So, you’re fed up with buying expensive chair mats only to find that they wear down all too quickly and soon need replacing.
You’re on the hunt to find the best chair mat alternative for your workspace, something that will keep your floors protected, won’t cost the earth, and won’t need to be swapped out as often as your tired, old mat.
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Time and time again here at Office Chair Picks, we hear from readers who complain that their regular chair mats just aren’t cutting it and want to know if we can suggest some suitable, practical, and affordable alternatives.
The good news is that we certainly can.
Below, we’ll talk you through some of the best chair mat alternatives around, weighing up the pros and cons of each, and offering up more ways to protect your office floors without a standard mat.
Why Use a Chair Mat Alternative?
Basic chair mats are designed to protect your floor from scratches, indentations, and other damage caused by the wheels of your office chair, but they’re rarely a perfect solution.
Those at the more affordable end of the scale tend to be cheaply made. As such, it doesn’t take too long before they wear down and need to be replaced.
Even those of sufficient quality can have their issues as some mats are designed for specific types of floors and choosing the wrong one can end up doing more harm than good.
Pick up a chair mat designed for carpets, for example, and you may find that the plastic studs on the underside (designed to stop it moving around) end up scratching your hardwood floor.
That’s to say nothing of the fact that adding any chair mat to your floor is going to collect all manner of dust and debris underneath it, and if that isn’t cleaned out regularly, it can leave long-term blemishes on your otherwise beautifully-preserved flooring.
On the plus side, investing in a higher quality chair mat is not the only way to minimize – or even completely eliminate – the damage done by chair wheels. By replacing those wheels, or investing in any other (lower cost) alternatives we’re about to discuss below, you can keep your floor in good condition for a long time to come.
Top 5 Best Chair Mat Alternatives
1. Rollerblade-Style Wheels
Yes, it’s true, one of the best chair mat alternatives isn’t a mat of any kind, but is actually a replacement for the very chair wheels that do most of the damage to your floors in the first place.
Rollerblade-style wheels are exactly what they sound like:
Slim, polyurethane wheels that look and feel exactly like the kind of wheels you’d get on a standard set of rollerblades.
The advantages of switching to polyurethane rubber wheels are threefold.
First of all, there’s the fact that they cover less surface area than traditional office chair wheels. This means that even if you do tend to move your chair around a lot, your wheels will be moving over less floor space, resulting in less damage.
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Second of all, they’re actually much more durable than normal wheels, meaning they’ll provide ample support for a long time to come.
Thirdly, and most importantly, they do significantly less damage to your floors.
Standard chair wheels may be great for moving around the office, but they can cause all kinds of problems ranging from rubbing off the finish of wooden floors and causing scratches, to creating ugly blemishes in carpets and other soft floor finishes.
With rollerblade-style wheels, there’s simply no such problem. Though they’re as tough as they come, they’re also surprisingly kind to your floors, resulting in practical zero damage no matter how much time you spend in your office.
But wait, before you go digging that old pair of rollerblades out of the garage and figuring out how to adapt the wheels to your office chair, you should know that it is possible to buy ready-made rollerblade chair wheels that slot simply and effortlessly into place in much the same way that a set of standard replacement wheels would, making setting them up a breeze.
2. Office Chair Bell Glides
If your office floor is coated in thick, plush carpet, then you’ll no doubt find that your chair wheels can leave deep impressions in that carpet which, at best, look unsightly and, at worst, can ruin a perfectly good carpet.
This is actually the main reason why many people shop around for a good chair mat, but even then, pressing a chair mat into the floor with the weight of a fully-grown human in a chair on top of it all day can do just as much damage as the chair itself.
Fortunately, there is a solution.
Chair bell glides like the ones in this five-piece set from UVCE are a useful way to reduce the amount of pressure on your carpet caused by you sitting in your office chair.
Bell glides attach to the underside of your chair’s wheels to increase the surface area, meaning that the pressure, though spread out over a larger area, actually causes less of an impact and thus less damage to your carpet.
On the downside, using chair bell glides does mean sacrificing portability and flexibility. With the glides attached, you’ll no longer be able to roll your chair across the floor and will find it much more difficult to move around.
That said, if you don’t mind keeping your chair in a fixed position for most of the time, this simple, affordable solution can be a game-changer.
3. Chairs Without Wheels
If you have a plush carpet floor then even the best chairs without wheels aren’t going to do much good. You may still get imprints in your carpet and there’s still a chance of long-term damage.
If, on the other hand, you’re working on a hardwood or laminate floor, you’ll find that chairs such as the simple, stylish, and functional SPACE AirGrid professional Chair will prove invaluable in preventing scuffs and scratches.
4. Standing Desks
What’s the absolute best way to prevent your office chair from damaging your floor? Get rid of the office chair altogether, of course.
Sure, the jury is still out on whether standing desks are overrated or not, there’s no denying the fact that they do have some benefits above and beyond eliminating the need for a chair mat.
The most prominent benefit is that they encourage us to move around. While it’s often said that sitting down all day is bad for us, it’s not so much the actual sitting that causes a multitude of health problems, but rather that we tend to stay in the same position for too long.
When we stand, we’re more inclined to want to move around a little more and maybe even bust out a few simple standing-desk exercises to keep the circulation flowing.
That in itself is enough to convince many a health-conscious office worker to switch to a standing desk, though critics will -quite rightly- argue that standing all day can leave you with sore joints and a real sense of fatigue.
That’s not to mention that even some of our favorite standing desks can be much more expensive than simply replacing your chair wheels or sticking with a tried-and-trusted chair mat.
Still, models like the best-selling Flexispot Standing Desk do provide good value for money in terms of quality, durability, and functionality.
5. Felt Pads
Last but by certainly no means least, never underestimate what a big difference a few small felt pads can make to your office space.
Products like Rolson’s 25mm Felt Pads use a simple peel-and-stick approach, with a firm adhesive backing that attaches effortlessly to the underside of your chair and other office furniture.
This helps to prevent marks on laminate floors, scratches on hardwood floors, and indentations on carpeted floors.
If you’re looking for the cheapest chair mat alternative, these low-cost pads will more than do the trick. You may find that the adhesive may start to wear out after a couple of months, meaning the pads fall off and need replacing, but at such an affordable price this is unlikely to be much of a big deal.
What is the Best Chair Mat Alternative to Buy? Our Verdict
So, you’ve seen what we recommend as the top five chair mat alternatives around, but which is the best one to go out and spend your hard-earned money on?
Honestly, the most truthful answer to that question is that it all depends on your needs, circumstances, and the type of flooring you have.
If you’re looking to avoid big, noticeable chair indentations in your beautiful, plush carpet and don’t mind giving up the ability to move your chair around by its wheels, then bell glides may prove to be the perfect option.
If it’s a hardwood floor, then simple felt pads or swapping to a wheel-less chair may prove to be the best option for you.
However, if you’re simply looking for an easy, affordable alternative to a chair mat that is going to provide adequate protection no matter what kind of floor you have, then you really can’t go wrong with rollerblade wheels.
A breeze to apply, the gentle-yet-durable polyurethane rubber wheels boast a generous amount of strength, sturdiness, and long-lasting support which may come as a surprise when you consider how lightly they move across your carpet without causing so much as a speck of damage.