Requirements of industrial concrete flooring
In contrast to depot concrete flooring that is typically perfectly flat, industrial concrete flooring for more demanding factory or production building environments often have:
- specially coated surfaces to protect against:
- chemical exposure
- liquid permeation e.g. oil & grease
- drains positioned regularly throughout
- sloped surfaces to direct the flow of liquid to drains
These aspects pose a few extra types of challenge to concrete floor repair contractors. Of particular importance in industrial concrete flooring is the choice of surface, which must be suitable to the chosen environment.
Types of industrial concrete floor surfaces
Typical surface finishes include:
Sealers - are applied to concrete surfaces in thin-films to prevent water from penetrating into the concrete & powder residue coming away from the concrete surface due to friction. These require at least two applications but offer only the minimum protection to your concrete floor, are easily scratched & require regular repairs.
Coatings (Paints) - are similar to sealers but can be coloured to indicate walk-ways, keep clear areas etc. These paints can sometimes offer more chemical resistance than sealers, but they are typically < 1 mm thick, are easily scratched & require regular maintenance.
Surfacings - are typically applied in layers that are 3 to 6 mm thick & should be considered the minimum appropriate industrial concrete floor surface finish. A variety of surface finishing products are available offering various levels of chemical & temperature protection - the most suitable will not only depend highly on the facility environment but also the cleaning requirements.
Heavy Duty Surfacings - are a more hard-wearing class of surfacings for applications where greater traffic &/or impact resistance is required. These may be sub-divided into chemical & non-chemically resistant, and are typically 0.4 to 1 cm thick to protect the underlying concrete.
Acid resistant tiles & brick - are amongst the most hard-wearing chemically resistant choice of industrial flooring surfaces. They are also the hardest to re-purpose, & require by-far the greatest up-front costs of all industrial concrete floor surface solutions; hence its use has generally diminished.
Membrane Waterproofing - although not a top-layer surfacing like the above, membrane waterproofing layers are worth including because they are commonly required to prevent wet industrial areas from leaking. Of particular consideration, is that the membrane waterproofing material is compatible with the top-surfacing to ensure that the two layers bond.
Suitability of concrete floor surface finishes for industries
Sealers & Coatings (< 1 mm thick) - in an industrial environment sealers & coatings (paints) are simply not appropriate concrete floor surface finishing solutions. Instead they should be considered as short-term, maintenance only surface finishes. This is because even if the coatings are chemically, or high-temperature resistance, & they are easily scratched leaving the underlying concrete surface exposed.
Surfacings & Toppings (including Heavy-Duty) - the minimum concrete flooring surface that can be considered durable enough for industrial facilities are those that are at least 3 mm thick.
Tiles & bricks - these can be considered the holy-grail of durable industrial concrete surface finishes. They are able to tolerate high temperatures & most chemical exposures, & can often still be found in use decades after they were first installed. Acid resistant tiles & brick surfaces, however, have by far the highest upfront installation costs, & are the hardest surface to adapt or re-purpose to changing business & industrial site facility needs.
Common types of industrial concrete floor surface damage
The wide ranging & demanding environments in industry mean that industrial concrete floors are subject to a wide range of mechanical & chemical damages. The most common types of industrial floor surface defects are either chips, gouges or excessive wear, & it comes as no surprise that these are typically found in the busiest areas of the industrial site.
Identifying types of surface damage
- Wear-out - where concrete surfaces are excessively worn-out, 'dusting' of the concrete surface can be found. This indicates that the protective surface finish has gone & the underlying concrete of the floor is now eroding. If the areas of wear-out are very localised & occur infrequently then these can be repaired when required as part of regular maintenance. However, if the industrial concrete floor surface wear-out is more wide-spread it is worth considering re-surfacing the whole floor.
- Chips, Gouges & Popouts - these defects are easily identified & create a rough surface that also exposes the underlying concrete.
- Peeling/Stripping - a peeling floor usually occurs from some form of chemical or high-temperature exposure due to activities on the industrial floor, & shows that the surface material is not fit-for-purpose. This can occur because the concrete surface material installed on-site was not chosen appropriately, or that the site has been re-purposed changing the range of heat or chemical exposures. The thermal shock from steam/hot water cleaning or incompatibility with the chemicals used in clean-in-place methods, for example, can quickly strip certain concrete floor surfaces.
Other defects that may also be identified, such as blisters, crazing, de-lamination & discolouration typically occur shortly after the industrial concrete floor surface is installed & cured.
These defects usually occur because too much moisture or trapped air is present in the concrete floor substrate when the surface is applied. Even appropriately chosen & installed surfaces will develop defects when applied to poorly prepared concrete floor substrates.
Widespread wear-out & surface replacement requires the following steps:
- Removal of existing surface
- Preparation of concrete surface substrate
- Application of surface primer (may not be necessary in all cases)
Prolonging the life of your concrete floor surface
Although a certain amount of surface wear & tear can be expected, wear-out can in some instances be accelerated by:
Poor site practice - pallet pushing or dragging, & the dropping of carried loads can speed up the wear-out of the concrete floor surface.
Poor housekeeping - if the floor is insufficiently cleaned & items such as nails or other debris are left lying on the concrete floor then they can easily become trapped & scrapped across the surface by site vehicles.
Steam or Chemical cleaning - high temperature steam or overly strong cleaning chemicals, meanwhile, may strip the protective surface if the surface installed was not fit-for-purpose. Cleaning requirements should always be considered alongside the exposures in the industrial building environment when choosing the appropriate surface finishing material.
Avoiding these common occurrences & pitfalls will help to maximise the life of the concrete floor surface.
Converting a warehouse to an industrial concrete floor
Due to changing economic activities & business requirements, a common task for industrial floor repair contractors is to re-purpose warehouse to industrial concrete floors e.g. for a factory. The difficulty & expense in converting a flat warehouse floor into an industrial concrete floor manufacturing facility really depends on the requirements of the new facility.
Adding extra drains for example is relatively straightforward now with the availability of pre-fabricated trench drains, however, adding slopes to the concrete floor so that liquid flows into those drains can be a little more tricky.
In order to avoid pooling of liquid & direct it into a drain, a slope that falls by around 1 cm per meter is usually acceptable for low volumes of liquid. This must be considered in the design & layout of the industrial concrete floor.
For example, the fewer the number of drains & larger the floor surface area is, the more material that will be required to install the slope. This can be further complicated by the location & height of permanent building fixtures such as doors & stairways around the perimeter of the industrial floor, which will usually form the highest points.
In many circumstances, a combination of installing additional drains in the concrete floor & sloping proves to be the most cost-effective & practical solution to converting a warehouse into an industrial concrete floor.
Industrial concrete flooring is subject to a wide range of demanding mechanical, temperature & chemical environments. To protect the underlying concrete slab, a wide-range of top-surfaces are available, which offer various degrees of temperature & chemical resistance. The choice of surface material for industrial concrete flooring is highly dependent on not only the range of industrial environment exposures but also the cleaning requirements (such as clean-in-place).
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