Your floors need special protection when undergoing remodeling, during new construction, moving heavy furniture or equipment, and for other events beyond day-to-day use. Protecting flooring makes sense and saves money. A spill of paint, the drop of a hammer, a scratch from heavy furniture can cost thousands of dollars in replacement and repair costs. This article describes surface protection products for floors so that you can make informed choices on the best product to use for your needs.
Types of Protection Packaging:
Floor protection products are commonly packaged as either:
(1) Products by the roll: These include common adhesive films, rolled paper products and rolled textile protection. Protective materials purchased by the roll are commonly measured in thickness by mils (e.g., 2.5 mils thick up to 48 mils thick).
(2) Products by the sheet: These include corrugated plastic, masonite, and other rigid protection. Protective materials purchased by the sheet are commonly measured in thickness by the inch (e.g., 1/4-inch thick) and normally come as 4 feet by 8 feet.
Type of Flooring Protection:
Paper protection is suitable for all hard surfaces and resilient surfaces but does not work well to protect carpets as it can tear when flexing under footsteps. Paper products are breathable so that glue fumes and cement curing vapors can escape. One disadvantage to paper products as they require tapes to secure them to flooring and tapes can often leave adhesive residue when removed. Common paper protection products include:
· Ramboard™ A coated compressed paper board 38 mils thick that is breathable, water resistant and made from recycled paper.
· Kraft paper is a lightweight brown paper that is inexpensive but does not afford any impact protection and can easily tear
· Scrim paper may incorporate coatings or reinforcements to make them water resistant as well as scrim threads to reinforce the paper and prevent tearing. These improved papers are longer lasting than regular Kraft paper or rosin paper however they are also too thin to offer much impact protection.
· Rosin paper is thicker than Kraft paper and is very low cost. Rosin paper is recycled, felt paper that ranges from 9.0 to 11.5 mils thick. The huge drawback of using Rosin paper is that it may cause a permanent stain if the paper gets wet. Rosin paper can also rip easily so it not normally recommended for use
· Corrugated cardboard rolls or sheets can also be used to protect flooring. Corrugate provides impact protection however it is not coated with a water resistant finish and should be kept dry at all times so that it does not disintegrate. Cardboard products are also available as single-, double-, and triple-walled corrugated cardboard sheets or as a fan-folded stack.
Polyethylene (PE) films are sold as self adhesive rolled films varying from 2.0 up to 3.5 mils in thickness. They trap any moisture from escaping so they should not be used on any floors that are curing. Two of the great benefits of polyethylene films are that films will flex and contour so they can be used on carpets as well as hard surfaces. These films do not offer any impact protection and are normally rated for short term use of 30 to 90 days only. Polyethylene films are designed for one-time use and do not use recycled materials making them a poor choice in sustainable protection. Protection films are available in a variety of adhesion “tack”. Hard surface protection films will have a lower tack and color than carpet protection which needs a more aggressive glue to hold onto carpet fibers successfully.
Plywood and Masonite are commonly used as protection on commercial projects with lots of foot traffic. Masonite is a wood product made from wood fibers unlike plywood which is an actual sheet of thin wood. Both plywood and Masonite are sold in the standard size of 4 feet by 8 feet and are more expensive per square foot than paper or polyethylene products. Masonite is commonly 1/8 or 1/4 inch thick. Plywood is commonly 1/4 inch to 3/4 inch thick. Both products provide impact protection on a variety of floor types and provide adequate protection against heavy equipment use or furniture moving. Both plywood and Masonite are breathable and reusable however they are bulky to carry and store. These wood sheets should be used on top of a softer protection such as a rolled textile as they easily scratch flooring. These sheets work well to protect carpet as they prevent wrinkles when rolling heavy loads over the carpet. Plywood and Masonite do not offer moisture protection and can be harder to cut to size than other protection types.
Textile products are commonly manufactured from recycled cloth. In addition, these rolled protection products often have added benefits such as skid resistant backings or breathable plastic liners. For wood floors, these specialty textile rolls are highly recommended as they are breathable, skid resistant, reusable, often leakproof and easy to cut to size.
- Clean & Safe™ is a textile product made from recycled cloth remnants that has a leak proof liner on the back. It is used on existing floors only as it does not breathe. This rolled product is reusable and can be used underneath plywood and masonite to prevent scratching
- Surface Pro™ is made from the same manufacturer as the Clean and Safe but is the breathable version. It is a thick, 40 mil textile product that also has skid resistance. White in color, it is often used as a wood floor protection in model homes.
- Surface Liner Vapor™ is the newest textile product to market and is both breathable and leakproof. Microscopic pores in the plastic liner allow vapor to escape yet are too small for common liquids to penetrate. This rolled product is also easy to keep clean as the plastic top can be swept daily to keep it looking good.
- EZ Cover™ is manufactured to protect cement slabs or decorative cement while curing. It has a soft felt bottom and compressed paper backing that allows the floor to breathe. EZ Cover is commonly used in both commercial and residential applications and is easy to cut to size as needed.
Applying the Surface Protection
In order to obtain the full benefits of using surface protection, proper application is a must. The floors should be clean (vacuumed or swept) prior to covering with the protection products. The proper choice of protection should be made so that moisture is not trapped on floors that are still curing. Trapping moisture can cause a full product failure and will invalidate a wood floor manufacturer’s warranty. For heavy traffic or loads, several protection layers may be needed.
In summary, there are many choices in temporary floor protection available today. When choosing a protection product, it is wise to consider the cost, duration needed, breathability and potential to reuse the product. Successful floor protection also includes proper installation and preparation of the floor. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for use so the potential for adhesive transfer is avoided. Protecting valuable floors is a wise investment in time and money. Surface protection experts are also available to help you choose the best floor protection for your needs.