Flooring, by virtue of its sheer extent and effectuality is the most prominent component of an interior space. Flooring is a very tactile component, unlike a wall finish or a ceiling. It is used for movement of people and goods, sleeping, resting, bathing, washing, storing, food preparation, and handling and processing of materials.
Floorings provide a functional horizontal (parallel to gravity) or inclined surface. Floorings are required to stop, (by reflecting or absorbing) sound, air light, heat, cold, dust, infections, moisture, radiations etc. Some flooring systems, however, may play exactly the opposite role, i.e. to allow such elements to selectively pass through.
Like all other interior space elements, a Flooring's sensorial aspects like colour, hue, etc. are important, but its tactile aspects like texture, feeling of warmth, cold, hardness or softness, etc. are very important.
Floorings take on a very prominent role in: sparsely furnished and lightly occupied rooms and corridors. Rooms with high heights, invisible ceilings, non interesting ceilings and in rooms with sloping floors or levels rising upward (allowing larger floor area to be visible), rooms with slopes or levels going downward (allowing a commanding bird eye view). Floorings that provide a pleasant experience and enhanced comfort affect us more.
Floorings occur as composite system, that essentially consist of a structural component that `spans', a substrate mass that helps in achieving desired levels and slopes, a binding agent and the surface finish material. An ideal flooring should provide all this, as it eliminates the need to create a composite by layering various material individually providing the required services. However, the components of flooring system are required to be executed at different times and by different agencies. Some of the components like the surface finish have to be replaceable.
- Structural Components are cast with even thickness and a level surface, and as a result are incapable of providing the minor variations in levels and drainage slopes (rain water, toilets). Often the structural components are very thin and require some cushion or insulation to take care of transmission of vibrations, noise, heat, etc.
- Substrate mass solves many deficiencies of structural components. It also provides space for some of the service lines. A substrate mass also helps in distributing the direct loads and dampening the vibrations, thus eliminates local punctures and failures. Substrate mass protects the structural components from any adverse effect of environment and the floor finish. Substrate mass may itself may function as a binding agent. Substrate mass is softer or fragile than the structural component and the floor finish.
- Binding Agent ma be required when the substrate mass itself is not capable of holding a surface finish or is adversely reactive to the floor finish. A binding agent is employed as a very thin layer. It is capable of providing a high bond between the bottom face of the floor finish on one hand and the substrate or the structural system on the other hand. A binding agent may supplement any barring or insulating qualities that are not being provided by the substrate material. Binding agent often penetrates the vertical sides of the flooring blocks to join and seal them. For this purpose its colour and finish both must be relevant to the floor finish. Variety of gums, adhesives and cements are used as binding agent.
- Floor Finish is a tactile and sensually affective material. It can be broadly classified as: Hard or Resilient, Soft or Scratch resistant, Temporary or Permanent, Smooth or Textured, Dark or Light coloured, Hot or Cold, Opaque or Transparent, Absorbent or Reflective, etc.
The floors are laid as parallel or inclined to gravity, in a straight gradient or variable gradient, and moulded to single curvature or double curvatures.
Floor materials are of natural materials, processed materials or synthetic materials.
- Natural Materials include: clays, soils, sands, stones, gravels, kankars, minerals, pozzolana, animal excretes and plant decompositions, wood, grass, leaves, etc.
- Processed Materials include: products processed out of natural materials, baked or fired clay products, ceramics, vitrified materials, paper, textiles, plywoods, tar, creosotes, gums, resins, metals, alloys, glass, etc.
- Synthetic Materials include: organic and inorganic composites, polymers and other high end products which are generally produced from elements rather than natural products.
Often a single natural material or a processed material can not provide a suitable finish or body-mass that can be applied as a floor finish. A floor finish then becomes a combination system. Such systems function in layers or as a composite mass. A layered system may have two or more sub layer systems. The top layer works as the floor finish layer, the bottom layer is designed for suitable interaction with the substrate and the bonding media. The middle layer may provide the necessary stiffness, strength or the body, side layers on the edge provide necessary connectivity to similar floor finishes or other finish/ structural systems.
A floor system may be:
- simply laid on
- mechanically keyed
- adhesive bonded
- cast in situ
- Simply laid on Flooring systems: The flooring blocks or spread rely on pull of Gravity. The largest and flat surface is placed touching the plane of gravity. in some instances stiffness of the flooring material and close fitment adds to the stability. The sheer conglomeration of several pieces increases the efficiency as a flooring. Examples are: cobbles, brick lays, gravels, sand spreads, carpets, rugs, floor spreads, daris, chattais, woven mats, feet dusters, wooden boards, synthetic flooring mats, plastic and rubber tiles and rolls.
- Mechanically keyed Flooring systems: Floor finish incapable of staying in place on their own due to the thin mass, lighter weight, reduced gravity (on sloped surfaces), presence of other pulling forces, small extent or spread. Floor finish is in such cases mechanically keyed to the substrate or the structure. Mechanical fastening is achieved by mechanical fastening systems like nut-bolt, nails, screws, rivets, cleats, seam formation, etc. It is also done with friction, suction, surface tension, magnetic pull, electro static attraction, etc. Examples are bus floors, stage wood floors, claddings, panellings, stair carpets.
- Adhesive bonded Flooring systems: Floor finish is stayed by affixing in three distinct ways. Several small units of floor finish are affixed edge to edge to create a larger unit, so that it can due to sheer extent stay in a place. Secondly many different materials are layer massed for a composite flooring system. Thirdly the floor finish is affixed to the substrate or structure. Examples are synthetic tiles and carpets, ceramic and mosaic tiles, fabrics, metal foils,paint or coating systems.
- Cast in situ Flooring systems: These provide a flooring system that is uniform in quality and very extensive so almost joint less in nature. Usually such systems do not need additional bonding materials. Cast in situ floorings are created by coatings, evaporative drying, oxidization, calcification, chemical bonding, polymerization, heat, radiation and moisture induced changes. Examples are concrete floorings. Cement cast floors (IPS), cow dung, surkhi and lime combinations, synthetic or culture marble systems, fiber glass and other resin+ fiber matrix sprayable composites, organo plastics, epoxy coats, PU coats, Rubber coats, tar roads.
Flooring systems per Quality.
- Hard Systems have a rigid structure, stiffness, good wear and tear qualities. These are generally more permanent and difficult to remove and replace. Cement concrete, magnesite cement, granolithic, terrazzo, various types of stones, ceramic tiles, terracotta tiles, tar or bituminous systems, wood, synthetic wood, parquet, are examples of hard floorings.
- Semi or moderate Hard Floorings are less rigid, slightly resilient, good to average wear & tear qualities, of average thickness, generally less permanent and replaceable. Thermoplastics (PVC, vinyl etc.), rubber, linoleum, cork, cow-dung, mud, etc. are examples of semi hard floorings.
- Soft floorings generally used as floor covering rather than as independent floorings. Various types of woven carpets, durries, mats (jute, coir, fibre etc), knitted carpets or floor spreads, pressed fibre-non woven carpets (viscose, coir, HDPE,).
- Colour of Flooring determines the overall brightness in a room. DARK FLOORS cut off bottom up reflection of radiation and are ideal in chowks, on window sills and spaces in front of windows, doors, verandahs. Dark floor in water pools heighten the feeling of depth, but if of shallow depth may increase the water evaporation by heat absorption. Dark floors absorb more radiant heat and get very warm, so are not preferred in walk areas or on terraces of occupied rooms. Very dark and shiny floors show off dust and require frequent cleaning.
- Bright Floors in front of cellar windows help to brighten the dark spaces. Bright floors substantially reduce the heat absorption provided these are kept clean.
- Coloured Floors are used in industrial plants, schools, hospitals etc. to indicate routes and movement areas for goods, vehicles and people.
Flooring colours have been monochrome where good building stones were available. Flooring colours have been exploited in sparsely occupied buildings’ sections such as corridors, passages, plazas. etc. Earliest colouring elements were mosaics of marble ceramic and glass. West Asiatic architecture had monochrome flooring of building stones and in some cases of terracotta units. Greeks used dominantly white marbles white marbles. Greeks used mosaics to create images on the floor. Romans began to use coloured marbles as inlay pieces, to create borders and central patterns. Thermae (bath houses) were perhaps the most garish of all places in terms of flooring colour schemes. Byzantine period saw reuse of Roman marble debris. Cut pieces of coloured marbles of roman columns were used for flooring bands. Contrast and pattern definition was the only intent rather than a balanced colour scheme.
In Gothic architecture the colour through the window was so strong that flooring colour was almost subordinated. However, the quality of laying and finishing were becoming very refined. Granites were used sparingly as part of patterns. Where high colour effects were required floors were covered with carpets, rugs and floor spreads. English mediaeval period saw use of diagonal Chequered board pattern combining a lighter and darker shade of flooring material. In Post Gothic period windows became of lighter hue, interiors much more brilliant and illuminated, interior elements were painted and often gilded. These required a highly polished and a balanced colour scheme with intricate patterning. Italian business houses, which began commissioning large buildings, were very daring and allowed large scale use of exotic flooring materials.
Renaissance saw Painters and Sculptors becoming builders and architects, who were very adopt in use of colour. Marbles were selected in terms of interior colour scheme. Marble and other stones veins were oriented to accentuate the pattern.
In the 19 th C. ceramics began to be produced in variety of colours and quantity. Ceramics were hand or screen painted and re-fired to create a permanent colour and pattern. Ceramics allowed production of perfect white, chrome yellows, greens and blues, colours that were not available in natural materials. Precision sawing and finishing equipment and exotic woods of Asiatic and North and Latin American colonies encouraged use of wood. With woods came paints and stained polishes. Interior flooring colours were totally synthetic. However, joints were seen through the colours of polishes imposing unintentional pattern. Cast in situ flooring systems of mainly Cement, and now of organo plastics have eliminated the joints and its colour.
Flooring patterns are used as space defining element. In large plazas flooring pattern have been used to coordinate architectural entities of varied sizes, shapes and styles into a cohesive spatial entity. Flooring patterns have been used to scale the interiors, link spaces, segregate functional modules and impose a logical order in a trivial settings and break the regimen by adding a little frivolity.