Different Laboratory Flooring Types Explained: Vinyl, Resin and MoreRyan White
Whatever it is that a laboratory specialises in, it must operate in a controlled environment to ensure both the success and safety of the facility. Optimal laboratory design therefore extends to the flooring used in it, too. Laboratory flooring has many properties to take into account; from slip, abrasion and chemical resistance to anti-microbial and bacteriostatic attributes, such factors become part and parcel of a laboratory’s construction and efficacy.
So, whether you’re renovating or starting from scratch, choosing the right material that’s best suited to your laboratory’s speciality is a hugely important decision. Here, we’ll take a look at laboratory flooring, with a closer look at the different varieties and their respective properties to help make the decision easier for you.
What are some common laboratory flooring properties?
Before we get onto the specifics of certain flooring types, there are some common traits that the majority of lab flooring types feature, despite the operational differences among laboratories and research facilities, which are as follows:
- Durable protection, and ability to withstand frequent pedestrian and cart traffic
- Slip resistance that provides the appropriate level of traction for a given area
- An impermeable, non-absorbent surface with the ability to withstand exposure to chemicals in the room
- Low maintenance, with easy and economical cleaning and sanitizing properties
Such properties are typically the minimum characteristics for research laboratory flooring.
Laboratory flooring and chemical resistance
If your laboratory is working with chemicals, then it’s essential to know the concentrations of chemicals that the floor may come into contact with. Although most of this contact will be accidental spillages that get cleaned up immediately, different floor finishes vary in their tolerances to certain chemicals and not others.
Each product in a range will only be resistant to certain concentrations of a given chemical, so it’s critical to check any test data for each product for type and concentration of chemical that you’ll be handling. If test data is available to lower concentrations of chemicals your floor will come into contact with, you shouldn’t assume it will also be resistance to higher concentrations of chemicals as well.
Test data will also specify the amount of time that the floor material will be resistant to contact with a given chemical. Some floor finishes act as a sacrificial layer, protecting the floor below from being damaged but will need to be replaced or repaired after contact. Other floor finishes can be resistance to chemicals for long periods of exposure without sustaining any damage at all.
Varieties of laboratory flooring
Pros: The most popular type of laboratory flooring but also the most expensive, epoxy resin is comprised of a combination of materials that, when mixed together, form a chemically-hardened, plastic-like surface.
When installed, resin floors provide a durable, safe and flexible walking surface, allowing it to hold large amounts of weight without the concrete underneath it cracking. Additionally, they’re one of the most hygienic and chemical-resistant flooring solutions that are available. Similar to cleaning kitchen countertops, spills can be easily dealt with simply by wiping them away, without them settling or sinking below the lab flooring surface. This also makes it resistant to chemicals and other hazardous substances.
Cons: However, everyday wear and tear takes its toll on resin floors, and they’ll have to be replaced eventually. Similarly, the preparation and application of epoxy onto resin can take time. The concrete floor underneath must be free of cracks, grease, oil or solvents before the epoxy is applied, with cleaning the concrete taking multiple attempts. Multiple coats of epoxy are required and since it takes days for a coat to dry, it’s a time-consuming process.
Pros: Vinyl flooring is both durable and aesthetically pleasing, which makes it well-suited to laboratories. Though foot traffic may not be excessive, it may see its fair share of rolling trolleys full of heavy machinery, chemicals and samples that require smooth and efficient transportation. Vinyl flooring’s hard-wearing properties is more than a match for the wear down from heavy use. It’s also comparatively more sound-absorbent and comfortable underfoot compared to harder floor materials.
It’s also easy to clean and maintain – depending on the design, any damaged tiles or planks can be replaced with minimal disruption to the productivity of the lab.
Cons: That said, despite it being easily replaced, vinyl flooring is less cost-effective than other materials due to the price of any replacements. It’s also non-biodegradable, which can create ecological waste. If you’re considering vinyl flooring, you may have to double check with green build standards of your facility’s building.
Pros: A cheaper alternative to epoxy resin, sealed concrete still provides your lab with versatile, durable, easy-to-maintain flooring, which has made it an increasingly popular choice for laboratories. With proper sealing, concrete can last for decades, and leaves nowhere for spills or contaminants to escape, so clean up is a case of easily sweeping or wiping away of the surface.
Cons: However, it does have its drawbacks. Its durability can also be a liability; if lab members fall or equipment is dropped, then they risk injury or damage. It’s also incredibly slippery when wet, so care must be taken when walking after cleaning. It also has little insulating value and so it can be particularly cold in certain seasons unless it has been installed in conjunction with a radiant floor heating system. Additionally, if it hasn’t been properly sealed then any liquid that’s made its way into the pores of the concrete floor it can lead to mould and mildew.
Pros: Large sheets of flooring that can be chemically bonded or heat welded together, monolithic flooring is typically constructed of vinyl, rubber or linoleum, making them a great option for labs looking for a more economical approach to its flooring, being less costly than more popular varieties of lab flooring.
Once properly sealed, monolithic floors create a seamless cove that continues up the wall by a few inches, eliminating the possibility of liquid or chemicals reaching the subfloor.
Cons: It’s crucial that monolithic flooring is properly installed and sealed. If not, then excessive water or chemical spillage can penetrate and damage certain floor types.