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British Standards and guidance documents

MY article last month was on the theme of ‘expectation’. My final paragraph contained these closing thoughts:

I’m reminded of my presidency themes – ‘training’ and ‘excellence’. In a very simplistic way, we can all ‘train ourselves’ to work within a mindset of ‘doing it right first time’. If we are unable due to lack of skill or knowledge, then we can seek appropriate training. If you ask people what is ‘excellence?’, you will probably get a similar answer: ‘excellence is about doing your best’. Having this mindset will help us to not only match but excel in meeting our customer’s expectations.

As a trade, doing our best includes awareness of supporting legislation, guidance documents and recommendations for preparing subfloors and fitting flooring. These guidance notes can take the shape of British Standards, trade association documentation (such as the CFA Guide to Contract Flooring), regulatory bodies statements (HSE) and manufacturer/supplier recommendations.

With so many new subfloor options, acoustic underlays and flooring products entering the market in recent years, it is vital that the correct mode of installation is followed. This will ensure the specified flooring will meet customer expectations and provide the level of performance intended over its lifetime.

British Standard codes of practice are used widely in the construction industry to support sound good practice. There are two specific flooring standards for the decorative flooring part of the industry: BS 8203:2017 Installation of Resilient Floor Coverings – Code of Practice’ and BS5325:2001 Installation of Textile Floor Coverings – Code of Practice.

They both provide guidance and recommendations to aid all aspects of installation from project planning to preparation of the subfloor and application of the floorcovering to final handover.

BS 8203 has been available since 1987 and, as with all British standards, has been subject to periodic reviews and/or amendments (www.bsigroup.com/en-GB/ ). In 2015 BSI committee members responsible for the standard, including CFA sponsored technical flooring professionals from across the flooring industry, undertook a full review of this standard to reflect the most up to date techniques and information available.

The result of this work was the publication of BS8203:2017, which is the first full revision of this standard since 2001.

BS5325 is currently undergoing a full review which is likely to result in a full revision to ensure this standard is fully compliant with all current requirements for installation of textile flooring. As part of this BSI Committee, I’m trying to ensure the standard sensibly reflects and replicates similar sections from BS8203 such as moisture measurement, surface regularity and plywood grades.

As CFA president, I’m pleased to say subjects discussed within the CFA Manufacturers Committee which become ‘CFA Guidance Documents’ are usually adopted into British Standards during revisions. The ongoing voluntary support of these committees by technical managers from the flooring industry shouldn’t go unnoticed.

While manufacturers are governed by strict product manufacturing and performance standards, the reciprocal installation standards have been produced to ensure correctness of fitment to support and protect flooring contractors in a constantly challenging commercial environment.

An example of this is found with the inclusion of surface regularity in BS8203:
Section 6.2.3 in the standard has a useful commentary:

‘Surface irregularities can affect the overall visual appearance and wear life of the finished floor, resulting in premature wear, localized soiling problems, loss of bond with the installation of tile products, particularly large format tiles and geometric designs, and potential difficulties with the installation of sheet floor coverings where site-formed cove skirting details are used’
*Published by BSI Standards Limited 2017

The recommendations for surface regularity and method of measurement are contained within BS8204-1:2003 & A1:2009.

So, what can British Standards provide?
• Consistent approach to installation
• Promotes good practice onsite
• Helps avoidance of unnecessary failures
• Potential for reduction in disputes
• Helps with unrealistic customer expectations

Every flooring manufacturer in the UK has a set of installation guidelines for their product ranges and referenced within these instructions is the relevant British Standard(s). Manufacturers reference these standards to provide a consistent approach to installation and to ensure all relevant parties are aware of the good practice requirements to avoid unnecessary failures or disputes arising.

Installing the products outside the requirements of British Standards and manufacturers recommendations could leave flooring contractors at best vulnerable and at worst responsible for any failure of the installation in the future. This could be expensive.

Greater awareness and acceptance of these standards is therefore needed among main contractors, architects, flooring contractors, sole traders and anyone else involved in installing a resilient floor to ensure correct and most recent installation guidance is followed.

The sad fact is that my experience suggests that quite a few flooring contractors haven’t purchased British Standards relevant to their core business. At the recent Fita Open Day in their centre in Loughborough, a flooring contractor asked what a section of BS8203 stated – they needed confirmation to counter a request for ‘non-standard practise’ from the main contractor on a project. In this example, investing in the relevant British Standard proved that it would directly aid their business and save on possible disputes later.

And they’re not expensive. Both BS8203:2017 and BS5325:2001 are available via the BSI website as downloadable PDFs for only £206.00 each.

The weblink for BS8203:2017 is:
www.shop.bsigroup.com/ProductDetail/?pid=000000000030348806
For BS5325:2001 is: www.shop.bsigroup.com/ProductDetail/?pid=000000000030058547

In addition, the CFA can facilitate securing copies of British Standards at reduced rates for CFA members on request (contact the CFA direct for details www.cfa.org.uk).
Compliance with British Standards will support flooring contractors in:

• Understanding and explaining the works required to all parties
• Building a realistic programme of works
• Ensuring the correct conditions for works are in place
• Carrying out successful and sustainable installations every time.

All flooring installers, regardless of size or market focus, should refer to the relevant British Standard for the product or products being installed – it protects the liability of the installer and all parties involved in the construction works as well as building better relationships through professional management of projects. It also provides the ability to demonstrate excellence in the provision of installation and can be used to help train staff.

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