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What is the best flooring material for laboratories?

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What is the best flooring material for laboratories?

INCLUDING CLEAN ROOMS, MEDICAL LABS, SPECIALIST LABS & GENERAL LABS

In all laboratories maintaining a controlled environment is important and, in many cases, critical.

Laboratory floors need to be slip-resistant, non-staining, non-permeable / non-absorbent / moisture-proof, durable, easy to clean and easy to maintain.

Other features that might be required:

  • abrasion resistant enough to take wheeled trolleys and/or forklift trucks
  • durable enough to not puncture if sharp tools or equipment falls on it
  • oil & grease resistant  
  • hygienic
  • bacteriostatic
  • anti-microbial
  • resistance to biocides
  • electrostatic-dissipative
  • able to withstand high or low temperatures
  • chemically resistant

SPECIFYING CHEMICALLY RESISTANT FLOORING

When specifying a laboratory floor it is important to know the types and concentrations of chemicals the floor might come into contact with.  The majority of potential contact will be accidental spillage which will be cleaned-up immediately. Different types floor finishes will have tolerances to some chemicals and not others.  Even floors of the same generic type, e.g. polyurethane resin floors, will have tolerances to some chemicals and not others. Furthermore, each product in a range will only be resistant to a certain concentration of any given chemical. It is important to check the test data for each product for the type and concentration of chemicals your laboratory floor will potentially come into contact with. If test data is available for a lower concentration of chemical your floor will come into contact with, it is not safe to assume it will also be resistant to a higher concentration as well. The test data will also specify the amount of time the floor material will be resistant to contact with a given chemical. Some floor finishes will protect the floor below from being damaged but will need to be replaced/repaired following contact, i.e. it acts a sacrificial layer.  Other floor finishes can be resistant to a given chemical for long periods of exposure without sustaining any damage at all.

TEMPERATURES & CLEANING REGIMES

The specification of a flooring finish in a lab must take in to account how the area will be cleaned/ sanitized. The floor finishes need to be resistant to detergents, disinfectants and water under pressure. Some floor materials are not tolerant of high temperatures, so if the floor is likely to be steam-cleaned or cleaned with hot water it will not be suitable.  If decontamination processes are carried out your laboratory floor will need to be resistant to chemicals such as formaldehyde.  Similarly the lab is ever going to be fumigated the floor finishes will need to be resistant to the chemicals used in this process.

BIOMEDICAL & ANIMAL RESEARCH FACILITIES

Floor, wall and ceiling facilities must also not be capable of harbouring pests or vermin, and must minimise potential access by pests.

TYPICAL LABORATORY FLOORING OPTIONS:

  • Vinyl - sheets or tiles
  • Ceramic tiles - tiles
  • Linoleum - sheets or tiles
  • Rubber - sheets or tiles
  • Self-levelling resin coatings - poured
  • Resin Screed - trowelled

SEAMLESS FLOOR FINISHES

Sheet and tiled products all have the same issue - the joints / junctions at the perimeter of each sheet or tile is a point of weakness.  For ceramic tiles the grout between the tiles is usually slightly absorbent and can harbour dirt leading to microbial growth.  For vinyl, rubber & linoleum the joints at the point that fails first. Splits gaps and crack can occur enabling liquids to penetrate through the gaps and beneath the sheets or tiles.  This is difficult to clean and can become an area for microbial growth.

Seamless resin floors do not have this issue.  Where materials are poured or trowelled there are no junctions, until the floor materials change.  At this point a carefully chosen transition strip/threshold strip should be selected.  Many worldwide regulatory bodies advise that seamless floor finishes perform best.

INTEGRAL SKIRTINGSLab seamless resin floor with integral skirting coving

Although coved lay-on PVCu skirting that is welded and sealed to the floor finish is ok. It is possible to take resin flooring up to the walls to form an integral coved skirting that is seamless with the floor finish. Taking a coved skirting 150mm up the wall should be sufficient for the majority of activities

LEVELNESS & FLATNESS 

Floors should be smooth and level but not necessarily flat.  It might be better for cleaning and decontaminating if the floors slope gently towards floor drains, so water can be removed quickly, even if the area is hosed down. Drain covers must also be slip-resistant.

CAN RESIN FLOORS BE ELECTROSTATIC-DISSIPATIVE?

Yes resin floors can be electrostatic dissipative as long as an anti-static floor system is specified. This ensures that the full build-up of the flooring finish has electrical conductivity leakage resistance. In compliance with the anti-static ohms readings in line with BS2050/1978.

See Anti-static resin floor finishes page

SEE ALSO:

Wall finishes for Laboratories

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