The Evolution of Surface Prep Practices: Experts talk about how floor prep has evolved to improve outcomes - June 2021
By Kathy Cloud
How has the practice of floor preparation evolved in the commercial flooring arena? Fifteen years ago, the normal practice for site prep was patch and go, but now we are seeing a shift.
IMPROVING THE PROCESS
Paul White of the Paul White Company in Maine sees many warehouse spaces being retrofitted for labs, especially due to the pandemic. Leveling the whole floor is needed to get within tolerances for proper product installation in addition to eliminating seams that can telegraph to the surface. White uses Mapei as his go-to supplier because of the company’s collaborative and supportive nature.
There has also been an increase in the use of synthetic gypsum products. Thomas Trissl, president of TMT America, runs Schönox HPS (High Performance Subfloors) North America, which specializes in this area. Schönox APF is an example of a fiber-reinforced self-leveling compound well-suited for wooden floors. Andrew Conklin, project manager at Higgins, recently used Schönox APF to level the floor in a historic church in Hartford, Connecticut. He says, “It was the right product for the right application based on a challenging old wood substrate.” This resulted in a great subfloor upon which to install the new cork flooring. The customer was left with a stunning showpiece to share with the congregation upon reopening in May.
Time can also be an issue in many projects, and all the various manufacturers offer a rapid self-leveling compound that allows users to install flooring in just a few hours. Tim Provence, Armstrong technical representative, notes, “Subfloor flatness is critical.” He provides installation training, certification and troubleshooting to help improve the commercial flooring industry overall.
Floor prep needs to be done in a way to produce a better installation of the product. With the popularity of wider, longer planks with varying widths on the market, telegraphing of subfloor imperfections is a concern more now than ever. Natural lighting, dark colors and poor maintenance of floors can all highlight even the smallest of blemishes. Leveling the whole floor needs to be part of the discussion on project renovations.
Eric Boender, vice president of Starnet, sees some positive trends in this area. Drying times of levelers and skim coats have improved, as well as the ability of going deeper, such as filling trenches. Portable pumps and pump trucks are also more readily used and available. Ardex’s PowerFlo truck was the answer during a recent project in New York that required an efficient way to get V-1200 throughout six floors of a 155,000-square-foot historic dormitory that was to undergo a complete gut and renovation. One and a half floors were leveled each day using this advanced technology.
XL North has some products that challenge these more traditional methods. Ron Sandoval, director of technical services in the floor prep division, described the benefits of Porosity Plus on concrete. The XL North advantage includes their understanding of concrete and what goes in it and on it. Porosity Plus is engineered to open up the surface of the concrete, creating the perfect conditions for bond, both mechanical and chemical. There has been quite a bit of testing on Porosity Plus versus blasting. Both methods exceed ASTM D7234 for pull test. This product, along with the XL Sander, is compliant with the new silica regulation, as well. XL North is working with more flooring manufacturers to get acceptance to use their products, which could be critical to dealers. In addition, XL Clean-Up is a positive way to get rid of dirty water safely on a jobsite. Simply mix the rinse water with Clean-Up, making a slurry of sorts, and then dispose of it properly in the dumpster. This enables your customer to have confidence that you are disposing of any gray water in the best way to prevent clogs in the drains on-site.
QUALIFIED LABOR IS KEY
The best floor preparation also includes a talented crew. The shortage in qualified installers remains a concern for all.
White remarks that they continue to chase new labor, the challenge being how to best engage folks to enter the workforce and drop unemployment and additional pandemic aid they are receiving. This seems to be a concern across the country, and the industry needs to keep a close eye on it.
Higgins has found that the best recruits come from current employees. They help bring in family and friends to join the team. It is important, then, to continually train these new employees in the various methods of floor preparation and leveling. With so many high-tech products on the market, each with their own unique methodologies, education is key in choosing the right application for the job.
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