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CFA ‘Winter Warning’ campaign now underway

The CFA’s Winter Warning campaign is now fully underway and a range of different materials is available to CFA members to help them combat the seasonal issue of low temperatures on site. Worryingly, unacceptably low temperatures continue to be a significant problem, as construction programmes come under increasing cost and time pressures.

There are a number of issues which can be caused by working on a project which is inadequately heated. Firstly cold conditions are uncomfortable and potentially unsafe for the floor layers working in such conditions. Secondly floor coverings, adhesives and subfloor materials may not perform properly if temperatures fall below certain norms. This is detailed in British Standards and Section 2 of the latest CFA Guide to Contract Flooring, which can be downloaded from https://cfa.org.uk/Contract-Flooring-Association-Information-and-Downloads.

British Standard BS 8203:2017 states: ‘The laying area should be at a steady temperature between 18deg C and 27deg C for at least 48 hours prior to, during and for at least 24 hours after completion.’

CFA council member, David Brady, contracts director at RJM Flooring, initiated our Winter Warning campaign this year.

‘This is an issue that we have highlighted in the past,’ he says, ‘and we want to bring it back to the fore this winter, as the problem seems to be getting worse. I think this is because main contractors are coming under increasing time and cost pressure nowadays. Programmes are too tight, and they are having multiple trades on site towards the end of a build, and sometimes the heating isn’t even on.

‘Although sites will sometimes use gas blowers to get the temperature up while people are working, these are not on overnight and the site does not reach a constant temperature, leading to a high risk of failure, such as vinyl debonding and other issues. A major issue, and a risk for us, is increased costs incurred by the flooring contractor, since waiting times are extended, due to adhesives taking longer to cure. But the contractor will never be able to recoup the cost of such delays, so that would amount to a loss for the contractor.

‘There is also an implication for quality of the finish, since for instance vinyl is harder to cut when it’s cold, so the potential for inaccuracy is increased, and there is finally a health and safety issue. You can imagine the risks associated with a floor layer trying to cut vinyl with a sharp blade at sub-optimal temperature.

‘We are all trying to work harmoniously with other trades on site and to do a good job for the customer. However, a low temperature working environment can create animosity between floor layers and main contractors – and with a bit of planning it is totally unnecessary!’

The CFA’s Winter Warning Campaign aims to raise awareness of these issues in the wider construction industry, and the CFA is delighted that this is now being raised by Build UK as well, since that organisation also represents main contractors. This will also help raise awareness with other trades. Floor laying is certainly not unique in experiencing problems with this – decorators can also face similar problems.

The CFA is providing its members, as a benefit of membership, with the tools they need to raise their own awareness and also to assist communication with clients.

In November all CFA members received a special card with a built-in temperature indicator which indicates whether the ambient working conditions are correct. Additional cards are available on request from the CFA, by emailing info@cfa.org.uk or calling 0115 941 1126.

There is also a Winter Warning Toolkit, which is available as a download from the Members’ Area of the CFA website. This comprises: a choice of two different email footers, designed to raise awareness and warn site managers to prepare in advance; Technical Documents (Section 2 of the CFA Guide to Flooring); Winter Warning Flyer, available as a PDF and containing information on how you should plan ahead for heat and avoid flooring failures this winter. Any members who need a reminder of their login details for the Members’ Area should contact the CFA admin team on 0115 941 1126 or info@cfa.org.uk.

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