Choosing the Correct Desk Chair Mat
by Edward P. Schultz, ergonomic analyst
Desk chair mats are available with a variety of options and choosing the best product can mean the difference between comfortable, easy gliding and back pain, or worse, a damaged floor. When selecting the proper desk mat, one must factor in several considerations including flooring type/backing, shape, size, thickness and edging. By understanding these attributes and choosing correctly, your chair mat can provide years of comfort, easy movement all while protecting the floor underneath.
The first consideration when choosing a desk chair mat is the type of floor the mat will rest on. This category can be divided into hard surfaces and carpeted surfaces. Hard surfaces include (but are not limited to) tile, marble, hardwoods, concrete and linoleum. Carpeted surfaces can include area rugs and oriental mats in addition to traditional carpet. Chair mats for hard surfaces have a smooth backing which will not scratch or damages the floor below and also help keep the mat from moving. Carpeted surface chair mats have small anchors or “teeth” that grip the carpet and prevent the mat from sliding. These anchors are specifically designed to not damage the carpet.
Although rectangular chair mats are most prevalent, other designs are also available. Another popular design is a rectangular base mat with a “lip,” which is defined as a protrusion or extension from the edge of the mat and this portion is placed under the desk. The lip protects the floor under the desk where the chair may roll if scooted all the way in. Custom design chair mats are available as well.
Chair mats are offered in a number of standard sizes, ranging from 36” x 48” up to 72” by 96” for carpeted surfaces and 60” x 96” for hard surfaces. Many incremental sizes are available in this range. Just as custom shapes are available, so are custom sizes.
Besides the backing, the thickness of the desk mat is the most important factor. Because the hard surface chair mats rest on a solid platform, they are manufactured in one thickness. Carpet, however, comes in a number of thicknesses and may be cushioned with padding underneath. Thus, carpeted surface chair mats are offered in 4 thicknesses: economy (100 mil or 1/10”), regular (125 mil or 1/8”), standard (~145 mil or 1/7”) and premium (200 mil or 1/5”). The thicker the mat the flatter it will lay and the less it will bow, which makes it easier to roll on. Additionally, thicker chair mats will help prevent the chair from moving since it will stay more level.
The final consideration when purchasing a desk mat is the type of edging. The edge can be either beveled (sloped) or straight. It is best to have a straight edge chair mat for hard surfaces. For carpeted areas, a beveled edge chair mat is ideal. American Floor Mats offers chair mats with these particular edges as defaults unless the custom requests otherwise.
Given the extensive options available with desk chair mats, it is imperative to choose the mat that best fits a given environment. Using the aforementioned factors and accompanying information, one can select the most appropriate chair mat. With the right chair mat, moving, sitting and working at a desk becomes more pleasurable, less painful and floors remain in better condition.