January 16/23, 2017: Volume 31, Number 16
By Mike Pigeon
Quite a bit of thought is needed when it comes to stair tread selection. One word to keep in mind during this process is “application.” This is a very important concept when it comes to any type of flooring because installing flooring in the wrong application will end up in a failure. The same is true for stair tread applications.
The first question you need to ask when specifying or recommending a proper tread is, “What is the application?” Application has a lot to do with selection. Where is the product going to be installed? Are visually impaired treads needed? What about slip resistance, maintenance schedules, etc.? Healthcare, military, grade school, senior living facility, all play a big part for the proper tread selection.
Application also dictates the adhesive selection. If the area is subject to uncontrolled climate swings—a sunlight exposed stairwell, a non-acclimated stairwell, aggressive cleaning methods—both the application of the proper tread and adhesive together will give the most successful installation and overall result for both the flooring contractor and, more importantly, the end user over the life of the product.
Let’s take a look at the details.
First is the actual stair profile. Whether you are making a personal selection or specifying the job as an architect, the proper tread must fit the stair profile. If you are working off a set of plans from new construction and have a detail section with a step profile then you are ahead of the game. However, if you are doing a remodel without any details, then you have your work cut out for you.
Regardless of the situation you will always need verification. If there is any discrepancy prior to the bid then send in an RFI (request for information) for more details. Once the job has been secured—and before ordering material—walk the job and verify the actual step profile. Make sure what you have bid is truly going to fit. When specifying the proper treads consult with your local rep and ask for a chain set of samples to verify all options.
Second is application. If you have ever specified or tried to order treads then you know the options are endless. Rubber or vinyl, with a variety of profiles, visually impaired inserts, glow-in-the dark inserts, the list goes on. This is where the application comes into play. What is the facility? What are the traffic patterns. Who will be walking on them?
Slip resistance becomes a big concern in some applications when it comes to egress, possible exposure to wetness, assisted living situations, etc. A popular misconception is that a raised circular profile has better grip than a flat surface profile. For the most part that is true if you have a soft-soled shoe capable of forming to the contour of the profile. However, if the sole is hard then the actual contact surface will be less. Rubber has great natural slip-resistant properties, even when wet, compared to vinyl. It is small things like this that make doing your homework, asking the questions and getting the experts involved important when choosing the proper product.
Third is the adhesive. When installing treads there are tapes, acrylics, urethanes and epoxies. The proper adhesive selection will have a direct effect on the longevity of the installation. Cleaning methods, temperature swings, light exposure, traffic volume and patterns will all play a part for the correct selection of products.
Mike Pigeon utilizes his extensive background in flooring installation in his present role for Roppe Holding as a technical installation specialist. He currently serves on the FCICA Industry Relations Committee.