Here Nick explores the importance of efficient floor preparation and its role in the growing UK construction industry.
THE construction sector is vital to the UK economy — it contributes seven per cent of GDP and employs 10% of the UK workforce. The industry covers a range of disciplines, including mining, quarrying, and constructing infrastructure. While these are important, some types of construction are viewed as less important than others.
Many contractors are unaware of the importance of proper surface preparation. During a project, some contractors only sweep the surface or rush preparation before laying a new coating — as that is all the customers will see. However, a good floor is all about the preparation. Efficient surface preparation can improve the finish of the final floor and prevent issues that could damage the floor, extending its expected lifespan.
So, how can we increase awareness of the importance of floor preparation?
When speaking to contractors about floor preparation, we often find that they are not fully aware of when to carry out preparation work. Some think it only applies to specific flooring applications, such as kitchens and garages. In reality, it refers to any form of surface, including any interior floor in residential, commercial, and industrial applications, such as airports and warehouses, as well as outdoor applications, such as roads, bridges, sports courts, and ship decks.
When working on a building, whether it’s a new build or a renovation, contractors must properly clean and prepare the substrate, which is typically concrete. This requires removal of any existing flooring and adhesive, cleaning and levelling the concrete and preparing the floor for a new coating or covering.
By working with surface preparation experts, contractors and building managers can better understand the importance of preparing floors effectively.
The daily grind
As well as understanding the importance of floor preparation in the first place, contractors should also consider how to do it effectively. Contractors should select equipment that best suits the application and achieves the desired finish. For example, many commercial and industrial buildings, such as warehouses, now request to keep original concrete floors instead of adding coatings. As a result, contractors need a machine that levels the concrete and polishes the surface without leaving noticeable scratches and marks.
In the UK, grinders seem to be the default machine, as a result they are readily accessible in the UK market. Grinders are easy machines to use and are required in most applications, for finishing, removing residue or levelling, so operators often find that they get a good return on investment from this equipment.
Power requirements is also an important consideration when selecting equipment – arriving at a job site and discovering you have no way to power your machinery leads to costly project delays. The size of the project will often determine the size of the machine and its power consumption, which can come from power onsite or a temporary solution such as a generator.
While not all the UK construction industry is fully aware of the benefits of effective floor preparation, we have seen progress. In the last few years there has been a notable increase in understanding the importance of surface preparation and a better appreciation of delivering on customer requirements in flooring. The market grew to match this and equipment manufacturers began expanding product lines, developing larger machines to suit more applications.
While it is a popular machine that can be used in many applications, experienced contractors now appreciate that grinders are not the only machines that can deliver high quality surfaces.
Equipment manufacturers, such as National Flooring Equipment, have developed a range of machines and tooling, from floor strippers and shot blasters to handheld polishing tools, to enable contractors to complete surface preparation jobs quickly and efficiently.
According to the Federation of Master Builders, small and medium sized building companies make up 99 per cent of firms in UK construction. Smaller construction firms will not want to invest in purchasing all the equipment they need for efficient surface preparation. As a result, the equipment rental market plays an integral role in construction, enabling contractors to gain access to the equipment they need when they need it. Renting equipment also removes a lot of the challenges related to long term ownership, such as maintenance requirements and logistics such as transportation — the rental company could deliver the machine to site.
National Flooring Equipment works closely with contractors to ensure that they have the access to technology, tooling, and training to help them deliver high quality surface preparation in every project. It also works closely with partners and invests heavily in research and development to manufacture machinery that offers performance while keeping the comfort of the user in mind. For example, the recently launched Viking ride-in scraper has an enclosed cab to reduce exposure to dust and noise.
While construction is a key part of the economy, it also has a lasting impact on society. The quality of a building will affect the wellbeing of individuals and the community surrounding the infrastructure. While a floor might be seen as less important, and therefore overlooked during a project, if it is not done correctly it will be the first area to show wear and tear caused by withstanding footfall and negatively impact a person’s experience. Taking the time to choose the right equipment for the application and prepare a surface before laying a new covering is therefore vital to maintaining an industry that delivers quality.
If you’re looking for the right equipment and advice on surface preparation for your next project, contact National Flooring Equipment.
Nick White is sales director EMEA at National Flooring Equipment