Subfloor preparation is vital to ensure long lasting performance

  • 26 Feb 2014

To maximise the longevity of a new floor, any old floorcoverings and excess residual adhesives or contaminants must be removed and an assessment of the condition and composition of the subfloor must be conducted

Thorough planning and preparation are advisable when a contractor begins work on a new flooring installation. To maximise the longevity of a new floor, any old floorcoverings and excess residual adhesives or contaminants must be removed and an assessment of the condition and composition of the subfloor (the surface the new floorcovering is adhered to), must be conducted.

Moisture measurement and management

The next stage in a flooring installation is to carry out a moisture measurement test. Moisture that is left untreated can result in the manifestation of damp –  a common cause for adhesives to debond, resilient floorcoverings to blister and other flooring failures that compromise the aesthetic appearance. Such failings can also promote the growth of mould and bacteria, which is particularly serious in educational settings where cleanliness and hygiene are of the utmost importance.

F. Ball recommends the use of a digital hygrometer as an accurate and efficient method for measuring moisture. The device accurately determines the relative humidity (RH) levels within the subfloor. Where RH levels measure above 75% (or 65% when working with wooden floorcoverings), a waterproof surface membrane should be installed. Epoxy resin waterproof surface membranes now exist that are effective up to RH levels of 98%, for the most extreme cases of moisture. New, water-based surface membranes offer an alternative to epoxy-resin systems, available in a ready-mixed formula that can be re-sealed between jobs, resulting in increased efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Creating a smooth surface

When a subfloor is suitably dry, an appropriate smoothing underlayment should be applied, to create an even, level surface that is free from cracks and imperfections. A contractor should always consider the compatibility of the product with the subfloor, as well as the expected loads a floor will receive. Products that ensure high-strength and longevity are always favourable in school environments, where corridors, canteens and classrooms are subject to high volumes of footfall. Moreover, low odour and protein-free smoothing underlayments make for suitable products to use in sensitive education environments, where health and hygiene is key.

Vinyl remains a popular choice of floorcovering in educational settings due to its easy-to-clean and maintain properties

Choosing the right adhesive

To complete a new flooring installation, the most appropriate adhesive should be selected to provide an optimum bond between the floorcovering and the subfloor. Vinyl remains a popular choice of floorcovering in educational settings, due to its easy-to-clean and maintain properties. Selecting an adhesive with a good initial tack and high bond strength ensures the vinyl stays in place, and will not lift at the corners when installed in heavily trafficked areas. This will also optimise the longevity of the new floorcovering, and help it to maintain its appearance and performance over many years.

Working within time constraints

Refurbishments within school and college settings are often dictated by tight deadlines during holidays, or may even need to be carried out during term time. Time saving, fast-track solutions help to bring classrooms back into use as quickly as possible. For example, water-based waterproof surface membranes can now provide an effective barrier against moisture in less than two hours, minimising the length of time that contractors need to spend on site. Smoothing underlayments that can be pumped over large areas and/or utilise fast-drying technology, now allow new floorcoverings to be installed as soon as 45 minutes after application of the underlayment.

This article originally appeared in the ABC+D magazine. Click here if you would like to find out more about ABC+D

Completing a floor installation in educational environments can be challenging

The most important considerations should be ensuring a school floor is hardwearing and clean. Subfloor preparation products that have been specifically designed for ease of use, heavy-duty strength and fast-drying times are suitable for such projects. Ultimately, specialised products can help contractors to avoid remedial costs, maintain strict safety standards and ensure a new flooring installation provides an A-grade performance.

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