By Melissa Donovan
Material optimized for floor graphic applications is prevalent. As media buyers become more sophisticated and start requesting graphics for all types of flooring surfaces—from concrete to tile and hardwood—print service providers (PSPs) must become better educated on the best type of substrate for the job.
We’ve divided product types based on surfaces—stippled/textured hard surfaces, smooth hard surfaces, and carpet. The April issue of Digital Output focuses on stippled/textured hard surfaces. Common types of surfaces that fall under this category include concrete, asphalt, brick, and stucco. Our May issue studies floor graphics for smooth hard surfaces like tile, laminate, vinyl, wood, smooth concrete, linoleum, ceramic floors, and polished stone.
The third and final article in this series looks at carpet, which for floor graphics purposes is usually a low-pile option seen primarily in trade shows or other event-driven locations that are in place for short-term durations.
Above: Spikey Media created this floor graphic using GF 212 Traffic Graffic and 213 Traffic Graffic Laminate from General Formulations.
Pile it On
When it comes to carpet, the best type of floor graphic media in terms of material composition is vinyl, with film and fabric a close second. However, before even looking into which floor graphic material is an option, identifying the carpet type is important.
Low-pile carpets are highly recommended. “For functional graphics the carpet should be a low-pile carpet without excessive padding for even short-term applications. Most floor graphics will adhere fine but the softness of the carpet and padding will promote tearing from high heels and furniture items,” explains Jason C. Leonard, technical sales manager – digital print, Neenah Paper and Packaging.
“We recommend carpet graphics be applied to low-pile commercial-grade, stain-resistant or non-stain resistant carpets,” adds Jodi Sawyer, strategic business unit manager, retail and advertising, FLEXcon Company, Inc.
Vinyl is one of the best materials for floor graphics in relation to carpets. “Adhering to a soft surface like carpet is tricky, and is best met with the versatility of vinyl and its available adhesives,” says Matt Edwards, product manager for digital print media, General Formulations.
Brian Gibson, wide format technical specialist, GBC SEAL, suggests pairing a self-adhesive vinyl (SAV) that is removable with a water-based acrylic adhesive. “The vinyl will remain close to the carpet pile and present a very reduced scuff/trip point.”
Fabric- and PET-based materials are also used. “One of the great features of these materials is the resilience to tears or punctures such as women’s heels,” notes Micah Causey, VP of business development, FloorSignage, LLC.
“Vinyl, film, and fabric are best. These products tend to lay fat with minimal lift. Materials with the right adhesive made for carpet will not move around on the floor when stepped on and hold tight to the carpet eliminating edge lift that could cause trip hazards,” adds Michael Aldrich, product manager, FDC Graphic Films, Inc.
Whatever material is used must offer a level of flexibility as well as thickness to maintain a rigidity over the softness of the carpet. “Because the carpet has a softness to it, the material needs to be rigid enough to hold the graphic without the texture of the carpet coming through. Using a heavier base works, but the texture of the laminate hides any imprint of the carpet,” shares Angel Georgiou, senior marketing specialist, Imaging Supplies, Canon Solutions America.
Adhesive for carpet-based floor graphics needs to be designed with a floor type in mind. “The best adhesives are made specifically for the type of surface the graphics are applied to. For example, you wouldn’t use concrete floor graphics adhesive on rugs because the adhesive for concrete is made for hard surfaces, while adhesives for rugs need to be more flexible,” notes Lily Hunter, senior product manager, Roland DGA Corporation.
Wayne Colbath, national sales manager, Continental Grafix USA, Inc., admits that carpet is one of the more difficult surfaces to deal with in regards to floor graphics. “We have found heavy coat weight removable solvent adhesives work best on carpets. You need an adhesive with a thick coating because of the various piles, fibers, plushness, height, and thicknesses of carpeting. A robust thick adhesive coating will seat itself in most of these applications yet remove easily when needed.”
Russell Nicoletti, president, Infinity Media Co., exclusive importer of FloorAppeal, says carpets are usually made of yarn, which is what makes it difficult to stick anything to their surface. If the floor graphic product has an adhesive that is too weak, it can be dangerous, which is why he recommends high-tack adhesive for pile carpeting.
“Carpets are a surface type that is textured, the profile is contoured, and the surface has softness and give to it. These characteristics require a heavier coat weight of a solvent-based acrylic adhesive to ensure proper bond to the surface and better resistance to chemicals—stain resistant treatments, moisture, heat, and humidity compared to water-based acrylic adhesives while still being removable at the end of the campaign/promotion,” explains Sawyer.
Not only should it be removable, but no residue should be left behind. “The best type of adhesive for carpet is repositionable, which allows you to remove the graphic so no residual adhesive is left,” says Mike Richardson, business development manager, Jessup Manufacturing Co.
“It is essential to make sure the adhesive is formulated to not leave adhesive residue behind after removing the graphics,” echoes Amanda Smith, product manager, Mactac.
Furthermore, you should avoid damaging the carpet, which is why Causey recommends removable, solvent-based adhesives with medium tack and low sheet. “Adhesives for carpets must have the right balance to adhere but not bond strongly to avoid damaging the carpet when removed.”
To Laminate or Not?
Depending on how long the graphic may be in place, one- or two-step floor graphic options will suffice. One-step floor graphic involve a base material, whereas a two-step product is a combination of a base material and overlaminate. For added durability, many lean toward using a two-step option on carpet.
According to Gibson, a two-step combination of laminate and print media offers extended longevity as the laminate will protect the ink and the print media. “One-step graphics will wear quicker because patrons’ personal and mechanical equipment directly contact the ink, scuffing and inducing surface wear. Laminated SAVs have more body and durability.”
Aldrich agrees, saying a one-step product might also to be too flimsy—lacking that thickness—which could cause buckling of the media and edge lift, creating a trip hazard.
“For puncture protection as the graphic will be over a soft surface, a thick laminate over a vinyl base layer is the best solution for this challenging application,” continues Edwards.
Colbath argues that a one-step product works well in this situation. “As the carpet surface is flexible, the graphic surface will have to be able to move and flex as feet and other traffic move across. A laminated surface can be compromised from this added stress where the laminate meets the graphic.”
“A one-step product would be recommended for these types of surfaces. Those types of products are much easier to install as they do not require lamination. It is also a substantial cost savings to use only one product,” adds Nicoletti.
Leonard says it comes down to how long the graphic is in place, with a “one-step product good for short term, but for long term or an overly soft carpet, a two step can last longer without tearing.”
Installing a floor graphic onto a carpet is all about patience—which can be said about the installation of any application. Prior to installation, carpets should be cleaned—vacuumed or shampooed—to ensure they are free of any debris or dust.
“The carpet surface must be free of lint and debris prior to application of graphics. A thorough vacuuming is recommended. If recently shampooed or steam cleaned, make sure that the carpet surface is completely dry before application of graphics,” recommends Sawyer.
The actual act of installation is not challenging. “A standard installation should be relatively easy. It’s important that all edges are secure to prevent tripping,” says Shaun Jaycox, product manager, S-One Holdings Corporation.
In Aldrich’s opinion, carpet applications are the easiest to apply. “It is very forgiving; if you mess up it’s easy to lift back up and lay down to position and apply the graphic correctly. You can do this a few times, but be careful not to lift too much when applying because you will start collecting carpet fibers causing the adhesive to not be as sticky.”
“The carpet pile becomes a natural air egress. Peel and stick is feasible, however, I would apply in the same manner as applying to a smooth surface. A second person may be necessary to hold the initial tack to the pile surface,” explains Gibson.
Carpets do “require more application pressure during installation compared to a graphic applied to a smooth, hard surface because the surface profile is textured, and the surface is softer than a textured hard or smooth surface,” notes Sawyer.
A trick Leonard picked up is to uniformly press the graphic in place across the entire surface using a rolling pin or paper core.
Of note, Sawyer suggests testing a small sample prior to final application, as not all carpets perform the same. “Carpets are often surface treated for stain resistance, so testing a small sample for compatibility is recommended. Not all low-pile carpets are manufactured identically. Graphics may not have the same adherence properties on some low-pile plush carpets as on other commercial grade low-pile carpets.”
If there is a treatment on the carpet, for example a dirt repelling coating like Scotch Brite, Colbath recommends removing it prior to installing the graphic. This can be done using a standard carpet cleaning solution and then allowing time for it to dry completely.
Not Your Typical Carpet
Maintaining the graphic’s appearance and functionality is important, as a failure can lead to tripping and a dirty image is unappealing.
Manual cleaning of a graphic is recommended and avoid using vacuums. “When cleaning, don’t run the vacuum on top of the graphic. Simply spray the graphic with a non-solvent cleaner and wipe clean with a damp cloth,” recommends Colbath.
If a vacuum is used on the rest of the carpet, try to prevent interacting with the graphic. However, Edwards says incidental contact won’t destroy the image.
Avoiding the edges is important. “Do not push a vacuum on to the graphic edge, it may peel. Do not use a rotating beater bar of a vacuum as it may pick/pull up the graphic,” adds Gibson.
“Carpet installed graphics are more delicate around the perimeter so care should be taken to not tick up the corners and create a turned up edge,” agrees Leonard.
Floor graphics installed on low-pile carpet deliver a standout effect when done properly. The right thickness of material—whether combined with a laminate or not—provides protection from gauges as well as odd dips in the graphic. A carpet’s softness is a challenge, but when the right product is chosen, it should not be an issue.
For a conversation on all-things floor graphics, visit digitaloutput.net/webinars for archived broadcasts with some of the vendors in this article. And refer to our April and May issues for information on floor graphic material for stippled/textured surfaces and smooth hard surfaces, respectively.
Jun2022, Digital Output