By Elizabeth Quirk
Floor graphics are used in a number of environments, from retail settings to trade show floors and music arenas. They are quickly becoming a highly sought after way to advertise because their unexpected nature gets them noticed. Material advancements allow floor graphics to appear on almost any walkable surface including stairs, ramps, carpet, tile, wood, metal, smooth concrete, and painted surfaces.
While more commonly found outdoors, specific products are designed for indoor usage as well. These types of graphic materials are ideal for providing a non-slip environment.
Here, we take a deeper look at floor graphics for indoor usage and find out what print service providers (PSPs) should look for when designing, printing, and installing for a client.
Above: Drytac FloorTac is an 3.2-mil printable matte white polymeric PVC film with a removable pressure-sensitive gray acrylic adhesive.
Generally, floor graphic components designed for outdoors can also be used indoors on non-carpeted surfaces. However, outdoor floor graphic products may be overkill for an indoor application. Adhesion—higher or lower tack—plays a large role in this.
Brian Biegel, marketing communications specialist, D&K Group, Inc., explains that most indoor walking surfaces such as tile don’t feature the same rough texture as outdoor surfaces like sidewalks or asphalt. Because of this, an indoor floor graphic probably won’t require the same thickness of adhesive as a floor graphic installed on a rough outdoor surface. Indoor floor graphics also do not require the same amount of UV resistance as an outdoor floor graphic that may be exposed to direct sunlight.
“The surface type dictates the adhesive needed—indoor applications generally require lower tack adhesives, whereas outdoor applications can call for higher tack. Depending on the desired length of exposure, outdoor graphics may require higher quality components than indoor graphics. It’s better to select a material designed to meet the particular needs of each application so you have the assurance it will perform well in that specific environment,” agrees Matt Buckley, business development director, wide format market, GPA.
One example is carpet—something predominately found indoors versus outdoors. A surface like carpet requires a specialized media option. “If installing a film onto a soft surface like carpeting, it is important to check to see if the film is approved for multi-surfaces. Some floor graphics are only approved for hard surfaces, which means they will not adhere properly to softer surfaces,” recommends Laura Reid, VP marketing, FDC Graphics Films, Inc.
“Indoor floor graphics installed over carpet require specific indoor floor graphic materials. Short pile carpets are typically easy to adhere to with few problems, but long pile carpets present a unique challenge in that the walking surface is spongy and the floor graphic is prone to flexing and shifting on these surfaces. A floor graphic intended for installation on carpet should use a media or adhesive specifically designed for this application,” shares Biegel.
René Bourgeois, key account manager, ASLAN, Schwarz GmbH & Co. KG, states that when applied to carpets, floor graphics should be “high heel safe,” meaning that heels won’t perforate the printed vinyl.
While textured surfaces like low-pile carpet, sealed concrete, or tile with grout lines benefit from permanent adhesive, Molly Waters, senior technical specialist, Avery Dennison Graphics Solutions, believes that smooth tile flooring and other smooth surfaces require a removable adhesive.
There are materials designed to adhere to multiple surfaces. Shaun Jaycox, product specialist, S-One Holdings Corporation, suggests using a textured, non-slip vinyl and a dimensionally stable fabric backing, which makes it ideal for short-term outdoor but is great for indoor applications as well.
While multi-use floor graphic solutions are available, Jeff Stadelman, marketing manager, Mactac Distributor Products, says the company tends to separate indoor and outdoor floor graphic media and laminates because there are different government requirements in each area.
“Slip resistance for example, is much more critical in areas that can get wet, like most outdoor areas where floor graphics will be applied. In addition, the surface this graphic is applied to, has for the most part, significantly different characteristics. Think about sidewalks versus interior vinyl or wood floors,” adds Stadelman.
The two most important considerations for a floor graphic applied indoors are safety and quality. The material used must also offer a level of slip resistance. Additionally, the graphic needs to remain vibrant to attract the attention of a passerby.
“Safety is the most important aspect of a floor graphic whether it will be indoors or outdoors. You must ensure that the floor graphic material and/or overlaminate used is approved for slip resistance,” explains Cory Jones, associate product manager, GBC & SEAL wide format, equipment, and supplies, ACCO Brands.
The industry standard for slip resistance testing for indoor floors is UL 410 or ASTM D 2047. According to Bekie Berg, market development specialist, product branding business team, FLEXcon Company, Inc., this is a static coefficient of friction with a pass or fail rating. “This standard is used today by commercial floor wax brands as their standard for slip resistance. There are other standards for slip resistance testing that include both dry and wet method testing and those results are categorized in a more general sense as low friction, medium friction, and high friction rated.”
Proper installation is the key to keeping a floor graphic from becoming a tripping hazard. Edge lift is the primary cause of tripping hazards from floor graphics. Steve Yarbrough, product support specialist, Drytac, agrees. “A material that is easy to install, remove, and does not leave any adhesive behind is preferred by installers and end users.”
It’s important to keep the outer perimeter of a floor graphic as simple as possible. Floor graphics are vulnerable if there are a lot of ornate details that extend out from the perimeter of the graphic. Simplify the design by containing the graphic within a simple shape like a circle, square, rectangle, or oval. It’s also not a bad idea to radius the corners, so there’s less of an edge to possibly kick up.
“Additionally, it’s important to have the facility manager regularly inspect the floor graphics for damage or routine wear. In heavy foot traffic areas like the entrance into an airport stadium concourse, the textured anti-skid coating will wear to a smooth finish overtime. If this occurs, it’s a good time to replace the graphic with your customer’s updated promotion or message,” adds Josh Culverhouse, graphic innovations market manager, ORAFOL Americas.
The graphics’ clean ability should be addressed. “The materials should be able to be cleaned so they can continue to look eye catching. The cleaning can be vacuuming or with certain floors, an industrial floor cleaner,” says Kylie Schleicher, product manager, Ultraflex Systems, Inc.
One or Two Indoors
Floor graphics are applied in one- or two-step systems. A one-step system includes a durable media while two-step systems use a durable media and overlaminate.
The decision to use one or the other “comes down to how long the graphic needs to last and what type of traffic you would expect to go over it,” explains Jaycox. “For short-term graphics, lamination is not required but for long term it is recommended that a laminate be applied. When this is the case typically a smooth finish floor vinyl is recommended as it allows the laminate to adhere better.”
According to Culverhouse, the overlaminate should feature an anti-skid coating. Most readily available anti-skid floor laminates on the market are rated for three to six months under moderate to heavy foot traffic.
Advances in one-step systems make them popular for indoor floor graphics. They reduce the time and cost required for laminating. Another advantage is that one-step systems with raised or textured faces tend to show less damage over time than traditional two-step systems, according to Buckley.
Bill Rothe, VP, BILD Print Media, Better Life Technology, says, “a one-step system is preferred for indoor floor graphics because it is more cost effective in the long run. Customers must consider the cost of the entire project, from material and printing to installation costs.”
On the other hand, “I’m a fan of the two-step system,” explains Stadelman. “Print media paired with a laminate to protect the image. After all, floor graphics are all about presenting a message. So, a message that is wearing off, looking dingy or grimy because there is no laminate to protect it does not present the proper message.”
“Two step is a preferred method. Pairing what is usually a vinyl adhesive media with an overlaminate for floor graphic typically doubles the life of floor graphics, ensures added color vibrancy, and adds rigidity. Without an overlaminate, floor graphics are less likely to be able to withstand scuffs, abrasion, and moisture, especially in high-traffic areas,” adds Jones.
Waters says in her experience laminated or two-step systems are more popular for indoor applications. “The laminate not only offers slip resistance, but also protects the inks and keeps them from scratching.”
Despite the fact that floor graphics are becoming more prevalent, many still consider it a specialty product. The process of selecting the right face material, adhesive, and laminate; considering the environment in which the application will be used; and acknowledging the surface it will be applied to is complicated. The fact that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for floor graphics contributes to the specialty perception.
“I would consider floor graphics a specialty product in the sense that they offer a unique approach to targeting an intended audience. Directional, informational, promotional, eye catching—there are a variety of reasons to consider floor graphic solutions to convey a message. I would not consider, however, the construction and installation to be overly complicated or specialty in nature,” says Jonathan Gerlach, marketing manager, intermediate films, 3M Commercial Solutions.
Stadelman agrees. He says the media used in making floor graphics—at least for indoor applications—would not necessarily be considered a specialty product.
“In many cases a good permanent or removable print media can be used for floor graphics. The laminate however, while it can be used in other applications, is designed to be walked upon and slip resistant or high traction. They are typically more expensive than a standard overlaminate for general purpose signage,” he adds.
Requirements for high traction in a wet setting to maintain a safe walking surface means the creation of a unique, more costly product. Sandra Wagner, marketing communications manager, Jessup Manufacturing Company, cites certain floor graphics that offer multiple features considered specialty including easy to apply and remove, no adhesive residue left upon removal, sticks to almost any surface, slip resistant, and ability to digitally cut into any shape.
In Biegel’s opinion, floor graphics were once considered a specialty product, but many print providers have expanded their offerings to include these applications. In today’s competitive graphics market, many shops have diversified their product portfolios and now offer floor graphic services. The availability of materials and increased awareness of these opportunities have helped floor graphics evolve from a niche market into a standard product offering.
“Most graphic shops already have the necessary equipment in place to produce floor graphics without requiring any additional capital investments. Knowing the legal requirements and choosing the right product selections can open up profitable floor graphic opportunities for shops of all sizes,” adds Biegel.
In conclusion, floor graphics are still considered a specialty product, but are slowly becoming more mainstream with the offering of long term or permanent graphics for indoor environments. Certain floor graphic materials require very specific installation procedures in order to meet the manufacturer’s warranty. Some enclosed locations may also require licensed contractors to install floor graphics. It is critical to understand the best installation practices and requirements to provide a complete and safe floor graphic solution system.
Apr2019, Digital Output