How long will my Anti Slip last?
“Ok, so you know that proverbial piece of string?........It’s about the same length as the amount of time your anti slip treatment will last”.
It’s a serious question, one we get asked often and like the length of that piece of string a difficult one to answer, but not impossible.
First of all let’s look at the different types of treatments available on the market. The two main solutions in today’s Anti Slip arena are the Coatings and the Surface Modifiers. Each solution has its merits and each it’s shortcoming.
First the modifiers, these treatments do almost exactly what the name implies, they “modify” the surface of the tile or stone. Sometimes referred to as “etching” the process is a simple one, with acids dissolving the calcium carbonate on the surface, providing the actual surface has some calcium in it and it is evenly distributed, this process works well.
Eating away the surface may sounds aggressive, but a skilled contractor will know just how strong and for how long to apply this treatment and in most cases will leave the surface looking much the same but much safer to walk on particularly in the wet.
Because this process modifies the existing surface the tile will maintain most of its original hardness which is a real plus in the “how long will it last” stakes.
As the grip is achieved by introducing microscopic hollows or channels in the surface it’s not until the ridges between the hollows wear down that the grip or traction reduces. Depending on the hardness of the tile and the type and volume of traffic we have many installations where this type of modification has lasted 5-10 years, and provided it is maintained correctly, has been effective for its entire life.
So we have a great length of effective life what are the drawbacks of the “surface modification”?
Because we are creating microscopic depressions in the surface, these tiny hollows are a great place for dirt and contamination to hide, so it’s critical that the surface is kept as clean as possible and as much of the debris is removed. The underlying principal is much the same as the tread pattern on your car tire, the channels there allow rain to be moved away from the contact area and prevent a water film building up between the road surface and the tire which can cause aquaplaning under breaking. When your tires are bald this water displacement is poor and the tire will slide in the wet.
Depending on the amount of slip reduction required it may also be necessary to introduce deep micro channels into the surface and depending on the type of tile, the color and gloss there may be a visible reduction in refraction (dulling) of the surface. It’s important to point out that when treated correctly there should be no change in color of the surface but there may be an impression of surface lightening as a result in the change in light refraction.
ANTI SLIP COATINGS
These anti slip treatments sit on top of an existing surface and generally contain additives like sand, aluminum oxide or Carborundum. The medium that carries the grit can vary significantly. Things like epoxy, resin, urethane or even concrete are typically used and the grit is either mixed in with the base product or broadcast over the surface between application coats.
The benefits of this type of treatment are color range, chemical resistance and maintenance. Originally developed for Industrial commercial and laboratory environments these types of coatings are now very common and even seen in domestic situations.
The effectiveness of this type of surface and its serviceable life does vary considerably and is heavily dependent on the skill of the contractor. Even distribution of the grit additive is critical to ensure the anti slip qualities are consistent across the whole surface area. Poor quality or rushed work will often lead to clumping or “bald” sections with little or no surface grit.
Unlike the surface hollows in the modified surface solution, these coatings rely on traction being gained on the particles sitting above the average surface level. This is a great way to grip the footwear sole however the effectiveness of the coating is completely reliant on grit remaining sharp and exposed. This feature also makes this surface unsuitable for areas where exposed skin will come into contact with the floor. Once the grit has worn down or smoothed off this surface can be extremely slippery particularly when exposed to water contamination.
Depending on the amount and type of traffic these coatings have an effective life between 2 and 5 years.
There is no doubt that the surface modification will have a longer life, however the maintenance required to keep the surface effective may outweigh the sought after longevity. If your decision heads you down the coating path the maintenance cycle will be less demanding but make sure you are prepared to re-coat every few years to ensure the grit stays exposed and sharp.