Are your floors tough enough? Make sure you specify the right covering with our four-step guide. Kevan Brassington of the NBS explains
1. Preparation of bases
Make sure the bases are prepared correctly: the condition of a base largely determines the success of any floor covering installation. BS 8203 Code of practice for installation of resilient floor coverings and BS 5325 Installation of textile floor coverings – Code of practice gives guidance on preparing bases. The principal points are:

  • Concrete and screed bases: Coverings should not be laid on bases with a relative humidity above 75%. To dry to this level, a 50 mm screed can take up to two months and a 150 mm concrete base over a year. The Contract Flooring Association guide states that surface damp proof membranes should only be considered as a last resort to counter this problem. Chemically hardened bases or those treated with a resinous seal may deleteriously interact with adhesives. Consult the adhesive manufacturer for advice.

  • Timber bases: The use of a fabricated underlay such as plywood or hardboard is deemed essential on joist supported plain or tongue-and-groove boards. Similarly, a fabricated underlay is required for particleboard bases with joints in excess of 1 mm. The codes give detailed advice on timber block bases.

    2. Choice of resilient coverings: Plastics, cork, linoleum and rubber
    It is important you choose a resilient covering to suit the area of use and consult manufacturers for matching products. A plethora of standards exist to help you specify your resilient floor coverings, along with the "area of use class" and other properties established by BS EN 685 Resilient floor coverings – Classification. This document shows class numbers for each type of covering and their appropriate areas of use, as well as product standards for each flooring type.

    Carefully consider slip resistance requirements and remember this is affected by wear, cleaning and maintenance. Slip resistance is an important quality of resilient coverings but its inclusion in standards is limited. BS EN 13553 informs that requirements for enhanced slip resistance for some plastics products are under development and will be included in standards at a later date. Agreement on a test method acceptable to EU member countries is proving difficult. The UK Slip Resistance Group has produced guidelines for the use of normal flooring materials in hazardous areas.

    3. Choice of textile adhered coverings
    Use carpet specification schemes to make sure the carpet meets your wear and appearance performance criteria. British Standard schemes exist for:

  • Machine-made pile carpets, see BS EN 1307 Textile floor coverings: Classification of pile carpets.

  • Needle-pile carpets and tiles, see BS EN 1470 Textile floor coverings: Classification of needled floor coverings except for needled pile floor coverings and BS EN 13297 Textile floor coverings: Classification of needled pile floor coverings.

    For pile carpets, categories L, M and N are applied according to pile thickness and mass of pile per unit area: L being assigned to thicker and heavier carpets, M to intermediate and N to lighter, thinner carpets. Level of use classes 1 to 4 are helpful in indicating where suitable textile coverings can be used. In addition, a luxury rating class from LC1 (low) to LC5 (high) is applied.

    For needled coverings, the standards jointly cover all types of carpet through a common scheme establishing level of use classes.

    The carpet industry widely uses the BS EN 1307 scheme for contract carpets but has concerns about its use for domestic carpet. The response was the British Carpet Manufacturers Association (BCMA) scheme, now superseded by The Carpet Foundation suitability evaluation system, known as the Quality Mark.

    4. Adhesive selection
    Use standards to ensure that the correct choice of adhesive for the flooring installations is made.

    BS 5442-1 Classification of adhesives for use with flooring materials shows flooring types and appropriate adhesives. Although dated, it is a useful reference. Flooring and adhesive manufacturers are able to advise on current adhesive technology and provide information on appropriate products. The CFA's Guide to contract flooring also offers advice and lists the following factors as the most important affecting adhesive choice:

    • Type of floor covering
    • Backing of floor covering
    • Type of sub-floor/underlay
    • Temperature requirements (such as presence of underfloor heating)
    • Horizontal or vertical bond
    • Permanent or release bond
    • Internal or external installation
    • Special in service requirements (such as electrical conductivity, wet areas and so on)
    • Health and safety considerations.

    Further information

    The Carpet Foundation Contract Flooring Association