Top seven industrial flooring considerations

by Ofentse Sefolo
Top seven industrial flooring considerations

With all the elements to be chosen and specified ahead of each construction project, there is little time for architects, designers and engineers to become an authority on all the types of industrial flooring available in South Africa.

Challenges faced when choosing a floor include requiring a quick installation with minimal disruption, fast cure time, certified to food conformity, anti-skid properties and design.

Those involved in site planning should evaluate the following seven key elements of a floor’s use to select the right type of industrial resin flooring:

1. Cost and expectation – When choosing an industrial flooring system, the purpose is a more reliable factor than the cost in the long term, but inevitably, budget will influence the decision. The costs of cleaning and maintenance over time, as well as repairing any damage or even replacing the floor, should be factored in.

2. Use of the floor – Industrial floors differ in performance level 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 or education.

3. Type of traffic – The volume of traffic passing over an industrial floor will be a key factor in choosing an appropriate resin variety. This will depend on whether pedestrians, vehicles or equipment with wheels are to be used on the floor. The frequency of the traffic and the factors the floor will have to tolerate should be considered.

4. Colour – This is more than just an aesthetic consideration. Elements such as maintenance, cleaning, comfort of the workspace and access to natural light all influence the decisions about colour.

5. Substrate – With a new concrete substrate, compressive strength, required finishing and joint 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 account.

6. Environmental conditions – Environmental conditions such as temperature, moisture and exposure can affect industrial resin floors differently. Important considerations include the highest and lowest temperatures that the floor will have to endure and if the coating or screed will be subjected to excessive moisture exposure.

7. 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.

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.

Photo: a.b.e. Construction Chemicals


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.

Other costs associated with removing a floor include penalties, disposal certificates, waste removal, the recycling of the materials and preparing the surface from scratch.

A thin film flooring system, for example, is less costly to remove than a heavy-duty industrial floor, but all these costs can be avoided with the correct specification and application.

1. Preparation and priming is vital
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.

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 for correct preparation and application conditions combined with licenced applicators.

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 is 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 when selecting cleaning detergents.

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.

2. 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 customers get 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.

3. Layer costs vs long-term costs
Often, 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.

4. 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 to. Too often, architects will specify a floor based only on its aesthetic appeal without considering its practical use. A balance must be achieved 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.

5. Popular colours and demarcation techniques
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.

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.

When deciding which floor is right for your facility, it is important to discuss all the relevant factors with both a supplier and applicator that have experience creating floors in similar situations.
It is also advisable to visit other facilities to see how different types of floors have stood up to comparable conditions. If possible, install a sample within your facility and put it through its paces before committing to a complete coating.

Read more about the International flooring colour trends for 2021 by Kim Williams.

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