It is a good idea to classify exactly what Belbien is prior to concluding the many benefits and/or limitations. Some people ask, “Is Belbien a laminate, a wallcovering, a veneer, or just a fancy high-tech contact paper?”
This inquiry is normal because Belbien is actually all of the above. Any product that is attached or adhered to another surface is often referred to as a veneer or laminate. Any product that is flexible and can be applied to a wall surface may be categorized as a wallcovering. Any product that has a self-adhesive system with a release paper is oftentimes regarded as a contact paper or tacky vinyl.
So, what should Belbien be referred to as?
Belbien is best characterized as an architectural cladding or a vinyl laminate. Belbien is made primarily from PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) and from other synthetic engineering plastics.
There are many benefits associated with Belbien that make it a perfect solution to many decorative problems. One of the major problems that sales people have with Belbien is clearly defining the benefits and/or the limitations. Both this chapter and the next will list most of the benefits and limitations of Belbien by categories to help you better understand the product.
The most important matter is to NOT oversell the Belbien™ to be used on a surface or under conditions that are not suitable for the application. This will oftentimes cause unnecessary call-backs or simply an unsatisfied customer.
Belbien is lighter than essentially all other decorative products on the market today.
It weighs less then 8 ounces per linear yard (12 square feet), which means it weighs less than even the lightest Type 1 commercial wallcovering.
Because of its lightweight characteristic Belbien becomes the perfect solution for projects where weight is a major consideration.
- Exhibit Manufacturers (including shipping and freight of exhibits)
- Movable partitions for office dividers
- Theater and drama props
*When considering the above projects, weight may very well be the unique factor that prevents other decorative products from being used.
Each of the three Belbien series is .006 inches thick (6 mils.) excluding the release paper and the adhesive system. This factor must not be overlooked because it is a very valuable benefit of Belbien and has many potential uses because of the thickness.
The thickness of Belbien is the perfect solution for many refurbishment projects.
For Example, one such case may be a hospital or office building where the specifier or designer is faced with the problem of having to resurface all the laminated doors within the building. In many cases, it is not feasible to remove and replace the existing laminate and it is difficult to add another layer of laminate because the door will become too thick for the frame. On the other hand, it is generally not advisable to paint a laminated door because it is too difficult to obtain the proper bond strength.
Belbien is the perfect solution for several reasons. One, the Belbien thickness allows the door to be covered without effecting the action of the door’s operation. Also, the door can be covered without even removing it off the hinges which saves time and money.
Furthermore, a new strip can easily be reapplied if the existing door becomes damaged following the application. This is a major concern especially when Belbien is being considered in hospital areas where wheelchairs, carts, beds, etc. are constantly being transported through them.
To be able to employ a product that is approximately the same thickness as a coat of paint allows Belbien to be utilized on many other projects such as:
- Store Fixtures
- Picture Moldings
- Exhibit Displays
- Door Frames
- Home Entertainment Centers
- Restaurant Cabinets
- Bar and Lounge Centers
- Elevator Doors
- Wall coverings, etc.
- Bathroom Partitions
The fact of the matter is that Belbien’s thickness can be applied to these, as well as number of other projects to give it the durability, stain resistance, and decorative appearance that most other alternative products cannot touch.
Pressure Sensitive Adhesive System
Belbien’s adhesive system is one of the most remarkable features of the product. It will achieve its optimum or maximum bonding strength in approximately 8 to 12 hours following the application. This becomes a significant benefit foregoing other decorating alternatives because it will not pull away.
On the contrary, conventional contact paper’s adhesive remains sticky practically indefinitely. This means that it will begin to pull away from the seams especially if it becomes cut following the application. When this transpires, the seam areas will become contaminated with dirt and other residues. This causes the seams to begin lifting and becoming unsightly.
Even though one of Belbien’s limitations is the fact that it can be cut, the strong adhesive system allows it to be installed in high-risk areas such as subways, shopping malls, bathroom partitions etc. In such areas, vandalism is sure to happen. However, a cut in Belbien is merely just a cut, just as in any other plastic substrate.
Width & Length
All Belbien is manufactured in rolls 1.2 meters (48 inches) wide and 50 meters (54 linear yards or 162 feet) long. This enables Belbien to be applied to most all door applications and other partitions without the need for seaming.
Of course, there will forever be projects where the width of the material should be 50″, 54″, 60″, etc. in order to accommodate a particular situation. On the other hand, the “hot button” for some specifiers or designers may be the reality when 48 inches is simply perfect.
In circumstances where 48″ is not suitable, Belbien has the ability to be seamed using one of several unique techniques. (i.e. Overlap Bonding, Double Cutting, etc.) Each of these techniques is explained in greater detail in the chapter Seaming Techniques.
The fact that Belbien rolls are 50 meters long is another prominent advantage. There are some projects whereas the length of the roll could be the most important factor.
Long reception counters at theme parks or airports.
High columns in shopping malls or office buildings.
Another consequential attribute about the roll being 50 meters long is the fact that more standard full-length strips are procurable from each roll, which yields more use per roll and minimizes waste. This will in turn reduce the amount of meters required for a job in many cases.
Fire & Smoke Ratings
As with all other decorative products, Belbien must fulfill high standards to be used in high-risk areas such as elevators, public transportation, health care facilities, airports, restaurants, office complexes, etc.
Belbien received the best performance category standard as tested by Underwriter’s Laboratories, Inc. for the United States market. Similar testing agencies are used in other countries such as the Loss Fire Protection Council in England.
The actual fire ratings are tested and determined by UL (Underwriter’s Laboratories, Inc.); however the range for classification are commonly determined by each individual state’s building code
The test for Belbien was conducted in accordance with UL 723 and ASTM E-84 Standards for “Test for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials.” The classifications are as follows:
Class A 1-25
Class B 26-75
Class C 76-225
Class D 226-over
Class A is the best category regarding flame spread. If a product is classified in the Class D category, it is not allowed to be installed in public places such as restaurants, office buildings, hospitals, etc. Almost all states recognize this method of testing for establishing their fire ratings such as Class A or Class 1, which are equivalent.
Based on these test results and ASTM E-84 Standards, all three Belbien series are classified as having a “Class A” rating. The actual ratings are as follows:
Belbien EX 10
Belbien HS 15
Belbien has received “case-by-case” testing approvals from ABS (American Bureau of Shopping), IMO (International Maritime Organization), SOLAS (Safety of Life at Sea), and the USCG (United States Coast Guard). It is important to note that the foregoing organizations have NOT given Belbien a blanket approval or certification status. However, in all cases to date whereby Belbien was presented to these organizations for “case-by-case” approvals – there has been NO problems or rejections.
Because Belbien’s thickness is so thin, it can be applied to many two-dimensional decorative surfaces such as doorframes, moldings, chair-rails, handrails, etc.
It can be easily tailored to a 90 to 180 degree angle such as cabinet doors, store fixtures, and on most all panel projects.
Belbien can be formed to both small and large diameter columns.
Belbien can be used for concave and/or convex showcases in shopping malls or airports.
The feature of flexibility gives Belbien the ability to be applied to various surfaces that neither a laminate nor a wallcovering can compete with.
Both the Belbien interior and the Belbien EX series can be stretched to conform to three-dimensional surfaces. This characteristic allows Belbien to be applied to many decorative surfaces such as conference room tables, hotel lounge and cocktail tables, and other surfaces with bull-nose edges.
The stretch ability of most Belbien patterns is between 20% and 30%. In some instances, it can be elongated or stretched even more. However, a performance test should be conducted by a certified Belbien Installer prior to specifying Belbien for such projects. It is necessary to understand that too much stretching may cause the Belbien to discolor or even rupture it if is stretched more than the average 20% to 30%.
The HS (high select) series of Belbien cannot be stretched because of a metal layer in its makeup which gives it its look or real silver and gold patterns.
Being able to conform by stretching is a benefit that gives Belbien an advantage over all laminates and conventional wallcoverings.
It is very important to note that applying Belbien to three-dimensional projects will require adequate experience from a Certified Installer. The degree of difficulty associated with the project will determine just how much experience is required. In some cases, specifying Belbien is prohibitive because of such intensive labor requirements.
Belbien’s durability is unmatched by many other decorative products available on the market. However, Belbien should NOT be used where it might be abused or defaced by sharp instruments such as keys, knives, belt buckles, and other sharp objects.
* Remember: Belbien is a PVC product and will not withstand much abuse.
Belbien’s abrasion resistance is rated at a 5,000 minimum resolutions by the Taber Abrader Test or its equivalent. This means that Belbien can be applied to surfaces where abrasion is a concern.
Of course abrasion should not be confused with scratching. Again, Belbien is PVC and can be scratched or scored, just like almost all other decorative materials including marble stone, stainless steel, high pressure laminates and glass.
It’s a matter of fact that Belbien can also be abused with abrasion as well. This is especially true when Belbien is wrapped around sharp 90-degree corners and when there is an excessive amount of wear and tear abuse. Examples of cases this may happen might be a busy service counter or where drop cords from appliances are continually wearing on them. In such cases, some sort of hard plastic or stainless steel corner guard should cover these corners. Keep in mind the corner guards could be covered with Belbien and as the get abused all that would have to be replaced would be the Belbien on the corner guard.
Belbien offers excellent stain resistance to many substances including the following:
Hydrochloric Acid (10%)
Sodium Hydroxide Solutions
Sulfuric Acid (10%)
Saturated Calcium Hydroxide
5% Salt Spray
There are many other substances in which Belbien will resist. In most all cases, the stains can be easily cleaned off by using a household cleaner such as dishwashing liquid. In other cases, a solution of denatured alcohol will generally remove the stain. For severe stains, it is possible to use lacquer thinner or acetone in some instances.
Note: It is highly advisable to test any strong solvent’s compatibility with Belbien in an inconspicuous area prior to applying the solvent to a visible area. Read the following topics for solvent resistance. It is important to refrain from using abrasive cleaners on Belbien because it could damage the surface.
The Belbien EX series is more resistant to strong solvents than the Interior series. This is because of an anti-corrosive film layer that is incorporated with the Belbien EX. The film layer is classified and is a patented product of C.I. Kasei Co., Ltd. It is referred to as KFC or “Kentucky Fried Chicken” by the workers in the factory and the Certified Belbien network. This is because the chemical initials that make up this exclusive film are also KFC.
The anti-corrosive film layer is comparable in nature to the makeup of fluoride or Teflon. However, it is important to refrain from making a “direct comparison” because they are somewhat different.
The following solvents were exposed to Belbien EX and appreciable change was observed.
- MEK (Methyl Ethyl Ketone)
Belbien EX can be applied to exterior surfaces that are made of steel or other metals. It is not recommended to install Belbien EX on wood surfaces in an exterior environment because the wood’s molecular structure changes as a result of thermo-expansion and contraction. When steel and other metals expand and contract, they remain stable and return to their original shapes unlike wood that warps, twists, shrinks, and swells. It is not recommended to apply Belbien™ to copper or tin because of corrosive properties.
Belbien EX is resistant to the fading effects often caused by the direct sunbeam or ultra-violet light. Belbien EX is warranted for five years against fading or cracking in such conditions.
Belbien EX is resistant to the perils of nature such as ice, rain smoke, acid rain as well as to the salt air and spray environments that are located near ocean front properties.
Some examples of applications of Belbien EX may include:
- Exterior metal signs
- Store facades
- Exterior metal columns
- Exterior metal doors
Belbien EX is also recommended for special conditions in interior use as well. Some examples of this may include:
- Waterfall walls
- Table tops or window sills adjacent to a direct sunlight from a window
- Areas beside hot appliances
Since the temperature ranges for the Belbien interior series is 0 to 140 Fahrenheit, it is recommended to use Belbien EX for any application exceeding these temperature ranges. Remember: Belbien EX must not exceed -50 to +200 Fahrenheit.
Note: The overlap seaming technique is required for all exterior applications and/or interior applications when Belbien will be exposed to water such in the case of a waterfall or a shower stall. This seaming technique prevents water from penetrating the seams.
Another benefit of Belbien is its amazing capability to be repaired easily when installed on a hard substrate such as plastic laminate, steel, metal, etc. In such cases, the damaged Belbien should be cut away and the substrate repaired if necessary. Then a restoration piece (strip) of Belbien is used to repair the damaged area. Refer to the chapter: Making Repairs to Belbien.
It is important to remember the best substrate for a Belbien installation must have three major characteristics:
This includes materials like laminates and metals. However, if Belbien is installed on a porous substrate such as drywall or MDF, any damaged area must be repaired using a 2-part polyester spackling but, the entire section would have to be re-applied with new Belbien
The reparability feature permits Belbien to be installed in high-risk areas such as elevator interiors, shopping centers, etc. One of the significant problems with other decorating products such as laminates is the inability to make on site repairs in a relatively short period of time.
C.I. Kasei Co., Ltd. offers a five-year warranty against product defects that are not attributable to faulty installations and/or physical defamation following the application.
This warranty should give each end user the satisfaction they are specifying top grade materials that the manufacturer will stand behind.
There are specific conditions set forth in order for the warranty to be valid just as all other warranties. One such requirement is that the installation be applied by a trained and Certified Belbien installer. See chapter on Manufacturers Product Warranty.
This insures the end user that the installer has been apprised about the necessary installation requirements and techniques to render a satisfactory job.
Minimal Down Time
One of the major problems associated with many projects is the down time required to complete the job. If the project has to be barricaded off or closed down, the company is generally put to a financial disadvantage.
The same is true when renovating elevators, store fixtures, etc. In most cases, the down time will cost the customer more money in lost time and/or sales than it cost to refurbish or renovate the project.
Therefore, installing Belbien is the perfect solution for many renovation jobs. It can be installed during evening or working hours provided the immediate work area is roped off from the general public.
In elevator applications, only one shaft has to be out-of-operation at a time. In cases such as hospitals, the Fire Marshall will not allow doors to be removed from the opening except for a minimal time (usually 12 hours). Since Belbien can be installed with the doors in place, the elimination of down time is the perfect solution.
The major fact to remember is that minimal down time will many times become the single greatest benefit for many customers because it eliminates costly financial losses as well as limits the amount of inconvenience caused to customers and/or employees during a renovation project.
Graphics by Design
Belbien offers many selections of designs and colors; therefore, it can be used to create distinct graphics utilizing in-lay and/or over-lay techniques. The patterns and colors can be coordinated to establish unique effects such as on accent walls, reception counters, etc.
It is also creative to produce customized designs for images such as company logos for elevator doors, entrances of hotels or office buildings, etc. by utilizing special printing inks for the printing.
It is also possible to create a graphic by cutting a design out of one or two layers of Belbien. Then a final layer is installed over the design and a raised panel effect is created (see installation video for more information on this technique). This impression is an attribute very unlikely to be duplicated by any other decorative product.
“Custom” Color Matching
It is possible for a customer to have any of the 500+ patterns matched to a custom color. This includes creating combinations of patterns as well as embossed textures. It is also possible to convert any of the interior patterns to EX (exterior).
There is a minimum quantity of 1,200 linear meters (1080 linear yards) ± 10% for all “custom” orders whereas the printing cylinders are those produced by CIK. In the case where outsourcing printing cylinders are utilized, the minimum quantity is 2,400 linear meters. The production and delivery lead-time is approximately 8 to 12 weeks depending upon the production cycle.
In order to have a custom color match sample from the manufacturer, the client must submit a minimum letter size sample of the color as well as specify the pattern and/or emboss to be used. It generally requires 2 to 3 weeks to produce and return a custom color match.
It is very important that all custom sample requests be serious. There is a lot of time and investment required on behalf of the engineers at the factory to produce such mock-up samples.
If a customer wishes to have a custom pattern along with the colors, they must be willing to pay for the special tailored printing cylinders prior to production.
Customized patterns created for customers are exclusive for them. The cost for such special request will depend on the complexity of the pattern submitted as well as the number of different cylinders required to produce the pattern motif. The cost commonly ranges from $10,000 up to $45,000 per printing cylinder.
Once the proper information has been submitted to the manufacturer, a quotation will be issued prior to any work commencing. Generally, it will require several months to generate the customized printing cylinders for production.
There are currently 500+ patterns available within the various Belbien series, each of which are kept in stock by the manufacturer. In most cases, when only a few rolls are ordered, the material will be air freighted to the installer within a week or two.
With larger, multiple roll orders it is recommended to verify the availability of such inventory prior to placing large purchase orders to ensure customer satisfaction and delivery schedules can be made.
Sufficient quantities are generally in stock; however, for large orders, it may be necessary to print additional materials at the factory. In such cases, ample time (8-10 weeks) should be allowed for production and shipping via sea.
In some cases, the manufacturer inventories pre-printed Belbien in stock without the adhesive or release paper applied. In such cases, the adhesive and release paper are applied when purchase orders are received. This speeds up delivery time by a few weeks because they do not have to wait for a production schedule for printing.
All of the 500+ patterns are available from Japan; however, the normal pricing is based on full roll orders only. Cut meters can also be obtained; however, there is a nominal cutting charge for this service.