photo 1
All manufacturers of "flex" products recommend the use of the straightedge and butt-seaming method. This is one of the easier seaming methods; flex materials have a great deal of lateral movement that allows for the gaps in the seams to be easily pulled together with masking tape. Some of the easiest products to straightedge and butt are the printed (rotogravure) materials, because they are light, thin, and have generous lateral movement. The following will lead you step-by-step through the seaming and pattern-matching sequence.

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First, remove the salvage edge of the material. Each manufacturer has its own specifications regarding seam placement. Check to be sure the placement meets these specifications. Because of the thin grout line, the printed material requires the seam be placed on the edge of the grout line. The first piece is cut, leaving the grout line on the material (photo 1).

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Next, remove the grout line on the other side of the seam. If you do not, you will find it extremely difficult to split this thin grout line and still maintain a uniform width to the grout line(photo 2).

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Once both edges are cut, pull them together and check the pattern match to see if there is any run-off. If there is, be sure to remember which side is longer and which is shorter. Because printed materials are stretched to match, it will be necessary to place the longer piece into the adhesive first(photo 3).

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The adhesive spread for flex materials is very important. Applying the correct width and depth of spread is crucial to the outcome. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s recommendations for adhesive application. When confronted with a pattern run-off, it will be best if the adhesive is allowed some open time to develop more holding power (photo 4).

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Place the longer side of the pattern into the adhesive. At the same time, attempt to compress the material as much as possible, without creating a bubble. Next, starting in the center of the seam, bring the shorter piece into place, stretching the pattern to match as you do so. Once in place and matched, hand-roll the area and hold with masking tape, if necessary(photo 5).

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Go down the seam to where the run-off becomes noticeable. Using the heels of your palms, stretch the shorter piece to match the longer piece. Once on match, place a piece of tape across the material to hold it secure, and roll the material into the adhesive with a steel hand-roller. The masking tape will hold the material in place until the adhesive grabs the material(photo 6).

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Using the steel hand roller to roll the material into the adhesive helps the adhesive to develop a faster grab on the material. In severe situations, a hot air gun may be used to soften the material, making it easier to stretch. There may be some pattern distortion in the field; it will correct itself as tensioning of the material takes place(photo 7).

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Once this is complete, continue down the seam using the same procedure, until reaching the end of the seam. Return to the center of the seam and continue with the other half of the seam(photo 8).

Once all of the intersecting grout lines are aligned, and the adhesive has set, the masking tape can be removed. The seam is now ready for the final seam treatment(photo 9).

The straightedge and butted-seam is easy to do and, with a little effort, pattern-match can be achieved, leaving a great installation and a satisfied customer.