By Cassandra Balentine
Beyond the typical grocery or retail store, floor graphics are cropping up everywhere. However, when going beyond smooth areas into more unpredictable territory, it is essential to consider surface factors that affect adhesion, durability, and safety.
Micah Causey, VP, FloorSignage, LLC, sees floor graphics used in a range of environments, including unusual applications such as garages, open parking lots, crosswalks, mile markers on walking paths, hopscotch and other games on school playgrounds and parks, on top of dugouts at baseball stadiums, stair facing and landings, you-are-here maps, safety compliance in manufacturing facilities, portable helicopter landing pads, as well as residential and business curb address markers, just to name a few.
Each area must consider floor certifications, slip resistance, longevity indoors or outdoors, and surface detail—from smooth cement to tight weave carpet—to determine the adhesive level and necessary certifications that best suit the conditions, stresses Walter Gierlach, president, Photo Tex Group, Inc.
“The most important step in any graphic application, after making sure that your material is the right product for the job, is to properly prepare the surface, creating the best possible opportunity for success with your installation,” adds Jay Kroll, product manager, cut, transit, and wall solutions, General Formulations.
Above: WrapTheStreet ASLAN DFP 46 is a weather-proof special adhesive for fast and perfect adhesion on rough surfaces.
Get it Wet
Floor graphic media is increasingly used in areas that are expected or bound to get wet, including pools—under the water and around it.
Mike Richardson, business development manager, Jessup Manufacturing Co., recommends utilizing floor graphic media specifically designed for wet environments that can withstand exposure to water, as well as chlorine and other pool chemicals.
“We recommend using a graphic that will stay in place and is easy to install—even positioned easily by hand or with a pool brush with no need to drain the water. An ideal product is one engineered to lay flat and remain in position without the use of tape or adhesive,” explains Kylie Schleicher, director of product development and product management, Ultraflex Systems, Inc.
Upon installation, Richardson suggests a clean, dry surface free from any contaminants or residues that may interfere with adhesion. “Apply the graphics when the pool or splash pad is not in use to allow sufficient drying time and prevent any disturbance to the installation process.”
“It is important that these surfaces are thoroughly clean of chemical residue—like chlorine—and dirt and be completely dry before applying a product with a pressure-sensitive adhesive,” adds Causey.
When looking at adhesive properties, Richardson says to verify that the adhesive used is compatible with the specific pool or splash pad surface material to ensure proper bonding and prevent any damage or discoloration.
For graphics applied around pools and outdoor concrete, Causey suggests a permanent adhesive as well as a product that can be compressed perfectly to conform to the exact texture of the surface to prevent moisture released underneath that can weaken the adhesive.
Richardson also suggests using anti-slip laminates or textures to enhance safety and prevent slippage when the surface is wet.
“Select an option that tests high for coefficient of friction/slip resistant standards for wet environments,” states Causey. For durability, he suggests a floor graphic media that does not shrink when exposed to water and/or direct sunlight.
“Ensure the media has high resistance to fading, discoloration, or degradation caused by UV rays or water exposure,” seconds Richardson. “Consider the longevity of the adhesive in a wet environment, ensuring that it maintains its strength and adhesion even when submerged or subjected to splashing water.”
Causey recommends replacing floor graphics in these environments with each season for best slip resistance and safety.
For pools and splash pads, Richardson says a two-step product may be ideal. By using a two-step system that includes an overlaminate with slip resistance, you can ensure the longevity of the graphics while also providing a non-slip surface in areas prone to getting wet. This combination enhances the durability of the graphics and helps maintain safety in wet conditions.
Carpet is another tricky surface, but there are options to ensure successful installation.
Specialized floor graphic media designed for carpeted surfaces typically have a strong adhesive and a textured surface to ensure proper adhesion and prevent slipping, states Richardson.
“Carpet graphics require a specially designed adhesive with enough tack to grip and hold onto the carpet fibers, but is ‘hard’ enough to not flow into the fabric and risk damage or residue upon removal,” adds Kroll. “The adhesives in these applications require a unique balance of tack and bond specific to their intended surfaces and, as such, are not generally interchangeable with other applications.”
Prior to installation it’s a good idea to test a small section of the carpet with the graphic media to ensure it adheres properly and does not damage or leave residue on the carpet fibers. It is also important to thoroughly clean the carpet before applying the graphics to remove any dust, dirt, or debris that may hinder adhesion.
Causey’s first recommendation is to only apply carpet graphics to low pile/industrial carpeting. He also suggests considering a material that can resist being punctured by high heels.
It is also important to consider the removal process and choose a graphic media with adhesive that can be cleanly removed from the carpet without leaving behind residue or damaging the fibers.
Causey suggests a removable adhesive for carpet graphics. “Be cautious of thick adhesive coat weights. When removed these can separate and leave residue on the carpet.”
In terms of durability, a good rule of thumb to avoid the adhesive from damaging the carpet is remove after three months. “Also consider the environment such as harsh sunlight, which can accelerate the adhesive migration onto the carpet surface,” shares Causey.
In terms of safety, be mindful of any raised edges or uneven surfaces created by the graphic that could pose a tripping hazard. “Regularly inspect the graphic for any signs of lifting or peeling that may increase the risk of slips or falls,” says Richardson.
“Consider the thickness and wear resistance of the graphic media to ensure it can withstand the rigors of being placed on carpet,” adds Richardson. “Opt for materials resistant to fraying or tearing, ensuring the graphic remains intact even with repeated use.”
Richardson suggests that a one-step product, which combines the graphic and the adhesive in a single layer, is generally more suitable for carpet surfaces. “These products are specifically designed with carpet adhesion in mind and offer ease of installation without the need for additional steps.”
An uneven surface like cement can be unpredictable when it comes to installing floor graphics.
“Cement graphics require an awareness of the amount of moisture in and around the application area as staining can occur, and special attention should be given to the condition of the surface to make sure there is no loose or broken concrete, which could cause injury or graphic failure,” explains Kroll.
When applying to cement, Richardson suggests cleaning the surface thoroughly to remove any dirt, grease, or loose particles that may hinder adhesion. Also, ensure the surface is dry before applying the graphic media to promote proper bonding.
Causey seconds the rule of only applying graphics to concrete that is thoroughly clean of dirt, debris, fuel, or chemical residue and that is completely dry. “If necessary, clean by power washing and a degreaser. Avoid placing on areas that are broken, chipped, cracked, or spanning over expansion joints. Also avoid areas that are susceptible to frequent drain or run off from irrigation.”
René Bourgeois, VP, sales, North America, ASLAN – a Poli-Tape Group Company, says the best practice for all floor graphics is using the correct product tailored to the application and surface. “Also take into account if it’s indoors or outdoors to specify the best anti-slip lamination.”
A graphic media suitable for outdoor use and can withstand environmental factors like UV exposure, moisture, and temperature fluctuations is ideal for cement, offers Richardson.
Keep in mind important durability factors, like the length of time the customer wants the graphics in place, the type of traffic the graphics will be exposed to i.e., heavy pedestrian traffic, bicycles/skateboards, utility carts, shopping carts, forklifts, automobiles; exposure to the elements; and the coefficient of friction/slip resistant test scores when the product is exposed to moisture such as ANSI A137.1, ANSI B101.3, and HB198. “It is also a good practice to apply test pieces to the exact area prior to producing the project to make sure the material meets the customer’s expectations,” offers Causey.
When it comes it adhesive, for cement surfaces, find a floor graphic media with adhesive that is specifically designed for cement surfaces, as they may have different porosity levels and require stronger adhesive properties. “Consider any surface coatings, sealants, or finishes on the cement. In addition, choose an adhesive that adheres effectively to those particular materials,” advises Richardson.
He also suggests evaluating the durability of the adhesive on cement, considering factors such as foot traffic, cleaning methods, and exposure to outdoor elements. “Choose floor graphic media that is designed for outdoor use and can withstand the harsh conditions associated with cement surfaces, such as exposure to sunlight, temperature fluctuations, and foot traffic.”
For safety, consider the potential for the cement surface to become slippery when wet or in high-moisture conditions and choose floor graphic media that provides slip resistance even in these situations. “Ensure proper cleaning and maintenance of the graphic to prevent the accumulation of dirt, debris, or liquids that could compromise its slip resistance.
Address any cracks, uneven surfaces, or other hazards on the cement that may affect the adhesion or safety of the floor graphic,” says Richardson.
To avoid slip/trip hazards, Causey says graphics on concrete should be replaced either when the slip resistant texture is worn down, the graphic is damaged, or an edge is lifting.
Richardson points out that both one- and two-step products can be suitable for cement surfaces, depending on the specific requirements and conditions. One-step products are often preferred for cement as they provide ease of installation, combining the graphic and adhesive in a single layer.
One, Two Step
Ultimately, the choice between a one- or two-step product depends on factors such as surface characteristics, adhesion requirements, environmental conditions, and the availability of specialized products designed for the specific surface, recommends Richardson. “It is important to consult with the manufacturer of the floor graphic products for their recommendations based on their products’ compatibility and performance on different surfaces.”
“The level of durability you desire will determine the approach,” agrees Bourgeois. “For shorter lived campaigns or areas with low foot traffic, one-step solutions are ideal. However, if you aim to maximize durability or operate in high foot traffic areas, I suggest employing two-step solutions to safeguard the print from mechanical wear and tear.”
Causey says one-step products are much faster to produce, saving time and money plus some one-step products have better slip-resistance properties than most two-step products. To add protection to images exposed to harsh sunlight and frequent cleaning, an optional clear coat liquid laminate can be applied following production or even after it is installed.
As opposed to smooth surfaces, there are opportunities for floor graphics on uneven and unpredictable flooring. So, specialty floor graphic material versus a more universal product makes sense in these situations.
“This comes down to making sure you have the right material for the job—it reduces the amount of rework you’ll need to do, makes the installation easier, and ultimately leads to a better business for you in the long run,” says Kroll.
Bourgeois points out that there is no universal product for these surfaces/situations. “Go for targeted, specialty floor graphic material with the correct adhesive for the desired surface to avoid issues with adhesion, removability, and slip resistance.”
There is no “one-size-fits-all” product in the floor graphics category, agrees Causey. “The best quality floor films are designed with specifications for the type of surface, the environment, type of traffic, safety precautions, preferred methods for installation, removal, and length of posting.”
Richardson points out many characteristics for specialty floor graphics, including enhanced durability, improved safety, compatibility with surface characteristics, customization and visual impact, as well as compliance and safety standards.
In terms of durability, specialty floor graphic materials are designed with specific surfaces or environments in mind. “They may offer superior durability, resistance to wear and tear, and protection against external factors such as water, chemicals, or UV rays. This can result in longer lasting graphics that maintain their visual appeal even under challenging conditions,” shares Richardson.
Specialty floor graphic materials may prioritize safety features such as slip resistance or anti-skid properties. “For surfaces like pools, splash pads, or areas prone to moisture, using a targeted material with enhanced grip can reduce the risk of slips, falls, and accidents. This is particularly important for high-traffic areas or locations where safety is a primary concern,” says Richardson.
Compatibility with surface characteristics is a top benefit of speciality floor graphics. “Specialty floor graphic materials are often developed to adhere effectively to specific surfaces such as carpet, cement, or textured flooring. They take into account the unique characteristics of these surfaces, ensuring proper adhesion, conformability, and longevity. Using a targeted material increases the likelihood of achieving optimal results in terms of adhesion and graphic performance,” shares Richardson.
He points out that customization and visual impact are also improved with the right floor graphic media. “Specialty floor graphic materials may offer unique features that allow for customization and visual impact. They may include options like textured surfaces, photoluminescent, or vibrant colors that enhance the overall appearance and branding of the graphics. This can be particularly valuable in retail environments, events, or promotional campaigns where attention-grabbing visuals are crucial.”
“Specialty product provides the customer with more options in marketing their message and allows them to be more creative in their customizing,” notes Schleicher.
And of course, safety and performance comes to mind when it comes to choosing the right floor graphic media. “Specialty floor graphic materials may be specifically tested and certified to meet safety standards and regulations, such as slip-resistance certifications. Using these materials provides assurance that the graphics meet required safety guidelines and mitigate potential liability concerns,” says Richardson. “By opting for targeted, specialty floor graphic materials, print providers and end customers can ensure a higher level of performance, safety, and customization compared to more universal products. These materials are specifically engineered to address the unique challenges posed by different surfaces and environments, ultimately enhancing the overall quality and effectiveness of the floor graphics.”
These products may cost a little more, but manufacturers and distributors can educate print providers and end users on these details to help them make the decision on which product they want to use. “This starts with asking important questions and gathering as much information as possible, then contacting your favorite sales representative or the manufacturer to determine which product is best for the project,” says Causey.
“It’s crucial to consult with the manufacturer of the floor graphic media for specific safety guidelines and recommendations, as different materials may have unique considerations or requirements. Additionally, complying with relevant safety standards and regulations is essential to ensure the well being of individuals interacting with the floor graphics,” concludes Richardson.
Finding the Right Fit
While many floor graphic media options serve smooth, dry environments, specialty options exist to enable successful placements on carpet, cement, and even pools and splash pads. Special consideration to the exposures unique to the end environment, durability requirements, and adhesive are best practices for choosing the right floor graphic media for the job.
Sep2023, Digital Output