Factors to consider before selecting a floor.

With more than 50 years’ experience in the local and international flooring industry, Denver Coleman, Chairman of Polyflor SA, answers questions posed by installers, architects and readers. In this issue, he identifies the key elements that should be deliberated before specifying a floor to ensure a successful installation.

“What are some of the most important factors I need to consider when selecting a floor for a specific project?” – Lionel Payne, Johannesburg

Arguably, many factors influence a successful flooring installation. One of the most crucial elements from both the client’s and the specifier’s point of view, however, is ensuring that you specify a floor that will meet the demands of the specific area in which it will be used.

In order to ensure that the floor you select not only meets the client’s aesthetic requirements, but also the application demands, there are various checks that need to be carried out to gather the right type of information before a final decision is made. As with most important decisions taken in life, good planning and proper advice are invaluable.

When specifying a subfloor and flooring solution, you need to consider certain factors. For example, what will the flooring area be used for? What is the volume of traffic expected to traverse the floor?  Will it be light, medium or heavy? Will the type of traffic be foot and/or wheeled traffic? All of these answers will have a significant impact on the type of flooring you select.

This is also true of the type of screed base you select. It is particularly important to use a subfloor with a stronger MPa (screed hardness) if you are installing a floor in an area that is expected to have wheeled traffic, as opposed to heavy foot traffic.

There are inherent dangers to be aware of if the floor screed has been “power floated”, i.e. if it forms a 1-3 mm dense skin. In an area with wheeled traffic and medium to heavy loads, the skin may break up. The screed should therefore be tapped with a steel rod or hammer to check that the skin will not break up, which will naturally result in the floor sheeting suffering damage.

Another important element to contemplate is the area that surrounds the building. Is it vegetated (grassy), sandy and dusty, or a paved area? Grit and sand are one of the worst enemies of floor surfaces. Paving is also not sympathetic to grit as it tends to allow gravel to be transferred into the building. This could be damaging to the flooring surface, resulting in a dull and poor looking floor surface. In this instance, you should consider a walk off matting system that will help to keep 60% – 80% of dirt and grit out of the building. All entrances need to be covered, not just the main entrance, as it will help to extend the life of the floor and reduce maintenance costs.

Have you considered the maintenance regime of the floor you are considering? What maintenance capability does the client or specifier have? Will an outside specialist maintenance company be used, or will the occupiers be maintaining the flooring and building themselves? Will they have the necessary equipment and knowledge to correctly maintain the floor area? Will they be able to properly train their maintenance team? Flooring suppliers can give advice and should assist with arranging training on handover.

Other questions that need to be asked include: what aesthetic value is the client/specifier expecting or aiming at? This will influence the flooring type, and a suitable product should be chosen that will give a quality appearance under the traffic conditions and the maintenance capability of the tenant/owner.

What life expectancy is the client/specifier looking at? This also influences the product chosen to give the correct life cycle and durability for the client’s needs.

Who and what type of construction method and/or company will be involved, and will they be responsible for the budget, or the client/specifier? Finally, what budget is available for the particular project from a flooring viewpoint?

When you have established the above criteria they will all help to correctly specify a flooring product that will meet the needs of the client.