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Commercial Flooring News

Underlayments Are Advancing

Richard Harris, marketing manager at F Ball and Co, highlights recent advances in smoothing underlayment technology and underlines the importance of continued product development:

SUBFLOOR preparation products have advanced greatly over the years, with a host of products now available to flooring contractors. A key area for development has been smoothing underlayments, as the selection and application of these products must be right every time.

A general-purpose smoothing underlayment is no longer considered best for a high quality flooring installation. Each project has individual challenges, such as a lightweight floor on a luxury cruise liner or maintaining a hygienic hospital ward. Flooring product manufacturers continue to diversify ranges to meet these requirements.
F Ball works closely with the flooring industry to help produce high quality products, anticipate market trends and produce efficient subfloor preparation solutions.

Research and development has brought significant improvements and enhancements to smoothing underlayments. For instance, in today’s ‘time is money’ culture, speedy, self-levelling subfloor solutions are welcomed by flooring contractors. Such products allow them to complete challenging installations, often the same day, without time consuming difficulties they once had.

n Fast-track solutions: These are needed when time is of the essence. Laying a new floor can be one of the last parts of a refurbishment, imposing tight deadlines on contractors.

Fast-track smoothing underlayments that utilise the latest cement and polymer technology allow for textile and resilient floorcoverings to be installed over absorbent subfloors after just 45 minutes.

This has dramatically eased time constraints and pressures for contractors without compromising the quality finish, and is particularly useful in social housing and retail projects, where access to a building is a factor, as do store trading hours.

n Flexibility: Subfloors that are susceptible to flexing, such as plywood or steel, are subject to movement when walked on or subjected to other loads. This means smoothing underlayments experiencing repeated stresses and strains in everyday use.

In this situation, traditional non-flexible smoothing underlayments are liable to fracture and break up over time, leading to eventual floor failure.

The introduction of fibre-reinforced, flexible smoothing underlayments, designed for such subfloors, allows the subfloor’s natural flexing to be accommodated without causing the smoothing underlayment to break up. This ensures that the finished floor retains its ‘as laid’ appearance and performance throughout its working life.

n Lightweight smoothing underlayments: These have been developed to help overcome the challenges posed by, for example, multi-storey buildings and marine-based projects where weight can have a major impact. With half the cured density of a typical smoothing underlayment, lightweight products are the answer where structural loading restrictions apply.

n Sensitive settings: As refurbishments increase in healthcare facilities, education settings, laboratories and food preparation environments, product manufacturers need to produce materials that can withstand daily cleaning and prevent the build up of bacteria and mould. New protein and latex-free formulation smoothing underlayments are the recommended choice for sensitive settings, as they comply with strict hygiene codes.

n Continuing development: The quest for smoothing underlayments that make contractors’ lives easier continues. New developments will see additional subfloor-specific underlayments, such as for application over calcium sulphate screed (anhydrites), which have their own performance requirements.

Advancements in cement technology allow manufacturers to continue offering contractors efficient, time saving solutions for ‘problem floors’.

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