The school, college and university summer holidays have always been a key time for major refurbishment projects. However well planned, these can be subject to unforeseen delays which in turn squeeze an already tight schedule potentially affecting completion of work and availability of labour.
Being a finishing trade, flooring is always one of the products at the final stage of contracts and often having to deal with compacted timelines. Until now, these pressures often created compressed working schedules with a late rush to finish jobs compacted by the usual subfloor preparation actions required ahead of fitting flooring. How often have flooring contractors wanted to gain more time to complete all flooring fitments on time without undue stress?
In recognition of this fact and with an eye to the environment, a range of products is now available on the market that allows more flooring to be installed within these condensed timelines. These products come under various names but the term FAST FIT (a branding used by Forbo Flooring) sums up the nature and benefit of adhesive free products very concisely. A faster fitting product will provide more opportunity to fit more flooring in the same time span and help to ease tight or cramped schedules.
Firstly, they do not require adhesive and some can even be installed directly over (most) existing floor finishes. Removing the need to uplift and dispose of old flooring, with no or limited floor preparation being required and a loose lay adhesive free product, all add to the time saving to achieve a serviceable and fast-fit floor covering.
These products are available in sheet, regular type tiles, click tile/plank systems and interlocking tile formats (like puzzle pieces) and are particularly suitable to the education sector as both practical as well as budget saving.
The education sector has struggled with budget constraints in recent years and these products can help to stretch already pressured purse strings to achieve more with less.
These products are designed and manufactured to the same performance standards as fully adhered products thereby allowing the same use in all types of traffic density and location - the only difference is that they are not adhered.
Fitting requirements for adhesive free products will vary from product to product and it is important to check the specific product requirements before any installation.
Main things to look out for: whether expansion tolerance gaps are needed and is there an underlay requirement. Also, as some products are suitable to fit directly over existing floor coverings, the need to investigate the nature, condition and makeup of these in-situ floors is essential, particularly if any remedial subfloor work needs to be carried out prior to fitment.
For adhesive free sheet products, the need to correctly acclimatise as per manufacturers guidance is critical as these products have no adhesive to help lay flat to the floor. This means that any non-acclimatised curl or movement in the product may, when subsequently laying flat, cause the flooring to ruck or ripple in use.
Both the flooring contractor and end user can benefit as follows:
• Minimal or no subfloor preparation in most instances, particularly as products can go down over existing floor coverings
• Installation times can be reduced by half depending on subfloor requirements
• Reduced downtime means less negative impact on businesses particularly in refurbishment projects
• No adhesive required for installation means no odours and lower VOCs
• No waiting for the adhesive to set before welding or use
• Newly installed floors can be walked on straight away
• No adhesive and/or subfloor preparation contributes to cost and time savings
• No adhesive means that products can be taken up and reinstalled in other areas or projects
• Future savings can be made on like for like installations – enabling future-proofing of budgets
These products can also be invaluable for constant access areas where extended closure can be very inconvenient. A typical example was a sheet vinyl installation carried out on walkways and corridors within Edinburgh college where the building is open 50 weeks of the year and seven days a week.
The work was completed during normal college hours, while students and staff were on site, with minimal disruption to daily operations. A key benefit was the fact that the floor could be walked on immediately after installation. Also, with there being no adhesives, the elimination of the emission of dust and odours was particularly important for the wellbeing of everyone that uses the building.
Finally, a recent addition to these adhesive free product options is a sheet vinyl, with integral textured backing to allow moisture vapour to flow underneath, suitable for use directly over damp subfloors.
This type of product negates the need for a breathable underlay (removing an extra cost and saving time) but does still require a breathable skirting to allow any moisture to escape through evaporation. It can be useful in areas needing quick access such as new concrete bases (with integral DPM) with a residual moisture content up to 97%RH to reduce waiting time before use.
With the education sector, in common with other sectors, potentially still being affected by the Government work and on-site restrictions due to the Coronavirus outbreak, products that can be fitted with minimal disruption in a timely manner may prove to be really a valuable option this year.