Choosing the Right Flooring System
By Bryan Salvage, Editorial Director
Do your homework up front, and choose a system based on needs… not just price.
Meat and poultry processors have many options to consider when choosing a flooring system for their plants. The primary goal should always be to choose what’s best for the operating environment, but many other considerations must also come into play.
“The first option to consider is cost,” says Don Graham, president, Graham Sanitary Design Consulting Ltd., Chesterfield, MO. “Flooring systems can run from a low of $4 to $5 a square foot to more than $20 a square foot, depending on the abuse the floor will receive.”
Options range from a 20- to 40- ml thick roll-on epoxy up to 1 3/8-inch thick brick, he adds. The types of roll-on or monolithic flooring range from epoxy coatings to resinous materials to urethanes, and recently combinations of these have come out as competition gets fiercer in the flooring marketplace.
“One of the flooring types being pushed today is a cementatious urethane,” Graham says. “Other providers are pushing methacrylates or variations of epoxies,” he adds. “In addition, one company is marketing a resinous epoxy that contains silver ions, which make it antimicrobial. The claim is that the silver ion technology will last the lifetime of the flooring system.”
Packers and processors must ask the right questions when shopping for a new flooring system. Graham has developed a questionnaire to force the packer or processor to recognize the abuses the flooring system is expected to receive and put it into writing. The customer then hands the document to flooring vendors explaining the system must handle any of the listed abuses. Next, the customer can compare prices and products on an apples-to-apples basis.
Flooring trends
Two parallel trends exist in the flooring industry. One is use of bonded materials, such as cementatious urethane and resinous materials that contain silver ions. The other is the use of brick and brick-type materials with chemical-resistant and antimicrobial grout, Graham says.
“There is a relatively new brick-type flooring that is actually a clinker or flint-type material that is being used in some ready-to-eat meat plants,” Graham says. “Companies offering this flooring type claim it is very non-porous and has extremely small grout lines.”
The Sherwin-Williams Co., Cincinnati, OH, the largest manufacturer of industrial coatings in the United States, makes and distributes the most complete line of coating systems for the meat and poultry industry, the company relays. The backbone of its flooring-system lineup for the meat and poultry industry is comprised of FasTop Flooring Systems, says Jim Ratliff, National Accounts Manager, Sherwin-Williams Industrial & Marine Coatings.
“These materials provide outstanding performance in the challenging environments of food processing plants,” he says. “They are made to order for the constantly-damp or wet conditions, cool temperatures, and sanitation processes commonly used in these plants. With excellent resistance to impact, abrasion, and heavy wear, these systems also have very low odor with no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) so they meet compliance needs.” (See the flooring report in the June 2005 NATIONAL PROVISIONER for more details.)
Stonhard Inc., Maple Shade, NJ, which calls itself the largest manufacturer and installer of polymer flooring, offers customized floor and wall systems for the most demanding environments. “Our high-performance products, such as Stonclad UT, are designed to protect against impact, abrasion, chemicals, and thermal shock while maintaining a decorative, slip-resistant, cleanable surface,” says Michael Jewell, vice president of marketing. “We offer a wide variety of options, including physical and chemical performance characteristics, thickness, and engineering details.”
Stonhard’s customers have relied on Stonhard UT for many years in the meat and poultry industries, he says.
“This product is a troweled polyurethane textured mortar system designed to withstand thermal shock and thermal cycle conditions,” he adds.
Meanwhile, Dur-A-Flex, East Hartford, CT, manufactures materials for resinous flooring systems, seamless flooring that runs the gamut from epoxies, urethanes, urethane mortars, methyl methacrylates (MMA), acrylic floor systems, as well as aggregates used in those systems.
“Flooring is not a part of what we do – it’s all we do,” says Mark Paggioli, marketing director.
He cites the growth of urethane floor systems as one of the hottest trends in flooring for the meat and poultry industries. The company’s Poly-Crete floor systems are its newest offerings.
“Poly-Crete HF is the trowel-down system,” Paggioli says. “It results in a very durable floor system and a one-step installation so it allows a processor to provide a quick turnaround time on that floor space. Our Poly-Crete MDB is a self-level floor system that adds a slip-resistant broadcasting to give it more traction underfoot.
Cover Crete (Canada) Ltd., Pickering, Ontario, Canada, has operated for more than 20 years and grown from an installation company to a full-scale manufacturing and exporting dynasty, says Colin Edwards, president. Cover Crete’s patented three-part polyurethane cement flooring systems have grown to be trusted in many Fortune 500 companies, he adds.
“Our systems are designed for application to and protection of concrete, steel, and wood surfaces against chemical corrosion, abrasion, impact, and thermal shock,” Edwards says. Cover Crete’s systems have no odor, are non-toxic and non-tainting, and they require no ventilation during application.
Hot flooring trends
Creating environmentally-friendly products is one industry trend that’s heating up, Edwards says.
“With more consumers being concerned with the depletion of our environment, customers are turning to suppliers of environmentally-friendly products,” Edwards adds. “All of Cover Crete’s systems are water-based applications and packaged in recyclable        containers. Their ease of use and lack of toxic odor are a welcome change to   consumers who are looking for products that won’t harm the planet.”
The company’s newest product, Cover Crete GT, is designed for meat and poultry industry kill floors. This new water-based polyurethane technology is completely odorless during application, and it cures within 12 to 24 hours (depending on temperatures inside the plant). This product is reinforced with very hard granite aggregate. The system is spread with a screed rake or screed box to a required thickness of one-quarter or one-eighth of an inch. A light trowel finish leaves a perfect profile for anti-slip resistance, Edwards relays.
“Cover Crete GT will also have the option to add the Ultra-Fresh Anti-Microbial additive to resist the growing of mold and fungi,” Edwards says.
Cornerstone Flooring & Linings, Indianapolis, IN, is the single-source polymer flooring solution, says Mike Gramlich, vice president.
“We provide the latest manufacturing technology with our own in-house installation teams,” he says. “At every step of the project, you will always interact with a Cornerstone employee, not a subcontractor.”
Providing thermal shock resistance, color stability, and slip resistance are the hottest trends in the industry. CS 5000 Corner Crete System is the company’s newest product. This heavy-duty polyurethane/matrix system is designed to provide excellent resistance against abrasion, chemical, and thermal attack with a service temperature range of 250°F to -50ºF, and the flooring is installed by company employees.
Floor maintenance
Processors must stay within the parameters of the abuse that the flooring system is deigned to withstand, Graham says. “In addition, reactive materials [fat, acids, strong alkalis, etc.] must be removed so they do not react with the flooring system over long periods.”
Maintenance must be performed whenever needed and never delayed.
“Damage has to be repaired on a priority basis. A damaged floor will only get worse as it allows moisture, other liquids, and other contaminants to exploit the original damage and make it rapidly worse,” Graham continues.
A monolithic floor that has been damaged and the floor coating cracked, or a chip that has resulted in a hole through the coating, will allow moisture to penetrate, seep under the flooring material, and continue to spread. “At the same time, it will be creating a microbiological soup that will exit the original hole, and another that has been formed due to the lifting,” he adds.
Specialization has made different plants, and different areas of a plant, very unique in the challenges they present from a cleaning and sanitation standpoint, Jewell says.
“Due to different conditions of use and functions that take place, the surfaces to be cleaned and maintained vary greatly,” he continues. “This requires different procedures and products to be used in these diverse areas. The floor systems must have a high-surface texture and a high-resistance to organic acids, in addition to a solid cleaning program to ensure a safe, clean facility.”
Another major factor is the quality of the workable substrate the floor is applied on, Jewell says. “A clean and dry starting point of the floor system is needed for a quick and effective turn-around time, which is often a challenge in these plants that have a strict production schedule.”
A chosen floor system must be very dense, impervious to water and chemicals, and be able to withstand steam cleaning on a regular basis, Edwards says. “The system also has to be extremely slip resistant for the safety of the meat facility workers who have to walk on blood and animal fats,” he adds. “Seamless polyurethane concrete is becoming the preferred method for overlaying concrete floors. They can be easily cleaned and sanitized while still retaining a safe working environment.”
“The floor has to withstand thermal shock,” Edwards adds. “You’re often dealing with a floor in a cool environment and then it’s hit with a high-temperature wash-down. The urethane floor systems are designed to meet those challenges.”
Eye to the future
Companies will begin to consider installing more decorative floors that still provide durability, Paggioli predicts. Flooring providers will also be improving on polyurethane/matrix systems, Gramlich says.
Graham says the one major trend he sees is industry opting for more low-maintenance systems.
“There is also a move toward antimicrobial systems [silver ion technology] and less of ‘We chose it because it is cheap.’
Price should never be the only thing to consider when choosing a new flooring system. Graham warns: “Buy a cheap flooring system for a highly-abusive environment and you will probably be replacing it in a matter of months.” NP