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Commercial Flooring News

Shiver Me Timbers

Peter Daulby on working in brass monkey weather

SO it’s September or will be in a couple of days (depending on when you are reading this). And whether we’re set for an Indian summer or an autumn with a bite, winter will be here before we know it.
And winter means the jobs you’re planning for now are likely to be carried out in less than perfect site conditions.
Site conditions have a massive effect on the installation of contemporary flooring. Get the right temperature and lighting, plus enough time and space, and you can usually expect success. At the other end of the scale, a building site in winter with no heat, temporary light and not enough space to work in, and there’s a lot that could go wrong.
So, although we’re all hoping for a milder winter than recent years, here’s a reminder of some of the pitfalls that might lie ahead. First and foremost –temperature. Everything from smoothing compounds to adhesives, surface damp proof membranes, and of course, the flooring materials itself is affected by temperature.
In those rare, hot summers you might see curing times reduced due to warm weather, but for most of us, most of the time, it’s the cold that’s the issue. Every flooring product comes with installation recommendations, and these normally include temperature. Whilst minimum temperatures vary, 18degC is the CFA guidance.
Below these temperatures, PVC and linoleum become less flexible and prone to cracking or ripping during installation. Yet, winter comes round every year, and floors still need to be laid, so what’s the solution?
In an ideal world, the heating was commissioned well before you’re on site, and simply switched on to avoid problems. However, this is the real world. So as you leave site you’ll pass the heating engineers arriving!
Portable heat sources might be a solution. Red rads and other similar infra-red heaters or electric hot air blowers could do the trick, but you’ll need to steer clear of some other options. Bottled gas fired blowers are efficient at quickly raising room temperature, but they also significantly increase the amount of moisture in the air.
Smoothing compounds, adhesives and surface dpms will see their drying times affected by this, and you could be left with ‘blooming’ on epoxy or polyurethane flooring systems caused by moisture hitting the system before it’s had time to fully cure.
If you feel that site conditions, particularly relating to temperature are unsuitable for the successful flooring installation, and requests to the main contractor for better conditions have fallen on deaf ears, contact the relevant manufacturer and ask for back up.
You may be pleasantly surprised. It’s not just the materials that are affected by the cold. All of us can think of many jobs made a lot less pleasurable by working in cramped and cold conditions.
It seems odd in a way that whilst we see major innovations and breakthroughs in flooring technology and installation methods, the comfort and working conditions of floorlayers themselves are not high on the list for improvements.
Elsewhere in Western Europe it’s a different story, but in the UK, despite attempts by the CFA and flooring manufacturers, site conditions for flooring installers have a long way to go.
Altro’s technical team are always on hand for advice. Also make sure you’re at the top of your game with our contractor training.

Peter Daulby is technical services manager at Altro
T: 01462 489405

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