Seamless Floors for Kennels

Considerations for Selecting a Seamless Flooring System for Kennel Applications
By: Tom Murphy, General Polymers
(Published in Pet Services Journal March 2000)

There are four key areas to address when determining the type of seamless flooring system right for your facility. In order of importance these factors are performance, aesthetics, scheduling and budgeting. There are several options that are ideal for animal housing. Only after you have selected the best system for your situation should you identify the appropriate supplier and installation contractor.

The most important determinant for selecting the appropriate floor technology is considering the area utilization including, chemical exposure, traffic conditions, wet or dry environment, UV exposure, maintenance required and, of course, the existing condition of the floor. There are several seamless chemistries available to meet the performance criteria and each of these options can be incorporated into different systems to provide impact resistance, long term wear and skid resistance.

CHEMISTRY

For normal wear and low chemical exposure, a standard epoxy or urethane chemistry provides you with a variety of different flooring systems. These products can be installed as a coating, broadcast or self-leveling slurry systems and higher build trowel applied systems. In cage areas with urine exposure, strong detergents or disinfectants use, more chemical resistance is required. In general, the flooring system to be installed should be tested by experimental exposure to all chemicals that will be used. Typically, a epoxy chemistry based upon standard Bisphenol A and cycloaliphatic amines will serve a wide range of chemical resistant applications within a kennel and is preferred by both customers and installers due to the 100% solids, zero VOC and low odor considerations. Additives are available for both epoxies and urethane materials to restrict the growth of microorganisms. These Antimicrobial additives have the added benefit of reducing the odor associated with bacterial degradation.

SYSTEM THICKNESS

The traffic pattern and wear considerations will dictate the thickness you will need to install your system. Heavy traffic will require more than a simple coating for long lasting wear. If your existing floor is uneven or badly damaged, you will be able to correct these irregularities through the use of a trowel-applied system. Not only do these systems provide excellent wear surfaces but also resist thermal shock disbonding (in steam cleaning environments) and have modest impact resistance. Most recently, an aggregate saturated flexible epoxy has been utilized for high impact areas. In most new construction and some renovation at kennels, a broadcast system (1/8”) incorporates the wear resistance and non-skid texture required to meet the needs of the facility.

SKID RESISTANCE

After selecting the chemistry and the thickness required, you can texture the system for the desired skid resistance. All systems can be installed to meet the ADA requirements for slip resistance. Coating systems can be textured through the use of silica sand, polypropylene beads or aluminum oxide. In general, a smaller grade aggregate can be incorporated into the coating while larger aggregate must be broadcast and back roller. The broadcast technique will leave variation in texture. Broadcast systems are naturally course and can be made smoother through the use of additional topcoat materials. Troweled systems have a tendency to be more slip resistant due to the open architecture of the blend. The slip resistant nature of your system can also be adjusted through the use of various finish coats. Glossy surfaces are perceived to be much more slippery than satin or flat finishes. Selecting a topcoat with a slight stipple finish will be less slippery than a smooth finish. If you have the option of using either an epoxy or a urethane as determined in the first steps of the process, you may wish to consider a urethane finish which will not only be more skid resistant but will also resist abrasion under normal foot traffic.

GOOD LOOKING FLOOR

Aesthetics can be addressed after you know the system is well suited for your application. Often this is simply choosing your favorite color but some technologies allow you to choose from more decorative systems without compromising performance.

When considering aesthetics your options include: color, design, gloss rating, and finish texture. Not all chemistries are available in all colors. If you are finishing an area where chemical resistance and safety are the primary consideration, color and aesthetics should not be an issue. On the other hand, seamless flooring products are virtually unlimited in the deign characteristics which are available in standard products. Color can be achieved through pigmenting your resin or through the use of colored aggregate. Combining these options allows you to select a variety of different finishes, which can be manufactured to match any color you desire. When designing an entire floor you also have the option of using different colors in different areas. In a simple coating system, aisle markings, traffic lines and even logos may be embedded in the floor or the aisle may simply be a different color from the field. The use of color and design is most dramatically demonstrated through the use of terrazzo flooring. Thin-set epoxy terrazzo uses a variety of different colored aggregate with an epoxy matrix having a limitless color selection combined with the use of strips to design patterns and pictures. Other troweled decorative flooring systems also give you the option of using strip patterns to layout a design.

Transitions to other surfaces are both a design and functional consideration. Other finishes generally transition well to seamless floors that are one eight to one quarter inch in depth. A transition to bare concrete however, requires thicker installations to be “keyed” (not feathered) to provide a smooth interface. Seamless floors frequently are installed with an integral cove base to allow for easy cleaning and prevention of water damage at the wall. The transition to the wall is extremely important in a kennel. For block walls, the top of the cove can be terminated into a mortar joint. For drywall or cement board, the troweled cove is feathered and an epoxy wall system can be installed over the feathered edge. Both of these techniques result in a smooth joining surface for easy maintenance.

TIMING

Timing and scheduling of the installation may impact your system selection. There are some chemistries available which allow for quick installs, while other polymers may require cure times of up to one week in order to provide full chemical resistance. Most epoxy and urethane systems require the concrete to be at least twenty-eight day old because these systems will not allow the excess moisture to escape from the concrete. Considerations must also be give to work schedules of existing facilities and other trades in new construction.

Some of the fastest setting polymers are methylmethacrylate (MMA), novolac epoxy, vinylester and polyurea. Each of these chemistries provides unique advantages but may have other drawbacks. MMA, for example, has a strong odor, is sensitive to water terminating the reaction, and is higher in cost. Similar to MMA, vinylesters use a free radical reaction, which is sensitive to water, and have a pungent odor. Polyurea exhibits excellent elongation but in general has lower adhesion properties relative to epoxy. Novolac polymers have a high degree of cross linking which gives them excellent chemical resistance but does not achieve full chemical resistance for 7 days and will have a tendency to chalk and discolor when exposed to UV light. Given these shortcomings, sometimes scheduling of an installation requires the use of fast cure materials.

TOTAL COST

Finally, having narrowed the field of available systems, your selection must meet your budget. Cost considerations extend beyond the bill presented by the installation contractor. You need to take into account if there is any down time created by the installation, how long will the system last and when will it need to be renewed, what repairs will be necessary and can they be performed by your staff or must the original contractor be scheduled. As you factor cost, consider the warranty. Obviously, if the system is well selected and installed correctly, the warranty will cover any problem over the course of normal use.

CONCLUSION

Throughout this article a variety of systems have been discussed, from coatings to high build resurfacers. The chemical make up of these systems is an important consideration to the overall system performance and lasting value. Design and aesthetics are an important secondary consideration and can be achieved using coatings, broadcasts and troweled systems. Add your installation scheduling and budget consideration takes the guesswork out of selecting the right seamless flooring system for your animal facility.