I recently had the opportunity to attend Domotex in Hannover and my eyes were opened to the plethora of flooring products and systems available. As is often the case, the eye catching designs of floor coverings and the various benefits of the different options available results in a lot of interest and attention. After all, it is the part of the floor that is seen on a daily basis, so of course this will be of foremost importance in the eyes of many clients.
As with icebergs though, there is a lot more going on underneath the floor coverings that we traverse on a daily basis. The only reason floors can function effectively is because the base that they are laid on is sound, secure and suitable.
As Bostik doesn’t manufacture floor coverings, we cannot offer comment on their performance claims, how they are tested and what they can achieve. This is the responsibility of the manufacturer themselves and, like Bostik, they will invest significant time and resources in testing and quantifying their product performance categories. Most of the test work will be to various British or European Standards, so you should be assured that the results are relevant and accurate.
When it comes to testing floor preparation products, there may be individual tests for the different components, such as adhesive bond tests for shear and peel strength, and smoothing compound tests for compressive and flexural strength, which we carry out on a regular basis. However, these are in isolation. There is no standard or test regime that gives a result for the components combined. Bear in mind a subfloor preparation system could include surface DPMs, primers and smoothing compounds, as well as adhesives. Within each of these elements there will be, within our range, multiple options that are all dependant on the specific subfloor, its conditions and what is expected of the floor. When it comes to the adhesive, the selection generally links to the floor covering and the conditions expected to be encountered when it’s in situ. So, there’s a lot going on.
The good thing for a company as large and resourced as Bostik is that we have the capacity and ability to test our products when used together. We can and do carry out in lab and on site tests to see that all the components, when applied together, will perform. This may extend to testing at various moisture levels to see if the DPM can restrict moisture passage sufficiently to enable the smoothing compounds not to get saturated and therefore the adhesive to not re-emulsify, meaning the floor covering stays in place. It may be a case of testing primers to see if they can inhibit calcium sulphate movement to enable applications onto calcium sulphate screed, or to see if the bond to a subfloor is sufficiently strong when thick smoothing compound layers are required.
When it comes to smoothing compounds, they need to be tested to make sure they achieve optimum bond to the relevant primers or to the substrates themselves. The adhesives need more than just standard bond strength tests, they need to be tested to make sure they can key to the appropriate smoothing compound and/or substrate. All this takes time and resource, but it also leads to optimisation of products to get maximum performance when they are combined. This has to be the ultimate goal to ensure the more glamorous, more appreciated floor covering can do what it is designed to do.
So, why does it always disappoint me when I hear contractors picking and choosing products from various manufacturers and combining them as they wish? The first issue with this is that, should something go wrong, they then have to try and find their way through the maze of “what has caused this and whose product/s (if this is the case) have failed to perform?” It’s much easier to go to one manufacturer and have them evaluate and hopefully give you more support knowing that you are committed to their products. I appreciate that there may be offers on primers from company A and the general purpose product from company B isn’t too bad, and oh yes the lads like the adhesive they normally use so we’ll stick (excuse the pun) with that and probably save a few pence here and there. But at what cost?
Performance reduction is likely to be the result, especially when the cost starts leading the discussion. Of course there are some straightforward jobs where the cheaper products will most likely do – after all, it’s a competitive world that you’re working in. But, what if everyone started to think about upping the quality and experiencing the best of a company by using its entire system? You would still be competing on an even keel. Surely this would lead to improved quality of flooring installations, less call backs and crucially should call backs be necessary, one port of call from one supplier who you will have strong relationships with .i.e. a partnership.
I am finding that main contractors more than flooring contractors are now the ones seeing the value in this approach. Use this as part of your tender offering and include the Bostik team if considering our systems. We are always there to support, advise and help – from moisture testing, to specifications, to collaborative testing and also to support on any complaints, which thankfully isn’t often!
Written by Martin Cummins