Subfloors Must Be Primary Focus For Fitters
Neil Sanders, technical director at F Ball and Co discusses the common pitfalls that can lead to floor failures in school settings. He also advises on the fast-track solutions now available to bring classrooms back into use as quickly as possible:
FLOORING installations in educational facilities must be able to withstand high levels of traffic, and offer the best in safety and hygiene to staff and students. When specifying subfloor preparation products, therefore, is vital to ensuring the long-term durability of a new flooring project.
Before beginning a new flooring installation, contractors should make time to plan and prepare thoroughly. During the refurbishment of a school or college floor, make a thorough assessment of the subfloor. Take into account the needs of the expected floor users. In an educational setting, the floor must endure high volumes of daily traffic, whilst remaining secure and hygienic.
Safeguarding against moisture: Always conduct a moisture measurement test before installing new floorcoverings, in both old and new buildings. If moisture is not managed effectively, this can allow damp to manifest, which is one of the most common causes of floor failure.
Moisture can cause resilient floorcoverings to blister, adhesives to de-bond and flooring to move. This, in turn, can lead to the growth of mould and bacteria, a risk to the health of people using the floor, and also a possible trip hazard.
We recommend using a pre-calibrated digital hygrometer to measure relative humidity (RH) levels in the subfloor. If RH levels exceed 75%, or 65% for wooden floors, use a waterproof surface membrane to manage moisture levels.
Advances in flooring technology mean that single-coat epoxy waterproof surface membranes protect up to RH levels as high as 98%. Water-based moisture management systems for biologically sensitive settings such as schools, effective up to RH levels of 95%, are now available. Water-based moisture management systems help to deliver a barrier against residual construction moisture with a drying time of under two hours.
Preparing smooth subfloors: Once the floor is dry enough to proceed, select a smoothing underlayment to provide a surface suitable to receive the new floorcovering. To cope with high levels of foot traffic, use a high-strength smoothing underlayment to help ensure the long-term durability of a floorcovering.
School flooring refurbishments must often be completed within tight deadlines, such as during weekends or school holidays. High performance smoothing underlayments that can be applied directly over bitumen and adhesive residues offer significant timesaving benefits for contractors.
Fast-track smoothing underlayments are ‘walk-on’ hard in 30 minutes and ready to receive new floorcoverings from 45 minutes.
Choosing the right adhesive: To complete the new flooring installation, choose an adhesive that meets the needs of both the school or college and new floorcovering. Vinyl is best adhered by an adhesive with good initial tack and high bond strength. Adhesives with high bond strength ensure that vinyl floorcoverings do not slip and create trip hazards.
Carpet tiles, which can be removed and replaced when worn or damaged, are also commonly used in schools and colleges. Tackifier adhesives offer the best solution for carpet tiles, giving a tacky film that prevents tiles from moving under normal traffic but allows sections of carpets to be lifted and replaced easily.
Selecting subfloor preparation products designed for fast application, heavy duty strength and speedy drying times will enable flooring contractors to deliver long-lasting, high quality floors in schools and colleges.
This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at www.contractflooringjournal.co.uk.