BY KENDALL YOUNGWORTH
Few municipal facilities require as many different types of flooring as fire stations. From administrative offices and community outreach rooms to apparatus bays, equipment bunkers, sleeping areas, kitchens, and bathrooms, the demands vary greatly.
However, there are a few things all flooring systems throughout the different spaces within fire stations have in common:
- They are all high-traffic areas, whether pedestrian or vehicular.
- Because of the demand for quick responsiveness when duty calls, safety and traction are prime issues.
- Durability, longevity, and easy maintenance are critical features, especially since local citizens’ tax dollars are involved. Apart from budgetary considerations, a fire station is vital to the safety and survival of the community it serves; it cannot afford the financial burden or downtime of frequent repairs.
HOW EPOXIES AND URETHANES MEET DEMANDS
There is a wide array of epoxy and urethane floor coating products made to address specific firehouse concerns. Different finishes are also available depending on the facility’s needs, such as high-gloss and satin. By choosing from a diverse selection of epoxies and urethanes, you can create a flooring system that is ideal for meeting the range of demands in your specific fire station.
- Abrasion resistance and impact resistance are so important in apparatus bays and equipment bunkers, where floors may be subjected not only to everyday wear and tear and a high level of foot traffic but also the dropping of tools or heavy equipment.
- A virtually seamless floor minimizes the potential for cracks and helps eliminate crevices where microbes can potentially grow. Plus, by avoiding the multiple grout lines and seams found in many other flooring systems, the virtually seamless nature of fluid-applied flooring epoxy/urethane flooring helps mitigate the risk of slip and trip hazards, creating a potentially safer surface to walk—or run—on.
- By eliminating tight corners and 90-degree floor-to-wall joints, installing integral resinous flooring cove bases can further enhance the simplicity of proper cleaning and pathogen control efforts.
- The flooring is easy to maintain, with no frequent waxing, buffing, or polishing required. A wet mop between emergencies can help keep the floor clean and attractive.
- Many resinous flooring systems are 100 percent solids with low or no odors or volatile organic compounds. This means that not only do certain products have LEED® credits available for low-emitting materials but also installation or repairs in one area do not necessarily preclude personnel from inhabiting other areas of the building while the newly applied coating cures.
DESIGN AND SLIP RESISTANCE
Epoxy and urethane flooring systems are available in a wide variety of colors and decorative options such as blends of multihued flakes, quartz, and metallics. Some manufacturers can even custom color match pigments, flake, and quartz. Virtually any design or color scheme can be accommodated. Even logos or fire brigade medallions can be embedded into floor coating systems, providing an eye-catching way to encourage company pride and team spirit. Aesthetics such as these can be particularly important, especially in community meeting rooms and other common areas visible to the public.
Not only do decorative flake and quartz systems help brighten up the look of a floor by adding a touch of color and design, they also furnish a slight texture, which can help prevent slip and fall incidents.
However, regardless of the look you choose for a given floor—whether a solid colored surface or a decorative flake or quartz system—your installer can satisfy your desire for additional texture and slip resistance by adding grit to the top coats. Manufacturers offer different sizes of aggregate to choose from. The smaller the grit size, the less aggressive the surface texture. The larger grit size will provide a more aggressive texture. The amount of aggregate added to the top coat can also be adjusted, depending on the needed traction.
DEMANDS OF SPECIFIC AREAS
There are many different epoxy/urethane flooring options available to help create a suitable finish for a given area within the firehouse.
The apparatus bay takes more punishment than any other area and is visible to the public. As a result, the floor coating system should provide the following:
- Chemical resistance to eliminate corrosion of the floor coating when exposed to harsh chemicals, oils, solvents, fuels, and even the salt or calcium content of ice melting products that get tracked indoors.
- UV resistance to help keep colors vibrant and true to their original color without quickly ambering, yellowing, or chalking when exposed to UV rays.
- Excellent tensile and flexural strength to withstand the vibration of heavy fire trucks and other vehicles.
- Sufficient thermal shock resistance for the geographic location—especially in colder climates where the opening and closing of bay doors can expose floors to dramatic changes in temperature and even freeze-thaw cycling all winter long.
- Slip resistance to help avoid slip and fall incidents wherever and whenever possible, including the possible puddles and slick areas created when water drips off equipment and uniforms; when apparatus is hosed down; or when snow, slush, and rain are tracked in.
As community living spaces, firehouse kitchens, bathrooms, and showers require the utmost attention in terms of sanitation. Here again, unique epoxy/urethane flooring options, such as integral cove bases, virtually seamless surfaces, and resistance to harsh disinfecting cleaners, promote facility hygiene and reduced pathogen proliferation.
MOISTURE VAPOR IN A CONCRETE SLAB
One key item that should always be addressed prior to installing a resinous floor coating is to determine if the concrete slab contains high levels of moisture. Why is this important? When a concrete substrate contains inappropriately high moisture or is subject to high moisture vapor transmission from underneath the slab, the applied floor coating system can be subject to damage such as moisture bubbles and poor bond. The good news is there are moisture vapor mitigating primers and underlayment products that can be applied directly to the concrete prior to installing a floor coating system. These products, in turn, can help keep your investment safe and in good shape for the life of your firehouse floor coating.
With so many varying areas and needs and so many different products available to address those needs, it can be important to hire an experienced factory certified installer to work with you or your architect to ensure you install the appropriate firehouse flooring system.
KENDALL YOUNGWORTH is a senior marketing specialist at Tennant Coatings with more than 10 years of experience assisting clients across many industries in selecting and installing optimal concrete flooring for their facilities.