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Industrial/ Commercial – Spot The Difference

Martin Cummins on resin flooring

HAVING the privilege of sitting on the FeRFA technical committee gives me the opportunity to look at flooring from a slightly different perspective when considering installations of vinyls, carpet, timber etc.
One of the main focuses of the committee is, as with the CFA, for pooling of knowledge and information to offer guidance to ensure that suitable flooring systems are selected depending on the intended end use and also to guide as to how installations should be carried out.
Flooring in the case of FeRFA is resin flooring which makes up a large part of what can be loosely termed ‘industrial flooring’.
To ensure that resins can be applied correctly and to a suitable floor there is still a need for preparation of the subfloors, applications of primers, DPMs and levelling screeds and for an understanding of the client’s needs.
FeRFA run a series of apprenticeships which have been very successful enabling new starters in the industry to get it right from the start. I am not a new starter but on the technical support side I too, want to get it right.
So, what differs from what I will call commercial flooring installations (vinyl, carpet, timber etc). Well quite a lot to be honest.
1. The resin floor will be the functioning floor and it will need a strong sound base. It may be taking loadings of several tons including fork lift trucks and high racking.
2. The sites for industrial floors are often very large in scale and old buildings and sometimes require quite precise degrees of surface regularity.
3. Speed of installation can be much more critical as it may be a case of holding up a manufacturing facility or research site in its entirety as the applications need to be carried out in controlled environments.
So what considerations need to be made if looking to products and specifications for industrial flooring.
The first thing that comes to mind is that the subfloor strength itself is much more important. Even if the concrete or screed does not need any smoothing or levelling it still needs to be assessed for compressive and tensile strength.
The minimum strength would typically be stated as 25N/mm2 compressive strength and 1.5N/mm2 tensile strength. Depending on the flooring system higher strengths may be needed. There may be a requirement to carry out in- situ tests to determine this.
Similarly, if the floor needs to be smoothed or levelled it is important that the chosen product offers the same strength characteristics. Always check the early strength development figures. It is no good putting a system down that reaches 30N/mm2 after 28 days but only reaches 10 after 24 hours.
It needs to strengthen up quickly for two reasons; to enable resins to be applied and to enable other trades to use the areas including forklifts where appropriate.
Secondly, if the floor is to receive a resin system does it also need a surface DPM? Always check with the resin suppliers as it is likely that in older buildings there is no structural DPM beneath the existing concrete or screed.
When there is a need to smooth or level the existing floor it is advisable to apply an epoxy surface DPM or epoxy primer system to give some resistance against subground moisture.
Often temperatures in these projects are not great, so follow manufacturers guidelines particularly with regard to curing rates and controlling conditions during curing. Typically a minimum 5degC is required at all times as well as low humidity.
Often manufacturers will state temperatures of, for example 3degC above dew point. which basically is saying that there should also not be high humidity in the building as this will affect adhesion and curing.
Preparing the floor is key on industrial projects. The building may well have been used for other purposes and may have oils, inks and other materials which may hinder bonding. They may also have previously been painted or could have been power floated. In both cases further mechanical preparation is needed to remove paint or to texture the surface. Always seek advice form subfloor preparation specialists to guide you through the available machinery and equipment to give the best job for the given substrate.
Finally, these projects lend themselves to pumped flooring applications when levelling and smoothing. Most manufacturers offer high strength water mix products that can be pumped.
Check that the drying and curing times fit in with your needs. Also, if a resin floor is being applied find out what preparation is require to enable the resin to key.
Never over-water these products as this will greatly affect strength and surface integrity. Also, as a blemish free surface is often required it is essential to carry out correct priming to avoid pinholing. An epoxy primer will do this but sometimes this is overkill and an acrylic system may suffice. Always put in a two coat systems when a blemish free floor is needed.
There are also occasions where the client is not using a resin surface but still requires a smooth strong trafficable finish. Some cement systems now can be used for this purpose.
Always check that they have been assessed for abrasion resistance as it is the slow wearing away of the cement surface that causes an industrial floor to deteriorate.
This is just a short insight into industrial flooring needs. FeRFA offers excellent guidance notes as do most manufacturers. Look to specialist pump applicators to apply levelling and smoothing systems if this is something you are not too familiar with.
Speak to people before the project. An industrial floor going wrong is a major issue, so get it right first time.
Martin Cummins is Ultra Floor technical sales manager n T: 01827 871871
www.ultra-floor.co.uk

This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.