Understanding Floor Graphics; Slip Ratings, Carpets and More!
There are a few things to look for before beginning a floor graphic installation. One of the most important factors is understanding what different slip rating certifications mean.
Not All Ratings Are Created Equally!
Just as all testing processes are not created equally, neither are the rating results. Some ratings are for good indoor floors, some for outdoor, some are for dry floors and others for wet, and some even include the incline of the surface in the rating! Knowing your end application surface, expected graphic lifetime and also the environment it will be in, are all important factors in choosing the right materials. Below is a quick reference on some common slip rating classifications, and what they mean so that an informed decision can be made. (For a complete listing of all available floor graphics and their respective ratings, please click here)
The UL 410 standard rates various materials and surfaces as ‘slip resistant’. They are tested for their static coefficient of friction (COF), which is the measure of how slippery a floor is when someone is standing still on it. This figure, therefore, is irrelevant for any occasion when a pedestrian is walking across it – which is, naturally, when slip resistance is most important.
The laboratory-only test method for UL 410 is also somewhat out of date. It was devised roughly 80 years ago to test the floor waxes of the day, which are no longer used, having since been replaced by plastic coatings or floor finishes. It is also seldom used to evaluate hard flooring such as ceramic tile or natural stone. Unfortunately, it has often been applied in this way, indicating that the floor complies with a safety standard when in fact it does not.
ANSI ratings are an alternative to UL 410 and are increasingly used by floor graphics media manufacturers. The ANSI specifies a minimum dynamic COF, wet or dry, of 0.42 for safety. This test uses a hard rubber slider to simulate the heel of a dress shoe. However, in addition to meeting this threshold, the user must consider six other factors: “type of use, traffic, expected contaminants, expected maintenance, expected wear, and manufacturers’ guidelines and recommendations.”
The ASTM E303 test uses the pendulum skid tester and a soft rubber slider that simulates soft-soled footwear such as athletic shoes and boat shoes as well as bare feet. Normally in the pendulum test, a standard hard rubber slider is used to simulate the bottoms of dress shoes, including high heels.
The European Standard EN 13036-4:2011 provides the slip resistance classification for all flooring products. This norm is defined by the Pendulum Test method to assess a floor’s surface properties under dry and wet
conditions determining slipperiness and the level of potential risk of injury. The Pendulum Test is an established and reliable method. It is measured by means of a rubber slider mounted at the end of a pendulum which imitates the action of slipping and determines the dynamic friction of the surface.
DIN 51130 or DIN 51097 (Ramp Tests)
This test involves a person with work boots walking over a flooring sample on an inclined ramp with an oil contaminant. The resulting level of degrees the ramp can be inclined, before the operator slips, is categorized into appropriate ‘R’ Values – running from R9 up to R13. This test is commonly used in Europe with most products being either R9 or R10 rated.
Things to Know about Carpet
During the rise of interior way-finding signage, carpet became the obvious choice for the application of Social Distancing messaging. Unfortunately, we all learned that certain types of recycled content, low-VOC or environmentally friendly carpets do not like to accept adhesive, and that the majority of carpet surfaces need to be tested prior to graphics installation.
Carpet can be Low Surface Energy (LSE): Some of the installations that have experienced the most graphic failure have been on carpets labelled as stain resistant or never stain. These carpets are usually sold as carpet tiles or sections, and often have recycled content. Carpet can also be constructed of either nylon or polypropylene:
- Polypropylene Carpet is the newest LSE surface! It combine LSE materials with anti-staining carpet additives, and you get a surface that is very difficult to adhere to – very much like low VOC latex paint on walls! Standard removable adhesive will take approximately 48 hours to properly wet out, however with this new type of carpet the adhesive does not wet into the surface and simply floats on top.
- Nylon Carpet is the most widely-used of all fibres, as it’s durable and resilient. Depending on the texture, finish or additives in it, not even high tack vinyl will stick to this type of material.
- Textured Carpet can also be problematic. Materials rated for use on carpet are generally rated for application to a low-pile, industrial grade, smooth surface carpet. Any indoor/outdoor carpet with ribbing, grooves or cut outs to catch salt and dirt will not perform and the graphic will lift and fail.
It is recommended that an adhesion test be performed on the intended carpet and approve its use, prior to proceeding!
The alternative choosing a permanent or high-tack adhesive, and risk possible adhesive residue.
Additional Tips to Consider When Creating Floor Graphics
- Graphic longevity will always depend on the amount and type of traffic (i.e foot traffic vs driving or lift-truck traffic). Normal graphic longevity is rated as 3-6 months, depending on foot traffic.
- Note the products minimum application temperature. If it is too warm or too cold failures can occur, a minimum of +10C in both air and surface is best.
- If you do not know the require graphic lifespan, default to a two-part print & laminate construction, or an aluminum core, gritted face floor graphic.
- Waxing around the edges of indoor print & laminated floor graphics on smooth tile surfaces after installation can seal the image and increase durability
- Indoor materials are not suited for exterior use. Outdoor products have thicker adhesives and different builds to withstand the element.
- When choosing materials ALWAYS chose slip rated media to ensure everyone’s safety!
More Information and Further Reading:
For a complete listing of available floor graphic options and their respective ratings, please click here
- ASLAN: Floor Graphics – ASLAN Selbstklebefolien GmbH (aslanfolien.de)
- Avery Dennison: Floor Films | Avery Dennison | Graphics
- Drytac: Drytac helps ensure floor graphics are safe and legal in public spaces
- Jessup Manufacturing: Blog – Floor Graphics (jessupmfg.com)
- Metamark: Metamark | News | FLOOR GRAPHICS MADE EASY
- 3M: Floor and Sidewalk Graphic Film – Graphics and Signage | 3M US