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Fast-track subfloor preparation products for quick, durable installations in educational settings

FLOORING contractors installing floorcoverings in schools, colleges and universities often face severe time constraints, frequently having to complete a project over a weekend or during a short school holiday.

Fortunately, fast-track subfloor preparation and flooring installation products are now available that enable areas to be brought into use in as little as a day. Just as with any other flooring installation, a thorough assessment of the subfloor should be completed before any work begins when installing floorcoverings in an educational setting.

Its end use and other environmental factors should also be considered – floors will be expected to endure high volumes of daily foot traffic while remaining secure and hygienic for years to come. This necessitates following best practice in subfloor preparation and using suitable products.

Safeguarding against moisture
Excess subfloor moisture, whether residual construction moisture or rising damp, can attack floorcoverings and adhesives – it is one of the leading causes of floor failure. This can lead to the movement of floorcoverings and the growth of mould and bacteria, which can potentially cause a health risk to people in the immediate environment, as well as being a potential trip hazard.

To avoid these problems, a moisture measurement test should always be conducted using a calibrated digital hygrometer before any flooring installation, in old and new buildings.

If Relative Humidity (RH) levels exceed 75%, or 65% when installing wooden floorcoverings, a moisture management solution will be required to stop excess subfloor moisture damaging floorcoverings and adhesives and potentially causing floor failure.

Water-based moisture management systems, which are ideal for biologically sensitive school settings, are now available that create an effective barrier against residual construction moisture and rising damp where RH levels up to 95%, with a drying time of under two hours.

Further advancements in flooring technology mean single-coat epoxy waterproof surface membranes that provide protection against RH levels as high as 98% are also available in fast-drying formulations that save valuable time.

Preparing smooth subfloors
Once it’s determined that the subfloor is dry enough to proceed or a moisture management solution is in place, a smoothing compound should be applied to create a perfectly smooth surface for the receipt of new floorcoverings and prevent imperfections affecting the finished installation.
In some areas of schools, colleges and universities, such as corridors, floors will be expected to receive high levels of daily foot traffic, so using a high-strength smoothing compound will help ensure long-term durability of the installation.

Fast-track smoothing compounds that are ‘walk-on’ hard in 30 minutes and ready to receive new floorcoverings from 45 minutes are also available, allowing installations to proceed faster than ever.
High performance smoothing compounds that can be applied directly over bitumen and adhesive residues also offer significant timesaving benefits for contractors undertaking refurbishment projects to a deadline.

Says F Ball and Co: ‘One such product, F Ball’s Stopgap 1200, takes as little as 60 minutes to set and is ready to receive floorcoverings from as little as four hours. In most applications, including when it is applied over old adhesive residues, it’s not essential to prime beforehand, saving further time.’

Choosing the right adhesive
‘The contractor can then select a suitably fast-working adhesive to install appropriate floorcoverings. The choice of adhesive will often be determined foremost by what type of floorcoverings are being installed and where, but there are options for when timesaving is a priority.’

Vinyl, which is easy to clean and maintain, is popular in educational facilities, and is best adhered by an adhesive with good initial tack and high final bond strength. Nowadays, acrylic and vinyl adhesives are available that build up a strong enough bond to allow for foot-traffic in less than an hour after the application of floorcoverings.

Carpet tiles are another popular choice for areas such as libraries or common rooms, not least for their ability to be removed and replaced if individual tiles become worn or damaged.

For this reason, carpet tile tackifiers are available that, once applied, only take 30 minutes to form a permanently tacky film that prevents the tiles from moving laterally under everyday traffic, while allowing individual sections to be lifted and replaced with ease.

It’s always advisable to check the compatibility of particular floorcoverings and adhesives. To do this, contractors should consult the adhesive manufacturer’s recommended adhesives guide or see the floorcovering manufacturer’s guidelines.

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