measuring the acoustical transparency of a fabric. Fabrics that are chosen for an acoustically sensitive application should be loosely woven, and air should pass through the fabric freely with no impedance. There are several such panel fabrics available for these types of applications.

Many other fabrics have acceptable acoustical characteristics for the conference room, audio-visual center, and similar applications where acoustical performance is needed. Fabrics that have been treated with anything heavier than a 0.5 oz sprayed acrylic backing will generally be poor in an acoustical application.


Stretched fabric systems are unique in that improperly selected fabric may sag when indoor temperature or humidity varies significantly. If a room will be subject to unconditioned outside air either directly through windows or indirectly via the ventilation system, the risk of sagging is increased. Also in geographical areas where high humidity is experienced during certain times of the year or when building ventilation systems are periodically turned off, the risk of sagging increases.

Yarn construction (how the fabric is spun or woven) is extremely important in the sagging resistance of a fabric. There are some yarns whose presence or absence in a fabric will determine the risk of sagging.

Fabrics that are 100% or a high percentage of polyester are almost immune to sagging. Experience has shown that fabrics with at least 60% polyester are good performers as long as the remainder of the fabric content is not rayon or nylon.

Polyolefin’s and many natural fabrics, i.e. silk, wool are good performers but will usually require treatment with a backing to stabilize the yarns and counteract sagging.

Blended fabrics that contain more than 20% nylon or rayon should be avoided.


NOVAWALL is designed to be compatible with most panel fabrics. NOVAWALL can also be used with many upholstery weight fabrics. Heavier fabrics may be only useable with certain NOVAWALL profiles.


The unique design of the NOVAWALL extrusions allows for the precise matching of repeats and designs at vertical, horizontal, and diagonal seams. Therefore the designer is not limited to selecting fabrics without patterns or repeats. Some hand-woven patterned fabrics have inconsistent repeats; these fabrics preclude accurate pattern matching at seams.


Many lightweight fabrics may be somewhat optically transparent particularly in lighter colors and under certain lighting conditions. To ensure that the fabric will not have transparency issues, the fabric can be evaluated by using a lightbox or under the lighting that will be used in the completed project. If large printed characters or geometric shapes can be seen under the fabric when illuminated, the fabric must be specified with a lining or scrim layer under the facing fabric to prevent visual telegraphing.


Coated Fabrics typically include a fabric or similar substrate with one or more layers of a film-forming polymer such as vinyl or polyurethane on the wear surface of the fabric.

Polyurethane (PU) is a composite material made of one or more layers of polymer resins joined by urethane links, and a woven or non-woven textile backing such as polyester, cotton, or nylon. The PU coating is applied to a single side of the base fabric and then customized with hide-like or textile-like textures. The resulting material is water-resistant, lightweight, and flexible. We worked closely with Ultrafabrics to acoustically test and fire test UF Brisa for commercial installations.

Not all polyurethanes consistently impress, which is why we have selected the Brisa portfolio from Ultrafabrics as our number one recommended coated fabric to use on Novawall panels.  For more information on Ultrafabrics and their acoustic materials, please click here.