Thermal shock resistance in flooring: handling extreme temperature variations

In food and beverage manufacturing facilities, maintaining the integrity of the flooring is of utmost importance.

Thermal Shock Resistance in Flooring: Handling Extreme Temperature Variations

In food and beverage manufacturing facilities, maintaining the integrity of the flooring is of utmost importance. Many of these facilities face a unique challenge—extreme temperature variations throughout multiple rooms. Whether it’s the shift from a hot ovens area to a neighbouring freezer, or the high-temperature water washdowns, these temperature swings can wreak havoc on traditional flooring.

Understanding the Challenge

Extreme temperature variations can cause significant stress on concrete and polyurethane cement or epoxy flooring. As temperatures rise, concrete expands, and as they fall, it contracts. When adjacent sections of concrete experience dissimilar thermal influences, the floors are susceptible to cracking. Three primary scenarios highlight the challenges:

A Freezer Adjacent to Production Areas:

If a space is being converted into a freezer or cool room, it’s essential to plan for this change. Cutting the floor and installing an expansion joint at this time is crucial to accommodate concrete movement and reduce the risk of cracking. Furthermore, choosing the right flooring material is vital. Polyurethane cement flooring solutions typically work best, reacting to temperature changes at a rate closest to concrete. Epoxy solutions also offer good performance but may soften under hot water washdowns. Polyurethane cement floors, with their specialised properties, can tolerate temperatures up to 120°C, showing insulating properties that reduce thermal shock.

Water Washdowns with High Temperatures:

Areas subjected to hot water washdowns (around 68°C) require flooring solutions that can withstand the thermal stress. Polyurethane cement flooring solutions, due to their excellent adhesion to concrete, are typically a reliable choice. In contrast, epoxy may not bond well to cold concrete with a high moisture content.

Blast Freezers:

Blast freezers present a unique challenge with rapid temperature fluctuations. These freezers are characterised by extreme temperature variations, with room temperatures that can shift from exceeding 30°C to as low as -30°C within a very short timeframe. This rapid change in temperature puts significant stress on the flooring system, and it must be able to withstand this pressure while being flexible and durable. Polyurethane cement flooring solutions have been specifically formulated to withstand thermal cycling and extreme temperature changes, making them ideal for blast freezers and areas where freezers/coolrooms are adjacent to main production spaces.

Mitigating Thermal Shock

To effectively combat the effects of thermal shock, there are several critical factors to consider:

Expansion Joints and Repurposing:

When transforming an area into a freezer or coolroom, it is crucial to cut and install expansion joints to accommodate concrete movement, reducing the risk of cracks. This proactive measure can significantly enhance the floor’s longevity.

Adhesion to Concrete:

Ensuring excellent adhesion between the flooring material and the concrete substrate is pivotal. Any inadequacies in this interface can lead to delamination and floor failure under the stress of varying and differential temperature applications.Polyurethane cement flooring solutions have proven to be effective in terms of adhesion to concrete, even in sub-zero temperatures. Methyl methacrylate (MMA) also offers good adhesion, even in extreme cold, though its odour may deter its use in food manufacturing facilities.

Resilience to Thermal Cycling:

In environments like blast freezers, where temperature variations can be swift and extreme, the flooring solution must be flexible yet durable. Polyurethane cement floors are formulated to withstand thermal cycling and extreme temperature changes, making them ideal for such settings.

In conclusion, managing thermal shock resistance in flooring is of paramount importance for food and beverage manufacturing facilities in Australia. Properly addressing the challenges of extreme temperature variations, ensuring adequate adhesion, and selecting the right flooring solution can contribute to a safe, efficient, and cost-effective facility.

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