Changing the climate

Product manufacturers such as Bostik stand or fall by the quality and performance of the products they supply. Flooring contractors meanwhile stand by the quality and to some degree the longevity of their installation. This is what professional flooring is all about. It’s what stands us apart from the ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ companies looking for the big bucks on quick earning projects.

For manufacturers, the desire and the ability to support our products with technical back up, site surveys, product testing, legislative testing etc. all has a major impact on costs and resources, without any obvious outward commercial gain. However, it is only by doing this for year upon year that confidence and belief in our brands can truly be gained. We live in an open market (at least at the time of writing!) with no barriers to trade so customers, whether they be the client of a building, an architect, a home owner or a flooring contractor, have a choice. Wholesalers also have a choice of what they wish to stock and sell to end users, and this can lead to a great deal of confusion about what product is suitable for what application, and why you should select product ‘A’ over product ‘B’.

The key thing from a manufacturer’s point of view is providing the information required to help make this choice. Marketing literature is useful for gaining the initial interest in a product, but the nitty gritty lies in the technical documents provided to support this. It’s not everyone’s idea of fun traipsing through technical datasheets, but it is critical in enabling you to understand what goes where and most importantly, with winter fast approaching, what conditions you need to seek to get in order for the products to perform.

When it comes to subfloor preparation products, the key thing for a flooring contractor is that they cure or dry in the timeframe required to enable the floor coverings themselves to be bonded. When it comes to the floor covering manufacturers, there may be a whole different set of criteria required based on getting the products stabilised and conditioned in the environment, stored correctly, batches matched and then fitted in the right conditions.

The problem with manufacturing is that we cannot be there every time a product is used, but we do understand what limitations the products have and what you need to do to make sure they perform. There are three key elements required which seem to be more and more difficult to achieve, especially on larger projects. These are:

a) Warmth

b) Air flow

c) Water tightness

Warmth is key in enabling products such as adhesives and smoothing compounds to tack off or trowel out properly, and for DPMs in particular to cure and dry in the claimed timeframe. It also has an impact on resilient flooring being flexible enough to cut, trim, cove etc., and to not start expanding after it’s laid. My personal stance is that if you need a jumper on to lay flooring, then you should be pushing hard to get the temperatures up on the project. For flooring preparation products 15oC to 25oC would be the range expected, although floor coverings may be different.

Air flow is also key for products that require drying. This includes primers, smoothing compounds and adhesives. The only reason products dry out is because the air above them is drier and can take the moisture away. If this air is stagnant or humid from other trades, then it is essential that it is replaced with drier air, otherwise products will no longer lose their moisture. This is basic physics and is often the reason why screeds themselves take an age to dry.

Water tightness is basically a way of saying a clean site is required with no more moisture coming into the project areas.  However, being watertight fights against airflow in that sealing all extremities can mean the air can get stagnant. Once a building is watertight, it generally remains cleaner and more controlled, enabling the products to be used effectively and in a constant environment which is exactly what we want.

Don’t expect your smoothing compounds to harden and dry as quickly, or your adhesive to grab, or your floor coverings to lie flat if the site is cold and damp.

The fast track building and phasing of projects often means flooring is being done in an area that is still effectively a building site… and here’s me thinking we were a finishing trade.  Rather than sit back and accept this we, and yourselves as contractors, need to constantly push main contractors to get the conditions right. Show them the datasheets. If necessary, explain why it is crucial. At the end of the day you stand or fall by what you install. Don’t take chances as this makes it very difficult for manufacturers to support you if things go wrong.

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