An individual matter

16th of September 2011
An individual matter
An individual matter

Matting systems come in all shapes and sizes and the type of mat you choose depends heavily on the type of facility in which it will be placed. Ann Laffeaty finds out which type of entrance mats to put where.

There are many different reasons why the manager of a commercial, industrial or hospitality venue will choose a matting system.  An office, for example, may require a mat to enhance the company’s image while a supermarket might want to primarily prevent slips and trips. Other facilities simply need a heavy-duty solution for high foot traffic to avoid mud and dirt being trampled into the building.

This means that a hospital administrator would potentially opt for a different type of mat to, say, a supermarket manager. But how do they make their decision and what makes a mat particularly suitable for the facility in question?

COBA offers a range of options from a simple doormat that lays on the floor surface to heavy-duty systems for busy commercial buildings.

“We offer a choice because there are so many factors to take into consideration,” said UK sales director Chris Stanley. “For example we need to consider whether the matting is to be installed in a recessed mat-well or laid to surface; if the entrance is an unusual shape or features a rotating door system, and how much wear and tear the mat is likely to receive. We also have to consider the type of footwear likely to be worn by the users.”

He says other factors to consider include how frequently the matting needs to be cleaned; the cleaning methods involved; its suitability for wheeled access and the cost of the product. “It is also important to weigh up the main functions that the matting needs to perform since this will vary according to the type of building,” he said.

Wear and tear properties

“When supplying a matting system for a hospital, for example, the system needs to be suitable for wheelchair and trolley access. It also needs to be capable of effectively removing moisture and debris from the footwear. 

“Given that hospitals are usually busy environments, a durable matting system with good wear and tear properties is essential. Thorough cleaning is imperative in this type of environment which means that an entrance system with a solid surface is preferable.”

Good wear resistance is also required in a supermarket, says Stanley, since the store will attract high footfall.  “The matting here should be able to withstand the weight and constant pressure from trolleys while allowing easy access,” he said. “If the matting isn’t installed in a recessed well then bevelled edging will be essential for access and to help prevent trip hazards.

“Interlinking tile systems also work well here and are cost-effective, too, as they allow for isolated tiles to be moved and cleaned or replaced for easy maintenance.  Supermarkets find it difficult to gain insurance against slip-related accidents, so matting systems that offer good absorption and dirt-scraping/wiping properties will minimise the potential for slips on smooth floors and be an important factor for safety.”

Entrance matting in an office needs to be practical and fit-for-purpose, said Stanley. “It should also be smart and professional to create a good impression to visitors,” he said. “Logo mats are a popular choice for companies looking to promote their brand or corporate message.”

He says there are various new technologies available for trapping dirt. “Our PathMaster entrance matting has a polypropylene carpet surface with aluminium scraping inserts that can be cut to shape and fitted on site,” he said. “The surface is solid which means that the dirt can’t escape underneath the mat and can be easily vacuumed or spot-cleaned.  It is proving a popular option for commercial and office interiors.”

Superior Europe’s marketing executive Margot van Gils says the specific type of building does not necessarily have a bearing on the type of matting system chosen. “We only make a distinction between mats that are used inside and those for external use,” she said. “Up to 80 per cent of interior soil is brought into facilities from foot traffic, and the matting system should ensure that the majority of dirt is stopped at the entrance.”

Traffic levels

She says that when supplying a matting system it is important to take into account the likely degree of traffic. “One should also consider whether the material used in the mat needs to be absorbent or non-absorbent.”

According to Milliken marketing director Patrick Morel only around 50 per cent of today’s buildings have a mat-well designed in by the architect - and he adds that this is usually too small. “We often have to supply an extra area of matting as a second barrier,” he said.

Airports and shopping centres are among the most challenging environments to mat, says Morel. “When people go home they automatically wipe their feet on the doormat, but they don’t do this when they walk into a shopping centre,” he said. “Instead they expect the mat to magically clean and dry their shoes for them. So in an airport or shopping centre where there is wheeled traffic as well as foot traffic the matting should be designed to withstand heavy use.”

He says the company’s Obex mats - made from a patented textile designed to scrape dirt while also feeling soft underfoot – are particularly suitable for airports and shopping centres. “Obex mats absorb sound and prevent that juddering sensation you sometimes get when wheeling a trolley over matting,” he said.

According to Morel the matting supplied in a heavy-use area usually needs to be more than 10 metres in length – but he claims it is highly unusual for an architect to design in a mat-well of this size.  “Unlike carpet, marble and tiles, mats are often perceived as not being attractive to look at and for this reason architects tend to design in small mat-wells,” he said. “But mats today can look extremely good and even enhance the design of a building and fit in with the décor. And the more people coming into a building, the larger the mat needs to be.”

According to Crown Mats vice-president sales and marketing Chris Tricozzi the most challenging types of building to mat are those that see heavy traffic – both in terms of footfall and wheels - and where bad weather is also an issue. “For instance, many grocery stores have trolleys constantly moving in and out of the entrance,” he said. “Combine this with snow and rain and even the sturdiest of matting systems may only last a season.”

He says hospitals are also a challenge since these have to cope both with wheelchair traffic and with people on foot. “This may mean a different type of profile or edging may be required for the recommended matting. However, it is not necessarily the type of building that is important when it comes to choosing a mat - more the environment it is in and the traffic that it encounters,” he said. “So if the climate is bad and the traffic is heavy we would offer one solution while we would suggest a different solution in an environment where the traffic is light and the climate is good.”

Challenging environments

Floor and surface care marketing manager for 3M western Europe Richard Jones concurs with this statement. “The choice of mat depends heavily on the size of the building, the number of people walking through the door and the environment in which it will be placed,” he said. “For instance, is the outdoor environment susceptible to rain, snow, or dirt? This may be a problem in northern Europe while in southern Europe you may have a bigger problem with sand and grit.

“Then you have to consider: how many people will walk through the entrance on a daily basis? This has a huge effect on the choice of mat. Safety is also important and aesthetics play a major part, too. For a corporate headquarters a good first impression is vital and the building manager will probably choose an expensive engineered mat in an aluminium frame that will look good even in the most inclement of weather.”

Products offered by 3M include the Nomad Optima aluminium frame which can house textile infills of 3M Nomad 8400 Aqua Plus matting. This is said to be suitable for all types of location and can cope with any level of pedestrian, trolley and small vehicle traffic.

According to Jones, airports are among the most challenging environments to mat. “The matting system here has to cope with a high volume of people in different footwear coupled with the heavy weight of their luggage,” he said. “The design should allow the mat to successfully trap dirt - but not high heels.”

Shopping centres are among the easiest environments to mat, he adds. “Although there is high traffic in a shopping centre, the owners and retailers want to ensure a high footfall which means the entrance will usually be wide and straight with no bottlenecks.”

He says architects often consider the matting system only at the final stages of planning, and that this is a mistake. “In busy environments, a matting system that will last 10 years and cope with 5,000 visitors per day will be an investment – and it should be a smart investment,” said Jones.

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