The two biggest factors that contribute to a successful industrial flooring installation are the floor’s flatness and strength. The specific industrial flooring requirements will dictate the strength and flatness that is needed. A 500-micron epoxy coating would be sufficient for a general storage facility, but a factory with machinery and forklifts would need a 1-3mm epoxy coating. In a manufacturing plant where heavy parts could potentially fall onto the floor and damage the flooring, a thicker 4mm epoxy screed should be specified.
In many industrial environments such as large warehouses for storage or power transmission and distribution substations, flat floors are absolutely essential for automated racking systems for high level racking and forklifts; automated replacement of transformers mounted on floor tracks; as well as specialised industrial cleaning equipment that can only effectively clean the floor if it is not completely flat. Uneven floors can have significant consequences for operation and many manufacturing and processing companies are increasingly looking at ways to automate their businesses to improve quality and productivity. These automated robots can only succeed in completing their tasks if the floor is completely flat.
“There’s a difference between a flat floor and a level floor,” says Lance Goodall, part of the technical support team at Weber Saint-Gobain.
“A floor can be flat without being level and vice versa. A ramp, for example, indicates a change in floor level. Instructing a contractor to make the ramp flat, means removing the high and low points on the ramp by using a grinder for example. Instructing the contractor to make the ramp level, means lifting one side of the ramp to produce a parallel horizon and eliminating the change in floor level using a self-levelling screed. The prevailing trend in SA flooring is that contractors use an on-site cement mixed screed to produce floor with a low degree of accuracy in level; flatness and strength. A pre-mix self-levelling screed will provide a high degree of levelling; flatness and strength. The true innovation in industrial flooring segment is to provide all these requirements in 20kg bag ready to mix and apply, like our Weber 4610 Industrial top that offsets itself in the market by providing just that ,” says Lance.
When the surface requirement is to be flat and level, a high performance industrial self -levelling screed should be specified for these projects. This type of screed will not only completely flatten the floor, it will also be able to withstand the weight of heavy cleaning equipment, forklifts and other types of industrial equipment in these areas.
Vernon Botha from VERNI says that in order to select a suitable resin floor coating or screed, the exact operating conditions are required together with the cleaning process.
“Once the process is known together with the loads or traffic, chemicals, operating temperatures, only then can a suitable resin (Epoxy or Polyurethane) coating or screed be specified. From here, you will be able to determine whether a smooth wood floated finished or a steel floated concrete finish is required, the concrete finish is depended on the Resin coating or screed selected,” says Vernon.
Thin film Coatings up to 3mm Self-levelling systems require a steel floated concrete finish and trowelled on systems 5 to 9mm thick require a smooth wood floated concrete finish.
A mistake that is often made by inexperienced contractors is not identifying the exact location of expansion joints and construction joints of the floor.
“All expansion joints and construction joints must be clearly identified and marked before the coating is installed. Flooring contractors should never try to coat over joints as this will lead to cracking. After the coating has been applied, the expansion and construction joints need to be saw cut and sealed with a suitable polyurethane joint sealant,” says Vernon.
The changing nature of industrial floors
Verity Hunter, Marketing Manager at Flowcrete, says that some of the trends in industrial flooring specifications include smart demarcation as well as the use of concrete densifiers and sealers.
“While the standard grey epoxy floor has always been popular and will probably remain popular for years to come, some of the larger distribution facilities that have thousands of square metres of flooring area are moving towards installing concrete densifiers and sealers,” says Verity.
Concrete densifiers penetrate the concrete substrate. A clear coating is then applied on top of the flooring so that the floor still looks like a concrete floor, but is sealed and more functional. One of the benefits of doing this is that the floor is dust-proof thanks to the densifier and sealer.
One aspect that is often overlooked in industrial facilities is demarcation. Different colours of epoxy coating can be used to demarcate areas such as walkways, hazardous areas and production lines.
“An entire factory floor or warehouse facility can be colour coded so that people know where they can walk, where they shouldn’t walk, where they need to be cautious, and so forth. Epoxy floor coatings are very effective in streamlining the movement of people in these environments,” concludes Verity.
Specialist tip: When the surface requirement is to be flat and level, a high performance industrial self-levelling screed should be specified for these projects.
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