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Perfect preparation prevents poor performance

Perfect preparation prevents poor performance
Shane Moore

Published by Shane Moore - Technical Consultant

With almost 25 years in the flooring industry, Shane began as an apprentice floor layer and has worked for some of the most reputable companies along the way. Having gained extensive expertise as a fitter, he went on to start his own company whilst teaching at the Flooring Industry Training Association (FITA). Shane joined Bostik as a Technical Consultant in June 2023.

In some of my previous articles, I mentioned how I apply the ‘5Ps’ when approaching installations.

‘Perfect Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.’

The only way you can achieve the performance your customer expects is if your preparation is perfect.

Surface preparation is a crucial step in any new build or renovation project, as it ensures that the surface is clean, smooth, and ready to receive any coating or finishing material. The importance of the process cannot be overstated. It directly impacts the performance and durability of the finished product. A poorly prepared surface can result in adhesion problems, blistering, peeling, or cracking, leading to costly repairs and premature failure of the floor covering.

Here are some of the key reasons why surface preparation is essential:

  1. Ensures adhesion: a clean and properly prepared surface is essential for achieving the correct levels of adhesion for the coating or finish. If there is any dirt, oil, or other contaminants on the surface, the coatings will not adhere properly, leading to poor performance and lack of integrity.
  2. Improves durability: properly prepared surfaces can significantly improve the durability of the coating or finish. By removing any loose or damaged material and creating a smooth and even surface, you can ensure that the finish will adhere correctly and provide long-lasting protection and performance.
  3. Enhances appearance: a well-prepared surface will provide a smooth and even base for the coating or finish, resulting in a more attractive and professional-looking result. Whether you are painting a room or laying tiles, surface preparation can help to enhance the overall appearance of the finished product.
  4. Saves time and money: by investing time and effort into surface preparation, you can save time and money in the long run. A properly prepared surface will ensure that the coating or finish lasts longer, reducing the need for costly repairs and maintenance.

Deciding exactly how to prepare a surface can be a difficult decision. There are many methods that can be employed to ensure that the surface is free from any contamination and imperfections, and selecting the appropriate one is vital to ensuring that any application is given the best chance to succeed. Some of the common techniques include:

  1. Cleaning: the surface may need to be thoroughly cleaned to remove any dirt, oil, polishes, coatings or other contaminants. This can be done simply using a cleaning solution, a specialist stripper or acid.
  2. Grinding: grinding is often used to remove any loose or damaged material and remove surface imperfections. It creates a smooth and even surface and opens up dense and compacted surface layers. Depending on the surface and the coating or finish being applied, different grinding discs will need to be used.
  3. Priming: priming can serve multiple functions. Often, it is used as a bond enhancer, ensuring proper adhesion and improving durability. It can also be used to create a barrier between the surface and the coating or finish. Some products can react negatively when applied to specific surfaces. Using a primer as a barrier can allow the applications to work together without any compatibility issues.
  4. Filling: filling is used to repair any cracks, holes, or other damage to the surface, creating a smooth and even base for the coating or finish.
  5. Smoothing compound: a layer of smoothing compound can be applied from 2mm up to provide a subfloor ready to be installed on.

By investing time and effort into proper surface preparation, you can ensure that the coating or finish adheres properly, lasts longer, and provides a more attractive and professional result. With the benefits of surface preparation and standalone techniques covered, how can you approach preparing timber or solid substrates?

How to prepare a timber substrate

There are several ways to prepare a timber substrate depending on the floor covering being installed. Let’s take floorboards as an example.

The two most commonplace methods would be to install a minimum of 6mm flooring grade plywood, ensuring it is fixed correctly. Do you know the correct distance between fixings for plywood? The minimum requirement is 12mm in from the edge, every 100mm around the perimeter. The rest of the board must be fixed every 150mm – that’s quite a few isn’t it? Then, you can put a finishing compound over the plywood ready for the installation. Or, if the floor is still not quite even and smooth, and not quite fit for a finishing compound, you can install a flexible smoothing compound over the plywood to help with those undulations.

At Bostik, we have solutions such instances. Our SL C530 FLEX or SL C780 FLEX smoothing compounds are fibre reinforced to provide the flexibility required. Alternatively, our brand-new smoothing compound SL C955 ADVANCED is suitable to go over timber substrates and provides a whole host of other benefits. Once fully dry, you can carry on with your perfect installation.

How to prepare a solid substrate

As before, there are lots of different ways to prepare a solid subfloor ready for installation depending on the floor covering being installed. For this example, let’s talk about a sand and cement screed.

Floor layers are normally one of the last trades on a project. So, they may be left with the task of cleaning up after other trades – lumps of paint, plaster left all over the floor (let’s not even go there with electricians) and in certain scenarios, laitance and trodden-in dirt. We need to remove any contamination before we do anything, so grinding is the most common way to get the subfloor ready. Once all the contamination has been removed, I always recommend a moisture check to comply with British Standards and, of course, going over manufacturer’s recommendations. But, of equal importance, it’s showing pride in your work, being professional and not taking shortcuts.

The next stage of preparation – priming. We need to prime the subfloor ready for the smoothing compound. Not all smoothing compounds need priming, but for me, it’s best practice to prime every time.  A product like Bostik GRIP A526 UNIVERSAL primer is perfect for sand and cement screeds. Simply dilute the product and apply it with a brush or a roller. Ideal for fast-track applications, there’s no need to wait around. Once fully dry, you can apply any of the Bostik smoothing compounds. As easy as that!

As with most things, there’s a lot more involved. Although it may sound easy enough, there is still product selection to consider. Is the smoothing compound the correct one for this project? You wouldn’t want to use a quick-drying smoothing compound with a walk-on time of 30 minutes if you’re working on your own and have 100m2 to apply. You need a product that holds a wet edge for a longer time to allow the smoothing compound to blend easily.  We have a product to meet any need. If you want to learn which systems would work best for your projects, call Bostik or attend one of our free training days at the Bostik Academy.