Access Floor Tiles and The Symptoms of Age

Access floor panels are designed to give you about fifteen years of service life. How old are yours?

As your floor panels get older they show the symptoms of age; stains, chips, dents, and missing trim edge. Perhaps the most dramatic symptom is delamination - the High Pressure Laminate (HPL) separating from the underlying structure. Father Time may have them dealaminating right on schedule or adverse conditions in your facility could be accelerating the effects of age. Why does it happen?

Panel delamation is an unsightly condition, but more importantly, it's unsafe and should be addressed sooner rather than later.

Delaminated tiles represent a constant trip hazard!

In geographies that experience significant seasonal humidity changes, springtime is delamination season! After a long dry winter, spring weather means higher humidity and that can be big trouble for your older panels.

Access floor panels are a composite of materials (steel and wood or cement) topped off with a layer of High Pressure Laminate (HPL). HPL itself consists of multiple layers of paper and adhesive pressed together and topped off with a decorative plastic surface. The HPL layer is also the weakest part of the floor panel - it absorbs the wear and is most easily damaged!

Glue adheres the HPL top sheet to the core, and simultaneously seals and protects the backside of the HPL from moisture infiltration. It's the health of this glue layer that determines if a tile will make it to it's fifteenth birthday in one piece! When the glue joint fails, so does the protective seal.

Time is the number one enemy of glue. The glue bond between the panel core and the laminate top sheet will eventually dry out and break down. This process can be hurried along by seasonal humidity swings. Mechanical stress from heavy rolling loads and excess weight exceeding the panel's load rating or general abuse can also play a role. Once the glue bond has been compromised, delamination is almost certain to occur. Moisture, whether from ambient humidity, spills, or normal maintenance procedures, can now seep in through the broken seal and attack the unprotected backside of the laminate. In the most dramatic cases, the laminate will bow upward from the panel core as the underside of the laminate expands while the plastic top surface does not.

Your HPL floor is quite literally the foundation your IT infrastructure rests on. If your access floor panels are close to 15 years old or showing the signs of old age, you should be on the lookout for signs of delamination: bowed laminate or cracks, clicks and other sounds when walking or rolling loads on the panels. Unfortunately, repairing delaminating panels is generally impossible. most methods such as screws and tape are unsightly and marginally effective. Sometimes the laminate can be reglued but not always.

If you need new access floor panels or want an assessment of your existing panels, contact your Data Clean Account Manager.

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