Do Chair Mats Damage Hardwood Floors?

Office Chair Mat on a Hardwood Floor
Office Chair Mat on a Hardwood Floor (Source: Amazon)

Chair mats are widely used in offices and even home offices. They provide a designated area for chair movement.

In addition, a variety of chair mats like PVC chair mats, Glass chair mats are used for floor protection.

Chair mats protect the hardwood floor in your office from office chair wheels. However, using chair mats on the hardwood floor damages it slowly. Dust trapped under the mat, studs on the mat, and chemicals present can scratch as well as discolor the hardwood floor.

Chair Mat on Hardwood Floor
Chair Mat on Hardwood Floor (Source: Amazon)

Chair mats work great on the concrete floor. However, different flooring has different requirements.

In addition, hardwood floors being delicate requires careful selection.

This article will help you choose the best chair mat materials and chair mat alternatives for your hardwood floor.

Do Chair Mats Damage Hardwood Floors?

Chair mats are used to protect the hardwood floor from Office chairs due to constant movement.

However, the chair mats themselves harm the hardwood flooring over time. The hardwood floor can get scratched and worn down even when chair mats are used.

The main cause for the damage is the accumulation of dust and particles under the mat, which leads to friction and, consequently, scratches.

In addition, the chemicals used in the mat production react with the hardwood floor leading to fading and discoloration.

Compared to concrete and tiled floors, hardwood is less water and decay-resistant.

Therefore, if your chair mat is wet and nonwater repellent like fabric chairmats, the moisture can damage the floor.

Type of Mats that Damage Hardwood Floor

Chair mats are available in a wide range of materials. However, choosing the wrong one can permanently damage your hardwood floor.

1. Natural Rubber Mats

Rubber mats are popularly used in gyms to withstand weight drops.

The use might mislead you into thinking they will work for your home office. However, they are usually laid over concrete.

Hardwood floor, on the other hand, is softer and more porous. Therefore, it can quickly leave scuff marks on the floor.

Rubber mat
Rubber mat (Source: Pxfuel)

Not all rubber mats damage hardwood floors, but some chemicals interact with the rubber mats causing the floor to be damaged.

It can also lead to permanent discoloration. However, you can prevent the damage if you add protective paper underneath the mat.

Many rubber mats have holes in them. The holes allow water and other liquids to drain so they don’t pool on the floor and provide a slipping hazard.

Unfortunately, these have the drawback of allowing dirt and debris to fall through the holes.

When wood is wet, it absorbs the moisture and expands, eventually cupping, leaving an uneven surface.

2. Anti Fatigue Mat

Anti-fatigue mats, often made of rubber or vinyl, are designed for those who spend a lot of time standing on hard floors.

These Mats can leave color residue on the hardwood floor.

3. Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) Chair mat

PVC chair mats can harm the hardwood floor due to the chemicals used in their manufacturing.

The chemicals can react with porous hardwood materials. The reaction eventually leads to discoloration and spots on the floor.

If your hardwood floors are coated with wax or polish, they tend to become very slippery.

Using PVC mats on such surfaces can cause the mat to bubble up and fold after some time, as PVC mats are also very pliable.

4. Mats Made up of Natural Fibres

While all types of fiber rugs help protect your hardwood flooring from scratches, none of them are waterproof.

Natural fiber chair mats are quite an unpopular choice. However, people do use fibers like Jute chair mats for the office.

Natural fiber rugs, such as wool, jute, or cotton, are not water-resistant, and water seeping through the strands can cause damage to hardwood floors.

Fabric chair mat
Fabric chair mat (Source: Wayfair)

In such mats, the possibilities of bacteria development are also increased.

5. Latex Backed Rugs

Plasticizers are compounds found in latex, which is a synthetic liquid. Latex produces a slip-resistant, waterproof layer underneath rugs.

This waterproofing also compromises the rug’s capacity to breathe. When you try and remove a latex-backed rug from a laminated or hardwood floor, you may end up with a mess of adhesive residue or fragments of rug backing.

The backed rugs obstruct regular drying of the floor surface.

Latex-backed carpets can create yellow or white staining as a result of chemical interactions between the latex and the lamination on the floor, in addition to water bubbles.

6. Area Rugs

The primary reason why certain area rugs harm hardwood floors is that they are composed of low-cost synthetic materials that scrape the finish.

The damage to the floor is often caused by the rug pad rather than the rug itself.

Rug pads prevent area rugs from sliding about, but the adhesive material might harm the flooring.

Cheap carpets are sometimes coated with adhesives to aid in their adhesion to the floor, but the glue might harm the surface, create staining, or fully adhere to the floor.

Investing in a good area rug pad will help preserve your hardwood floors from damage.

7. Plastic Chair Mats

Chair mats are commonly made of plastic. However, these materials will degrade over time.

Old plastic will crack and shatter, and the fragmented parts will become trapped beneath the mat.

Any loose debris under the mat might cause harm to the floor when force and friction are exerted. The accumulation of dirt leads to scratches on the hardwood floor.

Plastic chair mat
Plastic chair mat (Source: Amazon)

Are Chair Mats Necessary for Hardwood Floor?

Chair mats do offer their benefits. However, since there are Alternatives like Rollerblade-Style Wheels, which remove the purpose of chair mats, the chair mats are not needed for Hardwood Floors.

Chair mats are not necessary for the hardwood floors. The chairs mats protect the floor from chairs. However, it harms the hardwood floor in the long run. So, you can use other favorable alternatives for chair mats like bell glides and standing desks, etc.

Chair mats are an effective way to avoid the damage that ordinary rolling chairs inflict.

They are, however, a solution that works best in cubicle-style offices.

Open-plan workplaces are becoming more common, yet floor mats are unsuitable for this workspace style since they restrict movement and reduce collaborative effectiveness.

Advantages of Using Chair Mats on Hardwood Floors

Chair mats are specially used for protection against damage from chair wheels. But, what other advantages do they pose? Let’s find out.

1. Protection from Office Chair Casters

The chair wheels can scratch the hardwood floors, which are pretty expensive to repair.

Using chair mats can prevent the scratches that form over time from long-term usage of office chairs.

The most common problem is that most rolling office chairs have strong casters, easily creating scuff marks.

In addition, when you sit in your chair and roll back and forth while working, friction is created on the hardwood floor, resulting in a permanent scratch that may be avoided using chair mats.

If you sit at a desk for 7-8 hours daily, you will observe that your chair is causing damage to your floor. Repetitive wear and tear may be avoided using chair mats.

2. Spill Protection

You might hastily spill some drinks of food on the hardwood floor.

But don’t worry, chair mats also protect the floor against those spills.

3. Flexibility and Mobility

The flexibility to move your chair to a different part or side of your desk is critical for multitasking and letting you move your body properly.

As a result, office chair mats give you the leverage you need to move, adjust, and reposition your chair as required.

4. Good Appearance

High-end office chair mats provide a touch of class to the workplace.

This Kuyal Clear Chair Mat will go easily with any office interior.

Advantages of Using Chair Mat on Hardwood Floor
Advantages of Using Chair Mat on Hardwood Floor (Source: Amazon)

To know about flooring options that are not damaged by rolling chairs, read the article; What is the Best Flooring Option for Rolling Office Chairs for the Home Office?

Disadvantages of Using Chair Mats on Hardwood Floors

Although it has its benefits, it does harm the hardwood flooring in some ways discussed below.

  • Long-term chair mats can harm the hardwood floor as dust can accumulate between the mat and floor and scratch the floor. So, you should change it at least once a year which can be costly.
  • They can leave stains on the floor.
  • The area covered by the mat is only the easily moving zone for the chair, so it limits the space you can move.
  • Chair mats can be pretty expensive, costing up to $900.

How to Choose the Chair Mat for the Hardwood Floor?

Office chair mats for hardwood floors must be chosen considering the hardwood floor’s proper shape, size, and material.

Here are some factors to consider while buying the best office chair mat for a hardwood floor.

However, before we dive into the details, look at the quick overview of the best among all features for hardwood floor chair mats.

Chair Mat FeaturesBest options
SizeCovering your roll area
ShapeBulb, Lip, Rectangular
MaterialPolycarbonate
ThicknessUp to 2.5 mm

1. Shape and Size

  • In general, an office chair mat that covers your whole “roll area” is a good idea. Roll area is the area underneath your office chair, and it’s where you move or shift your chair the most.
  • You don’t want to get a huge office chair mat. An office chair mat that is too big would most likely crack under the strain of heavy furniture, which could scratch the hardwood floor.
  • Beveled office chair mats are most recommended. Beveled office chair mats have a downward slope on the edges, making it easier to move the chair around.
  • A lip or rectangular chair mat is recommended for a writing table or a desk. If you have an L-shaped workstation, either bulb-shaped chair mat is ideal for you.

2. Chair Mat Material

Hardwood floors require extra maintenance and care as they are prone to scratching.

Therefore, choose chair mats carefully for such delicate flooring.

  • Synthetic rubber (nitrile) is a common constituent in floor mats, and it’s a good choice for hardwood floors because it doesn’t leave a mark.
  • Polyurethane chair mat is made of flexible material that does not discolor or leave markings on flooring.
  • Polycarbonate will remain stiff, resulting in a hard, non-denting surface. Due to their rigid structure, they will neither fold nor bubble. As a result, the hard floor-type polycarbonate chair mat will not have little dimples on the bottom. So no scratches are made.
  • Tempered glass does not fold or bubble, allowing your chair to glide smoothly.
  • When you step on the mat or wheel the chair over it, the bamboo mat absorbs it well.
  • Overall, the best chairmat for hardwood floors is a Polycarbonate chair mat.

3. Thickness of the Mat

You don’t need to buy thick chair mats for usage on hardwood floors. Mats with a thickness of 2.5 to 3 mm are enough.

You can select your preferred chair mat for the hardwood floor based on the features.

These recommendations will provide you with some of the most preferred chair mats.

Best Chair Mats for Hardwood Floors in 2022

Check the table for the best recommendations on chair mats for hardwood floors.

RecommendationMaterialSpecial Features
Gorilla Grip PolycarbonatePolycarbonate1. Incredibly durable and meant to last for years
2. Slip Resistant Backing
3. Transparent Design
AiBOB Office Chair Mat for Hardwood FloorsPolyethylene1. Crack proof
2. Durable
3. Roll stable grip
Polycarbonate Office Chair MatPolycarbonate1. High-impact resistant
2. Smooth backing for hard floors
3. Free of phthalates, tin, lead and cadmium
Glass Chair Mat with Exclusive Beveled EdgeTempered Glass1. Beveled Edge 1000 lbs capacity
2. Phthalate-Free

Alternatives for  Chair Mats on the Hardwood Floor

1. Rollerblade-Style Wheels

A standard office chair with wheels can wear down your hardwood floor through repetitive movements, which cause scratches on the floor.

Office chair with Rollerblade-style Wheels is made of thick rubber material, which is far more durable than regular wheels.

In addition, they cover fewer surface areas you move so that these wheels will reduce the wear and tear of the floor.

They are also effortless to install; remove the old wheels and place them in place.

Rollerblade-style Wheels
Rollerblade-style Wheels (Source: Amazon)

You can buy a quality pair of roller-blade-style wheels from Amazon.

2. Bell glides

Using the chair all day slowly crushes the chair mat into the floor, damaging the hardwood floor.

Bell glides connect to the underneath of your chair’s wheels to increase the surface area of the pressure, resulting in less pressure and consequently less harm to your carpet.

Bell Glide chair mat for hardwood floor alternative
Bell Glide (source: Amazon)

Installing chair bell glides, on the other hand, means compromising mobility.

For example, you won’t be able to wheel your chair over the floor with the glides connected, and moving around will be much more challenging.

These durable polyurethane bell glides protect your hardwood floor from pressure damage.

3. Chair Without Wheels

Chair mats are primarily used to protect the floors from chairs with wheels. If your chair does not have wheels, this is not a problem.

As they don’t leave scuff marks on hardwood and laminate floors, chairs without wheels are great.

However, chairs without wheels should still be handled cautiously to avoid dragging them over the floor.

Flash Furniture Black Mesh Sled Base Chair is one of the best chairs without wheels that has the gentle rocking feature.

Chair without wheels
Chair without wheels (Source: Amazon)

Read the article; Is the Home Office Chair Better Without Wheels? , to find out in detail about the pros and cons of using chairs without wheels.

4. Standing Desk

The standing desk eliminates the primary need for the chair mats themselves. Since you do not need a chair for a standing desk, the hardwood floor’s damage can itself be crossed out.

The desks do come equipped with wheels. However, you wouldn’t move them around as much as the chairs with wheels.

In addition, they offer multiple health benefits. For example, when using a chair, you sit around all day.

Working on a standing desk decreases blood circulation and makes joints stiff. However, while standing, you move around more often, solving the issue.

Read the article; Choosing the Right Standing Desk Frame for your Home Office to choose the right frame for your standing desk.

Standing Desk
Standing Desk (Source: Unsplash)

5. Felt Pads

Chair leg felt pads protect your flooring by easily attaching to the bottom of the legs.

In addition, they prevent the scuff marks left behind by chair legs. There’s also no chance of scratches or discoloration, making them ideal for hardwood floors.

You can purchase these Felt pads for  $3- $6. They are very discrete and can’t be seen unless you lift the chair.

However, cheap Felt Pads can damage the hardwood floors, so invest in quality felt pads.

They do need to be replaced every 3-6 months. However, they are still worth it, considering the low price.

Rubber felt pads are not suitable for hardwood floors. However, high-quality rubber pads can be used for hardwood floors.

For more alternatives, read the article; 7 Best Office Chair Mat Alternatives of 2021.

Tips for Using Chair Mats on Hardwood Floor

Here are some useful tips on using chair mats on the Harwood Floor.

  • Mats wrapped for delivery tend to curl after they have been unboxed. On a sunny day, put them outside in direct sunshine. They will flat out as a result of the temperature.
  • There are two sides to chair mats. The top is whatever side is the smoothest. The mat’s rougher side is on the bottom, and it’s designed to protect it from sliding about on hardwood floors.
  • Use moisture-resistant double-sided tape like XFasten Double-Sided Carpet Tape to keep your chair mat from sliding.

Final Verdict

Chair mats do offer benefits like floor protection from wheels, spill protection, and mobility.

However, the hardwood floor requires careful selection of chairman material as some PVC fabric chair mats can damage the floor over time.

Although it has its benefits, chair mats are unnecessary for offices as the office systems have changed from fixed seating to more open spaces requiring mobility.

In addition, the alternatives like Rollerblade-Style Wheels, Bell glides, Felt pads eliminate the need for chair mats.

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