Window Films, Adhesive vs Adhesive-Free (Static Cling)
Decorative window films are rapidly gaining in popularity as a way to decorate and add privacy to windows and glass doors.There are 2 basic types of decorative films, adhesive-based polyester films and adhesive-free static-vinyl films.
Since the 60’s when people began sticking Contact paper to their windows, there have been adhesive-based films.
At first glance, the advantage of adhesive films seems to be price as they are typically cheaper than adhesive-free static films. However when all the factors of the project – looks, materials, supplies, time and energy to install and remove the film are considered, the adhesive-free static films prove to be a better value and much easier to use.
To apply, the basic steps are the same for both types of film. Clean glass, wet glass, remove film from backing paper, position film on glass, squeegee out water and air bubbles from under film and let dry.Whether you are redecorating, putting the home up for sale, or moving, at some point the final part of the project has to be done: remove the film from the glass.
Reviewing the film characteristics on a step-by-step basis helps to highlight the differences.
Adhesive-free static films are typically 8-mil thick PVC films that adhere to glass, like a magnet to steel. Adhesive-based films have changed a little since Contact paper. The glue is even stronger (making it harder to take off later) and the material is a thin 2-mil polyester film.
Both films are easy to trim to size and are applied to wet glass. In addition to wetting the glass, adhesive-based films must have water sprayed on the adhesive after the backing paper is removed, making the job more difficult than static films which are removed from the backing paper and applied directly to the wet glass.
Applying the film to the glass is where the differences begin to show up.Static films are heavier films that hang fairly straight when removed from the backing paper.If static film sticks to itself or touches the windowsill before it gets onto the glass it is easily straightened and still ready to apply.If adhesive-films stick together, it is not quite as simple to fix as the very forgiving static films.
Adhesive-based polyester films are easily crinkled or wrinkled.If the film sticks to itself, it can be very difficult to pull apart without damaging the film.Letting the film touch the windowsill or wall next to the window can become a very sticky problem.
(Installation hint: When covering large windows or glass doors, static films are much easier to apply.The larger the piece of film being applied, the greater the challenge to keep the film from sticking to itself.The lighter adhesive films are susceptible to drafts, wind currents and mishandling that can cause them to become stuck together and possibly ruined.Static films are heavier and less affected by wind, plus they are easily straightened if they do come together.)
After the film is on the glass, the water allows the film to slide into position and a squeegee is used to remove the excess water and air bubbles.Films can slide around during the squeegeeing process and get out of position.If you are using adhesive-based films, you will have to live with the results, because once the water is removed, the glue activates and that is where the film stays.Adhesive-free static films are removable and reusable, if the film moves during installation, simply peel from glass, re-wet and repeat.
Once dry, both films will provide years of decorative service. The benefits of adhesive-free static films are fully realized when it is time to redecorate or remove the film.To remove adhesive films, you must purchase a window film removal kit with a chemical spray to loosen the adhesive and then scrape the film off the glass, a process that is difficult and can take hours.Adhesive-free static films are easily removed from the glass by simply pulling back a corner and peeling off the glass.(Reapply to backing paper for future use.)
Decorative window films also provide energy savings.The thin, 2-mil polyester films provide energy savings by reflecting light away from a window.In addition to reflecting light, the 8-mil thick, static-vinyl films have a very slow thermal transfer rate; it is like putting a thin layer of insulation on the glass.
Other important factors are looks and durability.The thin films have very thin ink coatings (6-7 microns) while the thicker static films have much thicker ink coatings (23-28 microns).Thicker coatings can create more vivid colors and are more resistant to scratches than the thin coatings on polyester films.
There are many similarities and even more differences between adhesive and adhesive-free decorative window films.If price is the only consideration, adhesive films would be the solution. But if looks, durability, ease of application, energy savings, and time/labor saved are taken into account, adhesive-free static films are the best value.