Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Choosing Indoor Playground Surfaces - Comparing Plastic vs. Foam vs. Rubber

Greatmats Home Sport and Play Mats 
Slide, climb, jump and crawl! Outdoor playgrounds are a blast for kids. Having fun, playing with friends, burning off excess energy, and developing large and fine motor skills are just some of the benefits of a playground. All types of learning - emotional, social, motor, and cognitive - are increased and enhanced by play, particularly free play in playgrounds.

But if you live in a climate with frigid, long winters, an endless rainy season, or a sultry, hot summer, outdoor playground are off limits for long periods of the year.

This has led to a rise in indoor playgrounds. From home and corporate daycare centers, churches and community centers, airports and shopping malls to private homes, indoor playgrounds are growing in popularity. These days, you can find indoor playgrounds in child care centers, fast food restaurants, children's museums, health and fitness centers and theme parks. With the rise of community and commercial indoor playgrounds, parents have discovered an indoor playground can be a great place to host a child's birthday party.

But just as it is important to make sure playground equipment is safe, the flooring surface of your indoor playground is equally as important. Obviously, a concrete surface offers no protection when a child slips or falls. Carpet is not much better. Fortunately there are many new products from rolled rubber to plastic tiles that can make an indoor playground a safe, inviting and colorful place to play.

Fall Height Protection
Whenever you are creating a playground, you need to be concerned that the surfaces you choose meet the recommended fall heights for the equipment you will be installing. Fall height is the distance between the ground and the highest step or platform that a child might climb to. A surface with a proper fall height will lessen the severity of injuries, particularly life threatening head injuries, for the little ones that use your indoor playground.

The American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) is the primary organization that rates playground surfaces. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has created safety standards for playgrounds, both indoors and out, and has a PDF specifically about indoor playground surfaces.

Rubber is the top choice for outdoor playground surfaces. It can withstand the weather, is very durable and can have very high fall height ratings. There are plenty of rubber flooring options, but let's start with some indoor products that may be more comfortable and soft than outdoor rubber tiles.

Plastic Indoor Playground Surfaces
StayLock Orange Peel Tiles
One option is StayLock flooring tiles from Greatmats. These PVC plastic tiles will hold up to exercise or playground equipment and provide cushion as well. The typical lifespan of this tile - offered with perforated, orange peel and bump top surfaces - is 20 years, and it is waterproof and resistant to many oils and acids. StayLock PVC tiles give you the durability of rubber with the cushion of of foam.

Tiles can be installed on any indoor surface including concrete and carpet, without an underlayment. You can cut to fit around obstructions. The unique active locking design means that tiles won't separate over time and they provide a 20 inch fall height, so they are best for preschool sized playgrounds.

Ergo Matta Solid CushionTred Tiles
These tiles are made from 100% recycled plastic, and will contribute LEED points to your building project. At the end of their lifecycle, some distributors like Greatmats will accept StayLock tiles for recycling. Tiles come in a range of designer colors including terra cotta, forest green, tan and brown, as well as custom colors - to make your indoor playground a showcase. The orange peel surface provides traction so little feet won't slip.

Another brand to look at is Ergo Matta. Its Solid CushionTred tiles are manufactured from durable 100% recycled rubber and flexible PVC plastic to be soft and supportive as well as long lasting. The tiles are available in a range of colors including blue, yellow, green, red, gray, black, white and beige and cost between $6 and $7 per square foot. The diamond shield tread increases traction and reduces falls.

Foam Indoor Playground Surfaces
Greatmats Indoor Playground Foam Tiles
For higher ASTM Fall Height protection, take a look at Greatmats Indoor Playground Foam Tiles, which are 1 5/8 inch thick with a ASTM Fall Height Rating of 4 feet. Starting under $3 a square foot, these foam tiles are waterproof and non-absorbent and their tatami top texture means no rug burns if a child slides or wipes out. The puzzle edges are simple to install, reversible and easily portable. The foam puzzle tiles are available in a 40 inch square with border strips. Since these tiles are soft and will indent under extended heavy weight, Greatmats recommends installing heavy playground equipment first, and then installing the foam mats around the equipment.

The interlocking foam tiles are available in black and grey, red and blue, or green and grey, and since they are reversible, you can change patterns and colors.

Rubber Indoor Playground Surfaces
For higher fall heights, like 8 or 10 feet, you'll want to look at a rubber surface. Make sure any rubber product you choose is low odor and designed for indoor use.

Specialty flooring retailer has a large selection of rubber tiles, and its expert customer service reps can help you make the right choice for your equipment and budget.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Greatmats joins forces with South USA Grappling Association and Gracie United

April 28, 2016 -- Greatmats is a proud new sponsor of the South U.S.A. Grappling Association (SUGA) and Gracie United Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. 

SUGA, organized by Gracie United BJJ Professor and Black Belt World Champion Rafael Ellwanger, has been using Greatmats martial arts flooring at its events for the past 10 years, noting that Greatmats provides a great product at a great price.

The South U.S.A. Grappling Association currently has four remaining events scheduled for the 2016 tournament season. Next up is the Alabama State Championship in Orange Beach, Alabama, on May 14. Other upcoming events include:
July 23, 2016 – Jucao Cup, Hammond, Louisiana
Oct. 1, 2016 – Southestern Championships, Orange Beach, Alabama
Nov. 19, 2016 – Southern Nationals, Hammond, Louisian

Welcome aboard Professor Ellwanger, Gracie United and the South USA Grappling Association!

Note: Anyone attending a South U.S.A Grappling Association event during the 2016 competitive season is eligible to participate in Greatmats Photobomb contest for a chance to win  one of many great prizes. To learn more about the contest, prizes, and how to enter, visit the Greatmats Photobomb Contest Page.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

When to use a PVC plastic playground surface

National Playground Safety Week is April 25-29. Playground equipment has undergone a lot of innovations in the past 35 years. Gone are the 10-foot high-metal slides that got scorching hot on sunny summer days. No more scary (but fun) merry-go-rounds that sent kids flying off into the dirt. In their place are climbing walls, wobbly rope bridges, wheelchair accessible swings, and more. Today’s playgrounds offer more variety and greater safety than ever.
Just as playground equipment has evolved and improved, so have playground surfaces. In 1981, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued its first safety standards for playgrounds which revolutionized playground equipment and surface standards. But even today, the majority of the 200,000 annual reported playground accidents come from children falling.
According to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, “The type of surface on the playground is the most important factor in the number and severity of injuries due to falls.”

Old School Playground Surfaces
Back in the “olden days,” equipment was set up on black top, or grass, which could become muddy and hard.
Later, wood chips came into favor, and are still used in many locations. Wood chips, when used properly are considered safe. It is important to use engineered wood chips, and not scrap chips from your local tree service, and they must be installed to a proper depth, and topped off every year or so. But chips, while inexpensive, have certain drawbacks. Splinters, mold, and constant compaction are just of a few of the problems. Wood chips can be thrown or swallowed, and can hide insects, and dangerous, unsanitary or sharp objects. Plus, wood chips need to be topped off every year, and it can difficult for wheelchairs to maneuver on wood chips if they are not the proper type and depth - which is why new surfaces, from rubber chip, to rubber mats and tiles are now found in many newer playgrounds.

PVC Playground Surfaces

One material you may not be familiar with are PVC plastic tiles for use in playgrounds. These tiles are an affordable alternative to rubber, both in cost per square foot and in shipping costs. Plastic tiles are wheelchair accessible, stay in place and clean up easily. Unlike wood chips, tiles stay in place and they can't get kicked out at the bottom of slide exits or underneath swings. In fact, the ConsumerProduct Safety Commission does not recommend loose fill forplaygrounds intended for toddlers.
While rubber playground surfaces are the gold standard and necessary to maintain a safe “fall height,” not every play area needs this much protection. All playground surfaces are rated by the ASTM with a height that a child can fall from without sustaining a serious injury like a life threatening head injury. Daycare centers, and preschools with simple, low-to-the ground equipment can find a safe, and affordable surface option with PVC plastic tiles. No special surface preparation is necessary - PVC tiles can be placed on grass, sand, or dirt. Let’s look at a couple of the popular models:

StayLock Perforated PVC Playground Tiles
One model is StayLock Perforated Tile, which comes in 5 colors and has a 7 year UV stability warranty. Most importantly, they carry an American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) F-1292 Fall Height rating of 20 inches. These Made-in-the-USA tiles are waterproof, and non slip. Water drains right through, and the surface is comfortable for bare feet. The 1x1 foot tiles are also available in any custom color you choose, in addition to the stock colors of light blue, dark green light grey, terra cotta, and tan - and they are guaranteed for 5 years. StayLock Perforated Tiles can transform a concrete pad into a safe, cushioned play area, and can be used safely on rubber roof membranes as the rounded rubber feet on the underside of the tile will not damage the membrane.
In short, these tiles can be used on any outdoor surface, but it is recommended that you lay down landscape fabric on top of dirt or sand areas. You and your children will appreciate a much cleaner play space once the tiles are installed. Installation is easy - just snap the tiles together and use a utility knife to cut the tiles to fit your space. Tiles cost approximately $3 to $5 per square foot.

Ergo Matta Perforated PVC Playground Tiles
Ergo Matta is a another perforated tile that works great for homes, daycare businesses and preschool playgrounds. The tiles come in bright, brilliant colors including blue, yellow, green, red, gray, white, black and beige and cost around $6 per square foot.
They are UV treated and feature a 5 year warranty. They are made from recycled materials and the attractive diamond design offers excellent drainage. Water does not pool on the surface, and children can resume playing once the rain stops. To top it off, these tiles are less slippery than some other brands and models.
Ergo Matta’s perforated design results in a cooler surface than a solid surface in hot sunny areas. You can also order optional border ramps for these tiles. These tiles feature a 20-inch fall height rating to keep your little ones safe during years of playtime. Ergo Matta PVC playground tiles are excellent in high traffic areas where stability underfoot is required.

While rubber tiles and poured-in-place rubber playground surfaces are the top choice for safe playgrounds, often times a playground or play space designed for younger children does not need such a high end system. In these cases, plastic tiles are the way to go. Kids and adults will enjoy the surface; children and indoor spaces will stay cleaner; and children will be protected from everyday mishaps. carries both of these PVC Playground Tiles and offers free samples to help you choose which product is best for you. Its knowledgeable customer service reps will be able to help you choose the product that best meets your needs and budget.

Monday, April 11, 2016

What makes flooring fit for rooftop patios?

As the weather warms, homeowners and apartment dwellers are looking for ways to maximize their outdoor entertaining spaces, and create inviting open air living environments. Similarly, the trend in restaurants is to add seasonal seating areas for their guests to dine al fresco.

In urban areas where space is at a premium, these folks are looking up - to their roofs. A flat roof can make a great patio or deck, but you can’t just put out a bistro set and sit back and enjoy the view. No one wants to hang out on ‘Tar Beach.’ An unfinished roof surface can be dirty, sticky and dangerous. Waterproof membranes on some roofs are easily punctured, and you don't want your roof damaged by moving furniture or high heels. To avoid these problems, make sure to start your rooftop patio design with a solid flooring choice.

Conversely, maybe you already have a nice space like a condo balcony, but you don’t like the look of a drab concrete floor, or your patio surface is damaged or deteriorating.

The solution to these problems is a floor tile system designed specifically for roofs. The number one concern is that the outdoor tile must be UV and weather resistant. Lots of beautiful plastic indoor/outdoor rugs are available, and while durable, they are lightweight and not suitable for all installations.

Another major consideration is drainage. Standing water and water runoff on a flat roof is a challenge as it is - but you don't want pooling water where your family and guests are hanging out. Wet areas can be slippery, and standing water can encourage mosquito growth and damage furniture. Here’s a rundown of some of the choices in flooring specifically designed for use on roofs, patios and balconies.

Rubber Rooftop Patio Flooring
Rubber is one option. Lighter weight than concrete, rubber is durable but won't require roof reinforcement.

Sterling Brand Roof Top tiles, which come in 2X2 foot tiles, in black, terra cotta, green, blue, grey, and brown as well as more than eight different multicolor blends. The tiles interlock, and borders and corner ramps are available to increase safety and give your space a finished look. This attractive and professional quality product also comes with a 10 year limited warranty, and just hoses off with water. At almost 20 pounds a tile, these tiles are heavy enough to avoid lifting in strong winds and won’t fade or curl in extreme temperatures.

Blue Sky Brand Interlocking rubber tiles allow water to flow underneath the tile and protect fragile underlayments like waterproof membranes. The surface is non slip and will not mold or mildew. This brand of tile is suitable for use with rubber roof membranes, and ships from the east coast. With 6 standard and more than 10 mixed colors, you are sure to find a coordinating color that suits your outdoor space.

If you want the durability of rubber, but are on a tight budget, MX Outdoor Rubber Tile 1” tiles might be your option. Available in black, green, grey or red standard colors and nine other premium colors, these tiles run about $6 to $10 a square foot. Made of recycled rubber, these tiles offer LEED points, and are made in the USA. MX tiles are manufactured in the south east. Shipping to nearby areas will be most affordable. They have a superior UV fade resistance and a 15 year warranty.

Plastic Rooftop Patio Flooring
If weight is an issue, PVC outdoor tiles weight around 1 pound per tile and can start at less than $3 per square foot. Interlocking design makes installation a snap. The perforations allow for drainage and the tile itself will not absorb water or get slippery. It's a great option for patios and rooftop in rainy climates., however they are not recommended for rubber membrane roofs., a leader in specialty flooring, carries its own brand of PVC tiles, which are UV treated and come with a 1 year limited warranty. These tiles are available in light grey, blue, and terra cotta.

StayLock Brand PVC interlocking tiles allow water to drain through their perforated surfaces, making it a great choice for locations with heavy rainfall. The soft PVC plastic feels good to the touch and is comfortable to play or stand on. The tiles are available in 5 colors that are UV stable for 7 years. This brand features a 5 year warranty and is suitable for roofs with rubber membranes.

Treated Wood Patio Flooring
If you like the look of wood without the maintenance, a new product called GreatDeck Outdoor Hardwood Deck tiles are made of thermo treated wood which resists rotting, decay and fungal growth. The process also prevents the wood from warping, chipping, shrinking or expanding. Made from North American White Ash from well managed forests, this product comes in several wood tones and will withstand the harshest climate, with an expected lifespan of 25 years or more. These 2X2 foot wood tiles are installed without adhesives or fasteners, which makes them easy to move. The PVC connectors allow the wood to flex and contour to surface irregularities which make these tiles a great solution for transforming your roof or patio.

Synthetic Turf Patio Flooring
If you are looking to create an outdoor oasis without the mowing, consider Outdoor Deck Turf Tile. The artificial grass top is soft on bare feet, but the treated lumber surface underneath conforms to uneven surfaces, and is safe for rubber roofing membranes. Water can drain through the 2X2 foot tiles. The grass itself is made from recycled plastic, and is suitable for use with tables. The wood base is warrantied for 25 years.

Whether you chose rubber, perforated PVC, wood tiles or simulated grass, your new roof or patio floor will give your outdoor space project a solid footing. Make sure to get some free samples from an online retailer to really get a feel for what surface you like.

Do some more research on the pros and cons of each material to make sure it works for your specific project, or save yourself some time and talk to the experts at, or check out the product lines at a home improvement store.

Summer is short in many parts of the world - so get started now to make sure you can enjoy and make the most of those lazy days of summer on your new roof deck or patio.

Friday, April 1, 2016

The Top 4 Forms of Gym Flooring for Power Lifting, Cardio and Multipurpose Facilities

So you want to take your fitness quest to the next level and outfit your own home gym? Having a dedicated space for weightlifting, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), P90X or Yoga can help you stick to your fitness goals and make your workouts more convenient.

Whether you are starting with new construction, repurposing an existing space, or renovating an area in your basement, it is best to start from the ground up by making sure you select the right gym flooring for your needs. Existing home flooring is rarely appropriate. Wood, carpet, vinyl and laminate can splinter, shred, dent, and may be slippery. Suitable flooring for home gyms includes interlocking foam and rubber floor tiles and mats, rolled rubber, plyometric rubber, plastic tiles and carpet tiles.

Start your planning by asking yourself a few questions:
1. What kind of fitness equipment will you be putting on the floor?
2. Will you be moving equipment around? Treadmills and elliptical machines can weigh several hundred pounds.
3. What kind of exercise will you be doing? Yoga… Zumba… Weightlifting? Dumb bells or deadlifts? 
4. Will you be dropping weights?
5. Do you need something portable? Are you a renter or planning to move, or is this a dedicated exercise space for the long term?

Assess your Location
6. Is it wet or dry?
7. What is the existing floor - carpet, wood, concrete, or something else?

Rubber Flooring for Weightlifting and Exercise Machines
If you are primarily interested in weightlifting or exercise machines, rubber is one of the most popular options. Unlike most foam, rubber is tough enough to protect the floor underneath from heavy equipment like treadmills and weight racks, and from dropping weights.
Rubber won’t be compressed by heavy equipment, or damaged by moving equipment. It is relatively affordable, very durable, and pretty easy to install.

The challenge with rubber floor installation is the weight. Tiles are lighter weight, but rolled rubber results in fewer seams. Because rubber is heavy, it tends to stay in place, so adhesive is generally unnecessary except for maybe some double sided carpet tape around the the perimeter of your space. Another benefit is that rubber will deaden sound, whether from a noisy elliptical machine or dropping weights. Rubber is also easy to keep clean, with regular vacuuming and a damp mop. With proper care, rubber will perform effectively for decades.

Geneva Interlocking Rubber Tile Gym Floor
One example of rubber tiles is the American-made Geneva Interlocking Rubber tile.  

The 2x2 foot tiles are popular for home gyms and easy for homeowners to install. These tiles are available in several thicknesses, with 8 mm being the most popular choice for home gyms. Tiles are made and shipped from Wisconsin. Geneva tiles are made from a combination of recycled scrap rubber and virgin rubber, keeping millions of pounds of tires out of landfills, and qualify for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) points in five different categories. These tiles have low odor and carry a 5 year manufacturer’s warranty. 

For even lower cost, go with a rolled rubber floor. Rolls come primarily in 4’ widths, with lengths from 10 to 25 feet, and up to 200 feet. Again, the 8 mm thickness is available, along with 1/4-, 3/8-, and 1/2-inch thicknesses. Using rolled rubber will result in fewer seams, giving your space a custom look, and can be laid over concrete, ceramic tile, or any smooth, hard surface.

Horse Stall Mats for Heavy Lifting
A popular flooring option amongst body builders and power lifters is horse stall mats. They are designed to protect the joints of horse weighing a thousand pounds or more, so what are a few dropped weights?

On the plus side, these are affordable, and readily available locally, which eliminates shipping costs. Since rubber is heavy, shipping can add a substantial cost to what is otherwise an affordable flooring material.

On the down side though, horse stall mats are designed for horses. Horses who aren’t too particular about odor. Stall mats can have a strong odor, somewhat akin to rotten eggs or asphalt. Some people have success with washing the mats, or airing them out in sunny locations, but there is no sure fire way to make the odor go away.

Stall mats are also heavy (commonly around 100 pounds each) and can be cumbersome to move, especially down narrow basement stairways.

Stall mats can also vary widely in thickness. It can be hard to find two mats that are an exactly the same, even after digging through a whole stack of mats at the farm supply store. The uneven appearance of seams can be unattractive. Thinner mats may not protect the floor or your weights completely from drops during olympic lifts, so many powerlifters and bodybuilders also use plywood underlayments in addition to stall mats.

Plyometric Rolled Rubber Gym Floor
While rubber is durable, it doesn’t add much cushion for aerobic activities like zumba, cardio activities, tumbling, grappling or floor exercises. The one exception is plyometric rolled rubber which can be a good, affordable option, offering enough cushion for a safe cardio workout, whether it is HIIT, P90X, Tae Bo or “Sweatin’ to the Oldies.”

This is highly shock absorbent material is available in 4 foot rolls starting at lengths of 25 feet. 3/8 inch, 1/2-inch, and 8 mm are standard thicknesses. While less dense than standard rubber, plyometric rubber still comes with a 5 year guarantee.

Foam Flooring for Home and Cardio Gyms
EVA Foam is an affordable option for cardio workouts. Foam is not a good choice for serious weight lifting as it will dent, may not decompress, and may cause weights to bounce back, which could be dangerous. However, foam won’t break the budget for a simple home gym with a few machines, light weights, where you want to do cardio activity or yoga.

Less expensive than rubber, it is also less durable and won’t withstand dropped weights or heavy exercise equipment. Since it weighs less, however, it is also cheaper to ship, easier to install, and is durable enough for many home applications.

Home Mixed Martial Arts Mats
Foam mats are readily available at big box retailers, mainly in black or mixed packs of bright primary colors. But for thicker, more durable mats in a wider range of single colors, check the big box stores’ websites or a specialty flooring company like

Foam flooring is available in different hardnesses. What’s available at your local retailer will probably be soft - a standard hardness best for multi use areas. High hardness foam tiles are better for karate and aerobic activities, specifically standing and kicking drills. There are softer martial arts mats for home Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), judo and grappling with a durable tatami no-burn surface that provides grip for groundwork with enough cushion for takedowns and throws.

Foam flooring can be used with specialized treadmill mats to protect the foam.

Plastic Gym Flooring for Basements and Carpeted Areas
Another option is plastic flooring which can protect flooring and offer cushioning at the same time. Unlike foam or rubber, some plastic tiles can be used on top of existing carpeting without the risk of the tiles separating or sinking into the carpet pile at the seams.

Staylock PVC Bump Top Gym Floor
StayLock Bump Top tiles are an example of plastic gym flooring that is durable like rubber, with the cushion of foam. These tiles are made from soft PVC and are flexible and pliable, yet non-absorbent. The underside of each tile has little feet that elevate the tile above the floor surface, providing cushion but also airflow beneath the tile, an important feature if you are using in a damp basement area.

For intense aerobic workouts like P90X, Crossfit and Hip Hop Dance, soft PVC gym floor tiles can provide superior cushioning and durability. They are tough enough for light and medium weight lifting and are easy to clean and disinfect.

Gym Carpeting for multi-purpose areas
Gym Carpet Tile Gym Floor

Carpet tiles can be a good compromise in a multi use room. They offer the cushion and warmth of carpeting with the convenience of modular flooring. The surface of a gym carpet tiles is more durable than residential carpeting, and damaged tiles can be replaced. Some carpet tiles, however, can be ruined in basement floods, take on odors, or become unsanitary due to absorption of sweat and other bodily fluids.

There are a lot of gym flooring options on the market. Take some time to think about how you will train. Find a reputable retailer, and ask questions. Do your own research; read product reviews; and make sure you order some free samples to get an actual feel for a product.

Once you choose and install your floor, then the real work begins!

Monday, March 21, 2016

How to Get More Work out of Your Work Space with Anti-Fatigue Mats

anti-fatigue mats
Whether you are working at your own kitchen counter or work bench, or on your feet all day at a Customer Service counter or assembly line, you could make your hobby or job much more enjoyable and productive with an anti-fatigue mat.  

The problem
Standing still for long periods on a hard surface, like a tile or concrete floor, is not an activity that our bodies are designed for. Our leg muscles tighten and constrict.  Our hearts have to work harder to pump blood around and through these constricted muscles. And this extra work by our heart actually makes our whole body tired. And, don’t forget about the foot, leg, and back pain that can also result from standing for hours on end.  

Unfortunately, that’s not all - standing for long periods can cause a flattening of the foot, leading to arch and heel pain, and stagnating or pooling blood can cause varicose veins.  Studies have indicated that people are more likely to have an accident when they are tired, fatigued or in pain - so anti fatigue mats can have a secondary safety effect as well.  

Workers who are in pain are also less productive. A study in the Journal of American Medicine estimated that an average of 3.5 hours a week are lost due to reduced worker performance - that adds up to almost 23 days a year! This does not include days that result in absenteeism, nor does this take into account medical expenses or Worker’s Compensation claims from muscular skeletal damage. Simply put, a tired worker or hobbyist is less productive, less happy and may have to see a doctor more often.

The solution
The solution lies in a simple anti fatigue mat. The softer surface of an anti-fatigue mat encourages subtle movement of the leg and foot muscles. As you shift around on the mat, this movement allows blood, and oxygen to flow more easily, and the heart does not have to pump as hard.  

In addition to an antifatigue mat, make sure you take breaks during the day. Walking to the bathroom, speaking to a coworker face to face rather than sending an email can give your body the break it needs to keep you happy, productive and injury free.  

Where to use anti-fatigue mats
Household locations that can benefit from anti-fatigue mats are home kitchens and work benches, craft areas and work shops and laundry rooms. Anywhere that you stand for long periods of time.  If you work at home, and use a stand up desk, an anti-fatigue mat is recommended.  

On the job, service desks, cashier and hostess stations, shipping and packing, wait stations, manufacturing, laboratories, assembly and picking stations, food service and parts counters are just some of the areas where employees would benefit from the use of anti-fatigue mats.  

Keep anti-fatigue properties and intended use in mind
Choosing an anti-fatigue mat is one area where the lowest cost option is often not the best.  Anti-fatigue mats are available at big box retailers, but it is worth doing some research with an online flooring specialist. Greatmats is one company that offers a range of choices for many budgets and purposes. Remember, cheaper mats tend to wear out more quickly, may offer only minimal anti-fatigue benefits, and may curl and bend to become a tripping hazard.  
Mats vary in size from a 2 foot by 3 foot to runners, to mats that curve around a salon chair, to perforated mats for wet areas like food prep areas and manufacturing.  

Mats can be made from a variety of materials like vinyl foam, rubber, and PVC and a combination of these materials.

As far as cushioning, softer is not always better. A mat should have a degree of rebound, where the surface returns to its original form after your weight is moved. A too-soft mat is like standing on a mattress - it takes more work to remain upright, which can also lead to fatigue.  

Look for beveled edges to prevent tripping and allow carts to move onto the mat. Some mats have brightly-colored borders to increase safety awareness. Anti-fatigue mats can include additional features like anti-slip surfaces. Bubbleflex, Gridstep and Honeycomb are a few of the more popular options.

Some mats even have anti-static electricity properties to prevent damage to people and equipment in manufacturing and industrial work. ESD Static Dissipative Mats and Apachestat are some examples of this type of mat. The closed-cell foam mat offers comfort and relief to aching legs as well as an anti-slip surface. Some mats can also withstand welding. Weld Master and Stand-N-Weld are popular brands of anti-fatigue mats used in areas used for welding. Hog Heaven Indoor Anti Fatigue mats are designed to withstand welding sparks and slag up to 1,800 degrees.

In industrial areas where fluids like oil and grease are present, a draining rubber mat is the safest option. Vinyl cannot stand up to oil and grease. Industrial machining areas, where lots of metal shavings fall to the floor, would benefit from perforated mats as they will make cleanup easier. The drainage holes allow liquid and waste to pass through.  Also, a sturdy rubber mat won’t get metal shavings imbedded in its surface as easily as a softer mat.  

Chemical-resistant mats, such as Dekplate, are another option. Hospitals and laboratories require anti microbial properties found in mats like K-Marble. Noise resistance is another optional feature, available from brands like Noyz Mats.  

When you have narrowed your choices down to a few mats, check the warranty.  Mats with a longer warranty usually last longer, because the manufacturer has designed them for long life.  Warranties can range from several years to lifetime!

Whichever mat you choose, know that you are making an investment in your comfort, productivity and overall health.  

Friday, March 11, 2016

How to Choose Ergonomic Flooring - What to Look For in Anti-Fatigue Flooring

Factories, retail and customer service counters, assembly lines, medical labs, and shipping and packing facilities are just some of the many businesses and locations that need ergonomic flooring to assist employees who stand for many hours each day. But when an internet search for “ergonomic flooring” yields thousands of results, it can be hard to narrow down the best solution for an individual business.

So, how do you know which form of ergonomic flooring to choose? To answer this question, let’s start by understanding the need for ergonomic floor mats.

How does workplace fatigue effect you and your business?
Generally, office and industrial spaces are constructed with affordable, durable concrete floors - great for the bottom line, but not for employees. Standing on a concrete surface all day can result in blood pooling in the legs and feet. The leg muscles don’t move enough to encourage circulation. This, in turn, leads to muscle fatigue, joint compression, pain and swelling in the lower limbs, varicose veins and even heart disease.

OSHA reports that muscle fatigue and musculoskeletal disorders account for a third of all workplace injuries. For a business owner, this means worker fatigue, which can result in less productivity and more errors, increased workers compensation claims, more sick leaves and higher medical bills. On the other hand, reducing fatigue can mean a worker who has better morale and productivity.

What should you look for in ergonomic flooring?
Employers can’t just slap down a soft mat and be done with it. Mats that are too soft also result in worker fatigue. Imagine standing on a cushy mattress or soft sand. It important to find a balance between soft and supportive - a mat that encourages subtle muscle movement, which in turn decreases blood pooling. 

Ideally, the surface will compress and bounce back. The mat should return to its original shape when a worker changes positions. Secondly, the mat needs to be durable and stand up to the work environment. A cheap mat that degrades underneath and compresses will not prevent worker fatigue very long. A mat that curls and bends could quickly become a tripping hazard.

Ergonomic industrial flooring
Mats in industrial areas or food service may need to be slip resistant, moisture and chemical resistant, or cut resistant. Perhaps trolleys and carts will need to move on and off the mats. Beveled edges that allow wheeled carts, and stable edges that won’t bend break or crack are also important. Degrading edges can result in trips and falls.

Warranties for quality mats and flooring range from 2 to 10 years, while the useful lifespan of the flooring itself can be much longer. While the upfront investment can be more, replacement costs over the life of a quality mat or flooring system are much lower.

Ergonomic Flooring Materials
PVC ergonomic flooring is lightweight,
portable and easy to clean.
Dense foam, plastic made of PVC, and dense rubber are the three materials most often used in quality ergonomic flooring. Sometimes a combination of the them exist in the same product. Each product has its plusses and minuses, depending on the application.

Synthetic foam can be a more affordable option than rubber, and are offered in a wider range of colors and shapes and resilience. 

Much lighter than rubber, PVC flooring can be easily installed and relocated. PVC is a great solution for dirty environments like factories or assembly or machining due to ease of cleaning and non-absorbency. PVC flooring can stand up to chemicals, oils and acids. It can also be cut resistant. PVC products can be made from virgin PVC, or recycled PVC. PVC tiles in black are often made of recycled PVC.

While PVC flooring can be a more affordable option than rubber flooring, it does not have the same life span of rubber.

Rubber is a natural material, and a renewable resource, made from the sap of rapidly growing rubber trees. Today’s rubber mats often contain a percentage of recycled materials. For customers seeking an environmentally-friendly product, or perhaps working towards Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, rubber is a great option. At the end of a rubber floor's lifespan, it can be recycled into new mats or other applications.

Rubber is heavy, dense and very durable. However, rubber cannot always be used in a situation with chemicals or oil as oil can break down the bonding agents used in recycled rubber flooring. Virgin rubber mats and vulcanized mats won’t have this problem.

Some of rubber’s other benefits include its slip resistance, resistance to spills and anti static properties. Factories, food service and other industries working closely with electrical equipment, servers and computers will want ergonomic mats that minimize static electricity. The durability of rubber makes it resistant to cuts. And rubber has a long life span, sometimes up to 30 years.

Hard rubber, which is stiff, can be perforated, which is good for particle generating activities like machining, where the particles will settle in the holes and not damage the mat. Perforated rubber is also used in wet environments like food service areas.

Rubber mats offer resistance to slips, spills,
and static electricity.
Rubber flooring and hygiene mats can be used in medical areas, operating theaters and clean rooms. Rubber is naturally anti-bacterial. These mats can be autoclaved and washed for a clean environment.

Maintaining rubber flooring is easy - just vacuum and wash with water or a neutral pH cleaner.

Rubber flooring is often composed of virgin rubber or recycled rubber mixed with urethane. Virgin rubber is soft and pliable, but more expensive. Recycled rubber is more affordable, tougher and more scratch resistant.

Rubber Material Concerns
One concern with rubber flooring is the odor. The odor is the result of sulphur. Some companies offer products with and without sulphur. For a large, well-ventilated warehouse space, odor will be less of a factor, and cost may dictate a product with more smell. But in a smaller space, it might make sense to spend a little more for a low odor product.

Another thing to be aware of are additives and fillers in rubber products, ranging from sand and clay to used motor oil. Generally these additives are an issue in products produced overseas, and will not be present in the wide range of American-made rubber products.

Consult the experts
One way to find the perfect ergonomic flooring for your application is to work with a company that offers a broad product line and excellent customer service. A leader in the specialty flooring business, offers a wide array of rubber, foam and PVC products as well as friendly and knowledgable customer service.