Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Your Legs and Back Will Say "Thanks!" for Some Anti-Fatigue Mats

The older you get, the more obvious it becomes that no other floor is quite so unforgiving as a bare concrete slab. Even cheap vinyl tile has a little give. Unfortunately, most workshops are found in basements or garages, with floors of - you guessed it - bare concrete. If you find yourself standing for hours on end on hard flooring at work or in your hobby space, then your back, knees and hips will probably start aching about the time you hit your mid-fifties. You owe it to your skeleton to find some sort of cushioning to put underfoot.

If your joints and back are achy after a day in your workshop, an anti-fatigue mat may be just what the doctor (or chiropractor) ordered. You can create shop-built wooden platforms for stations like your drill press or band saw or buy commercial versions. A key advantage of the commercial mats is that many have beveled edges to reduce tripping hazards and to make it easier to roll equipment across them. On the other hand, they are sometimes fairly expensive.

Making Your Own

A simple platform might be a partial sheet of 1/2-inch OSB or plywood set on a frame of 1-inch lumber. Support the open underneath to keep the sheet goods from being too springy. If you set the sheet into a frame of 2-by lumber, you could rip a bevel on the edge to make it a little harder to trip over.

Complex lattices are a little more involved, but you can create a latticed surface by simply nailing or screwing two layers of 1- or 2-inch strips at right angles, with 1/4- or 1/2-inch gaps between the laths on the top layer. Sawdust and chips fall through the gaps to be swept up at the end of the day. You can rip the strips from clean 1 x 4s to build lattices of just about any size. Be sure not to leave any overhanging edges to cause tripping. The idea is to make the lattice sturdy, but leave just a little flex to act as a cushion.

Commercial Versions

There are lots of designs for anti-fatigue mats and flooring on the market, some designed to provide cushioning at single workstations and some for larger spaces. Most restaurants, retail stores and factories provide some sort of cushioned surfaces at workstations, from simple stiff rubber mats at cash registers to lattices of recycled tire tread at the dishwasher's station. Most are also safety equipment, creating a non-slip surface area in wet or dusty environments.

The exact design depends on the purpose. A mat for a cashier station can be solid, cushiony rubber or foam; since the environment isn't likely to be wet and the job doesn't generate much  debris. In wet locations or at machines that create chips or other small particles, a solid surface isn't suitable: that's where lattices or duckboard come in handy.

Store-Bought Mats

Your choice of commercial anti-fatigue mats will be driven by the type of work you do. If you spend a lot of time in one place doing detail work that doesn't generate much debris, something like the Genuine Joe mat, solid foam with beveled edges will do the trick. It has a ridged surface that will collect light debris. If you don't mind the nondescript gray-black color, it would make a good choice in front of the sink for washing dishes.

For wet areas or if your workstation generates lots of bits and pieces, like a drill press or a lathe, you might be more interested in a mat patterned on those used in commercial kitchens, like Crown's Safe-Walk Anti-Fatigue Drainage Mat. Liquids and small particles drop through the holes, and the non-skid surface is ideal for wet environments but works where it's dry, too. Keep in mind that if you work with solvents or paints, you'll need to verify that any synthetic mat you choose is resistant to chemicals.

Another option is to cover larger areas of the workshop floor (or all of it) with light-duty anti-fatigue mats like the ones from Best Step. A kit includes 32 square feet of interlocking foam mats, 2 feet x 2 feet, with a handful of edge pieces to cover the tabs on exposed edges. You can run them the length of a workbench or wrap around a corner. They're non-skid and (somewhat) chemical-resistant. A set is a fairly inexpensive solution for light duty, but professionals and advanced DIY-ers will probably want something that's sturdier and sheds the sawdust more readily.

Get Anti-Fatigue Flooring to Put a Spring Your Step!

No comments:

Post a Comment