May 6, 2020
Build your home: How to install flooring
How to install flooring
In this article we’ll take a close look at the construction elements necessary for impeccable, state-of-the-art installations. Starting from the basics, the steps towards a complete floor installation are simple, guaranteeing effective and durable results. We will also unveil an original and innovative solution in the world of construction profiles which will allow you to position floor and windows at the perfect height.
The floor section
Let’s start from the basics, the layers that make up the floor are:
- The slab: The deepest layer and the part that is most resistant to mechanical pressure. It can be realized in different materials that modify its properties based on the specific needs of the building. The most common is a concrete / hollow brick slab often used in buildings where the concrete is joined with the hollow brick in order to lighten the structure.
- Insulation: the second layer, not essential, but frequently used. In building construction, insulation refers to those materials which contain thermal or acoustic resistance properties. The insulation values vary depending on the type of material implemented. In recent years, composites derived from eco-sustainable materials have become popular due to their high performance.
- Substrate + Mortar Bed: the third layer has the function of supporting the flooring itself. As we get closer to the tiled surface, the mortar bed lets you level the surface on which the flooring is installed, be it in ceramic, resin, wood, laminate or stone. It also allows you to distribute static or dynamic loads on the flooring.
- Adhesive: the fourth layer critical for installers.
- Floor: the fifth and last layer, decided on personal preference and the design of the space. Wood, ceramic, laminates and resin are surfaces with different characteristics, often installed together with a vast range of profiles, available in infinite shapes, materials and finishes, created to satisfy every need and style.
The difference between the substrate and mortar bed
The terms substrate and mortar bed are often confused in construction; even though they may seem identical, they are actually very different. The substrate should not be confused with the layer under the flooring; it’s actually positioned between the insulation and the mortar bed. The substrate houses tubing or drainage systems and it’s often used to diminish the constant mechanical loads to which the slab is subjected. Additionally, the mortar bed frequently acts as thermal insulation.
Types of substrate
The difference between mortar bed and substrate can also be dissected because the latter is not a mandatory later in construction, yet highly recommended. Economic and time restraints can lead to realizing a single layer, however resulting in increased weight and limited insulation properties. What types of substrate are available?
Cellular concrete substrate (to realize thicknesses with reduced static loads and increased acoustic isolation).
Light substrate in expanded clay (a light-weight, effective solution with excellent resistance that also guarantees superb thermal insulation and considerable energy savings).
Light substrate in perlite concrete (provides medium resistance to mechanical pressure, but grants advantageous insulation properties, both thermal and acoustic).
The importance of the mortar bed
The mortar bed is the layer closest to the surface, before the adhesive, and hence plays an important role in structural precision. Errors to the leveling of the mortar bed can compromise the entire structure of the floor, causing fractures and cracks. The resistance to mechanical pressure, the ability to guarantee a precisely leveled surface and load distribution are the mail roles of the mortar bed.
Floor structural joints
In the days following the pour, the mortar bed may shrink due to temperature changes, and even a few millimeters can cause cracks and fractures. The problem could worsen when installing large format tile. In order to avoid this inconvenience, the placement of structural joints is recommended. Structural joints are more common on large surfaces, such as industrial areas.
Mortar bed types and characteristics
The choice of mortar bed is based on the building context and use. The main types are:
Sand and cement mortar bed: the classic and certainly most common solution, it requires fast application because it is mixed on the construction site.
Self-leveling mortar bed: very similar to the previous materials, yet with the addition of chemical components and water, making it easy to level, and simplifying adhesive application.
Expanded clay mortar bed: an alternative with high thermal and acoustic properties; its light weight distinguishes it from the other options.
Natural base mortar bed: the roughest on the list, purely composed of natural lime. Due to its characteristics, it is often used in the restoration of historic buildings.
How to choose the right mortar bed thickness
The most routinely used mortar beds can be divided into two large categories: anchored and floating. The choice of mortar bed informs its thickness. Most frequently used, floating mortar beds allow the flooring to be detached from the structure, due to the placement of soundproof insulation. In this case, the thickness must range from 4 cm to 8 cm. In the second case, in which the mortar bed is anchored to the load bearing structure, the thickness can then be less than 4 cm. Standard recommended thickness is 5 cm in both cases, which guarantees higher safety and resistance.
How to use constructions profiles
At this point, it’s interesting to take a closer look at the solution which requires a construction profile, giving the installer a certain reference point on which to position doors and windows. The application of the profiles usually occurs following the mortar bed, during the tile installation. Here, we’d like to highlight an extremely innovative and convenient solution for installing the profile before the mortar bed. The Plano BFZ profile, designed to create a flush wall baseboard with the same material as the flooring, also gives the installer a reference point to determine the exact height of the mortar bed, and hence the finished flooring.
How is that possible?
In the lower part of the profile there are small channels that interlock with a small, horizontal linear profile which can be positioned at the desired height, based on the thickness of the above flooring. It will, hence, determine the reference height of the mortar bed and allow the installer to calculate the exact height of doors and windows.
The technical aspects of this profile do not compromise the aesthetic final result. In fact, the Plano BFZ profile creates an elegant linear design.
Solid foundations for state of the art installations
The ideal solution for a perfect installation is found in the basics. If the layers of the construction section are composed correctly, with materials and elements appropriate to the type of flooring, the final results with be exemplary.
Without the necessary attention to detail and correct study of the section, issues may arise in the long run. The use of the Plano BFZ profile, together with an in-depth study of the section layers, will help to reduce the margin of error.