Selecting the right entrance matting for any building, whether it is commercial or domestic, can make a world of difference when it comes to performance, durability and value for money. Much of that ‘performance’ is attributed to the materials from which entrance mats are made. Having an insight into various materials’ characteristics can be helpful when specifying entrance matting to make sure it can stand up to the job!
Some materials wick away moisture more effectively than others and have inherent quick drying properties; some fibres retain their structure making them more crush-resistant, while other materials are by their very composition, simply more durable.
The manufacturing technique can also make a difference such as ‘tufting’, ‘weaving’ or ‘needle punch. Some entrance matting is made from a combination of materials to give it a multi-action performance. You will notice that many entrance mats feature strips of different materials – some strips will scrape, some strips will brush, some strips will wipe moisture.
There are some important factors to take into consideration when planning a public entrance. Entrance matting in commercial buildings should also accommodate wheelchair access in line with the Equality Act 2010 so any material that is very soft, or that has too deeper pile is not generally deemed suitable for this. Matting is usually installed in recessed matwells for this reason to allow it to fit flush to the floor surface. If a matwell is not feasible and there is no option but to lay to surface, then it can also have bevelled ‘ramped edging’ to overcome this problem of wheeled access, while also minimizing trip hazards.
While understanding the most common materials used for entrance mats is not the proverbial ‘rocket science’, it is a little more complex than first meets the eye. It is helpful for architects, specifiers and facilities managers to have a basic understanding. COBA Europe offers the following advice.
Popular Surface Materials:
Nylon is a synthetic fibre and is very much regarded as the ‘crème de la crème’ of entrance matting materials, usually with a higher price point to reflect this. There are many types of nylon, such as Polyamide for example, which is a common material for heavy duty entrance matting. That is why it is popular for areas such as shopping centre entrances or public travel, where high levels of footfall are normal. It has a luxurious feel that ‘brushes and scrapes’ and offers some of the best resiliency of all carpet materials through good crush resistant properties. It is a material that is hard to impregnate, therefore more stain and fade resistant making it easier to maintain that ‘as new’ condition. The other benefit of nylon entrance matting is its ability to dry quickly – there’s nothing worse or less effective than a soggy doormat! Used for indoor locations only. COBA Europe’s Premier Track Tiles and Atrium carpet are examples of nylon entrance matting.
Derived from a thermoplastic polymer, entrance matting with Polypropylene fibres such as COBA’s Needlepunch and Premier Plus Tiles, are very popular as the fibres give an effective scraping action due to their abrasive texture. This makes it an especially good performer when it comes to scraping dry dust. Entrance matting manufactured from Polypropylene fibres is generally durable and frequently used for ‘zoned’ areas, or used in longer lengths as dirt-barrier runners in reception areas for maximum floor protection. It is also normally a lower cost alternative to nylon entrance mats and its versatility and durability makes it popular for retail, offices, hotels and leisure.
Coir is the epitome of the traditional door mat, which today has been overtaken by more modern materials for commercial entrance areas. It is a natural material derived from the husks of coconut shells, which being coarse to the touch gives coir its bristly ‘brushing’ properties. Coir does not have the quickest of drying properties and is prone to soiling. While still popular for domestic use in its ‘door mat’ form, coir is frowned upon for commercial buildings because it is not wheelchair friendly.
Another natural fibre, cotton has many advantages when used for doormats in indoor domestic situations. Rather like a towel, it soaks up moisture and is renowned for its absorbency and quick-drying properties. It is ideal for wet, oily, or grease carrying moisture but not so good for dry dust and dirt. Cotton pile has a tendency to flatten but can normally be washed which restores it to its former self. Many of the cotton doormats, such as COBA’s Dirt Trapper, are suitable for domestic washing machines and can be washed at 40ºC making cleaning a hassle-free task. While its performance in the home for light duty use is unquestionable, unfortunately cotton cannot stand the rigours of commercial use.
Microfibre is a synthetic material made from extremely fine individual fibres that are split to be even thinner than the human hair – usually 1.0 denier or smaller. Different fibres can be used to produce microfibre, but most commonly in entrance mats it is polypropylene and nylon (polyamide) yarn. The term ‘microfibre’ is used to describe the yarn’s fineness – there is microfibre and ultra microfibre. The huge benefit of microfibre is its amazing absorbency thanks to its increased surface area. The star shaped structure of the miniscule micro-fibres creates a capillary effect that traps moisture and dirt with exceptional efficiency. And the fact that it is so soft, flexible and fine, means it penetrates all those hard to reach areas on footwear and wheel treads that conventional materials cannot touch. Not only is it unsurpassed in trapping moisture – even more efficient than cotton – it is also delivers great performance in scraping and trapping dirt and debris. In fact, movement on a microfibre mat’s surface creates a static charge that effectively attracts dirt and debris, and the particles are contained within the pile until it is vacuum cleaned. Another bonus of microfibre is its quick-drying properties – incredibly it dries in a third of the time of cotton mats. It is also durable and despite being soft to the touch, won’t lint or fluff. Machine washable, it is renowned for its anti-bacterial benefits.
Natural Rubber / Nitrile Rubber
Rubber (especially Nitrile Rubber) is suitable for heavy duty outdoor entrance areas. Unlike PVC, rubber is not prone to cracking. When it comes to rubber door mats, there are many choices in design – some feature open holes, while others have a textured solid surface. Opened holed rubber door mats are effective dirt-scrapers and allow the debris to fall through the mat. Rubber door mats have good non-slip characteristics. They are generally quite heavy and therefore stay in place well on the ground. Rubber can be ‘Natural Rubber’ coming from the Rubber Tree or synthetic as ‘Nitrile Rubber (NBR)’ – the addition of nitrile gives greater resistance to heat and a longer lifespan in oily or greasy conditions. Compounds can vary so the more nitrile, the better the performance. Nitrile has the ability to withstand a range of temperatures from -40 °C to +108 °C. However, Natural Rubber is more flexible than its synthetic counterpart. ‘Recycled Rubber’ is also used for some entrance mat products.
Popular Backing Materials:
Nitrile Rubber (Synthetic Rubber)
Nitrile backing is very popular (especially in the rental market) as it withstands laundering well. It is also more impervious to oils and chemicals, with better heat (flammability) resistance than natural rubber. On the whole, Nitrile backed matting should have a longer lifespan. Nitrile rubber backing tends to stay in place better on smooth floors.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride plastic), sometimes termed ‘Vinyl’, is the lower cost option but care has to be taken where the matting is situated as it is not suitable for very cold environments. Harsh climatic conditions can eventually make PVC brittle and prone to cracking.