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Research On Wood Flooring & UFH Stands To Benefit The Whole Industry

Peter Kaczmar, a wood flooring specialist at TRADA, explains potential benefits of new research at TRADA on the responses of wood flooring to underfloor heating (UFH): 

– The problem: Manufacturers of wood floorcoverings are increasingly pushing the boundaries of accepted practice when approaching aspects of flooring design and installation through innovation and technical development.

Floor systems intended for UFH are increasingly being installed in widths traditionally considered as oversized for such installations.

The latest version of BS 8201: 2011, accepted as the definitive guide for the installation of wood flooring, no longer quotes a maximum recommended width threshold for UFH installations due to these commercial pressures.

Similarly flooring manufacturers increasingly use variants of traditional engineered floor designs. These include composites such as multilayered floor systems which comprise a medium-movement wearlayer such as oak or jatoba bonded to a plywood base with much less movement.

TRADA Technology Ltd (TTL) has found, through site observations, that increasingly such systems are prone to splitting of the surfacelayer on account of this mismatch in movement characteristics when exposed to conditions which promote drying.

Likewise, little is known of the responses to underfloor heat sources of alternative flooring materials such as bamboo, or modified woods like ‘Thermowood’ and ‘Accoya’ which are beginning to infiltrate the flooring market.

Furthermore, the increasing popularity of UFH systems is associated with a corresponding rise in the incidence of in-service shrinkage, cracking and distortion failures caused either through subjecting the floor to inappropriate UFH initialisation protocols or to inadequate acclimatisation.
n The solution: In view of these trends TTL recognises the need to develop an experimental test protocol to provide the means of verifying the conclusions drawn from observational data obtained from site and also to test the robustness of new flooring designs and composites as they emerge onto the marketplace.

TTL recently secured funding from TRADA, the research association, to build a test facility to subject wood floorcoverings to different regimes of UFH with sufficient flexibility to allow comparative testing of the responses of different types of flooring to different regimes of UFH. In this respect the rig should provide a facility with sufficiently versatility to:

1. enable comparative testing of flooring with different constructions (eg multilayered vs engineered vs solid etc) used with UFH.

2. enable testing of boards of different widths over UFH.

3. enable testing of the propensity of different species (including bamboo and modified wood substrates) to exhibit splitting when used over UFH.

4. enable testing of the dynamic behaviour of wood floorcoverings when subjected to recommended UFH initialisation protocols.

5. enable comparative testing between different commercial products.

6. enable new research to be conducted on the adequacy of UFH initialisation procedures and schedules.

n The benefits: The construction of a floor rig with an integrated and controlled UFH system will enable new floorcovering designs to be tested in accordance with a standardised test procedure to assess their respective tolerance to differing regimes of UFH.

In particular the rig will enable appropriate initialisation protocols to be identified for different makes of floor product and enable controlled testing under a range of specific operating conditions to identify realistic operational parameter ranges. Such an experimental set-up may also form the basis of a quality certification scheme for manufacturers of flooring intended for UFH installations which will identify potential problems in such products before they get to market.

The benefits will include:
– Both specifiers and product manufacturers will be better able to meet client needs through improving wood flooring performance over UFH systems in service.

– The research will lead to improving consumer confidence resulting from empirical verification and confirmation of manufacturers claims.

– The information will be used to provide targeted guidance for specifiers, flooring suppliers and installers and domestic users alike.

– The construction of a specially designed floor rig will enable TTL to carry out experimental-based research on new developments in floorcoverings intended for UFH installations as they appear on the marketplace.
– By sharing the cost burden with commercial manufacturers the cost-benefits of the research to any individual partner will be maximised.

– The funding will allow the construction of a permanent test facility to enable research-based consultancy work to be conducted at TTL in an important developmental area of flooring.

– The experimental work will form much of the preliminary work necessary in the development of a possible Q-Mark scheme. CFJ
www.trada.co.uk
T: 01494 569601

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