Wrap’s Realities: Part 2

Feb 1, 2012

Now, can you wrap a window? And why would you?

In the first part of this vehicle wraps discussion (see “Wrap’s Realities: Part 1,” September 2011, page 36, and at RestylingMag.com), we asked about the products used and how customers are thinking about wraps today, as well as how the installation has changed. In this second part, we cover the more technical aspects, specifically the installation of perforated wraps on windows, the tools to use and shop setup. We’ll also offer some experts’ tips that we can all use for better results.

Window to the world

We asked our sources about windows and perforated material and wanted to know if there are any special considerations an installer must be aware of – and convey that to the client?

Todd LaBrie of Carwraps in Los Angeles, points out, “It needs to be explained that graphics covering windows – using window film – lessens the effect of the graphic.

“Window frames and rubber molding also can cut and sometimes even destroy important text on windows. This is the responsibility of the printer/installer to explain the possible outcomes before the wrap is printed and installed. Blaming the client for chopping up their text is not the fault of the customer. As wrap experts, it is our job to explain realities and limitations of designs which may be in danger of being compromised after production.”

Charity Jackson of Visual Horizons Modesto, Calif., says, “Perforated window film on the vehicle should be priced separately and typically comes with a one-year warranty, while a cast vinyl vehicle wrap is warranted for three years. This should be explained to the customer. Also, the customer should be aware that it will look slightly different from the rest of the wrap due to the holes in the film.”

Matt Richart of Digital EFX Wraps, in Louisville, Ky., tells us, “When installers are installing window perforation they always make sure the wrap media is being applied even and straight. We do this so all window perf will align with existing wrap so it all matches. If material is stretched during installation, it makes it difficult to align all graphics. We tell our customers that all window perf we produce is laminated. This keeps rain, dirt and moisture out of the holes and driver’s visibility. Window perf is tough to give a warranty on, but there are some tips and tricks to make sure you get most longevity possible.”

Mike Grillo of Road Rage Designs, Spring Grove, Ill., says, “We do everything we can not to use perforated film on a vehicle. We let every client know that if not laminated, the material will hold water when it rains and makes it virtually impossible to see through. And when laminated, it will look as though they are viewing the world through a plastic bag.” If used on side windows that can roll up and down: Avoid using the windows to not damage the material.

David King of MarketKing, in Lancaster, Mass., says, “Depends on the printing company. We do not do window perforation with laminate, but some do. We have found it fails before five years are up. We only use hot solvent ink for all our wraps so the non-laminated window perf lasts longer.”

‘Active’ windows a different consideration

Troy Downey from APE Wraps, in Coronado, Calif., comments: “First, depending upon where in the country you’re located, there may be an ordinance by the Department of Transportation for that city or state noting that it is unlawful to have any decals on windows. Second, the client should know that if the windows are to be covered with decals, it most likely can only include the windows aft of the front driver and passenger windows. Third, if applying decals to windows that will be active – that is, raising and lowering – or where windshield wipers are present, the abrasive action of rolling up and down or a wiper passing over the media will eventually degrade and start lifting the materials from the surface. So the buyer/client should be made aware that these surfaces though applicable, will have a downside in time.”

Justin Pate of Justin Pate Inc., out of Boise, Idaho, and the Netherlands, thinks a bit differently on the roll-up matter. “Installing perforated window film shouldn’t come with any special considerations if it has been laminated and properly installed. I think a lot of issues that come up with perforated windows are when they are not laminated and are installed incorrectly. If the perforated windows lack lamination, rain will actually fill up the holes, which makes visibility almost zero. This can create a very dangerous situation for the driver and should be avoided. On roll-up windows, many installers tell clients that they cannot roll the window up or down. They say this because they cut the excess film at the bottom right at the edge of the rubber. What many installers don’t know is that the excess film can actually be tucked under the rubber, which makes rolling the window up and down a cinch. Whenever I hear someone say that they tell a client to never roll the windows up or down I cringe. Poor clients.”

Only as good as the tools…

Next, we wanted to know about tools, equipment, work space, mistakes and what makes jobs profitable. Richart of Digital EFX Wraps says, “If you’re going to be full service, there are many tools that you almost have to have: strong computers for designing, dependable printers that last and produce high-quality colors every time. We use a Roland Soljet pro II, Roland Soljet pro III and a 64” Roland Metallic VersaCAMM. Also, a dependable and reliable laminator that can laminate with speed and precision; we use a Drytac 64” Jet Mounter. This really helps with production in small and large projects. It’s not so much speed, but quality that can be seen up close.

And getting a deposit for all artwork or to start a job is a must. Nothing worse than seeing a design you did driving down the road that you didn’t print or install. Always have someone in your shop double-check all areas of the vehicle before the customer picks up his or her vehicle.”

Grillo of Road Rage Designs points out, “There are schools that teach you all the basics of what is needed. First you must decide if you’re a print provider and installer or are you just going to install other companies’ wraps. The list of tools and equipment is long and can be very expensive for a print provider. Most installers can spend around $200-$300 for a good set of install tools.”

Downey from APE Wraps gives us the details: “The tools of the trade are vast, but there are those key items that you’ll need in you arsenal. Here’s a quick hit list for you: alcohol, xylene, rags or industrial paper towels (the blue ones), squeegees, Stabillo pencils/grease pencils, magnets, tape, pinstripe tape for cutting accurate contours, propane torch, heat gun, knives, blades, plastic razor blade, burnishing brushes, wrap gloves. There are gloves specifically designed for our trade -” the best is ‘The Wrap Glove.'”

“When selecting a material, always use matching goods and make darn sure it’s warrantable.

“And be aware when looking for a facility that it’s not located next door to a cabinet shop or another business that generates airborne debris. Remember, vinyl has static and static attracts unwanted particles to its surfaces.

“Of course, there are many more contributing factors in a successful project, but for the most part, all I can say is if the components you’re using are of a ‘low-road’ quality, then most likely you’ll be paying the price later.” So do yourself a favor, sleep well and enjoy your weekends by going to the extra effort -” take the high road.”

Price yourself ‘in’ the market

King of MarketKing goes for the core of profit with admonishing installers to “stop giving away their wraps and get back to the true value of $12 per sq. ft. for the vinyl and $1,000 for the installation. Giving away the wrap for too little money is not showing the value to the client.”

King also advises installers to note that wrap failures on the indents of the vehicle, can come back to haunt.

Pate of Justin Pate Inc. says, “A workspace with enough light, space and at the right temperature is essential for creating maximum work flow.”

As well, Pate notes that, “I think more often than not people generally bid too low for a job. Yes, you want to get the client, but if the margin for profit is too small, any mistake during the printing or install process will create an instant loss.”

LaBrie of Carwraps tells us, “A fast printer with anti-banding firmware and good color profiles is key.” And a “good, reliable laminator” is called for. “A laminator doesn’t necessarily need all the bells and whistles, such as heat-assist or a take-roll to be good,” he says. “But it needs to be reliable and have ‘even roll pressure’ and be adjustable.”

“The No. 1 offender,” LaBrie adds, “is poorly aligned graphics: graphics that slant, slope or are poorly overlapped. Solution: Use good installers and always ‘hang graphics’ and align the ‘key panel’ before commencing the installation. Second is a wrap with missing or cutoff text or images due to the designer not taking into consideration all of the objects that can be found on a vehicle. Always check for model-specific accessories (like spoilers and plastic parts) prior to starting on a design. Note these potential problem areas and explain to the client that graphics may not work on certain areas.”

Jackson of Visual Horizons lists her tools to have: “Absolute necessities for a wrap: patience, experience, an indoor space if possible. Better and more profitable: Remove any emblems on the vehicle, remove mirrors and lights if possible, as well as any other obstacles.”

And be mindful of “underestimating how long the installation will take,” Jackson adds, such as “not charging enough for your design time, not giving yourself plenty of time to do the install (if you think it will take one day, tell the customer two days), not cleaning the vehicle well enough before starting, getting sloppy on the trimming, cutting into the vehicle’s surface.

“Be sure that you ask a lot of questions regarding the design process.”

Whether wrapping windows with perforated materials or doing a full or partial wrap on a vehicle, the experts agree: Be patient and deliberate in your work, charge for your designs, charge a professional’s fee for your work and don’t underestimate the time it might take to complete the install.

And don’t underestimate yourself.