23rd Feb 2023 -

What is a false floor?

False floors - also known as raised access floors - are elevated floors which lie above subfloors with a space between them. This space is used to store and cover any piping or wires around a building for services such as water drainage, fire and safety systems, security cabling, air conditioning and broadband connection. A false floor is likely to be installed in new constructions where there is a need for upgraded infrastructures and safety measures, including hospitals, shopping centres, call centres and airport lounges. 

What to consider before installing false floors

During the planning stage, it is crucial to think about health and safety guidelines, the day-to-day activity of the false floor and its load-bearing requirements, as well as the subfloor condition. Here are 4 key considerations before you install a raised access floor.

Load-bearing weight

You will need to think about the daily activity of your workplace and whether lots of equipment and people moving from one part of the office to other areas will impact the durability of the raised access flooring. Be mindful of rolling loads, stationary loads and the amount of regular pedestrian traffic. 

Subfloor preparation

Before installation, it is important for you to carry out a few checks to ensure everything is safe. First, make sure you have a level surface to work with, which will prevent an uneven finish. You should also check that the subfloor does not have ripples or cracks. If there are signs of damage, this could indicate that you are working with an ageing subfloor that is not able to take the weight of raised access floors. Also, be sure to remove any debris or dirt that could affect the installation process.

Floor grounding

For safety measures, it is advised to avoid any exposure of deeply conductive material or metal at ground potential to the walking surface when a floor metal raised structure is being used. This is considered to be an electrical safety hazard if exposure does happen.

Raised floor height

Depending on the cabling, wires or pipework that needs to be stored, the gap between the false floor and subfloor can range from 20mm to 1500mm. Tailored false floor systems are suitable if you require a higher gap. Using an epoxy resin adhesive, the subfloor is bonded with pedestals to create a level surface to install the false floor panels. 

Advantages of installing false floors

As outlined above, raised floor system solutions are excellent additions to a range of commercial environments. Here are the benefits of installing a false floor. 

1. Flexibility and convenience

Notably, the biggest benefit of fitting a false floor is running cables and wires under the raised access floor tiles or panels. For any reason that wires or cables should be changed or any maintenance work needs to take place, the tiles or panels can easily be removed without any major construction. This will allow technicians or electricians to gain the necessary access. 

2. Air distribution

For improved efficiency, the underfloor gap provides cooling and heating benefits. The cooled air can be evenly distributed across the building or a particular room. Plus, in the winter months, warmer air pushed through the access floor gap increases and effectively heats up the areas.

3. Adaptability

Fortunately, false floor panels are compatible with most flooring types, from vinyl and carpet to ceramic and laminate. Also, raised access flooring is simple and easy to install - the height and elevation can be adjusted to the exact measurements you need. 

4. Practical design

In addition to its functionality, the discreet design of a false floor is particularly useful when it comes to hiding cables and wires. This provides an aesthetic advantage instead of unsightly wires and cables being spread out on the floor surface. 

5. Acoustic benefits

Raised floor systems produce an air chamber - also known as the plenum - which is between the floor finish and the support base slab. The plenum is made from the floor elevation through a steel structure. Between each of its components, there are damping elements. Its air acts as a buffer zone and allows the absorption of sound impact - this ultimately reduces noise transmission. 

Disadvantages of installing false floors

The pros could outweigh the cons when it comes to making your decision. But it is a good idea to know the potential downfalls of false floor installation. 

1. Pests and dust

When you have an empty space under your floor, this will, unfortunately, collect dust. Be sure to clean this area once or twice every year to avoid any dust or dirt build-ups. Also, these spaces could attract pests such as mice if they are not sealed properly to the outside. If you are running cables, floor mice could chew them and cause damage to your network. To avoid this, make sure you securely seal access to the outside of your workplace to prevent pests and mice from invading the underfloor areas.

2. Ceiling height

Particularly if your workplace has low ceilings, installing raised flooring could bring some issues. For a majority of commercial buildings, this will probably not be an issue - false ceilings are installed and can be adjusted. But if this is not possible, consider creating a smaller false floor area and using it as a feature. Although you will not be able to have a vast amount of underfloor space, this option will allow you to still create a useful false floor. 

3. Structure support

Aside from safety when installing a false floor, it is crucial to think about how you will run wires and cables under the false floor. Sometimes, this can prove tricky - you will need to consider the possibility of drilling through supports and existing joists. If this does need to happen, you run the risk of weakening the existing structural support. 

Can you put heavy items on false floors?

The weight you can put on a false floor depends on the type of flooring panel installed. There are 2 industry standards that raised access panels to adhere to during the manufacturing process: the BS EN 12825 specification and the Property Services Agency (PSA) specification. The latter has been in place for more than 25 years and there are 4 separate grade categories - extra heavy, heavy, medium and light. Under this specification, grades are attributed via certification and independent testing. A common grade for office environments is medium, which can hold loads of 35 kilonewtons (kN) per m2. 

The BS EN 12825 specification was introduced in 2001 by the European Committee for Standardization (CEN). It carries 72 separate performance standards and false floor systems are also graded using a 4-tier system: dimensional tolerances, deflection under working load, safety factor and ultimate load. When comparing both specifications, BS EN 12825 is more technical and can appear unclear. Whereas the PSA specification is clear on each grade and its suitable applications. 

Pedestal height is not taken into account with BS EN 12825 and only considers vertical loading. Plus, BS EN 12825 requires no independent testing - the manufacturer is able to carry out its own tests and self-certify. But the PSA specification outlines that all false floor systems need independent testing, to be carried out within a 24-hour period.

How to install false floors

If false floors are not installed properly, this could lead to dangerous consequences and the expensive process of having the floor refitted. That is why a construction professional with full training is required for the job. Below are the steps on how to install raised floor solutions.  

Step 1 - Gather the materials

Here is a list of the tools and materials a professional will need to use throughout the process.

Tape measureEpoxy resin adhesive
Raised floor panelsLaser level

Step 2 - Prepare the subfloor

Before the installation process begins, you need to assess and prepare the subfloor. First, check the subfloor is a level surface to make sure the false floor will be laid evenly. Next, you should look for any ripples or cracks in the subfloor - if any appear, it may not be able to take the extra weight of a false floor. Also, for the pedestals to be laid without any obstacles, remove any debris or dirt. 

Step 3 - Measure the pedestals

To outline where the pedestals should be placed, be sure to measure the marking points for the first row of false floor panels. Further rows can then be installed parallel to the first one. Pedestal dimensions are measured to determine their suitability for the raised floor location. You should make sure that each pedestal used is level - this will allow the panels to fit correctly on an even surface.

Step 4 - Secure the pedestals

Once you have marked the level points, it is time for each pedestal to be glued onto the markings using the epoxy resin adhesive. Using a laser level, it is recommended to double-check that the height and pedestal placement is 100% accurate. Between each pedestal, stringers are then fitted - they are secured with bolts and glued with adhesive to create stability. 

Step 5 - Fit the floor panels

After the pedestals are secure, the panels will be placed on top of the subfloor structure. Usually, the panels are laid on top of the pedestals to allow for easy access - you can simply raise them up when maintenance work is required. 

How long does a false floor system last?

This question holds 2 answers. The false floor panels or tiles generally have a lifespan of up to 25 years. But the supporting pedestals can last for an estimated 50 years. Whether you decide to replace the panels or tiles for aesthetic reasons or general wear and tear, you can simply just replace them without compromising the support system. However, depending on its use, you may find your false floor does not last for the typical lifespan. It is important to keep note of any failure signs, such as partial grid misalignment, warping panels and uneven corners. Short-term fixes including levelling and tuning can solve the problems, but should not be considered long-term solutions. 

Raised access flooring panels and accessories for sale

We supply a vast range including Kingspan raised access floor panels, as well as other access flooring company products. Be sure to explore our floor panel options on our website. To save time, money and stress, Building Materials Nationwide offers cash and trade accounts for construction industry customers. As well as quick UK delivery options, we provide a personal account manager to find all the materials and tools you need within your cost budget, as well as manage payments. Call us to discuss this further - you can also sign up for an account online.