Choosing the correct flooring system for a specific application is of utmost importance. If industrial floors go wrong because of incorrect specification or installation, the cost could escalate to quadruple that of the original cost, depending on the original industrial floor that was installed. A thin film flooring system, for example, will be less costly to remove than a heavy-duty industrial floor, but all of these costs can be avoided with the correct specification and application.
Other costs associated with removing a floor, include penalties, disposal certificates, waste removal, the recycling of the materials and preparing the surface from scratch. It is therefore always better to do it right the first time.
11 TOP TIPS FOR INDUSTRIAL FLOORING SPECIFICATION
The following points needs to be considered when designing an industrial floor:
1. Use of the floor – Industrial floors differ in performance levels according to their use. The type of floor you choose will depend on your client’s industry, such as food & beverage, automotive, pharmaceutical, industrial facilities, car park decks, medical, commercial, education etc.
2. Exposure and conditions – Some of the conditions that the floor can be exposed to include abrasion, mechanical, chemicals, thermal shock, operating temperatures, cleaning regime, weather and UV light.
3. Type of traffic – This will depend on whether pedestrians, vehicles or equipment with wheels are used on the floor. The frequency of the traffic and the factors the floor will have to tolerate should be considered.
4. Substrate – With a new concrete substrate, compressive strength, required finishing and joints drainage need to be considered. If you are working with an existing concrete substrate, the structural integrity, surface profile, existing finishes, drainage, contamination and the environment where the floor is situated should be taken into consideration.
5. Appearance and finish – Colour, textured, gloss reflectance, slip resistance, cleanability, shock absorption, joints.
6. Cost and expectation – Life expectation, budget, ease and cost of maintenance, life cycle cost.
7. Environmental consideration – Clean room certified, LEED, VOCs.
8. Safety – Slip resistance, fire protection, odour, conductivity, hygiene etc.
9. Temperature – The highest and lowest temperatures that the floor will have to endure.
10. Moisture – Will the coating or screed be subject to excessive moisture from steam cleaning or will the client’s cleaning regimen include only a light mop once a month?
11. Detailing of joints – Some of the joint-related considerations include the type (expansion, induced, isolation), movement (amount, cyclic), spacing (design around sealant), sealant (performance, type, dimensions, traffic) and backing rod.
All of these factors should be carefully considered to specify a flooring system that will be functional, provide value and be suitable for the client’s needs. Use reputable and established flooring suppliers as they can give you advice on a variety of integrated solutions for your specific application.
Mark Griesel from Sika comments: “It is advisable to contact the material supplier to find a recommended and experienced flooring applicator to inspect the floor and make sure the correct system is specified. A recommended flooring contractor may also ensure the client receives guarantees from the flooring supplier and applicator. Ask the supplier about the recommended cleaning and ensure the client understands the importance of sticking to it. Not only will correct cleaning give the client an aesthetically pleasing floor, it can also lead to a long-term reduction in maintenance costs.”
TOP TIPS FOR INDUSTRIAL FLOORING APPLICATIONS
Preparation and priming is key
“Too many contractors take short cuts with preparation and do not use the correct floor preparation equipment. With industrial flooring applications, 80% of your time should be spent preparing the floor correctly and 20% on the actual application,” says Ian Harrison from Technical Finishes.
First and foremost before grinding or mechanically preparing the floor is to wash it correctly. It is important to wash the floor with the correct detergent. To do this, you need to understand what type of dirt or contamination needs to be removed so that the right cleaning chemical can be used. A degreaser, for example, will remove grease but not acid, whereas an alkali detergent removes fat. Many contractors don’t understand the chemistry, which is why they should consult suppliers regarding cleaning detergents.
Peter Jones from ABE agrees, “Preparation should consume most of your focus. Don’t even start a flooring application without the correct preparation. When I give training, I ask trainees to unpack their flooring kits in the order they are going to mix them – base, pigment, aggregate and then activator. This has proven to be a valuable tip because it ensures that applicators check that the correct product is being used for their specific application and that they have the right grinders, mixers, trowels, and spite rollers for their project.”
Flooring suppliers should explain the full process of surface preparation and priming. Polyurethane screeds are notoriously the most difficult resin system to apply because of their need of correct preparation and application condition combined with licenced applicators.
When polyurethane floors start to cure various reactions take place including shrinkage causing potential curling and debonding if the surface has not been correctly prepared. To prevent this, the surface should be scabbled or shot-blasted as this creates a rough, coarse surface that will accept the polyurethane more easily. Anchor grooves then need to be cut around the perimeter of every slab around every expansion joint. Once the anchor grooves have been installed, the floor should be mopped with a microfibre mop.
One of the biggest potential problems with an industrial flooring application is the fine dust that is left on the substrate. Even if you have vacuum-cleaned the floor, you will often find a latent powder on the surface. A microfibre mop goes a long way in removing this dust.
Once the floor is clean, a good profile needs to be achieved. Some manufacturers only recommend mechanical surface preparation such as shot blasting, diamond floor grinding or scarifying. In some instances, two of these techniques will be used in conjunction.
Layer costs vs long-term costs
Many times, it is better to allow for a scratch coat during the specification. The cost of a 1mm layer of thickness versus a 2mm layer is minimal compared to the increased life expectancy of a 2mm floor compared to a 1mm floor. The approximate 20% increase in material cost will significantly reduce maintenance and long-term replacement costs.
The substrate needs to have less than 5% moisture which should be tested with a moisture meter before a new screed is applied. The minimum tensile adhesion of the surface needs to be 1.5 – 2mm and the minimum strength should be 25 MPA.
Matching performance and cost
If you require a bulletproof floor, you have to be prepared to pay the cost. In the construction industry, 80% of failures are flooring related because of incorrect specification or poor application, so it’s important that the client has a solid understanding of the life expectancy of the floor. It is also important to ensure that the customer gets what they paid for by checking the film thickness of the proposed systems.
“There is a solution for every budget, however, this doesn’t mean that it is the best choice for the project. There is often a need to balance the performance requirements and the budget to ensure that the proposed solution will deliver the required performance and life expectancy of the flooring system. This is fundamentally determined by the thickness at which the system is installed, and hinges on the type of anticipated traffic the surface will be exposed to,” says Dylan Weweje, TAL Coastal Sales Manager – CP.
Practicality vs aesthetics
The most important tip for anyone specifying a product is to understand the real needs and demands of the client and the abuse that the floor will be subjected too. Too often, architects will specify a floor based only on its aesthetic appeal without considering its practical use. A balance must be met to have a successful floor and happy client. Always understand the end use of the floor. Don’t specify based on looks or to meet a specific cost – specify a system based on an understanding of all the demands on the floor so that the client receives a long term, sustainable solution.
POPULAR COLOURS AND DEMARCATION TECHNIQUES
The flooring market changes all the time, with commercial and industrial clients specifying floors with decorative finishes. Special floor finishes can be achieved with coloured quartz sand, coloured flakes, fillers and other pigmentation sources.
In the built commercial environment, the tendency is to use solid colours, followed by the relevant demarcation work as required throughout. There are also decorative options available that are well suited for commercial use. These include heavy duty colour flake and coloured aggregate systems.
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