Mount Comfort Elementary School, Greenfield, IN. Architect: Schmidt Associates, Indianapolis, IN. Photography: Wayne Williams, Indianapolis, IN

In a previous blog post, we discussed why wall pads are important and where they should be used, so in this follow up article we are going to discuss how to choose the correct wall pads from the vast offering available. There are several recognized gymnasium equipment manufacturers who supply many different types of wall pads, there are a large number of upholsterers, awning shops and related types of business who can make wall pads and even more individuals that can build wall pads in their garage. With so many suppliers and different options for wall pads, following are some guidelines and points of consideration for choosing wall pads.

Manufacturers – You should stay away from products supplied by upholsterers, awning or canvas shops, garage shops or other sources that do not regularly make wall pads a significant portion of their business. While wall pads are not a high tech product that requires significant equipment or special skills to manufacture, there is some expertise required to insure athletes are protected. The recognized manufacturers that specialize in wall pads should know the best materials and how to assemble those materials to provide the necessary protection for activity participants. These manufacturers have built their business and reputation on wall pads, are properly insured and take the product seriously.

Foam Types – There are many very good foam options, but the ability of foam to absorb shock from an impact is what makes a good wall pad. For some reason, wall pad specifications normally only include foam density requirements. Foam density is not the best measure to use in wall pad specifications because it has little bearing on the ability of the foam to absorb shock. Foam density is really an indicator of foam durability with higher density foams being more resilient. Indentation Force Deflection (IFD) is the appropriate measure for wall pad foam quality. IFD is a measure of the force required to compress a 4” thick piece of foam to a pre-determined percentage of it original thickness. Higher IFD rating equals more shock absorption. Specifiers should not accept any wall pads made with foam that has an IFD @ 25% less than 75-80 pounds.

ASTM Standard – A wall pad that does not meet the current ASTM standard (F2440-11, Standard Specification for Indoor Wall/Feature Padding) for wall pads should never be accepted. ASTM F2440-11 includes minimum acceptable measures for shock absorption using two measures (G-max and HIC) and specifies details about how pads are installed. This standard requires a G-max of 200, less a HIC below 1000, states “Padding should be used on wall and other facility features…that an athlete might contact during play” and specifies that pads should be installed no more than 4” from the floor. Specifiers or owners should require padding suppliers to provide test results showing their products meet ASTM F2440-11.

Fire Retardant – Using specialized foams, many manufacturers are able to offer wall padding that provides a NFPA Class-A rating when tested in accordance with ASTM E-84, Standard Method for Surface Burning Characteristics of Building Materials. Class-A rated pads meet requirements for maximum flame spread and smoke development and are made with foams that generally will not sustain a flame. Some manufacturer’s Class-A pads also meet IBC 803.2.1 requirements when tested in accordance with NFPA 286, Methods for Fire Tests for Evaluating Contribution of Wall and Ceiling Interior Finish to Room, Fire Growth. Some jurisdictions only accept this type of pad, so owners and specifiers should check with local code enforcement body. If in doubt, fire retardant wall pads are never a bad idea.

VOC Emissions – With greater numbers of wall pads being used in more activity areas off-gassing and emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) has become a greater concern. Specifiers should specify only wall pads that can prove that they contribute to safer and healthier indoor environments for school children and athletes. Wall pads that meet the requirements of GREENGUARD® and GREENGUARD Children and Schools® and similar standards insure that wall pads do not cause harm to activity participants.

As you can tell from the above brief guidelines, there are many things to consider when including wall pads in a project. For assistance with choosing or specifying wall pads, please feel free to contact Draper or your local Draper Gymnasium Equipment Dealer for assistance.

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