Deciding on a flooring accessory or final flooring solution? Consider these 6 factors first.
When it comes to selecting accessories or final flooring solutions, there are six that should guide your decision-making to ensure that the best products are selected to not only ensure a flawless installation, but also one that will serve the needs of the client and the project at hand.
1. IDENTIFY WHAT IS AVAILABLE
To be in a position to make the right choice/s when it comes to final flooring solutions, you have to be aware of all the options that are available to you. Each component plays its own specific role and some are better suited to a particular floor type than others. The components available to the flooring industry are:
• Joints – these include isolation joints; construction joints; contraction joints; placing joints; sealing and filler joints; decorative joints and movement joints;
• Skirting boards – the options include, Polymer skirting; MDF skirting; softwood skirting; wood veneered skirting and hardwood skirting. Other options are cut tiles combined with trims, aluminium, stainless steel, carpet skirting combined with PVC trims;
• Trims – Various trims are available, namely baseboards; quarter round (polymer, wood & laminate); wall base (vinyl & carpet); bullnose (tile & stone); transition pieces inserted between wood and laminate flooring; end cap (aluminium, wood & laminate); reducer/transition (aluminium, wood & laminate); threshold ramp/finish (any floor made of wood, metal or stone); T-mold/expansion (aluminium, wood & laminate) and stairnosing. Multiple options of trims are used for protecting the edge of tiles in all types of materials – PVC, aluminium, brass, stainless steel including aluminium anodised and powder coated options. Trim types include transitions, covers, ramps and edges including formable options in certain types. All flooring types will have appropriate trims – carpet, vinyl, laminate, wood, screed, tile and any other hard flooring. It is important to choose the correct option to protect the flooring type.
• Anti-slip treatments and anti-slip strips;
• Flooring sealants – Initial-use sealer; regular-use sealer; restorative sealant and material limitation;
• Epoxy floor coatings;
• Final floor screeds.
2. EXPAND YOUR KNOWLEDGE
Upon identifying the final flooring solutions available, it is worth understanding the functional properties of each type, their purpose and how these can best serve the flooring project at hand. The more equipped with knowledge you are, the more informed your decisions will be, which is why we advise you to scan the code at the end of this article to be redirected to an exhaustive article on all of these solutions.
• Isolation joints
These joints completely isolate the slab from something else. They are formed by placing preformed joint material next to the column or wall or standpipe before pouring the slab.
• Construction joints
On a job, there will always be stopping and starting and the entire slab won’t be poured all at once – this is where construction joints have a role to play. They are formed using some sort of bulkhead, made from wood, steel, plastic or precast concrete. They should be worked into the overall joint plan, where they can function as contraction joints.
• Contraction joints
Both isolation and contraction joints are formed before the concrete is poured; however, contraction joints are ‘placed’ in the fresh concrete before it has a chance to create its own joints. I.e. A contraction joint is a crack in the slab that is forced to follow a specified line.
• Placing joints
Place joints under walls or carpet areas. Under walls they won’t be seen and under carpet areas the joints won’t have a chance to seep through vinyl areas. Re-entrant corners should be avoided; planning the joint pattern can often eliminate re-entrant corners.
• Sealing & filler joints
Sealers and fillers for concrete joints are not the same and have very specific purposes. It is a chemical that protects floors by soaking into the pores found naturally in specific materials, clogging them so that staining agents can’t reach them. A sealer is soft and able to accommodate the concrete slab’s expansion and contraction.
• Decorative joints
Decorative concrete flatwork still needs joints to prevent cracking, which would be even less acceptable in typical grey concrete. Isolation and contraction joints in decorative concrete are exactly the same as with any other concrete.
• Movement joints (control) or intermediate joints
These are small joints designed to absorb localised stresses as opposed to the structural joints that accommodate the large movements revealed by a structure. The suitability of movement joints should be determined based on the anticipated movement, chemical and/or any other stresses in the installation.
• Structural movement joints
These are different and large expansion joints allowed for between slabs and are normally constructed by leaving gaps in the floor slabs. The movement allowed for these joints are 5mm to 20mm dependant on the movement expected and designed for by the engineer and architect.
• Polymer skirting
They are 100% waterproof and are supplied in pre-finished and paintable. They do not warp, are flexible and colour consistent from batch to batch.
• MDF skirting
It is available either pre-primed or pre-finished.
• Softwood skirting
It can be stained or varnished to provide a natural look and can be sanded down and refinished.
• Wood veneered skirting
It is eco-friendly and comprised from finger jointed spruce wood to ensure low warping and guarantees the highest stability.
• Hardwood skirting
It offers a top-end look and is an obvious match alongside oak floors etc. It is available pre-oiled or pre-stained.
• Baseboards – They do not cover the expansion gap between the floor and the wall and another piece will be attached to that.
• Quarter round – The shape on the end is one quarter round.
• Wall base – This is equivalent to baseboard/skirting but made from plastic or rubber.
• Bullnose – This trim is made from stone or tile.
• Transition pieces – This is installed to cover the expansion and contraction that will occur in wood and laminate flooring.
• End cap – It lies over the edge of the floor then drops straight down, “ending” the floor.
• Reducer/Transition – The bottom of a reducer (transition) has two levels and is designed to rest squarely on two levels of flat flooring.
• Threshold/Ramp/Finish – Used at exterior doorways or where a reducer (transition) is too small to cover the level differences.
• T-Mold/Expansion – It’s similar to a reducer but used on level flooring to take up expansion.
• Stairnosing – These finish off the edge of a step, and is used when laminates have been installed on stairs. Range is vast for all the different types of flooring – choose the appropriate one for both functional and aesthetic reasons.
• Variety trims for tiles, carpets, vinyl for edge protection, transition, cover, ramp and formable options.
These mats can be professionally designed and installed and customised to meet the size, type and material criteria to cater for traffic. Dirt-trapping mats are essential in ensuring that a floor remains clean and in pristine condition. As the name implies, they trap a significant amount of dirt, and any dirt not trapped will be transported into the building, however, this will be minimal.
Anti-slip applications have to accommodate heavy foot traffic and require a high level of safety underfoot. Although most resilient flooring, such as laminates and vinyl, and wood floors have a natural anti-slip surface, or can be textured (e.g. LVTs/Ps), hard surfaces such as ceramic tiles and natural stone are prone to being slippery when wet. However, developments in technology are starting to eliminate products that when wet, pose a threat to foot traffic. If a product isn’t manufactured with a built-in treatment, there are modern chemical treatments available to alleviate this problem. These chemicals provide a deep-etching effect that is almost invisible but abrasive enough to prevent falls.
There are three main categories of flooring sealants, namely polyurethane, water-based and solvent-based. Polyurethane creates the strongest and most permanent coating while water-based sealants are more eco-friendly with fewer toxins. However, solvent-based sealants are considered stronger than their water-based counterparts. Sealants protect a floor and increase its lifespan.
Epoxy floor coatings are hardwearing and durable for both commercial and industrial flooring. They create an easy to clean, seamless and attractive flooring surface. It also creates a chemically resistant surface, improves safety (by creating a slip-impact-, heat- and fire-resistant flooring solution), allows for designated traffic and work zones (using different colours of epoxy floor coating products at the same time to define zones) and increases productivity capabilities.
Screeds are usually composed of a cementitious material made from a 1:3 or 1:4.5 ratio of cement to sharp sand. Since the use of a screed is key to good-quality solid flooring, it is not advisable to apply the floor finish directly to the structure. A screed is used to create a smooth, level surface or even as a path to route services. Three basic criteria drive a good screed design: strength; bonding and moisture control.
3. FOCUS ON QUALITY TO SECURE LONGEVITY
The quality of a product drives performance and long-terms directly affects its lifespan. This will in turn impact future costs, especially if a product has to be replaced. As such, purchasing a good quality product from the onset is a must.
For any product or company to achieve a “top performing” label, a product has to be tried and tested numerous times and only after it has achieved superior performance levels and-and-again over a long period of time while displaying ongoing excellence, can it proudly state that it is indeed a performer within the flooring industry.
Several factors play an integral role in a floor product or company achieving excellence. These include:
• The inclusion of technological advancements;
• Innovative combinations of ingredients used to create the end product;
• Longevity and lifespan;
• Resistance levels and durability (product related);
• Customer satisfaction related to service offering (when looking at a company); and
However, it should be noted that the success of a product is directly influenced by the successful installation of said product. Just because the performance of a product is sub-par by no means implies that the flooring product specified is not an excellent flooring option. Unfortunately, poor service due to an installation by untrained installers often casts blame unfairly on a top-performing product, which has to suffer the consequences of poor workmanship.
4. MANAGE COSTS
Budget constraints are usually the defining factor when it comes to selecting certain products over others, and for good reason. Costs have to be well managed to ensure that a flooring project falls within a client’s budget, as soaring costs could have serious repercussions for those involved on a project.
However, just because a cost-effective product is selected over a pricier alternative does not necessarily imply that it is of sub-standard quality. In fact, there are expensive products that do not fare as well as their more affordable alternatives. What is critical is to try and find a balance between a product comprised of superior ingredients that perform beyond expectation, while at the same time falling within a price range that suits the budget of the project and ultimately the client.
Cost-effective products with the properties highlighted above will be of a high quality and consequently, have a lengthier lifespan, which will once again save costs as they will not necessitate repairs or replacements as often as inferior products would. Ask yourself why one product is pricier than another: is it because of their ingredients and said ingredient’s technological advancements; is it because of import costs; or perhaps a reasonable answer eludes you?
Building relationships with product manufacturers, gaining the necessary knowledge of the products available, and selecting quality products will inevitably ensure that the product installed will serve its purpose for the duration required by the client. It will also ensure that you stay within the budgetary needs of the client and that it will further save on unnecessary costs going forward.
5. ASCERTAIN EXPOSURE TYPE
Certain accessories or final flooring solutions will be exposed to more wear and tear depending on where these products are installed. There are products that are better suited to hard wearing environments than others, which is why this is an essential consideration to bear in mind.
The type of product selected should be durable and able to withstand the type of exposure it will face on a daily basis, as this will directly impact its lifespan and any future related costs as highlighted above.
Installing the right product in the right place is key, and once again demonstrates how critical it is to expand your knowledge on what is available, how each product functions and what makes each unique. Such knowledge will guide you during the selection process and enable you to make an informed decision, which will almost always steer you in the direction of quality products that can carry out the necessary functions when faced with specific environmental conditions.
6. RECOGNISE MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENTS
Every single product will require a maintenance programme which is designed according to the needs of the specified products and implemented thereafter. It is absolutely critical to follow the manufacturer’s instructions, as these will prevent any unnecessary damage.
For larger commercial and industrial spaces, specific machinery is available that will achieve results in these programmes such as swing machines, burnishers and brushes. The low-speed swing machine is used more often as it’s versatile, cost-efficient and easy to use. They can be used for stripping, scrubbing, buffing all types of floors and sanding wood floors.
Burnishers are designed to generate heat and friction that will smooth and harden floor finishes, creating a “wet” look. This hardened look is easier to maintain and will withstand more abuse. In turn, brushes are better for cleaning natural stone tile or concrete floors and last longer. Pads are better for buffing and burnishing but will also effectively strip and scrub. The darker the pad, the more aggressive the action.
All six of these factors or considerations cannot be isolated and inevitably the one directly impacts the other. For this very reason it is absolutely crucial to recognise the importance of each and how they can make or break a final flooring installation.
Acknowledgement and thanks go to the following for the information contained in this article: Genesis; Kirk Marketing, and Supreme Mouldings & Décor.