How To Cut and Fit EVA Foam Mats
Jigsaw floor mats are one of the easiest types of flooring to install, as they have connector pieces which fit into one another. They are also inexpensive, and great to use in athletic training centres because they hold up to the stresses and rigours of regular use. In fact, some jigsaw mats are rated to cushion falls from heights over 1.5 m.
Even if you aren’t a do-it-yourself kind of person, foam jigsaw mats are easy enough that you can handle installing them by yourself. All you need is a few tools on hand, a hard, flat surface to lay them on, and you should be able to set up your jigsaw mats in a matter of hours.
Before we jump into knowing more about how to cut and fit EVA foam mats, there are a few other articles which can help you to set up your own martial arts training canter:
- RISK ASSESSMENTS FOR MARTIAL ARTS TRAINING CENTRES
- INSTALLING RUBBER MATS
- JUDO MAT LAYOUTS AND DIMENSIONS FOR RANDORI TO COMPETITION
Tools you’ll need
Just like any installation job, you’ll need a few tools to be able to properly install foam floor mats. Below, you can find some of the most common tools that you will need to install foam floor tiles:
- A straight edge
- A sharp utility knife
- Double-sided tape
- A measuring tape
- A marker or pencil
EVA foam tiles and other jigsaw foam mats
The most common type of jigsaw foam mat is made from EVA foam. The “EVA” in EVA tiles stands for ethylene vinyl acetate, and it is a closed cell foam which is non-toxic, waterproof, and has a high density. EVA foam is found in many industries, including automobile manufacturing, home building, and the athletic industry. The reason for this is that it is a great insulator, and able to withstand heavy pressures, whilst also returning to its same shape and size. The surface of EVA foam tiles has a lot of grip, making it ideal for both the athletes standing on top of it and for creating enough friction on the underside of the mat to hold it in one place.
There are other types of puzzle mats available which are made from different materials. One of the most popular types of puzzle mat materials is XPE foam. XPE is a durable foam with superior durability properties when compared to other types of foam mats. It’s also non absorbent, making it ideal to use in outdoor settings. In addition, XPE foam has no odour.
How to lay foam tile flooring
When you set out to install jigsaw tiles, approach it like you would a giant puzzle. However, the only difference is it’s a lot easier, as you can lay them in any pattern you feel like. If you have multiple colours, then you could create intricate patterns corresponding to the colours. You may choose to install your mats to create a full-sized ring in your training center, using one colour for the combat area, whilst a different colour for the safe areas.
No matter what type of jigsaw mat you purchase, they all come with connectors which tesselate into one another, creating a flat surface free of gaps. The key is to avoid binding, warping, and holes in the training surface. Follow the steps below, and you can easily install your own foam tiles:
Allow the mats to acclimatize
EVA foam is a great surface to make a martial arts training centre out of, but it can have an acrid, unpleasant odour when you install them. The reason for the smell is that EVA foam mats are made of a chemical called Formamide, and when you first remove the mats from the packaging, the mats tend to “breathe”, releasing this chemical into the air.
One of the best ways that you can remove this unpleasant odour is to “season” your mats outdoors. No, this doesn’t involve any special cleaning or specific procedure, but just leave your mats outside on a warm, sunny day, and allow them to off gas all the chemicals before you bring them into your house. The sun’s rays do wonders to the mats, and allowing them to sit outdoors can get rid of most of the smell.
You may wish to leave them outside for a day or two, and you shouldn’t worry about any rain or moisture getting on the mats, as EVA foam mats are waterproof. Although you may be able to remove most of the unpleasant odour, a lingering smell may persist. Give it some time and eventually that will go away as well.
If you purchase XPE foam tiles, then you can actually skip this step. XPE foam mats are odourless, and can be installed the same day using the exact same method as what’s listed below.
Vacuum and clean the subfloor
Your first step in installing your mats is to get out your vacuum cleaner, a mop and bucket, and a broom and dustpan to make sure that the surface is completely clean and ready for mats to be laid on top of it. This is especially important if you’re using double-sided tape to adhere to the mats to the subfloor, but it also just makes sense to have a clean work area before you lay mats.
It goes without saying that the subfloor should be free from any moisture, as this can cause mould to develop on the underside of the mats. Lingering pools of water can become a breeding area for bacteria, which causes mould. Make sure that if you are mopping the floors, to allow time for the floors to dry before you place down the foam tiles.
Start in the corner of the room
One of the easiest ways to install foam mats is to start in the corner and work your way from one side to the other side of the room. If you’re choosing to install two different coloured mats, make sure to figure out if you’d like to create a pattern with them. As mentioned above, you may choose to make a distinct mat pattern, but this may require a little forethought before you lay the mats out. If you’re not spatially inclined, and you can’t imagine the mat layout in your mind, keep a sketch of the mat layout to go off of when you’re laying them out.
Most jigsaw mats come with border strips, pieces that create a straight edge on the edge of the foam tiles. Border strips are great to use against walls, or when differentiating a puzzle mat from other types of flooring. One tip is to keep track of all these border strips, as they seem to wander away whilst you’re laying out your floor. Organise your area in order to not lose track of your mats and border strips.
Also, leave a gap of at least 7 mm from the wall and the foam tiles. The reason you do this is to avoid buckling, as mats expand and contract depending on the temperature of the room. You shouldn’t expect over 7 mm of expansion in your mats, especially if you are purchasing high-quality mats with tight interlocking connector pieces.
Pro tip: Use a shim or a piece of wood that 7 mm in thickness as a guide when you’re installing your floors. Using a spacer will ensure that each of the foam tiles that you install is the same distance away from the walls.
Cut the pieces on the far edge
Inevitably, if you’re creating a bespoke mat pattern that reaches all the way from one wall to the other, you’ll have to cut your last row of jigsaw tiles in order to fit. This is where you can use your measuring tape and straightedge to mark where you’d like to cut the foam tiles. Then, take out your utility knife and cut away at the foam. You’ll notice that both EVA and XPE foam are relatively easy to cut. All you need to do is apply a slight downward pressure, whilst pulling the blade back, and you should be able to cut right through it. If you don’t want to damage the subfloors underneath, put down some cardboard or another material to protect it from cuts and scrapes.
Remember, as mentioned above, keep a 7 mm gap from the edge of the wall and the foam mats. Once you cut all the mats and fit them into the last row, then you finished creating your own martial arts training floor.
Optional: Use double-sided tape
Some people choose to glue their mats to the subfloor in order to ensure that the mats will not move. If you’d like to adhere the foam tiles directly to a floor, one of the best things that you can purchase is double-sided tape. Although you may be interested in using an adhesive like epoxy, you’ll find double-sided tape to be one of the easiest to install. Simply cut strips of double-sided tape and place them on the underside of the mats. Next, apply pressure for 45 seconds, and the mats should be properly adhered to the floor.
Buckling and expansion
You may notice that your foam floors are buckling in the center or around the edges, and the reason for this is that the foam tiles may be too close to the wall. If that’s the case, don’t fret, as you can easily pull up some of the tiles and reposition them. Creating a foam tile floor is fairly simple to do, but one benefit of it is that foam tiles are very forgiving. If you make a mistake, you can always tear up the pieces and start over again.
Another major cause of buckling could be that your floors are uneven. Although foam mats are fairly pliable, if there are ruts or grooves in your floor, you could experience buckling, high points, and gaps in your flooring. If that’s the case, you may wish to place some plywood down underneath your floors to create a more stable surface upon which to lay foam mats.
You don’t have to be a professional to install your own foam tiles, and the great thing about them is that they are fairly simple to lay. Just like any material, there are a few details to know before you set about installing them, including giving mats enough time to off gas the acrid odours that they may have. In addition, you’ll only need a few tools to be able to properly install your foam mats. Take your time, think through the steps that you need to do, and you should be easily able to install all of your mats by yourself. If you have any questions, give us a ring or reach out to us through the handy chat
Author: David Van Kooten