Decorative concrete has become a very popular new flooring choice for both residential and commercial construction projects. They are easy to maintain, great for regions with a lot of sand or snow, and a good alternative to carpeting if the homeowner has allergies. Decorative concrete flooring is often installed in a new home early in the construction process, which can result in damage from paint splatters, grime from workboats, impact from falling materials, and wheeled traffic. How do you help safeguard these freshly polished floors from construction traffic and mishaps from dropped tools and building materials?
There are several different types of surface protection that protect newly-installed decorative concrete floors from damage. Many contractors use Masonite, sheet plastic, and slick films to try to protect concrete flooring. These items offer limited protection and have serious limitations. Products like plywood can scratch flooring and are typically heavy and difficult to store after use. Masonite is bulky and can’t easily be repositioned on a job site. Occasionally, the masonite 4′ x 8′ sheets separate and allow wheeled traffic to directly roll over the new floor. Also, Masonite is not absorbent, so liquids flow off the sides and get into spaces between sheets, damaging the decorative concrete. Sheet plastic has its own set of challenges. While it is easier to move around a job site and is less expensive than other floor protection options, it can be very slippery on top of polished concrete flooring and may lead to worker injuries if someone falls or trips. Plastic sheeting moves easily, which means that without being taped down, it could slide on the floor. Lastly, sheet plastic offers no impact protection from dropped heavy items. Another option that contractors use to protect decorative concrete floors that doesn’t work well are temporary carpets. The carpets have a rubber backing, which does not allow the concrete to breathe. While it makes for good protection against impacts, it is heavy and awkward to move and does not absorb spills well at all. It is also a very expensive type of protection.
Many builders have tried each of these methods to protect decorative concrete but nothing works perfectly. The ideal product would be breathable so that concrete can cure, absorb spills, prevent differential drying, and would provide impact protection. If possible, the product would be reusable and recyclable to reduce waste. Luckily, there are several surface protection products on the market that meet all of these requirements.
Ram Board™ is a heavy-duty floor protection product that is made of a thick cardboard-like material. One roll of Ram Board™ is the same thickness of ten sheets of Masonite, and since it comes in rolls, it is much easier to transport, move around, and store. It lays fast and flat upon being unrolled and allows moisture to escape for curing floors. Ram Board™ is water-resistant and prevents oils and other materials from seeping through and staining concrete flooring. Ram Board’s breathable Vapor Cure™ tape can be used to tape ram board sheets together and does not result in cure lines.
SurfacePro™ is a thick, breathable floor protection product that has a skid-resistant backing. It comes in large rolls and easily cuts to size. SurfacePro™ is reusable and provides 40 mils of protection for decorative concrete floors. The breathable product prevents cure lines in newly-installed concrete and it won’t invalidate the flooring manufacturer’s warranty. Unlike the paper Ramboard, Surface Pro is reusable and last longer.
SurfaceLiner Vapor™ is a new product that is similar to SurfacePro™, but also has a lightly tacky back that almost acts like an adhesive. It lightly grips floors without leaving any sort of residue. SurfaceLiner Vapor™ is breathable and vapor-transmitting for new concrete floors. It is also waterproof and tear-resistant. SurfaceLiner Vapor™ has padded protection that is very effective against impact damage.
,EZcover by McTech Group is a natural cellulose fiber composite that immediately starts absorbing a spill without degrading. It has a dense top layer and a soft cushion on the bottom and is designed to take impacts. EZcover breathes well, is relatively easy to cut/shape around objects, and comes in large rolls for easy placement over large areas. If kept in decent condition, EZcover is reusable. It is its durable against construction traffic and wheeled traffic and the edges can be taped if needed.
While contractors can use basic products such as sheet plastic, Masonite, and carpeting to protect decorative concrete floors, the most effective types of protection are specialized floor protection products. Products such as Ram Board™, Surface Pro™, SurfaceLiner Vapor™, and EZcover are specifically designed to provide the very best protection at a competitive price. Remember; protection is an investment and prevents the high costs of replacement or repair that may happen if the expensive flooring is not protected. Contact your local surface protection supplier for more information how to best protect your valuable concrete floors.