In the first two parts of our three-part wall coverings series, we examined how indoor and outdoor wall graphics attract attention by engaging, informing and motivating customers. Getting your message to stick – literally and figuratively – means you need to be aware of the unique challenges that wall graphics present.
There are many print substrates in the wall coverings universe, the most common being self-adhesive vinyl (SAV). A perfect installation has many variables, too numerous to cover in one article. We aim to provide you with enough information to help you plan and execute a wall covering graphic campaign that becomes the success you envisioned.
Exterior wall graphic install fact – every building is unique and exterior wall wraps can cover a variety of surface textures and coatings. The vinyl adhesives and techniques for covering a textured surface can vary significantly from a smooth surface. Irregular high and low spots, along with mortar joints, pose special problems. Products such as 3M’s Envision Line that utilize IJ480 vinyl and 8548G laminate are designed to be heated to 1,000 degrees F. This special heat gun and roller allows the entire graphic to melt and conform to the wall texture, without compromise.
Another significant exterior installation factor affecting wall and window graphics is temperature. Adhesives used on SAV typically require a minimum application temperature between 40 and 50 degrees F to achieve full strength, primarily to allow microscopic “flow” and bonding over a 24-hour period. If the temperature is too low, the adhesive cannot flow and achieve full strength, resulting in potential installation failures.
Interior wall graphic install fact – a freshly painted wall is NOT a good installation surface. All paints emit vapors for a period of time after they dry. This process, called “off gassing,” must be complete before the graphic is applied to the surface, or the chance of failure becomes very high. If the paint has not properly cured and is covered with an impermeable vinyl, the gas will continue to emit and become trapped behind the vinyl and cause adhesive failure. Curing time varies by paint manufacturer, but a minimum of two weeks should be allowed before the wall is prepped for installation.
Uncover the 5 truths about installing your indoor or outdoor wall coverings:
TRUTH #1: Testing for film adhesion is essential. We utilize a force scale to measure the bonding strength of different SAVs to the wall surface. By using test strips of vinyl, we can determine in a 15 minute period which SAV is best for a particular wall surface.
TRUTH #2: It is essential for a site inspection to verify sizes and to identify potential installation obstructions. Some installations can be done from the ground or with a ladder, others may require a special lift, scaffolding or rigging equipment. A proper site inspection will help minimize surprises on installation day.
TRUTH #3: Surface preparation is paramount for a successful installation. As mentioned above, interior walls must be properly cured. Exterior walls must be free of contaminants and may require power washing (1 to 2 days) prior to installation, allowing for the surface to fully dry.
TRUTH #4: Not understanding local sign permit ordinances and landlord requirements can doom an otherwise fantastic project. If the surface has not been used for graphics previously, check with the local municipal authorities to ensure you’re within sign code – this process may require an engineer’s review. If the area has been used before, the building owner or manager should know the permitting requirements. Whatever the scenario is, address it before the graphics are produced.
TRUTH #5: Use only experienced, certified, professional graphic installation specialists. Installation is the “make-it-or-break-it” phase of your project. There are four components for a wall graphic message to stand out: a great design, the right materials, a skilled print provider and a perfect installation. One without the other can reflect badly on the entire job, reducing the desired impact of your brand message.