Against a dark blue background, the podcast title 'Static Bursts' appears in white at the top of the image, with an orange and white stopwatch icon between the two words. A lightning spark appears at the right hand side of the image with a cascade of sparks radiating out across the rest of the image. The podcast title Episode 6: Hidden Costs of ESD Flooring (Part II): Maintenance and Repair is overlaid in white and a dark blue semi-opaque square covering the middle of the image. The company name and logo Staticworx appears in orange (first half) and white (second half) at the bottom.

Static Bursts (Ep #6): Hidden Costs of ESD Flooring (Part II) – Maintenance and Repair

New floors are typically installed over the following pre-existing surfaces: VCT (vinyl composition tile), VAT (vinyl asbestos tile), or coatings over concrete. While it is possible and sometimes preferable to install a new floor directly over an old surface, a number of steps should be taken to ensure that the new floor does not fail. The steps including destructive testing to determine whether the bond between the existing surface and subfloor (or existing surfaces) is intact and exactly what lies below the current surface – subfloor? Old tile or coating? Layers of tiles? – as well as testing for asbestos and other regulated chemicals.

Dave Long discusses situations in which companies have run into trouble, installing new flooring over old, and explain the steps necessary to avoid similar problems.

Episode Highlights: Avoiding Problems When Installing ESD flooring Over Existing Surfaces

  • To avoid problems, do your due diligence:

    1. Do a fair amount of “destructive testing”
      • conduct pull tests (try to pull up old tile to check bond and see what’s underneath)
    2. Strip old wax from existing surface
      • layers of wax can keep tiles in place, even if the adhesive bond is broken; floors installed over poorly bonded tiles will fail
    3. Check when old floors were installed
      • were floors in all areas installed at the same time?
    4. Check to be sure there is no asbestos or other dangerous chemicals/materials
      • asbestos requires removal per EPA standards/guidelines

    Before installing a new floor:

    1. Confirm adhesive is intact and bond between existing floor and subfloor is strong
    2. Send old tiles to an independent lab for testing, so you know what you’re looking at
    3. Skim coat to flatten surface and fill in any gaps or seams – if the subfloor is imperfect, the new floor will telegraph those imperfections

In this episode of Static Bursts from StaticWorx, Dave discusses maintenance and repair of ESD epoxy, vinyl, carpet and rubber flooring and what you can expect from each flooring material.

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Dave: Welcome to Static Talks. I’m your host, Dave Long, founder and president of StaticWorx. We make static-control flooring, and our podcasts will discuss the threat static electricity poses to your business, and how to address these risks.

Rick: Today, we continue our discussion of the potential hidden costs associated with ESD flooring. When selecting the right type of ESD flooring for your application, it is important to consider that the upfront costs of materials and installation don’t tell the whole story. To understand the total cost of ownership over time, it’s important to consider how well each material stands up to traffic and what it takes to repair damage.

So let’s start with the epoxy. Dave, what should our listeners know about the cost of maintaining and repairing ESD epoxy coatings?

Dave: When an epoxy coating is installed in a factory, a cleanroom, a manufacturing area, it looks beautiful. It looks like there’s no seams because there aren’t any. You can’t see any bumps in the floor if the floor prep was done properly. It’s like a sheet of glass. Well, even though we do a lot of work in that area, I am here to tell you that before you moved into that building, right after that coating was put down, that’s the best it’s ever going to look. You’re going to use that floor and you’re going to abuse it. When your movers bring in your equipment, it’s not their floor. When they leave, they get paid for setting up new machines. They’re going to scratch the floor, they’re going to scratch it in ways that are going to require you, as an owner, to repair that floor or look at something that’s extremely unsightly.

So if you’ve ever watched an epoxy floor go in, to begin with someone pours out of the bucket a two part catalyst driven chemical on the floor, and after they pour a stream of material on it, they move it around with squeegees and then they back roll it with a roller. It looks perfect. When you repair a floor, now you’re talking about cutting a small area – call it two inches by six inches – removing the coating from that small area, and then with tools trying to blend in the same chemicals that were used to begin with. It’s going to look like a blemish. I mean, it would almost be like wearing a suit that because you spilled something on it, you had a tailor find a piece of fabric somewhere in the suit and actually sew it into the area where the problem is. You might as well have gone in with the stain, it would probably would have looked better.

So when you’re repairing an epoxy floor, you’ve got to be prepared to cut the material all the way back to the concrete, and then if it’s a one coating, or a two coating, or a three coating system, now you’re talking about putting something down on the floor that’s going to take a little bit of time to cure, which means you can have to sequester that area from traffic. After that first coat is done, you’re probably going to want to sand it, put a second coat down, if that’s what the system calls for and a lot of these systems require three coats. By the time you’re done, you’ve got something that isn’t exactly the same elevation as the rest of the floor. So that’s a consideration when you’re looking at durability, because you will scratch epoxy floors, and, to some extent, all coatings – particularly if they have kind of a deep rich color like a blue, green, red – they will tend to dull out over the course of time just from the lights in the room.

So if you’re thinking that epoxy is going to give you that same shine, as it did the day you moved in, it’s not. The day you moved in is the best it’s ever going to look. However, on the flip side, the maintenance of epoxy is minimal – soap and water, you can use one of these ride-on maintenance machines like Tennant makes. You can buff the floor with a high-speed buffer to remove any kind of soiling from the floor. In many cases, people who use these floors do nothing but damp mop them. It’ll always look clean.

Rick: Alright, so epoxy looks great immediately after installation, but it can be difficult to maintain its glossy finish over time due to micro-abrasions from traffic and fading from UV light. On the other hand, it is easy to clean with just a damp mop. So how does that compare to vinyl ESD flooring?

Dave: Vinyl static-control floors can be purchased in sheets, they can be purchased as an interlocking floor that requires no adhesive, and they can be purchased in tiles. By the way, even in tiles, we’ve got footprints. We’ve got 12” x 12” tiles, we’ve got 24″ x 24″ tiles, and in some cases, we even see 36″ x 36″ tiles. So let’s just start with vinyl just as a material, and then we’ll get into how these footprints might affect maintenance.

When vinyl is looked upon by a designer or a facilities manager usually they’re looking at pictures of floors that have been shined up beautifully, and you basically need to wear a pair of sunglasses when you’re walking through the facility. But the real question is, how do you get that finish?

So we’re going to talk about floors with what I would call inherent conductivity veins or little salt and pepper kind of drops of carbon in the surface. So these floors have the ability to take a static charge through the thickness of the floor and bring it down to a conductive adhesive. So we’re looking at maintenance, and particularly we’re looking at durability and maintenance together. One of the things we need to think about is how do we maintain that floor so that during the regular abuse of daily workloads, we can restore the surface without harming the conductivity. So most, I would say quality manufacturers of vinyl provide a maintenance procedure that basically amounts to stripping the floor with a buffing pad that allows the floor to be cleaned fairly deeply, in the process it makes the floor dull, and then restoring the shine to it either by high-speed buffing the floor – and there’s a term for that called burnishing – which basically means you’re melting the surface of the tile, at the same time as you’re circulating the material that you’re melting around the tile, and you will end up with a very shiny ESD tile if you burnish the floor.

A couple of problems with burnishing is one, you can burn the floor. So if you go too fast or you stay in one spot for too long, you burn the floor. But additionally, burnishing is a very labor intensive process. So let’s talk about repair for a second. So I mentioned the different footprints of tiles. So we have 1 x 1 tiles, we have 2 x 2, we have 3 x 3. When you repair a tile, whatever the size of that tile is that’s how much tile you’re going to pull up off the floor. So if you’re building a factory where there’s going to be a lot of traffic and a lot of potential damage to the floor, I always tell people use 12″ x 12″ tiles. If you have to do a repair, you’re replacing 1 sq ft. If you’ve got a tile that’s 36″ x 36″ and someone burns it with a forklift because they decide they want to have fun and pop a wheelie, or a pallet is pulled into the building, has a nail hanging out of it and the person moving that pallet isn’t paying attention, you’re destroying 9 sq ft of tile at a time. So one by ones are the most economic investment you can have.

Rick: What should our listeners know about maintaining and repairing ESD carpet tiles over time?

Dave: So when we decided to really look carefully at how can we help people use ESD carpet in almost any application, we finally came to the conclusion, we’ve got to design a type of carpet that allows for no sort of recognition of where one tile begins and one ends, and also get rid of this whole idea that a monolithic look of solid colors is even something that should be entertained. So fortunately for us, we linked up with a company that created a concept, it’s called a random non-directional pattern, and by random non-directional, what I’m actually talking about is that every tile has the same colors and sort of the same representative pattern, but no two tiles look alike. So random non-directional tiles are tiles that have no directionality, and if you’ve chosen the right type of random non-directional pattern, over years you can’t tell where chairs have started to wear points on the tile, because from day one, that tile had gradations of color in it.

So what I’m actually talking about here is choosing a product that you might say is pre-distressed, but looks really nice. So when you actually exert distress on that tile, you can’t tell the difference. What that also means is when you go back to repair a tile or remove one, when you put a new tile in its place, you can’t tell that that new tile is actually abutting older tiles. So in this particular case, I’m talking about making a selection in advance that allows you to extend the life of the product, because you don’t see wear patterns. So when you’re looking at maintenance and repair, one of the things you want to think about is, if I don’t have to replace tiles for various reasons, I make my operation more efficient. If my tiles hide wear and tear better than some other design, that means instead of replacing a floor in, call it nine years, I can do it in thirteen years.

These are considerations that never get talked about in architectural meetings. The reason they don’t is you can’t know about these problems until you go in and you actually talk to the dispatchers, and I spent enough time at conventions and trade shows talking to these people, and they’ll they’ll tell me, “That’s great. What we really care about is something that won’t interrupt our operation if we go to repair it, and something that will last a long time and still look nice.”

So some yarn systems are what are called mergeable, and what that means is that whether that carpet tile was manufactured in 2010 or 2018, if you buy a random non-directional product, and you also buy one that has what they call mergeable dye lots, that means that if you decide to expand your operation six years from now, you’ll be able to do it with a new product that you didn’t already buy, that you didn’t already have in inventory, that will look very similar, if not identical to what you already have. You don’t need to plan too far in the future if you plan properly at the time when you do the specification.

Rick: So when using random non-directional designs and mergeable dye lots with pressure sensitive adhesive, carpet tiles can be easily replaced resulting in a seamless look that requires no operational downtime. Can you tell us next about rubber ESD flooring?

Dave: Rubber is as durable as any of the potential ESD floors you would choose. It’s a very attractive surface, it’s a non-slip surface, it requires very little maintenance – I would put it on a par with epoxy – but if it’s not installed properly, it doesn’t stand up to traffic. It has a natural coefficient of friction that allows a variety of shoes, and whatever else might be worn, to be walked on with those types of shoes, where people aren’t going to slip. Rubber also has a higher slip resistance wet than dry. So from an ergonomic perspective, it’s a great defense against slips and falls. It’s just a little bit more forgiving than vinyl. The other thing you have to remember about rubber is it attenuates sound better than hard surfaces.

Rick: What is the typical maintenance routine for rubber flooring?

Dave: So most of the time you’re talking about sweeping and mopping, but if you want to put a little bit of shine on rubber, you can actually do it with the right type of buffing pads with nothing other than water.

Rick: And if a rubber floor becomes damaged how can it be repaired?

Dave: Okay, so it all comes down to what type of adhesive was used and what the repair entails. So let’s start with an easy one. There were a couple of tiles that were not installed properly, that over time, the adhesion – because they were only partially adhered – broke down and the tiles have bubbles in them. So those tiles get pulled up. In most cases, a repair would amount to:

  • scraping up any old adhesive abutting the perimeter of the surrounding tiles;
  • making sure that you’ve got all the adhesive off so it’s nice and clean, you’re back down to the original surface;
  • putting down new adhesive;
  • and putting the rubber down.

Now that new adhesive is either going to be an epoxy adhesive, or a conductive acrylic adhesive. Both of those adhesives cannot be walked on for a certain period of time. So if you do have to do a repair, you’re probably looking at a minimum of not being able to walk on that area for probably 24 to 48 hours, depending on a number of circumstances.

Additionally, you may have a repair where you’ve got a surface underneath the rubber, that is essentially what they call a vapor barrier. Now when you remove the tile, you have to make sure that you remove it in such a way that you don’t damage the mitigation directly underneath that tile. Otherwise, you can do a perfect repair, only to discover that tile is bubbling up because you compromised the vapor barrier.

Rubber can be made now – conductive rubber – in sheet form, with an adhesive already applied to the back of it. What that allows you to do is to install that type of rubber directly over concrete that’s smooth and flat, but not have to do what they call mitigation if that concrete has water in it. With these types of self-adhesion systems, you don’t have to worry about that anymore because these adhesives that are used on the back of self adhesion rubber, they can’t be attacked by water. So let’s assume we’ve got a sheet that’s on the floor, that’s 4 ft x 40 ft, and we damage an area that’s three square inches. We can literally go to a roll of material that wasn’t used for the original job, same batch, cut a small piece off from that roll, bring it over to the spot where the repair needs to take place, and kind of like repairing wallpaper, press it down, you can even – if it’s the self adhesive rubber – you can peel the back off, stick it to the spot where the damage is double cut, so in other words, cut through the thickness of the rubber that’s going to be used to fix the damaged area, but cut all the way through the rubber that was already adhered, and then pull up two pieces of… suppose they’re shaped like a triangle, they’re going to be identical triangles. Take the damaged triangle and throw it away, take the piece that was on top, and very carefully just press it into the spot where it was left open by the need to pull up the damaged area. So you’re filling the void with a new piece. That’s the best way to do a repair, and because you’re using a material, in this case that already has the adhesive on the back of it, you’re not going to have a change in thickness. One of the problems with a lot of repairs of floors, is people don’t scrape enough of the old adhesive off. So when they put the repair piece in, the height’s different and it’s different by maybe a 64th of an inch, but that 64th of an inch height difference will be a dirt collector.

We hope you learned something today. If you have questions about the podcast, give us a call at 617-923-2000. Even though we specialize in solving problems with flooring, if you have a question about static discharge, how to install a floor, how to test the floor, we’ll be glad to help you. Thanks for listening.

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StaticWorx high-performance static-control floors protect electronic components, explosives, and high-speed computers from damage caused by static electricity. ESD flooring is part of a system. Choices should always be based on objective, researched evidence. When you partner with us, we look at all possible items that may need to integrate with the floor, and, focusing on your goals and objectives, help you find the right floor for your application.

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StaticWorx high-performance static-control floors protect electronic components, explosives, and high-speed computers from damage caused by static electricity. ESD flooring is part of a system. Choices should always be based on objective, researched evidence. When you partner with us, we look at all possible items that may need to integrate with the floor, and, focusing on your goals and objectives, help you find the right floor for your application.