Vinyl Tarp Covers: Benefits, Uses, and How-to Install
Whether you’ve been in the martial arts game for years and you’re looking for ways to better serve the athletes who train at your gym or if you’re just starting out, purchasing a seamless vinyl tarp cover can create the perfect fighting surface. Vinyl tarps offer a smooth surface to train on, which can help you to avoid mat burn and other friction burns. A heavy duty vinyl floor covering is incredibly durable, able to take a great deal of punishment without being torn.
In this article, we will examine:
- What are the benefits of vinyl mat covers?
- 3 things to know about creating your own bespoke mat plan using a vinyl cover
- How to install vinyl covers
What are the benefits of vinyl mat covers?
Vinyl mat covers are a one-piece, seamless cover that you can put over the top of foam mats, which effectively creates a single fighting surface to train on. Not only are vinyl mat covers easier to maintain than foam mats alone, they also prevent tears and rips to the mats underneath of them. There are a tonne of benefits for installing a bespoke vinyl mat cover over your foam mats, so let’s examine them fully below:
Vinyl is a practical plastic material which is incredibly durable.
You may have noticed that many materials around your own home have a vinyl outer coating. The reason for this is that vinyl is a durable plastic material which offers superior protection. Vinyl is short for Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), which is made from combining ethylene and chlorine together. Chlorine in vinyl actually makes it flame retardant.
Vinyl tarps offer unique strength and durability because of how they are created. Utilising heat sealed seams, vinyl tarps can hold up against stretching better than most materials on the market. A heavy-duty vinyl tarp can provide you with decades of use, whilst also extending the lifespan of the mats underneath of them.
A smooth surface doesn’t cause mat burn
If you’ve spent any time on martial arts mats, you likely have experienced mat burn. Mat burn is uncomfortable and causes many athletes to take time out of their busy training schedule to attend to their injuries.
The main issue comes down to the level of grip that each mat offers. For stand up striking sports like karate or boxing, having mats with lots of grip is an advantage. However, if you are doing BJJ or another martial arts discipline that involves a lot of ground fighting, then it’s best to minimize the amount of grip on the surface of the mats to prevent mat burn. If you’ve already purchased and outfitted your gym with a mat surface which has too much grip, a smooth vinyl tarp cover can help you to minimise friction.
Reduce the risk of damage for the mats underneath
This is one of the best benefits of purchasing a bespoke vinyl mat cover, as you can extend the life of your mats. If you’ve ever dealt with replacing foam mats at your gym, you’ve likely found that there been gouges carved out of your mats because of an errant toe or finger slipping down and pulling up a piece of the mat. Atlethes can also injury themselves when fingers or toes get jammed into the mat seams.
Since vinyl tarp covers are seamless, this means that you won’t have any fingers or toes slipping between the seams of the mats.
They are easy to clean
Vinyl tarp covers are light, waterproof, and easy to clean. Regular foam mats with jigsaw connector pieces can become a breeding ground for bacteria and mould, as water can seep into the seams and pool underneath. But with a vinyl tarp cover, you simply mop the training surface and wait for it to dry. It’s a more permanent solution, as you avoid having to pull up the mats periodically because water and grime can seep into the cracks.
Bespoke mat surface fits any gym
Vinyl tarp covers are bespoke and made to fit any gym. So, whether you have a large training centre or a small gym, you can have a vinyl tarp made to fit your spave. With the ability to customize the mat to fit any of your needs, you can even order separate vinyl tarp covers for different rooms within your training centre.
In fact, you can even get your own logo printed onto the tarp. This helps to create brand recognition for those who train in your gym, whilst also creating a crisp, professional presentation. These vinyl mat covers also come in a variety of different colours, allowing you to purchase one that meets the colours within your own logo.
Three things to know before creating your own vinyl mat covers:
The foam: What type of foam?
One of the most important decisions that you make when outfitting a training centre is what mats you should purchase. Picking the type of mat to put underneath a vinyl mat cover is also important, as you want to make sure that you have enough cushioning ability to prevent injuries.
Mats come in a variety of different thicknesses, and picking a thicker mat may help you protect your athletes. You may also want to consider purchasing a mat with a higher density because mats that have higher densities offer greater protection. Think about it like this: if you’re comparing two different mats, both with the same thickness but one with a higher density, you may wish to choose that one because there is more material packed into one cubic centimetre of space. This places more material underneath your athletes and helps to dissipate shocks from falls over critical heights of 1.5 m.
Below, you can find the best mats to choose to place underneath of vinyl mat covers:
Rollout mats are some of the best mats available on the market. These mats feature a thickness of 40 mm, offering protection for falls over heights of over 1.5 m. They’re also incredibly easy to set up, and feature Velcro connector pieces which hold them together. When placed underneath vinyl tarps, these mats are unlikely to separate because of those connector pieces.
Judo mats are made from reconstituted polyurethane foam, and open cell foam, which is prized for its ability to cushion falls. Wrapped in a vinyl heat sealed outer casing and featuring an anti-slip bottom, once you place these mats down on the floor they won’t move. They are ideal to use in a martial arts training centre because they last.
Jigsaw mats are one of the most widely used types of mats available in athletic training. The reason for that is that they are inexpensive and create a great surface to train on. They are also easy to install. One drawback of using jigsaw foam mats is that they may not hold up under the same stresses that the other mats listed above can. They can also separate, creating unseemly gaps underneath.
How do you want to set up your vinyl mat cover?
When you’re purchasing a vinyl mat cover, it’s best to ask how you can firmly fix the mats to the ground so that they don’t move. Some mats come with grommets, small metal holes at the edge of the mat surface which can be tied down. Most boxing rings and MMA cages use vinyl mats that have grommets to tie the vinyl mats to the frame of the ring.
Other vinyl mats come with a Velcro connector pieces on the outside edge of the mats, and these come in handy if you’d like to remove the vinyl mats at any point. Velcro strips are more of a temporary, but also strong, way to hold down vinyl tarps. We’re going to dive a bit more into the installation, but if you have a vinyl tarp cover which has a Velcro outer strip, you can purchase Velcro strips which you can put around the perimeter of the mats.
The last way to set up a training centre with a vinyl tarp is to use wood laths, small wooden strips which firmly hold down the tarp. This would probably be one of the most permanent solutions, especially when compared to tying down tarps with grommets and Velcro holding down the tarp. Basically, using either timber or plywood, you place the tarp between the pieces of wood and screw the pieces down.
You can also use the wood lath technique and wrapped the vinyl material over top of the wooden piece at the top. By doing this, you can hide the wood and create a seamless look to the mats. What you’ll need to do is to order at least 200 mm extra on each edge in order for you to fully wrap the mat over top and to tuck it in.
Should you invest in Wall pads?
Purchasing wall mats is one of the best investments you can make, as you are creating a 360°, floor-to-ceiling safe area. The wall mats offered at martial arts mats Ireland are 50 mm thick, helping to prevent injuries. By putting wall pads up in your training centre, you can also increase the area in which you can train athletes. Without wall pads, you’ll need to make sure that your athletes don’t train any closer than 2 m away from a wall. This can prevent injuries, as you can keep athletes a safe distance away from the walls.
But with wall pads, you open up a large training space, as well as preventing any injuries that could occur when training goes out of hand. If you’ve ever been in the middle of a sparring session, you’re focused on the person you’re training against and not on the location of the wall. All it takes is one mistake — one throw or trip where someone collides with the wall — and someone can get really hurt.
Another reason to pair wall pads with vinyl mat covers is that wall pads help to complete the look of a training centre. For example, if you use the wood lath technique to fix your vinyl tarp on the ground, it may look a bit unfinished if the wood is showing. By putting wall pads up on the wall, you can cover any of the gaps at the end of the mat.
How to install vinyl tarps
One of the easiest ways to install poly tarps on top of your mats is with Velcro connector pieces. Essentially, on the outside edges of the vinyl tarps, there are the Velcro pieces attached. All you really need to do is nail or screw other vinyl pieces along that same perimeter.
It takes a bit of measuring to find out the outside perimeter, but once you have that figured out you can layout all of your mats, then create a Velcro border around. Remember to keep a bit of a gap between the Velcro and the mats in order to press the vinyl tarp down.
Installing vinyl tarps with the use of grommets can be a bit more intricate than the Velcro method, but it is not too difficult to do. It’s easy to do if you have a ring set up, one with horizontal pipes or wood to tie the strings looped through the grommets to. But you can also do it if you’re laying out the tarp on the ground.
The first thing that I would do would be to lay out a 100 mm border around the training area. After you do this, measure the area inside of the border (200 mm shorter in length and width than the area of your training centre). This will give you the size of tarp that you need to purchase. Next, lay out the mats in place with the vinyl tarp on top of them. You might need an extra set of hands to rule out the tarp, as they weigh quite a bit.
Then layout anchors inside this border. You can use heavy-duty eye hooks, something which resembles a screw with a doughnut on the top of them. Loop strings through the vinyl tarp grommets and through the eye hooks, lacing it up like you would a pair of shoes. Do your best to pull the string tight in order to make the tarp taught.
Using wood laths
The last major way to install vinyl tarps is to use wood laths. As mentioned above, when using the wood lath technique, you trap vinyl tarp material in between two pieces of wood. In combination with wood screws or lag bolts, the 2 pieces of wood create enough friction that the vinyl tarp will not move.
One tip is to purchase at least an extra 100 mm of mat material on all sides in order for you to tuck enough underneath the wood lath. Better to have too much material than not enough material when using this technique.
Whether you choose lag bolts or screws, be sure to countersink them, by creating a bigger hole for the head of the screw to be buried underneath the surface. By countersinking the screws you can prevent someone snagging their toe on any raised screws. This is important in areas where the borders are going to be walked on.
Vinyl tarps are great to use as they provide a seamless surface for athletes to train on. In fact, they are incredibly easy to clean and maintain when compared to just foam mats alone. Before you purchase vinyl tarps, be sure to do a bit of research to figure out what mats to place underneath, as well as if you should purchase wall mats around your training centre. Also, think about how you’re going to secure the vinyl tarp to the ground. If you the vinyl tarp that you purchase has grommets or Velcro strips, use the appropriate techniques for either of those. If there are no connectors attached to the vinyl tarp when you purchase it, use the wood lath technique.
There is a tonne of information in the article above, but if you ever have a question about anything that was mentioned above, be sure to click on the chat button in the bottom right corner. There, you’ll get a lot of good advice on how to properly install vinyl tarps, as well as information on how to create the perfect training centre that fits your budget.
Author: David Van Kooten