By Dave Newbery
Wall graphics have become increasingly popular over the last decade. Higher quality and more affordable large-format printers have enabled sign companies to offer their customers much more than standard signs, vehicle graphics, and posters. Offices, schools, gyms, and hospitals are all benefitting from using formerly blank walls to convey a mission statement, promotional message, or to simply brighten up a space.
However, wall graphics can all too often go wrong, and sometimes very badly. There are a host of complexities that can create potential problems if not considered beforehand, particularly the different types of paint and their compatibility with wall graphics products. Other factors such as incorrect face films and wrong adhesives can also have a negative effect on the end result.
Site survey before installation
The most common cause of failure is often the lack of a proper site survey prior to installation. A comprehensive assessment should include peel testing potential products to be used, checking the paint at the location, finding out if there are any air conditioning units or heaters in the vicinity and what the local ambient atmosphere is and, if possible, discovering what lies under the paint and when the coat was applied. The more inspection done at an early stage, the better, as there will be a greater understanding of any further requirements for the job or potential ‘danger zones’ to consider in the planning process.
When checking the wall surface during the site survey, sign installers should ensure it is as smooth as possible. A textured surface can add further complexities as the adhesive will reach the peaks of any texture, but is unlikely to grip the troughs. Any defects to the wall should be corrected at this point.
Paint type and application
The assessment can also help identify the type of paint used, which becomes an important consideration in the plan of action moving forward—whether the graphics can be directly applied to the façade, or if the wall surface requires further work.
Washable or wipeable paints have become very popular in the past few years. Unfortunately, they do not make for an easy install when it comes to adhesives. Simply put, if a paint has been designed to chemically repel dirt, ink, and fingerprints, it will certainly do the same to any adhesive. If the wall and paint are not prepared correctly, even the highest strength adhesives will fail.
It is often the case when graphics need to be applied to a surface, the wall may have only been painted a couple of days earlier or, in some instances, a few hours before. However, the coat needs to have been applied at least 72 hours in advance—and ideally much longer—to give any adhesive the chance to work.