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How to Choose a Chair Mat

Apr 19, 2008
You have probably never given much thought, if any, to the chair mat that you roll your office chair around on top of all day. It's like a rug but does so much more, yet does anyone really know where they come from, what they're made of or that there are actually different kinds? Chances are this is not a topic you have spent much time studying, but like most things there is more to know than you might have thought. It just goes to show you that even the simplest of inventions have some kind of story behind them.

Simply put, chair mats are the hard plastic mats that go on the floor of an office that is carpeted. The standard office chair has wheels that do not roll over carpet very well, so anytime you are on carpet and want to roll backwards to grab something off the fax machine you stood a very good chance of flipping over backwards. That's not something you want your coworkers seeing you do outside of happy hour, so you get a chair mat. With great easy you can roll back and forth all day long without worrying about your chair wheels getting caught up in the plastic.

The most common chair mats are made of a hard clear plastic with small spikes on the bottom. The spikes are painful if you grab the mat the wrong way, but they are necessary. Their main purpose is to anchor the mat to the carpet and keep it from sliding around, which would negate its purpose completely. Clear mats are common simply because they do not hide the carpet. Many offices have carpets of different colors and designs, so it may be hard to find a mat in a color that would go well with anything, and a color that didn't go would be kind of unsightly.

Clear is not the only way to get a chair mat, however. You can find them in wood colors to match your hardwood floors, or a solid color that blends into any other type of flooring. Some chair mats come with special features, such as anti-static chair mats. Hasn't this happened to everyone? You go to shake the hand of a visitor in your office after walking 30 feet across the carpet and "Zap!" you both get an unexpected shock. It's not that it is a particularly painful experience, just a little surprising at 8:30 in the morning. Anti-static chair mats help eliminate some of the electricity that builds up so you don't shock yourself on your desk, phone, computer or another person.

While most chair mats are made to go on top of carpet to help the chair move more easily, some serve the opposite purpose. A rolling desk chair on a hard surface such as linoleum, concrete or hard wood can often move a little too easily. It sounds like no big deal until you sit down one day not paying quite enough attention and the chair shoots out from under you, flying across the room. Certain types of chair mat help create friction for the chair wheels so it is a little more difficult to move, but still not impossible.

Finally, you may want to get a plain square chair mat, and for many people that works just fine. However, if your desk is set up a specific way or you have different pieces of furniture than simply the straight desk, you may need one of a unique size or shape. That is when custom chair mats can come in handy. There are office supply companies that can take the measurements you give them and create a custom chair mat that will fit your office perfectly. No more embarrassing, annoying or painful chair mishaps for you ever again!
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