Take another look at wood block flooring

An old standard is reborn with new options to meet the changing needs of today's plants.

By Ron Garapick, The Jennison-Wright Company

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When it's time to decide what kind of industrial flooring to put down, whether it's for a new installation or a retrofit, you'll find that there are a number of excellent choices on the market—a product to suit nearly every need. The selection you make should be one you'll be satisfied with for a long time. So it may be time to take another look at wood.

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Wood block flooring has always been, and still is, a popular choice. It is more comfortable and durable, quieter, and warmer than most other types of industrial flooring. Many original wood block flooring installations from the 1940s and 1950s are still in service today. In recent years, however, users have been asking for replacement flooring materials that not only offer these same advantages, but that are easy to maintain and environmentally-friendly as well.

In response to such customer requirements, the industry developed several new kinds of wood-block flooring solutions. To find the one that fits the demands of a particular application, you'll need to take into account performance, cost, durability, installation and maintenance.

Meeting new needs with new technology

The variety of wood block flooring products currently available for in-plant use offers a suitable choice to fit most applications. Creosote, or other fuel oil-based, chemically treated wood-block products have long been acceptable for many operations. Today, however, newly developed wood-block flooring products provide the greater comfort and energy absorption for which wood block has always been known, as well as increased durability, dimensional stability and environmentally friendlier treatment options.

Solid end grain wood blocks made from southern yellow pine heartwood or upland oak are suitable for basic industrial use. Yellow pine block floors are resilient and best suited for areas that receive light to medium abrasion. For areas subjected to heavy abrasion, oak block floors offer greater resistance.

It is important to note that end-grain blocks must be treated with a solution to replace the moisture that was removed from the lumber during the drying process. Treating the blocks with an approved solution lubricates the cell structure of the wood block to provide greater resiliency over the life of the block as well as resistance to unwanted moisture absorption.

Where needed to meet today's stricter environmental requirements, blocks made from the same pine or oak wood may be treated with a new clear non-toxic compound, specifically developed for end grain blocks. This results in an odorless, environmentally-friendly flooring product that still delivers traditional wood-block performance, comfort, safety, and economy. Like all wood block flooring, it absorbs impact and compacts under heavy loads with no spalling, chipping or cracking. The floor is easy to clean and maintain, with warmth and resiliency underfoot to help reduce worker fatigue.

Another recent development is the creation of a polymer-wood composite flooring block that is lightweight, resilient, abrasion-resistant, and environmentally sound. Its nonporous composition makes this flooring block highly resistant to moisture, oil, most chemicals, solvents and other corrosive materials. And, unlike polymer-concrete blocks, these blocks won't chip or crack. The blocks are square, with no specific top or bottom. When installed, the blocks lay tight against each other eliminating voids and preventing future damage that may be caused by hammering of an open joint by rolling traffic. Polymer-wood composite flooring is dimensionally stable, clean, quiet, safe and long lasting.

Which block to choose?

End grain wood blocks are available in a variety of sizes and thickness. The two-inch deep blocks are best for light to medium loading applications such as metal working, tooling, assembly or printing.

Blocks that are two-and-a-half-inches deep support medium to heavy load applications such as stamping plants, aluminum plants and heavy metal working. The three-inch deep blocks are for areas subjected to heavy-duty loading such as steel foundries, die drop areas, forging and heavy equipment maintenance shops.

Wood block offers a number of advantages over other flooring materials:

  • substantial savings in equipment-moving and relocation costs,
  • wear tends to improve smoothness without reducing energy absorption,
  • non-dusting blocks require no special coatings,
  • energy absorption reduces machinery noise and vibration, and reduces damage to accidentally-dropped tools or parts,
  • less fatiguing to workers; may reduce time off, workers comp claims,
  • performs as well or better than other flooring materials under uniform loading; exhibits much less wear under bouncing loading,
  • non-conductive wood eliminates danger of struck and static sparks on floor,
  • absorbs impact and compacts under load; no spalling, chipping or cracking, and,
  • treatments and coatings add durability and longer life.

Solid end grain wood blocks treated with new, non-toxic solutions offer the following additional advantages:

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