Every building has an entrance, and beginning from that point on, proper matting can help facilities save money by preventing damage to floors. It can also help facilities achieve green goals and provide a safe and pleasing environment for the building’s occupants.

Manufacturers say choosing a proper matting system is almost completely based on that facility’s needs, not on the facility type. There are many factors end users need to take into account when making a matting purchase.

Distributors can help their customers by knowing what to look for in a matting system. They should pay particular attention to everything from where the mat will be located and what purpose it will serve, to how exactly matting can save a facility money.

The Dirt Stops Here
Entrance matting is something all facilities should have. However, just placing any old rug at an entrance will not be effective in stopping dirt from entering a building, nor will it contribute to floor safety.

There a few things a good entrance mat should do, says Larry Arnold, director of environmental programs/sales manager for the Andersen Co., Inc., a matting manufacturer in Dalton, Ga. First, it must stop soil and water at the door.

Next, the mat must store dirt and water to prevent them from being tracked into the building. The mat should be capable of retaining the dirt and water until cleaning crews can remove it.

“When using a permanent two-level construction — which we call a bi-level — you walk on one level and the dirt and water falls to the lower level of the mat so that your feet can’t track any of that into the building,” Arnold explains.

Finally, mats have to provide a safe surface — one that won’t bunch up or slide around while the user is walking on it — and one that will contain water so that the water doesn’t run off onto the floor — conditions that increase the chances of a slip-and-fall accident occurring.

Serving Your Customers
Knowing your customers’ requirements is paramount. Most manufacturers serve a wide range of customer types, including schools, hospitals, office environments and industrial settings.

Some manufacturers target specific customer bases. For instance, Creative Flooring Concepts, Plainview, N.Y., focuses on Class A office buildings, but also works with hospitals, universities and retail chains. Even though many customers’ facilities share certain similarities, each customer is treated as an individual.

“When we design customers’ matting, we give them the right amount of product to cover the floor properly in an attractive way,” says Jeffrey Saltzman, vice president of the company. “But every entrance is different, so our mats are custom-tailored to fit an entrance.”

While most manufacturers say a facility’s design will dictate what matting systems will work best, there is a traditional “mat theory,” according to Milton Davis, product development manager/technical sales engineer for ITW ALMA Inc., Kennesaw, Ga.

There are three different types of mats that need to be placed at a facility’s entrance, the “theory” dictates. First, there should be a coarse-fiber scraper mat placed outdoors that removes large particles. Next, there should be an indoor scraper mat that removes fine particles, followed by an absorbent mat that removes moisture.

“The theory is that this mat system is supposed to remove 85 percent of the dirt that comes into a facility from foot-borne traffic,” says Davis. “You want to have at least 15 feet of mat material coming into an entryway … If you talk to different mat companies, they may have different ways to organize it, but that’s mainly what you’re dealing with.”

Safety, Comfort Within
Entrance mats may be a facility’s first line of defense against dirt and slip-and-fall accidents, but they are by no means the last. The two main purposes of indoor matting are to prevent damage to floors by trapping the dirt that makes it through the entrance, while making the interior a more comfortable and appealing place to be. There are a few types of mats that will help achieve these ends.

Adhesive mats, which offer a sticky surface that is designed to trap small particles that would otherwise become airborne, are important in facilities that absolutely must maintain the cleanest environment possible.

“We’ve found that the adhesive mats actually enhance the floor care program and reduce the amount of floor care maintenance that people have to do in certain areas,” says Davis.

Davis also says adhesive mats are important in “clean room” areas — especially adhesive mats that come in white to show users how it is picking up the dirt that it is supposed to.

While entrance mats and adhesive mats help keep a facility clean, some mats are designed to make people more comfortable while they work. Anti-fatigue matting is intended to provide comfort to workers who are on their feet all day.

“It’s very, very uncomfortable to be standing on a hard surface for long periods of time, even if you have insoles in your shoes,” says Lisa O’Dell, vice president of marketing for Wearwell®, Nashville, Tenn. “Your blood starts pooling and your muscles become static as they’re working overtime to try to keep your body in an upright position, so it’s very important to have anti-fatigue matting, because an anti-fatigue mat is more resilient than the floor.”

Other interior matting that facilities place on floors includes general purpose mats, abrasive mats to help prevents slips and falls, as well as additional scraper mats.

The most crucial aspect of interior matting is that it fit together and serve as a true system that serves the facility’s needs, says O’Dell. Her company sells 18-by-18 inch tiles that serve a variety of functions.

“Sometimes, people want long runs of these different types of tiles put together,” O’Dell says. “They’ll want a section that’s made without grit and a section that’s gritted and then they might want a section that’s got holes all down a very long assembly line, and it just depends on what people are doing on that particular point of the line.

Preventing Damage, Promoting Beauty
Dirt damages floors. That is why facilities try so hard to prevent people from dragging it inside.

“It’s kind of like the sandpaper effect,” says Davis. “Foot traffic is the most abrasive type of wear you can put on a floor system.”

Arnold cites an ISSA statistic that found it costs $600 in labor alone to remove one pound of dirt from a facility. “If it costs $600 to find and remove a pound of soil from the building, and that’s primarily the cost of labor — not the chemical or equipment costs — any amount of soil that you stop on the mat is going to save you money because you won’t have to try to get it out of the building once it gets in there,” Arnold says.

In using mats to protect floors over the long term, mats can help improve the aesthetics of facilities.

“You don’t want a floor to look dirty,” says Davis. “People get their first impression about a facility based on how the floors look. If you walk into a supermarket and the floors are dirty, you’re not going to buy any food there. The aesthetic issue is one that you can’t put a price on, but it’s just as important as some of the other factors.”

In general, manufacturers say end users do not want to be able to see the dirt trapped by the mats, so end users look for thick fibers and colors that will disguise the dirt. Many companies also want their logos on mats, or matting that matches the rest of the facility’s decor.

As far as entrance mats go, Ron Gustafson, marketing manager for Superior Mfg. Group Inc., Chicago, believes manufacturers typically will not stray from designs that the company has used for a long time, though they do go outside the box in looking at how small modifications to that design can better combine form and function.

“The purpose of the mat will help to determine the materials used and the type of design that you can incorporate, but I think companies are taking a much closer look at appearance because everyone wants to come out with something new, something that’s going to be the new industry standard, if you will,” says Gustafson.

O’Dell says her company had an independent consulting firm do a study on matting a couple of years ago to determine how important aesthetics are to end users.

“What they found was aesthetics was in fact really important to people,” says O’Dell. “No one wanted to have a mat on the floor that looked bad, because then everything else begins to look bad. People really liked a design that blended into their type of environment.”

Saltzman’s customers also look for matting that will complement their customers’ interiors. “These facilities are spending millions or hundreds of thousands of dollars designing and decorating and planning the entrance areas with beautiful floors and decorations and furniture,” says Saltzman. “You don’t see matting that’s really not thought out and essentially just runners that are thrown down on the floor in those Class A buildings.”

Clean Mat, Clean Facility
Anyone who knows mats agrees that they have to be maintained or they will not do any good in keeping dirt and water from finding their way into a facility.

“Mats need to be vacuumed every day, periodically they need to be scrubbed and cleaned,” says Davis. “If the mat is not maintained properly, it will, at some point, build up enough dirt in it where it is not doing its job and it will start to release the dirt instead of trapping it.”

The mat also needs to be protected from chemicals, says O’Dell. “If your mat is exposed to the right types of chemicals, the mat will last a lot longer, it will not break down,” she says, adding that the mats need to be able to be easily moved by cleaning staff, or they will suffer premature damage.

The success of a facility’s matting system can be enhanced by a knowledgeable distributor who takes the time to evaluate a customer’s facility as well as addressing their maintenance concerns.

Can Matting Be Green?
When dirt stops at the door, matting has served a green function. While not typically considered a green product per se, matting can help facilities work toward green cleaning goals.

“Mats make buildings greener by keeping buildings cleaner,” says Larry Arnold, director of environmental programs/sales manager for the Andersen Co., Inc., Dalton, Ga. “When you talk about cleaning a building, you’re cleaning away dirt using chemicals and equipment. Eighty percent of that dirt has come into the building through the door. If you can keep it at the door instead of in the building, you’re obviously going to save money, but you’re also going to keep the building green.”

Manufacturers agree that matting keeps chemical use to a minimum. “From the green cleaning standpoint, it will reduce the need to spend as much time with chemicals and things that affect the environment,” says Ron Gustafson, marketing manager for Superior Mfg. Group Inc., Chicago.

In addition to making for healthier environments, mats themselves can also be seen as green because of their environmentally friendly components, says Lisa O’Dell, vice president of marketing for Wearwell, Nashville, Tenn. “There are a lot of companies that are looking into and that have developed mats that are at least 10 to 15 percent recycled post-consumer goods,” she explains.

“Molded rubber mats, for example, might have fillers that have recycled products in them,” she adds. “We’re trying to adapt higher regrind [recycled plastics] into some of our products, just to help get rid of some of the excess tire waste that can’t be used any other way.” — L.G.