We define specialised flooring more clearly & outline its numerous benefits & challenges.

Specialised flooring falls into a unique category in that they are exactly that – unique. They are specified for their dedicated properties, both visually and functionally, and as such are usually highly personalised or customised.

However, the term or phrase specialised flooring or specialised installations have more than one singular meaning within the industry. A floor or installation can be considered specialised when it requires a higher than usual performance or aesthetical characteristic than a normal floor. It also refers to installations that are not carried out on a daily basis and are seen by many as speciality projects. These floors are usually specified when the end user requires a high performance floor designed specifically for their needs – when the client is looking for something different and something new.

Specialised flooring is usually installed on the request of a client to create a different effect to what is commonly available and known to the market. It is usually more decorative, functional and special than the normal products available. As such, these installations will necessitate more consultation with the end user and professional team, enabling everyone involved to understand the demands and requirements of the project. Generally, facilities have different needs and the floors are then tailored to meet the client’s requirements.

However, industry experts believe there is more to this definition – one which relates to the specialised skills of installers. Most flooring types installed require the expertise of someone with some form of specific training or knowledge in order to complete the project successfully. Simply put, the skills of many installers shouldn’t be overlooked just because an installation may be seen more frequently and doesn’t necessarily fall under the category of a rare or a one-of-a-kind floor type or installation.

Flooring contractors and installers are required to be more technically aware than ever before. The market is full of incredible products that allow for unique installations. All of these require the knowledge of a professional contractor who can advise on things such as screed readiness and preparation, moisture levels, adhesive types, underlay options, special acclimatisation of material prior to installation, installation techniques, etc.

Consequently, each of these floor types are both unique and specialised and should only be undertaken by a professional organisation that can guide the client through the process and ensure that the correct methods are adhered to. It is also vital to ensure that the contractor has the support of the various factories that produce these materials in order to call on additional advice should it be needed or if a problem should arise.

There are several types of specialised flooring available and the appropriate options vary from sector-to-sector. For example, in the concrete sector, specialised seamless floors are becoming more popular due to reduced long-term maintenance costs and because of the benefits they offer the customer. Through-coloured, cement-based screeds, terrazzo screeds, polished concrete finishes and polyurethane finishes are more examples, while in the vinyl industry, specialised flooring comprises Electro Static Dissipative (ESD) flooring, safety and sports flooring, to name just a few examples that are specific to a flooring type.

To highlight the specialised properties of these examples, let’s refer to ESD flooring, which is used to dissipate static in areas where static accumulation is harmful or destructive to equipment or people. In turn, safety flooring with enhanced slip resistance is ideal for areas that have high slip risk potential, such as wet areas, ramps etc. while sports flooring is specifically designed for areas where multi-purpose sports or gym takes place.

They are also manufactured with a specific function in mind and wouldn’t necessarily be used as a general purpose floor. For example, safety flooring contains aggregates throughout the performance layer of the product to give it enhanced slip resistance and ESD flooring is specifically engineered and installed to dissipate static through the flooring to an earthed grounding point.

These floor types and installations are not without their own distinct challenges as there are several variables that need be taken into consideration to ensure a successful installation. Any of these variables could result in a failed installation if not properly contemplated and prepared for. The goal is therefore to minimise the risks by controlling all the variables that could have an adverse effect on the installation. One of these variables are the very specific installation methods which need to be adhered to in order to ensure the product delivers on its promise – the general challenge is that this is achieved by the correct flooring contractor.

Specialised flooring installations also require particular equipment for a successful installation, for example, seamless floors require laser screeds, fibre-blowers etc. ESD flooring requires a conductive adhesive and depending on the type of ESD flooring, a specialised grid also needs to be laid and earthed.

In addition, contractors need to carry out installation instructions and have the necessary knowledge to ensure that all the conditions are ideal before installation commences. For example, sports flooring can only be used in areas that are purely for sports and not ideal for multi-purpose spaces and, as with all vinyl installations, screed moisture and levelness are always a critical consideration prior to installation and a key factor in the overall success of the project.

There are several benefits when it comes to specialised flooring, such as reducing long-term costs for the end-user, which includes reduced maintenance on equipment and on the floor itself. From a logistics point of view, the floors are designed to increase productivity of the facility, however, they are also able to create a space that is exciting, hardwearing, functional and aesthetically pleasing.

When speaking with industry, and taking all of the above into consideration, it becomes very clear that specialised flooring or specialised installations are not only used by industry to refer to flooring that is unusual due to its technological attributes, or to installations that are unique and one-of-a-kind, but it also refers to any flooring that is manufactured to perform a specialised function, and as such requires installers who have thorough knowledge of the product and its unique installation requirements. As such, there are a range of flooring types available that are truly specialised in their very nature, and are able to perform to industry expectation.

Acknowledgement and thanks go to Nic de Carvalho from Concrete Laser Flooring; Wendy Mitrovich from Polyflor SA; Michael Pretorius from CT Industries and Brandon Park from Kevin Bates Flooring for the information contained in this article.