What to Know About Textured Walls
Textured wall graphics are becoming increasingly popular and open up endless opportunities for your customers to promote their business. From retail businesses transforming their storefronts into eye-catching murals to parking garages, columns, and barriers, as well as typical convention center and stadium applications., the possibilities are wide-ranging. Knowing the characteristics of these application surfaces and the environment to which they will be exposed is crucial for choosing the right product, identifying opportunities to upsell, and aligning customer expectations.
Unlike a vehicle graphic installation – where you’re dealing with a smooth, painted metal surface, and adhesion is generally well understood – you’ll encounter more variables with textured walls. This may include substrate types (brick, cinder block, stucco, etc.), as well as weather, not just in terms of environmental exposure over the life of the graphic, but also during the installation period where a climate-controlled area for the installation isn’t possible. For example, moisture from rain or irrigation systems can be trapped behind film applied outdoors, leading to lifting as well as the creation of mold. Consider the following before an installation:
Application Surface (Wall) Characteristics
- Jobs Including Multiple Walls: Consider the characteristics of each wall, which may have various textures, exposures, or finishes. If there are multiple types of walls, graphics professionals may need to select more than one film to complete the job.
- Surface Texture: Heavily textured walls or those with deep recesses will require the use of the most conformable film available such as non-PVC 480mC.
- Wall Soundness: The soundness of any wall may vary from spot to spot and no test can ensure consistent results over the entire application area.
- Paint: “Paint” includes all wall finishes. Some finishes may have silicone, graffiti-resistance or texturizing additives that can make film adhesion even more difficult.
- Physical Contact: Exposure to physical contact with people, animals, or equipment.
Understanding How Film Conforms to a Textured Wall
For installation of a textured wall graphic, the 3M TSA-4 Applicator is the ideal tool to attach to your heat gun. There are four main variables that will impact the outcome of your installation:
- Heat: High heat warms the film and adhesive to make it more conformable. Insufficient heating of the film during installation may result in a film that looks good immediately following installation but may lift days or weeks later.
- Speed: The proper installation speed allows the film to be heated sufficiently to relax lifting stresses within the film and conform effectively to the texture while the film is still pliable. If installed too slowly, the film could be damaged resulting in a poor installation.
- Pressure: Firm, consistent pressure on the roller allows the foam to conform the film into the texture. Since the film and adhesive cool very quickly when the heat source is removed, adhesion occurs quickly.
- Substrate: Another variable to consider is Low Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) paints. The chemistry of paints and wall finishes has been changing over the years to drive down the level of VOCs due to both sustainability efforts and regulatory requirements. These newer paint formulations have changed how the painted surface interacts with the adhesive on all films, affecting the film’s ability to adhere to the paint. Simple steps can maximize film adhesion. Because the paint formulations are protected by trade secrets, it is difficult for any film manufacturer to understand how film adhesives interact with these paints. We have found through extensive testing that there is no single film or adhesive that works “best” on each paint tested. In fact, one film can perform well on one paint and poorly on another. However, by using the 3M Enhanced Adhesion Cleaning Method you can quickly, easily and successfully adhere almost any 3M Wall Film to nearly any paint.
As for the actual product to use, the key is having enough conformability and adhesion strength while also being removable. Cast or non-PVC films - such as 3M IJ8624 or 480mC, respectively - are best, while calendered films should be avoided altogether as they cannot conform to most textured walls. If the graphic is primarily going to be viewed during the day, choosing a luster or matte overlaminate to reduce glare makes sense; however, don’t forget about the opportunity to upsell reflective film for 24/7 branding. A great choice for textured walls in parking garages for increased visibility and safety as well as the side of buildings near traffic for increased impressions anytime of the day is 3M Scotchlite Print Wrap Film 780mC, a reflective graphic film-engineered with wider retro-reflective viewing angles, conformability, and heat-recovery properties.
Day or night, the lifespan and quality of a textured wall graphic will vary depending on a range of factors. Familiarizing yourself with the environment the graphic will be applied to as well as the characteristics of the textured walls will ensure that you recommend the best product for the job.