Quick, effective cures for a cold, concrete slab
Concrete is a perfect shop floor for machines. But it’s not so kind to the body or to the occasional dropped hand tool. Concrete is especially nasty in the winter if your shop is in a detached building. And no matter how high the indoor-air temperature gets, the floor is always cold, even in warmer months.
Determined to get off the slab and to do it with a minimum of fuss, I surveyed what floor coverings were available. My primary goal was to find products that would be easy to install and would keep my feet from freezing in winter. Of secondary importance was to find products that acted as a moisture barrier, could protect a dropped tool, and were easy to keep moderately clean.
I found five types of flooring products that seemed to meet all of those criteria. One is a wood composite; the others are PVC based.
Wood composite vs. PVC
The wood-composite product, called DRIcore, is a subflooring material made of random waferboard bonded to a high-density polyethylene base. This tongue-and-groove product was created as a base for carpet, vinyl tile, or engineered hardwood flooring, but it may be used as-is. A mallet and a jigsaw are the only tools required for installation.
The PVC products are available in tiles or rolls in an assortment of colors. The interlocking tiles (Tuff-Seal, Lock-tile, and Resilia) can be installed with a rubber mallet and trimmed with a utility knife.
PVC roll flooring (Better Life Technology) unrolls like a carpet and can be trimmed with a utility knife. Adjoining sheets may be laid side by side or attached to the floor at the seam with carpet tape.
I assembled samples of each flooring type, and they fit together easily. The PVC products were best assembled at room temperature, between 60°F and 70°F, which made them pliable and easy to connect.
All of these flooring products provided some insulation from the concrete slab, which can reduce the rate of body-heat loss. Covering concrete with flooring also resulted in a slightly warmer floor temperature. Using an infrared thermometer, I found that the floor temperature increased by 2°F with the PVC products. With the wood composite, though, the floor temperature increased by a noticeable 4.5°F. All of these products also act as vapor barriers, which, depending on how the concrete slab is constructed, may reduce the humidity in your shop.
To see how well these flooring products could protect a tool from mishap, I dropped a sharp 1-in. chisel from waist height onto each sample. In all cases, the flooring prevented the edge of the chisel from chipping. All of the flooring samples suffered only minor damage, except for the Better Life Technology PVC sheet, which was partially punctured. Such a fine slit, however, is unlikely to degrade the product.
I dabbed each sample with typical shop chemicals such as naphtha, alcohol, and oil stain, and saw no damage. Except for the DRIcore tiles, which absorbed some stain, all of the flooring cleaned up easily.
What to choose for your shop
It seems you couldn’t go wrong with any of these flooring products, based on the ease of installation and the insulation improvement. Budget, however, may be a factor in your decision, as may be aesthetic considerations. For instance, the PVC flooring comes in numerous colors. You could even make a checkerboard pattern if you go with the PVC tiles. PVC also is a durable substance, and it might wear better than wood composite.
There’s another point worth mentioning: During the course of my review, a number of people asked me which of the flooring products was more comfortable to stand on. I can’t say any of them is a substitute for antifatigue mats, which have a lot more give. But I did appreciate the insulating qualities that the DRIcore tiles provided during cold weather.
-Excerpt from Workshop Solutions 2008