Floor Tolerance Classes: All you need to know

All you need to know

Floor Tolerance Classes

Concrete floors can be laid to a range of accuracies depending on the floors immediate or future usage. Floor designers, architects and engineers should assess the requirements of the floor and suggest a specific tolerance finished floors surface should be laid / finished to. It is vital that the tolerance worked to is the correct one for the floors intended usage. Specifying too high a tolerance will result in laying methods and costs that are unnecessary, whilst specifying to low a tolerance may result in a floor that is not fit for purpose.

Floors can be surveyed post installation to check if they have been laid to comply with the tolerances required. It is vital that the installers fully understand the tolerances they are laying to and adjust their laying and finishing methods, plant and labour accordingly as rectifying out of tolerance floors is time consuming and expensive.

Flatness vs Levelness

For many internal ground floors the most suitable tolerances to be worked to are ‘free movement classifications’ (FM) as defined in TR34 by The Concrete Society. A floor is classified as ‘free movement‘ if it can be driven around freely by vehicles such as forklifts, without too many obstacles such as columns or walls. Areas within 1.5 meters of walls, columns or obstacles are excluded from free movement assessment as vehicles cannot freely move in these areas. The properties measured in FM surveys are Levelness & Flatness.

As this exaggerated diagram shows, a floor may be level but not flat, or may be flat but not level.

Measurement of Elevation Heights

How to calculate levelness

Levelness (Property E) is measured by a theodolite or dumpy level or a very accurate laser level, which would measure elevation heights at points on a 3m x 3m grid. The height difference between adjacent points 3m apart is then assessed and the difference in these two heights in millimetres gives the Property E value for the relationship between those two points.

How to calculate flatness

Flatness (Property F) is measured by pulling a profilograph along straight runs in a number of different directions to get a sample average of the ‘waviness’ of the floor. Essentially the profilograph is a trolley with wheels at the front and back separated by 600mm and a ‘jockey’ wheel between these wheels which moves up and down as the floor changes. Instruments accurately measure this change in height and a graph is produced showing how much of the floor is in tolerance.

Profilograph measures ‘waviness’. The height difference over 600mm is calculated. Multiple runs are selected to give an accurate average of the whole floor.

Understanding the difference

"Surface Regularity" or SR Tolerances

Choosing the right class

The SR assessment process

Some types of floor, unsuitable for FM classes are best assessed by ‘Surface Regularity‘¬†which are classed as having SR values. They are measured by putting a 2m straight edge, without feet, directly on the floor under its own weight and seeing how much of a wedge can be fitted between straight edge and the floor. This type of class is mainly concerned with flatness. It should be agreed in how many places the floor will be surveyed at before floors are poured as there are infinite positions the floor can be surveyed at.

A 2 m long Straight Edge and Graduated Wedge used to Assess SR Values.

Suitable floor types

FM or SR assessment?

Raised upper floors and external floors laid to falls may not lend themselves well to the FM tolerances. This is because upper floors are typically subject to movement from steels and decking bending and it is not appropriate to try to assess the level of a floor laid on a moving and deflecting structure. Floors to falls are also not suitable for level assessment by FM classes as they are not level (horizontal) by design. Ground floors with many internal walls and

columns, recesses and features that would restrict free vehicular movement may also not be suitable for free movement classes.

 

There are tolerances for the type of finishes on concrete floors as specified in BS EN 13670;2009 and elaborated on in ‘National Structural Concrete Specification (NSCS) 4th Edition’, and follow as below.These are generally measured using straight edge and wedges as Surface Regularity is above.

Free Movement Classifications

 

Floor Class Origins Typical Floor Use Additional Typical Type of Laying Method
FM1 TR34 4th Edition Where very high levels of flatness and levelness are required, sometimes called a ‘superflat floor’. Used where forklift trucks are lifting over 13 meters high, also where high accuracy scientific equipment is used. All points should be within +/- 15mm from Datum Long, narrow eg. 5m strip construction with very accurate shuttering or permanent joints
FM2 TR34 4th Edition Where high levels of flatness and levelness are required. Used where forklift trucks are lifting between 8 and 13 meters high. Most warehouses are now laid to this. All points should be within +/- 15mm from Datum Laser Screed or Screed Rail construction with very accurate shuttering or permanent joints
FM3 TR34 4th Edition Where high levels of flatness and levelness are required. Used where forklift trucks are lifting up to 8 meters high. Also used where retail or manufacturing floors are recieving either no covering or a a very thin layer covering All points should be within +/- 15mm from Datum Laser Screed or Screed Rail construction with very accurate shuttering or permanent joints
FM4 TR34 4th Edition Where low levels of flatness and levelness are required . Used where forklift trucks are lifting less than 4 meters high. Used where floor is to take additional layers of screed, insulation, tiles ect. Also for workshops and manufacturing floors All points should be within +/- 15mm from Datum Traditional Handlay method is sufficient, usually checked with laser level during pour
FM2 Special TR34 3rd Edition Where high levels of flatness and levelness are required initially, but where areas of the floor may be converted to having even higher level tolerance areas later in its life. All points should be within +/- 15mm from Datum Laser Screed or Screed Rail construction with very accurate shuttering or permanent joints

Surface Regularity

 

Floor Class Origins Typical Floor Use Flatness
Max gap under 2m Straightedge resting directly on the floor
Levelness
(Any deflection will make the below invalid)
Typical Type of Laying Method
Special SR BS 8204-2:2003 +A2;2011 Specialist tolerances can be agreed between Client, Designer, and Contractor As Required All points should be within +/- 15mm from planned level Bespoke to project
SR1 BS 8204-2:2003 +A2;2011 Where very high levels of flatness s are required, as a finished floor or to take direct tiles 3 mm All points should be within +/- 15mm from planned level Laid with very low viscosity resins and free flowing screeds
SR2 BS 8204-2:2003 +A2;2011 Where high levels of flatness are required. Used where retail or manufacturing floors are recieving either no covering or a a very thin layer covering or very large floor tiles 5 mm All points should be within +/- 15mm from planned level Laid with resins or free flowing screeds, possibly with concrete in small, areas under ideal conditions
SR3 BS 8204-2:2003 +A2;2011 Where low levels of flatness and levelness are required . Used in external carparks and yards, where floor is to take additional layers of screed, insulation,carpet tiles ect. Also for workshops and manufacturing floors 10 mm All points should be within +/- 15mm from planned level Concrete can be laid in many ways to this, usually finished with powerfloats

Surface Finishes

 

Finish Class Origins Typical Floor Use Finish Features Typical Type of Finishing Method
Basic BS EN 13670;2009 Skipfloat finished floors to receive a further buildup of screed of 25mm+ thickness Ridge marks between skipfloat passes and return marks are to be expected, thesewill often be above 5mm in height or depth. Surface laitance and a mottled effect are common, as is ‘reinforcement ripple’ or ‘quilting’ which is an aesthetic effect and not a structural defect. Joints between loads may be evedent and unaviodable if concrete supply is not consistant Skipfloat passed over the surface to close it in
Ordinary BS EN 13670;2009 Used as a base under Carpet, Tiles, and floors receiving thicklay floor coatings. Also known as a ‘Flat and Matt’ finish Abrupt Trowel marks and floatmarks upto 5mm high are acceptable, but generally the floor will be smoother than Basic finish but not shiny. Powerfloating, initially with a pan followed by two or threel passes with the blades
Plain BS EN 13670;2009 Used as a finished floor in most industrial and commercial applications including warehoused and manufacturing facilities. Used when a paint or thin resin coating is to be applied and where visual quality is important Surface will be dense and tightly troweled with few trowel marks but ridges upto 3mm are acceptable if sparse. Powerfloating, initially with a pan followed by three or more passes with the blades
Special – Brush Finish BS EN 13670;2009 Carparks, waggon yards, foot trafficked areas, roadways for forklifts and domestic vehicles Brush marks should be installed perpendicular to the direction of travel where possible. Prior to installation depth and direction of marks should be agreed, and test panels are advised. Perameters should be realistic and acchievable. Skipfloating multiple times followed by Brushing with Fresno or other Brush. Panning with a powerfloat prior to brushing instead of multiple skipfloat passes gives a more consistant finish.
Special – Tamped Finish BS EN 13670;2009 Heavy industrial and agricultural usage Finish may be inconsistant In tamp mark depth, height and allignment, and parameters should set which be realistic and acchievable. This is a functional finish, aesthetics may be compromised for the sake of function. Surface tamped by straightedge straight after levelling off process
Special – Polished BS EN 13670;2009 High Spec Finished Floors for decorative usage in public and domestic settings Very smooth finish with no abrubt ridges. Level of polish should be agreed prior to pour, parameters should set which be realistic and achievable. Wet concrete will be powerfloated to a Plain finish. Once concrete has cured, extensive grinding with increasingly fine disks or pads

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