A careful choice of materials and the right installation methods will result in resilient floors that can withstand everything your client throws at them. Barbour Index and Scott Brownrigg lay down the groundwork

1. Compatibility

The flooring, adhesive and sub floor must be considered as one compatible element. Flooring and adhesive manufacturers should advise the most suitable products and installation method for each application.

2. Preparation of the base

Typically, resilient flooring is laid on concrete, screed or timber, so good preparation is essential.

  • Concrete and screed bases
    Lay coverings on a dry base, or protect from water vapour and moisture. A hygrometer reading less than 75% RH is best (see BS 8203). Under good drying conditions, allow one day of drying per millimetre for the first 25 mm of screed and two days per millimetre for the next 25 mm. New concrete slabs can take more than year to dry. A dampproof membrane will be necessary if complete drying out time is not available.

    Smoothing compounds are frequently used to overcome poorly finished bases. Resilient flooring may show imperfections in the sub floor, particularly with large areas, so the sub floor finish and tolerance must be correctly specified (see BS 5325, 8203 and 8204-1). Surface regularity should be at least SR2, or SR 1 for thin floor coverings requiring a high standard. Coverings 3 mm thick or more will limit telegraphing through inaccuracies from the base.

    Chemical hardening or a resinous seal may cause an adverse reaction with adhesives. A power float finish may also affect adhesion.

  • Timber bases
    Timber bases should be clean and contaminant-free, dry, smooth, level, sound and rigid. Moisture content of the base must be stable. Preservatives and flame-retardant chemicals can adversely affect flooring adhesives.

    Floorboards and tongue-and-groove particleboard bases can be used. Floorboards should have an underlay installed first. Particleboard joints should be glued with a PVAc adhesive to class D1 of BS EN 204.

    3. Materials

    Most resilient flooring is either PVC rubber, or linoleum and cork. It is available in sheet or tile and for direct application to the sub floor. The following should be borne in mind when selecting a material.

  • PVC
    Reasonably durable material in tile or sheet. Should be protected against point-loading of furniture. Coverings can have slip-resistant surfaces, anti-static properties and can have joints welded. Backing with rubber or high density PVC foam improves resilience and reduces impact sound transmission. A good standard of cleanliness and appearance can be maintained with water and detergent. PVC flooring shrinks over time and through cleaning. Cleaning and maintenance must suit manufacturer's recommendations and applications used.

  • Rubber
    Comes in tile and sheet form, smooth or studded and can be natural or synthetic. It has a similar installation regime to PVC, with good durability and fire-retardant characteristics and oil-, grease- and chemical-resistance. It also offers resistance to cigarette burns and is antistatic, conductive and colourfast.

  • Cork
    Suitable for general application. It has a warm natural finish, and good acoustic and durability characteristics, but it is not good at resisting heavy industrial wear.

  • Linoleum
    Linoleum is available in sheet and tile form. It is durable, and resistant to chemicals and cigarette burns. Linoleum is made from a calendared linseed oil, resin, cork wood flour, fillers and colouring and is naturally non-allergenic and bacteriostatic.

    4. Choice of adhesive

    Correct selection of adhesive is essential when installating resilient flooring. BS 5442 tabulates flooring types and appropriate adhesives. Consider the following factors when selecting adhesives:

    • Type of floor covering
    • Backing of floor covering
    • Type of sub floor/underlay
    • Temperature requirements
    • Horizontal or vertical bond
    • Permanent or release bond
    • Internal or external installation
    • Health and safety considerations.

    5. Health and safety

    Solvent-borne adhesives give off flammable vapour that is harmful when inhaled, and should only be used in well-ventilated areas using suitable facemasks. Health and safety legislation requires manufacturers to provide information to allow their products to be used safely. The Contract Flooring Association Guide to Contract Flooring gives guidance on safe handling and disposal. The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health data sheet should be reviewed before specifying an adhesive.

    Reference documents

    • Contract Flooring Association Guide to Contract Flooring 2002
    • BS EN 8203 Code of practice for resilient floor coverings
    • BS EN 14085 Resilient floor coverings specification for floor panes for loose laying
    • BS EN 120103 Resilient floor coverings agglomerated cork underlays
    • BS 6263 Care and maintenance of floor surfaces code of practice for resilient sheet and tile flooring
    • BS 5442-1: 1989 Classification of adhesives for construction: classification of adhesives for use with flooring materials
    • BS EN 685: 1996 Resilient and laminate floor coverings - classification
    • British Board of Agrément Board MOAT 2: 1970 Directive for the assessment of floorings