Leave no trace; pro-grade surface protection

by Brian Sodoma

When protecting carpet or flooring in a home or commercial setting, sometimes a tarp or drop cloth just isn’t enough. For those jobs that last a little longer or that involve covering slippery or treasured terrain, surface protection can be critical for keeping customers happy and employees safe.

“I think a lot of times for painting professionals, it’s about the length of time the job takes. … It’s those longer projects where they need to make sure the floors aren’t damaged,” said Alan Nishiguchi, president of Protective Products International, Inc., which sells a wide range of floor-protection products to a variety of trades, “and when you take the time to mask off the floors; it looks far more professional than throwing down a tarp.”

Here’s a look at some surface-protection products that could be a good fit for your next job that may require them.


For years, painting professionals have turned to rosin paper for floor protection. Used in building since the mid-1800s, felt is Rosin Paper’s primary ingredient and the paper was originally created as a base underlayment for flooring and siding. Its job is to reduce air and moisture flow through a floor or wall, but not to completely stop it. Rosin paper is relatively cheap. A roll a few feet wide by a couple hundred feet long usually only costs between $10 and $15 and can be found at most hardware stores.

But more and more, painting professionals need higher-grade materials that are water resistant, minimize the potential for slipping, and are more durable—and there are plenty of affordable options.

Protective Products’ UltraKraft is a popular Red Rosin Paper upgrade. It’s a 40-lb, kraft paper bonded to UV-stable woven polyethylene that’s waterproof and tear resistant. The product can also be easily held in place with the company’s 4″ Blue Masking Tape to allow for covering an entire room’s floor wall-to-wall.

Pro-Tect, another surface-protection company, also offers its Poly-Craft Mask, a 3-ply reinforced protection system that includes a fiberglass mesh sandwiched between 40-lb kraft paper and polyethylene sheeting.

It’s tear and water resistant and works well on vinyl, tile and marble floors as well as concrete floors, epoxy floor finishes, and stamped concrete. “I call that one our Rosin Paper killer. It’s just so much stronger and painters like it,” adds David Bowers, Pro-Tect’s VP of operations.

For some hardwood flooring situations, extra padding is needed. Protective Products’ Econo Runner is a durable option. The product is reverse-wound for easy rollout. Its non-porous top is water resistant, making it great for paint spills, and the padding helps to prevent abrasion. And it can hold in place for up to 45 days and works well on dry and cured hardwood, stone, tile and counters. But it’s not impact resistant, Nishiguchi cautions.


Surface Shields is an Illinois-based supplier of floor protection products. Its lines are developed to commercial standards, but both residential and commercial painting professionals use them, says Seth Geiss, Surface Shields’ marketing director.

The company’s Carpet Shield is among its most popular products for painting professionals. It offers sizing versatility for a variety of hallway sizes, ranging from 24″ to 48″ widths and lengths up to 500′ for rolls that are easy to carry. A proprietary polyethylene blend that can stay on the ground for up to 30 days, it lifts up easily without leaving any sticky residue and it’s highly resistant to tearing.

Protective Products’ Carpet Protection is a 3-mil-thick polyethylene blend that can be used in rooms with carpet as well as on carpeted stairs. The product has a specific stair offering that comes in different widths as well. The material has a certain amount of stretch and give, similar to a trash bag, so that it can’t be punctured, Nishiguchi explained.


As most pros know, stairs—whether they have carpet or flooring on them—can become a bobsled run when simply using a tarp or drop cloth. To prevent slipping while protecting wood stairs, Pro-Tect’s water-resistant Finished Floor Guard fits the bill.

“We designed that product to go down on hardwood stairs. It’s our number one product with painters,” Bowers said. “It goes edge to edge, so nothing gets underneath it. And you can leave it down for up to 90 days.”

The product also breathes really well, which can be critical for hardwood floors that may have been recently coated.

Surface Shields’ Multi Shield offering also brings water resistance and breathability for hardwood and other surfaces.

“Some floors that have been restained or resurfaced may need to breath for up to 30 days,” Geiss added.


Some jobs may require floor protection that is impact resistant. Coated Masonite products can absorb the impact of heavy items and dropped tools while still being water resistant.

Protective Products’ Flexboard is a Masonite offering that can be easily rolled out. It’s 45 mils thick and protects like a hardboard. It is also spill-proof, recyclable, nonstaining, reusable and holds together well with the company’s 4″ Blue Masking Tape.

Surface Shields’ Builder Board is another 45-mil-thick product that also rolls out and cuts easily with a utility knife. It’s light to carry and even meets the LEED certification MR 2 (Materials and Resources) credit standards as a product that is fully recyclable and reusable.


For those projects that necessitate closing off an area, such as a foyer or dining area, Surface Shields’ Dust Shield Pro extendable containment poles (available in 10,’ 12′ and 20′ lengths) firmly hold sheets of plastic sheeting in place, floor to ceiling. Pros on LEED projects also use the product to close off areas to meet strict air-quality standards. And if access into the enclosed space is needed, Surface Shields’ self-adhesive Zip n Close Zippers allow you to create a quick and easy ‘door.’

The company also is sought for its Entry Shield product, available in either plastic or paper for shielding doorjambs. It’s popular because it clasps onto a doorframe then can be easily be removed and moved to other areas of the job.

Floor- and surface-protection products have evolved through the years, Geiss explained, with the goal of making them more easily and quickly installed, and easy to move—all while maintaining durability.

“There’s a lot of detail to this; getting the perfect thickness, the right type of fiber so the product, when it’s walked on for several weeks, doesn’t fall apart or crumble. … In the end, we want to save the professionals time and money,” he said.

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