ILLUSTRATION: MARK FISHER
With regard to transportation, installation, and storage, what should I keep in mind when buying new exhibit flooring?
One of the unique challenges of trade shows is how they occur: They take place over a short period of time, and each show is held in a specific location, which may vary year to year. That means exhibitors often need flooring solutions that are efficient to transport, a breeze to install, and easy to store. So here's a brief rundown of various options and how they stack up – or roll up – to one another.
Carpet is incredibly convenient in that you simply roll it up, move it to your show-floor space, and roll it out flat when you're ready to use it. So it's relatively inexpensive to purchase and install. Its main drawbacks are its length and maintenance requirements. While it typically takes up very little vertical space (particularly in comparison to stacked flooring choices), it requires considerable horizontal real estate in storage and transport vehicles and can be cumbersome to move.
Rolled Vinyl and Faux Turf
Similar to carpet, rollable vinyl and faux turf are designed to roll out flat for fast, easy, affordable installation. Vinyl come in a huge variety of styles, from natural stone and hardwood looks to designer options and customizable printed flooring. But just like carpet, these rolled products take up a decent amount of horizontal space and can be a bit unwieldy. And while storage bags and cases are recommended for carpet, they're almost a necessity for vinyl and turf, which means there's a small added expense with these mediums. It's imperative to store these options inside a case to protect your investment, whereas carpet is a little more forgiving in this respect. On the flip side, though, rolled vinyl and turf rarely stain and are relatively maintenance free.
Vinyl Tile, Laminate, and Hardwood
Most of the products that fall within these flooring types are available in tiles or planks, and some install without tools. When necessary, you can typically cut these materials to size with a utility knife. But while they're a snap (sometimes literally) to install, they certainly eat up more labor time than rolling out carpet or vinyl. While hardwood offers a high-end vibe, vinyl and laminate can provide the look of hardwood; plus, the latter options are more durable and require less maintenance. Luxury vinyl tile, laminate, and hardwood all hold up well to the wear and tear of foot traffic, but they don't fare quite as well during transit or installation and dismantle. Perhaps best of all, these items can be stacked. And since storage is often charged based on the amount of horizontal as opposed to vertical space used, stacked flooring can decrease your storage footprint and thus your storage costs. Once stacked on a pallet, these mediums are easily transported with a forklift, and a standard pallet is less awkward to maneuver than a long roll of carpet or vinyl.
Other Portable Options
Other flooring options that don't fall within the aforementioned categories, such as interlocking plastic or foam tiles, are easy to install but still require more labor hours than rolled mediums. Having said that, you can simply stack the tiles when not in use, which cuts shipping and storage costs. Given the modularity of these choices, you can also get quite creative by mixing and matching different colors and textures (within the same medium) to create patterns or different zones in your
exhibit. And if any tiles get damaged, you can easily replace them.
Certainly, most trade show flooring is designed for easy shipping, install, and storage. But as you can see, some options excel in one criterion and fall a little short in others. If you pair the information provided here with some recommendations from your flooring providers, you'll no doubt end up with a flooring solution that fits your aesthetic, functional, and budgetary needs.
— James Zacharias, vice president of sales, Brumark Total Flooring Solutions, an Exploring Inc. company