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Unit: Installation requirements

Section: Construction features

MSFKB3002: Determine requirements for installation

Competencies covered

MSFKB3002: Determine requirements for installation

Floor systems

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Set out below are the main types of floor systems used in dwellings.

Concrete slab

Concrete slabs can be constructed on the ground or suspended in upper floors. They are reinforced with steel mesh and may also have beams incorporated where extra strengthening is required.

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Floor coverings over concrete are many and varied.

In a kitchen, some products are glued direct to the surface, such as ceramic tiles, slate and parquetry.

Others, such as vinyl and carpet, generally have a foam underlay installed between them and the concrete.

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Timber is also commonly used in the kitchen.

Solid strip flooring can be installed on top of plywood sheets or timber battens fixed to the concrete.

Or a 'floating floor' can be used, made of laminated panels that 'float' on a foam or rubber underlay.

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In the bathroom the choice is more limited, because it requires waterproof or water resistant coverings.

Most floors are finished with ceramic tiles, which are installed on a bed of mortar.

This allows the tiler to put a 'fall' or slope in the floor towards the waste pipes.

Other coverings sometimes used include slate, glass, and even timber when special installation methods are used.

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Timber or steel framed floor

Most raised floors in domestic buildings use plywood or particleboard sheets supported by a frame of timber or steel joists.

This method is called platform flooring, because it allows the builders to work on a platform while they stand up the wall frames and fix them in position.

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An alternative method to platform flooring is called the cut-in or fitted floor.

This is the traditional technique used in cottage construction when floors were generally made of tongue and groove timber boards.

The walls sit directly on the floor joists and are erected before the floor boards are installed.

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Although it's harder work for the builders, it has the advantage of allowing the roof to be covered and waterproofed before the floor goes down.

So the technique is still used for high quality solid timber strip flooring.

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Particleboard and plywood sheet flooring are both examples of structural flooring, because they are designed to take the floor loads and withstand stresses in the building.

The same applies to timber boards when they're fixed directly to joists.

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Coverings put on top of structural flooring are not designed to play a structural role.

Their only function is to provide a decorative floor surface.

They include all of the same products used over concrete, such as vinyl, carpet, parquetry, timber boards and floating floor products.

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In bathrooms and laundries the most common covering is ceramic tiles, which are bedded down in the same way as for concrete.

However, because these are wet areas, the sheet flooring and walls need to be waterproofed first to stop any moisture from seeping through.

Some builders prefer to use compressed fibre cement sheeting under tiles instead of particleboard, because of its extra resistance to moisture.

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Learning activity

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The best way to improve your understanding of the different floor systems is to find buildings that use these systems and look closely at the construction methods. You might be able to do this if you're involved in on-site measure-ups. Or there may be a new estate under development nearby that you can visit. If your own home has a raised floor, you can go underneath and have a look.

Try to get access to the subfloor area, particularly under the kitchen and bathroom, to look at the following floor systems:

  • Raised concrete slab

  • Raised timber framed floor.

Take photos from the underside of the floor if you can. Share the photos with your trainer and other learners in your group

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