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Overcoming challenges in educational facilities

David Powell investigates the demands placed on flooring contractors with respect to educational facilities, particularly refurbishments.

EDUCATIONAL facilities, in particular for the refurbishment of different areas in live schools and colleges, provide many challenges for the flooring contractor. These facilities require the minimal possible disruption and quite frequently, the work needs to be completed quickly.

The contractors and installers among you will be more than aware of what’s coming when the phrase ‘the school holidays are approaching’ is muttered for the first time. Whether it’s one week, two weeks or the full six weeks’ holiday, the schools need you there, but they want you in and out in the shortest possible time.

We’re very fortunate these days that, with the development of damp-proof membranes (DPMs), primers, smoothing compounds and adhesives that provide high performance in conjunction with rapid drying and curing characteristics, areas can be transformed in a very short timeframe.
Alongside this, we also have a myriad of floor coverings available that can be installed with very little difficulty, which also provide a vast array of design possibilities. Numerous sizes and shapes of carpet tiles and looselay LVTs can be utilised to create wonderful designs, while retaining the benefits of removable, modular floorcoverings.

To realise just how far we’ve come over the years, it’s now not only possible, but also actually commonplace to be able to provide a ‘one day installation’ in many instances. Removing an existing floor, then applying a moisture control system, priming the surface, putting down a smoothing compound, then installing a brand new floor is perfectly possible.

Renovating a floor in between one and two days always comes with several hurdles to overcome. The age of the building, the floor level the room is on and the type of flooring that’s both present and required are all major considerations.

Once a floorcovering has been removed, we have the first hurdle. Does it need a DPM? New projects all come with below base DPMs but this isn’t always the case with older buildings.

Dependent on what floorcovering you need to install, there may be the necessity to provide protection from moisture. Epoxy DPMs that would normally take between 12-18 hours to cure now come with accelerators that, when added at the time of mixing, can cut that time down to between two-to-four hours, significantly reducing any waiting time.

Once this DPM has cured, we’re ready for an application of smoothing compound. Primers are usually applied, and these will take less than an hour in most cases to reach the point at which we can apply the smoothing compound.

Fast-drying smoothing compounds are the one product that have always impressed me the most. Products are commonplace in the market that, once applied, will be able to receive foot traffic after 30 minutes, receive looselay products after 45 minutes and can receive adhesive applications in as little as two hours.

For me, this is remarkable and a real testament to all the hard work that goes on when developing these products. Being able to completely prepare a floor and make it ready to install floorcoverings in less than a day is a fantastic attribute to provide education facilities, and it greatly helps them renovate sections of the school in very short timeframes.

So here we are. We’ve removed the floor, we’ve protected it against moisture, we’ve applied our smoothing compound and now we’re ready to install the flooring.

Carpet tiles and looselay LVT products are always a popular choice. Both these products require only a tackifier adhesive to facilitate their installation. Tackifiers are also a shrewd option when it comes to fast track installations. Their goal isn’t to bond the floor permanently, but more to provide a good level of grip to stop them moving around.

Carpet tiles and looselay LVTs are manufactured to be very dimensionally stable and with this comes the benefit that they can be quickly and easily installed but, if needed, removed and exchanged. In the education environment, the ability to change damaged or stained flooring with minimal effort and without technical expertise is a valuable attribute.

Tackifiers are a very user-friendly adhesive. They’re most commonly applied with a roller, allowing the applicator to work in a standing position – an added health benefit. Once they’re applied to the floor, there’s usually a short waiting time, this is to allow the adhesive to fully dry, which stops the adhesive from forming a permanent bond.

The tackifier in its fully dry state is simply very tacky, and grips any floorcovering placed on it, but still allows it to be removed if needed. In general, there are two types of tackifier, standard – for the vast majority of installations – and a ‘high-grip’ type, which is used in environments where there’s a greater level of grip needed.

This may be related to the particular type of flooring to be placed, the type of substrate it needs to be applied to or the type of load it’ll be expected to experience.

It’s clear though, no matter what the situation (and customer) demands, there are many products in the market that can provide solutions to even the most demanding timescales.

Bostik, along with other manufacturers and suppliers, are always here to help.
David Powell is technical consultant at Bostik UK

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