Applying vehicle wraps can be relatively painless (see “Thick Skins: Wrap Installtion Tips” MyPRINTResource.com/1088799) , but taking them off – without damaging the surface underneath? That’s another story altogether. “Stripping vinyl is the ugly side of our work,” said David Wysong...
To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with MyPRINTResource. Already have an account? Login
Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.
Complete the registration form.
Tonn confessed that removing wraps can be a “nasty job,” but steaming makes his life easier. “I used the use the torch method before, and it was horrible,” he recounted. “What took six hours now takes 60 minutes [using steam]. Some super-old graphics you can’t get [remove] with a torch – and paint stripper and orange-peel oil are expensive.” Plus, there’s this silver lining in the messy cloud: Removal jobs often lead to installations, Tonn reported, adding that his full-service approach has been a proverbial foot in the door at several customers, including the US Foods, Inc. trucking fleet.
Pete Kouchis, owner of VisuCom Signs & Graphics in Mokena, IL, is using steam in a similar way on a slightly smaller scale. “I just picked up a second SteamBlade, a product from Jiffy Steamer Co.,” Kouchis said. “In my opinion, it produces a broader, gentler heat that seems to do a better job on many cases than a heat gun or a torch. We’re currently de-identifying a fleet of buses with reflective cut graphics. The steamer helps with the removal. Any residual adhesive can often be steamed to soften and scraped off with a chiller.”
Charge for It
While wrap firm owners “cannot make an installer out of a steamer,” Tonn cautioned, they can sell wrap installs at twice the price of removals. The most common mistake -- and one that directly affects the bottom line -- is failing to price the job correctly, warned Wysong of Adnormous Graphics. Stripping vinyl is much more costly than applying vinyl in terms of man hours. That is why, he said, “removal is charged by the hour: end of story. Stripping vinyl graphics can be one of the most challenging things in a day-to-day sign shop’s operation, specifically when you are trying to estimate the time that it takes to do a stripping job,” he explained. “You can’t have a set fee. The labor time can be twice as much to strip as it is to letter.
“Before an Adnormous representative gives a vinyl stripping quote,” said Wysong, “a spot test is performed to determine how difficult it will be to remove the vinyl. If the estimate is too high for the customer’s budget, Adnormous Graphics will even show the customer how to strip the vinyl. Most of the time, demonstrating how difficult it is to strip the vinyl is the only way you can justify the price because it usually costs more to strip a van than it does to re-letter it,” he noted. “Once the customer tries to do it themselves, most of the time they don't care what it costs.”
Avoid Razors (and other tips)
Tim Cole, a vehicle wrap specialist at BIGink LLC, Seattle, WA, which now is part of Rainier Industries, shares some other wrap removal tips:
- A heat gun or propane torch is required to heat up the material (approx. 140 degrees F) and soften the adhesive.
- With proper heat, wraps should come off fairly easily in large pieces or even full panels.
- A quality wrap will often have the material “tucked” into window frames, tail lights, etc. Heat the material properly to loosen these areas and you can remove the vinyl without taking off the frames or lights. But sometimes you will have to remove these to remove all the vinyl pieces.
- Ease of removal will depend on several factors:
- Quality and type of materials originally used. Cheaper materials will prove more difficult. Cast vinyl with air egress will be the easiest to remove. Calendar vinyl is more difficult to remove and, in the worst case, peels off in small chunks.
- If the vinyl was coated with liquid laminate (versus pressure-sensitive laminate), the material tends to tear. This is due to the thin coating of the liquid lam. The pressure-sensitive laminate acts to “hold” the vinyl together when you begin to pull it away from the vehicle.
- Reflective vinyls also are difficult to remove and will often peel in small chunks.
- Vinyl that has been applied to roofs for an extended time can be a problem because the material has been exposed to sunlight and has absorbed greater heat from the sun.
- For difficult-to-remove vinyl’s, there is a “rubber eraser” product available which can be attached to an air tool. The spinning eraser will remove the vinyl without damaging the paint surface.