Stop Right There

July 27th, 2023 by Nathan Hobbs

Defeating Vandalism with Anti-Graffiti Film

By Chris Collier

Los Angeles-based data collector and journalism outlet Crosstown LA says that there were 346,973 graffiti clean-ups throughout Los Angeles in 2021, according to publicly available MyLA311 data. The figure accounts for both complaints lodged by residents and graffiti proactively cleaned up by crews working with the city. The number represents a dire need for a product built to mitigate damage associated with the mischief—anti-graffiti film.

Hitting Reset

Anti-graffiti films act as a sacrificial barrier to control vandalism and provide a cost-efficient alternative to replacing battered glazing. Typical applications include retail storefronts, product displays, schools, transit systems, elevators and escalators, vending machines, restroom mirrors and museums.

Installation, which protects against scratching, spray paint and acid etching and assists in retaining broken glass fragments, allows business owners to circumnavigate a potentially costly glass and glazing expenditure. Matt Castleman, owner/operator at C.B. Tint in Campbell, Calif., vouches for anti-graffiti film as an antidote for an issue he’s battled since starting his business in 2006.

“The good thing about graffiti film is that you can look at a place and know if you have a customer before you walk in the door,” Castleman says. “You see damaged glass, you can use that in your sales presentation: ‘Look at your neighbor—this is what is going on here. It’s only a matter of time.’”

Selling the Product

Anti-graffiti film powers 40% of all sales at C.B. Tint, with applications ranging from elevators to bathroom mirrors to glass storefronts. When Castleman started offering the product in 2006, he would carry around a helpful demonstration tool.

“We learned how to sell it pretty quickly,” Castleman says. “I’d have a piece of glass; I’d have half of it film’d and half of it bare. I’d run my [blade] across it, scratch both sides and then peel off the film’d side to show that it’s clear.”

Castleman says the 12-inch by 12-inch visual aid provided a way for potential customers to experience the power of the product firsthand. “You can even give them a piece and say, ‘You scratch it,’” says Castleman, who stopped using the sales tactic in 2011 after he had generated a plentiful amount of contacts.

“It’s one-tenth the cost of getting the glass replaced. When you put those numbers in their mind and get them to think about it, it clicks.”

Tyner Sullivan, owner of Hattiesburg, Miss.’s, SPF Window Films, says anti-graffiti film may not be best suited as a primary service for companies offering solar and security film. “I don’t know if a focus would have a strong enough return on the time you spend,” he says. “Dollar for dollar, you’re going to get more of a return on marketing security film. But if you’re going to be a full-service window film shop, graffiti film would certainly be in your offerings.”

Commercial Business

“[Business] comes from anti-graffiti film being architect-spec’d on commercial projects,” Sullivan says. “Our biggest anti-graffiti film project this year was an owner looking for protection on signage that had exposure to people. They were trying to limit the damage on the signs; if the people were to damage the signs, there would be a quick replacement without having to replace the entire sign.”

The Hattiesburg Tourism Commission had developed a museum with custom-printed and custom-designed signage. Sullivan and his team applied 4,000 square feet of anti-graffiti film to help the organization meet its mission. Sullivan encourages product users to pursue projects beyond just glass surfaces.

“I put graffiti film on street signs, glass and [bathroom] stalls,” Sullivan shares. “Once you leave the glass surface, it’s important to understand what kind of substrates you’re putting it on. Once you understand that, it can be profitable. Your education and knowledge of the product and your ability to solve the customers’ problems has value.”

Sullivan says installing anti-graffiti film at bank chains is a common job for his company.

“We’ve used it in restaurants where glass is exposed to people’s feet at a bar,” Sullivan says. “We’ve used it on glass escalator rails, glass stair side rails and elevators. Anywhere where the product or substrate that the film is going on is two to three to four times more valuable than the product we’re applying. Heavy, half-inch thick and above tempered glass is very expensive. Once it’s scratched, the scratches aren’t leaving.”

Exterior Enhancement

“As long as you’re comfortable installing exterior film, this film won’t be a problem to install,” Sullivan says. “You’re exposed to the elements, but beyond that, it’s quite easy. The adhesive is low-tack.”

Castleman installs six-mil anti-graffiti film exclusively, noting that four-mil is too thin to prevent glass taggers from breaking through the product.

“You can’t fight or change the wind, rain or bugs,” Castleman adds of specific installation factors associated with the exterior film. “Bugs will be all up in your business; they love getting stuck to glue and to jump on a window after you get it nice and wet. You’re dealing with seasons too. Sometimes it’s cold. When it’s hot, you’re sweating and getting reflections off the glass. You’re at the mercy of the elements.”

Castleman primarily services the San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, Calif., areas. He says graffiti is contagious and draws the attention of other vandals. “Gangs will cross out a gang [symbol] and put in a new gang [sign],” Castleman says. “Once it starts, it keeps happening. You’re mitigating your costs by putting this product on.”

Gus Basquez, owner of Glass Clarity in Whittier, Calif., has completed projects at CVS, Walgreens, Trader Joe’s, Verizon stores and Apple stores. “I feel like if we didn’t have anti-graffiti film, it would get out of control,” he says of Los Angeles.

Basquez is passionate about helping others learn the art of anti-graffiti film, which facilitates the majority of his projects. “Once you’re doing anti-graffiti film, you ask yourself, ‘Why didn’t I offer this before?’” When you can install anti-graffiti film and install something a lot thicker, your overall technique and prep gets a lot better. Everything goes hand-in-hand,” he says.

Chris Collier is the editor for Window Film magazine.
ccollier@glass.com

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