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Commercial Flooring News

Floors For The Cold

NOT a year seems to go by without some type of extreme weather. We’re either baking or freezing in Easter, while summer can feel colder than October. But, whatever the weather, deadlines must be met, which for us in the world of flooring means finishing on time to avoid penalties.

There are times when less than ideal conditions force us to make tough choices. Cold, particularly if accompanied by damp, site conditions causes problems.

Obviously PVC and linoleum flooring becomes less flexible and far more likely to crack or tear during installation.

Getting flooring material to confirm to a 38mm or 20mm cove radius becomes virtually impossible without using a localised heating source, and that’s not always easy to find if electricity supply is intermittent or overloaded.
But low temperatures also adversely affect performance and curing characteristics of adhesives and smoothing compounds, particularly if the air is damp.

Moisture-based products which rely at least in part on evaporation can’t cure if the air above the adhesive is already damp.

This is particularly relevant if pressure-sensitive adhesives are used on dense subfloors such as asphalt or power floated concrete, where installing the flooring into the adhesive before the product has reached its receptive state will cause failure every time.

Smoothing compounds contain a large amount of moisture, which has to go somewhere. A damp subfloor where a surface dpm has been used will normally have 3mm or so of a good quality smoothing compound applied to complete the preparation.

Absorption of moisture from the smoothing compound in this situation is impossible due to the presence of the dpm, so all the moisture must evaporate before the material will dry.

In cold and damp site conditions, the smoothing compound can’t cure effectively and has a knock on effect preventing the installation of the flooring until the screed is fully cured.

So although it may make you unpopular with the site agent or other trades, if the building’s heating is not yet commissioned, always insist on some form of portable heating where at all possible, such as red rads or other forms of electric or hot air equipment. However, exclude gas blow heaters which add 1kg of moisture to the air for every 1kg of gas burned, which can give you another set of problems.

No manufacturer wants an installation of their products to fail, and all publish the minimum temperature at which the products should be installed, usually around 14-15 degrees C. The CFA recommends 18degC.

If you feel site conditions, particularly relating to temperature are unsuitable for a successful flooring installation, and your requests to the main contractor for better conditions are ignored, contact the relevant manufacturer and ask for back up. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

David Gatfield is regional technical services manager, Altro
T: 01462 489405

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