Standards changing or changing standards?

Martin Cummins

Published by Martin Cummins

Martin has been involved in the industry for over 20 years. He’s passionate about flooring in all its guises, with his particular expertise being in subfloor preparation products and adhesives. Martin is an active member of the CFA manufacturers committee and he sits on the CFA council. He aims to keep abreast of all the changes in the industry and feeds this knowledge back to installers to make sure when floors are laid they perform to their maximum potential. UK Technical Support Manager, Bostik

In the professional flooring industry we’re all aware of the well-established codes of practice such as BS8203, BS 5325 and also the CFA Guide to Good Flooring, but do we know how they came about?

In this article I am going to refer to these as technical documents, simply because the information within them is not used to sell a product or a system, but to educate and sometimes instruct how to carry out a particular task. A lot of unseen work goes into producing technical documents and advice notes to enable flooring projects to run smoothly, so who decides what goes into such documents?

This is most often done by committees, which can sometimes have the negative effect of lengthening the process. Ultimately though this has the benefit of lots of heads rather than one and should culminate in an expansive view of whatever the topic might be. With regard to the CFA in particular, this is done by volunteers as an extension of their employed roles so is not funded and therefore the only bias will be from the individuals’ own experiences within the industry and most specifically within their role. To enable a full and complete document to be written we generally source knowledge from a variety of members, both contractors and manufacturers.

Recent collaborations have resulted in a “specification” for a flooring grade plywood (SP101) to overcome the problems contractors and floor covering manufacturers were finding on site, such as delamination of layers, shrinkage of the plywood and poor adhesion. Unless you personally had an issue with plywood, then perhaps it would have been perceived that there is no need for a new improved specification. This would be an even stronger argument if you knew that the SP101 is going to cost you more – why would you bother? The reason is that, within the members of the committee and also on the manufacturers meetings the volume of complaints on plywood floors was vast. We decided that we needed to change the standard of acceptable plywood to minimise the failures and enhance the profile of the professional flooring industry as one that looks to improve and overcome obstacles.

A similar collaboration is on-going for chipboard (particleboard) flooring, which in itself is an acceptable base to walk on and has been sold as a flooring material in house builds for some time. However, not so much because of its physical make up but more due to how it is installed, conditions during installing and storage, as well as the lack of awareness of different types of chipboard, which has resulted in the product being maligned as a problem for installations in professional flooring. Again, feedback across the board (no pun intended) is that unless we change or inform more robustly then chipboard will always be a potential problem. So in this instance it is likely that the focus is not so much on creating a different product but more a case of the standards for installation changing.

So what’s the message here?

It is important to remember that all of us in the industry have our own piece in the jigsaw, and obviously in a business world we all want our pieces to fit. However, if they don’t then the jigsaw never comes together.

For example:
A floor covering manufacturer has expertise in developing floor coverings and knows what is needed to achieve such things as slip resistance, reflectance, flameproof properties etc., but very rarely do they have expertise in development of adhesives that can perform with the floor covering.

The adhesives manufacturers understand the bonding requirements, regulations, substrates to which floor coverings may be bonded and conditions they will be subject to, so it stands to reason that their voice is important too. Often these two manufacturing groups work in tandem to offer solutions. Most adhesive manufacturers also, due to their need to understand substrates, have expertise in subfloor preparation needs. Occasionally adhesive manufactures may well supply adhesives to floor covering manufacturers to offer a branded system.

The supplier of the substrates such as wooden substrates mentioned above or screeds (not levelling compounds, these are different) also have a vested interest in getting their selected products utilised, but they may not have the depth understanding of what is going to happen on top of their materials.

Finally, the contractor will have different knowledge and will be the one who can make or break a flooring installation. He knows how to fit flooring and knows what he wants from an adhesive and leveller.

Combine all the knowledge above and a technical document can be created, try to do it on your own and it is likely something somewhere along the line will be missed. So if you think that the standards are all old and out of date, hopefully you can see why there is no switch that can be flicked on to update everything overnight. It’s a team game if we want standards to change or indeed to change the standards.

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