A floor is the horizontal flat surface of a building that acts as a platform on which the inhabitants of a building and other objects in the building rest. There are two main types of floors, grounded floors and suspended floors.
Grounded floors are floors found on the ground floor of the building hence they sit directly on top of the foundation. Suspended floors on the other hand are floors constructed for subsequent upper floors of multi-storied buildings. Since multi-storied buildings have various stories erected upwards, the respective floors of each story are usually suspended above the ground and supported by beams, columns, or load-bearing walls.
A floor takes up all dead and live loads of a building’s inhabitants and objects as well as its own weight and channels them directly to the foundation for ground floors, or to beams, columns, or load-bearing walls for suspended floors. The ground floor is usually a solid slab consisting of a 100-150mm thick concrete mix, seated on a 150mm thick layer of hardcore rocks. The top of the slab is finished with a light cement-sand screed mix and smoothened out. The suspended floors, on the other hand, are made of either a thick concrete slab or hollow concrete slabs like hollow pot slabs or waffle slabs.
Once a floor base is constructed, a number of options are available for choice of floor finishing (floor covering). The choice of finishing material depends on a number of factors among which include;
Functional requirements; this depends on the purpose of the building, is it for a residential building, is it for office space, is it for a factory that probably works with corrosive chemicals, is it a building to be used for indoor sports events or gyms? In each case, the floor material ought to be suitable for the functional purpose of the building.
Strength and durability, depending on the functional requirements of the floor material, should be able to withstand the loads imposed on it and stand the taste of time.
Climatic conditions of the area in which the building is to sit also matter. In this case, the insulating properties of the material ought to be taken into account. Colder areas require a material with better insulating properties to retain warmth for the inhabitants.
Fire resistance also has to be considered, that is especially for buildings that are at high risk of catching fires like factories that use fire during production. In such instances, fire ratings of various materials need to be considered. Various floor coverings come in form of a single poured surface covering, smaller pieces like tiles, or laid as boards for the case of wooden floor finish.
This floor finish comes in form of small square pieces that are arranged systematically across the entire floor. Tiles are glued into place with a tile adhesive that acts as the bond between the tiles and the bed on which they are laid. Floor tiles can be made from a number of materials which include but are not limited to the following;
Ceramic tiles; are the most common type of tiles, ceramic tiles are made from clay which is baked to form hard tiles. They are strong, durable, and easy to clean especially when used for residential houses. They are manufactured in various design textures and colors making them aesthetically appealing. These tiles can easily be molded into various shapes and sizes to suit their function.
Natural stone tiles; These are tiles made from metamorphic rocks like marble, granite, and slate among others that come in a number of colors and textures. Compared to ceramic tiles, marble tiles are more aesthetically pleasing and stylish. They are also strong, durable, and used mainly in kitchens and bathrooms. However, as these stones are strong and durable, they are expensive to construct and maintain.
Quarry tiles; Quarry tiles are made from natural clay that has been fired at extremely high temperatures. This heat treatment makes them incredibly hard and resistant to water damage, making them an ideal choice for areas of your home that may come into contact with moisture such as kitchens or bathrooms. Not only are they highly functional, but they also offer a stylish appearance due to their varying colors and textures. They can be used throughout a room or combined with other materials like stone or wood to create unique patterns and designs. Quarry tiles can also be found in many different shapes, allowing you to get creative when laying out your floors.
Plastic tiles; These are made from poly-vinyl-chloride. They are glued onto the concrete base using a special adhesive. They are relatively cheaper than the other types of tiles, however, they are vulnerable to fire and hence score very low when it comes to fire resistance. Much as they are cheaper, they are not as strong and durable as their ceramic and marble counterparts.
Rubber tiles; These are used mainly because of their sound absorption qualities and deployed in structures where such properties are required like libraries or cinema halls. Rubber tiles are also used in gyms because of their flexibility and shock absorption properties which makes them ideal for gyms where heavy weights might easily damage the floor.
Marble tiles; Marble tiles come in a variety of colors, allowing you to find one that best suits your design style and needs. They offer tremendous durability and require minimal maintenance compared to other materials such as wood or laminate floors. Marble can also be customized into various shapes, sizes, and patterns so you can get creative with how you use them in your space. Additionally, marble provides exceptional heat insulation, meaning it won’t get too cold during winter months.
2. Timber boards; Timber boards are not placed directly onto concrete bases, rather a whole timber floor is designed to suspend the boards above the base. Timber is inherently a delicate building material because it is susceptible to a number of hazards including insect attacks, fungi attacks, and wood rot due to moisture among other factors. Because of this, a special floor is designed where the wooden boards sit on joists that are erected over sleeper walls that suspend the timber boards from the ground. This allows for ample space under the boards for good aeration and prevents moisture and fungi from damaging the timber. Timber floors look stylish and aesthetically appealing, and they also score very high on thermal insulation, therefore, it’s commonly used in areas of extremely cold climates, like Europe which has winter. Timber boards are also relatively noiseless and are used in libraries and auditoriums. However, due to timber’s relative complexity in installation and maintenance, they are costly to construct and maintain.
3. Poured floors;
These are floors that are made by pouring a liquid or molten material to cover the floor, which then dries into a solid floor finish. In this case, materials used include mastic asphalt, cement-sand screed, terrazzo, or in some cases, marram.
Mastic Asphalt is a viscous liquid form of petroleum. It has very good water and chemical-resistant properties hence its application may be majorly in factory or laboratory structures rather than residential homes since it isn’t aesthetically appealing. Its strength and durability also allow for its application in factories with a lot of traffic from vehicles like forklifts. They are also commonly used to construct driveways, parking lots, and flooring garages.
Linoleum; This floor finish makes use of natural raw materials like linseed oil, pine resin, and sawdust. For color variations, pigments of required colors can be added hence the color of the floor is very flexible.
Terrazzo; This floor finish consists of a concrete mix with a special type of marble chips embedded on the surface. The marble chips give the floor a very appealing outlook. Terrazzo floors can be used in various rooms especially bathrooms and kitchens because they are relatively easy to clean.
Cement Sand Screed; This is a light cement-sand mix that is poured onto a concrete base. It is the most basic floor finish available because of its relatively low cost and ease of construction. However, it isn’t very aesthetically appealing and generally not very smooth. It is also not so easy to clean hence mostly used in case of a low budget.
Marram; This basically consists of wet earth that is smeared across the floor base, which dries to form a floor made entirely of earth. The wet earth is sometimes mixed with cow dung to improve its workability and elasticity among other properties. This is by far the cheapest floor finish since the raw materials which are earth and water are readily available. It has good thermal properties, however, it is neither aesthetically appealing nor durable hence It is mainly used in rural areas.
4. Carpet; The final floor finish is more of a dressing for the floor and can be used to complement any of the above floor finishes. Various fabrics are used which include synthetic fibers like polypropylene, nylon, or polyester or in some cases more luxurious fabrics like velvet or suede. Carpets are mostly added for visual appeal, their versatility gives the user multiple options for color and texture. They also have very good insulating properties hence convenient for places with cold weather. The downside of using carpets is that it gathers dust and harbors a number of insects, but worry not for they are very easy to clean and maintain. It is also prone to wear and tear because it is just a fabric. Carpets can also undergo discoloration when exposed to extreme sunshine and for this reason, they are mainly recommended for indoor use.
Those are the various floor finishing options available. Each has its own pros, cons, and specific properties which implies that each is suitable for specific conditions though some have a very wide range of applicability. When choosing a floor finish, one should consider factors like the construction budget, aesthetic properties, strength, and durability. One ought to also consider one’s own discerning tastes and preferences and align them with one’s choice.