With the vast product selection, choosing the best masking tape for the job is no small task, especially when the quality of the finished product is hanging in the balance.
And although you may have a tape manufacturer that’s earned your trust over the years, that doesn’t always necessarily mean it’s easy to identify which specific product from their portfolio of general purpose masking tapes, painter’s tapes and high-performance masking tapes is best suited to help you achieve the professional results that you are looking for.
In evaluating tapes for your project, it helps to go back to the basics of the task at hand and take stock of both the fundamental components of the project as well as why you need masking tape in the first place. Once you have a firm grasp on what level of adhesion or clean removal time frame is required, you can begin to cross-reference your needs with the technical properties that help separate one tape product from another.
Fortunately, most tape manufacturers readily provide this kind of product information on the product’s packaging and in product descriptions and tape comparison charts online.
A professional-grade painter’s tape that promises a 14-day residue-free removal from painted walls or glass may be sufficient for a residential painting job with latex-based paint. But for automotive, marine, transportation and heavy machinery applications that use industrial coatings, you’ll want to use a performance masking tape that’s capable of withstanding high-temperature bake cycles and exposure to solvents/chemicals when prepping projects, and that offers a higher level of durability.
Tape Performance Lies in the Details
No detail is too insignificant in identifying the best tape for your job — and with the benefits you reap in a smoother workflow and high-quality results, it pays to invest the time up front in figuring out which brands and products work best for your work.
One of the most basic considerations not to overlook are the shape and contour of the surfaces you’ll be working on. On flat, straight surfaces, precise lines are easier to achieve. But with the curves of a wheel well, the sloping hull of a boat or the inconsistent surface of construction equipment, sharp lines can be a little trickier.
Products like performance masking tapes are engineered to create the barrier you need when they are pressed flush against the substrate. But the key is ensuring the tape makes full contact against all parts of the surface you’re masking — tapes most commonly fail when an air bubble or unintended crease is present, allowing paint to seep underneath the seal and compromise your finish. And that can hit your bottom line with costly re-finishing work or your reputation with sub-par results.
Masking Tape Paper Backing
This is where it pays to know whether a tape is constructed with a standard crepe paper backing or a fine structured crepe (FSC) paper backing.
- Standard Crepe Paper Backing
Standard crepe paper is generally a heavier, more robust backing for a tape. General purpose masking tapes typically use a standard crepe paper backing. Some painter’s tapes do as well. Because standard crepe paper is a little thicker and less conformable than fine structured crepe paper, these types of tapes are designed for masking straighter, more consistent surfaces or for production-oriented jobsite tasks like attaching poly sheeting together, bundling cables and cords or labeling paint cans and toolboxes. These types of tapes are generally not intended for applications that require masking inconsistent surfaces.
- Fine Structured Crepe Paper Backing
When dealing with a curved or rigid surface, you’ll want to seek out a performance masking tape that’s constructed with a fine structured crepe (FSC) backing. Tapes with FSC backing are highly conformable. There’s a built-in “stretchability” to FSC tapes that allow them to easily conform to curves and contours without creating wrinkles or air pockets that lead to seeping and bleeding. FSC tapes are also more resistant to tearing, shredding and slivering than their standard crepe backing counterparts. They’re specifically designed for the intricate work involved in masking curved, angled and inconsistent surfaces — like those found in cars, boats and heavy machinery.
A little tape product knowledge up front can help you work easier and save you headaches or costly mistakes from tape failure in the long run.