Stair-edgings, PVC profiles and floor trims

From safety to style

By Lynette Bowden Group product manager Gradus

An insider’s guide to specifying stair-edging and floor trim profiles
TYPICALLY, much thought and consideration is given to the overall design of floors and stairs and the selection of floorcoverings is usually high on the agenda owing to the impact and cost of the items involved. However, the selection of stair-edgings and floor trims can often be neglected, leading to installation problems on-site and issues with overall safety and accessibility.

As the market leader for flooring accessories, offering the widest range of stair-edgings and floor trims in the UK, Gradus is in an ideal position to offer information and advice to ensure the correct specification and installation of stair and floor accessories.

Steps for specifying edgings
In the UK there is a fall on stairs in commercial buildings every 90 seconds, with the average cost of a claim from a trip or slip totalling £14,000. It’s therefore extremely important to understand how to correctly specify and install stair-edgings to create safe stairs in-line with the latest standards and guidelines.

Forming part of The Building Regulations 2010, Approved Document M (ADM) sets out minimum requirements to ensure all people can gain access to and use a building and its facilities. In addition, British Standards BS8300-2:2018, BS9266:2013 and BS5395-1:2010 all give guidance on stair design.

Stair-edgings help reduce slip, trip and fall accidents on stairs and help provide a safe and inclusive environment for all building users. When it comes to the specification and installation, there are some key steps to be considered.

Step 1: Shape and gauge
When considering the shape of the step there are four main profile designs to choose from: square, rake back, kinked face and bullnose. The solution chosen must be a tight fit to the step as gaps could lead to movement, such as rocking and lifting, which could cause the stair-edging to fail.

To prevent trip hazards being created, the thickness of the floorcovering should be a flush fit to the back edge (gauge) of the stair-edging. In the case of floorcoverings such as carpets, the compressed thickness must be considered, not the overall height.

It’s also important to note that sometimes what works on paper won’t always work onsite so requesting samples in advance to check suitability is always advisable.

Step 2: Slip resistance
The British Standards outline the requirement for slip resistance of surface finishes on stairs. A Pendulum Test Value (PTV) of greater than 36 is required in dry conditions and when the stairs are likely to become wet through walked in moisture and spillages.

Stair-edgings feature a choice of slip-resistant inserts and it’s important to consider several factors in order to select the correct type. These include potential contaminants, cleaning and maintenance routines, type of footwear, levels of traffic and location.

All Gradus inserts are tested for slip resistance and range from standard insert for interior dry conditions through to Xtra-grip insert that offers increased surface roughness for interior applications where the stairs are likely to become wet (eg close to entrances, near canteens etc).

The type of stair-edgings selected can also contribute significantly to a reduction in the risk of slip. A study conducted by BRE found that slips on stairs are often the result of an overstep, and this is increased if the going (tread depth) is less than 300mm.

On the basis that ADM details a minimum tread of 280mm, specifying a stair-edging that incorporates slip resistant material that extends round the leading edge of the step, such as Gradus’ market leading XT stair-edgings, will ensure foot contact is always made with the slip resistant element, thus minimising the risk of slip.

For stairs that have a large tread, double or multiple channel stair edgings may be more suitable as they can withstand heavy volumes of traffic and provide a larger surface area for foot contact.

Step 3: Visual contrast
The building standards detail the need to ensure there’s sufficient visual contrast at the step edge. The stair-edging specified needs to highlight the step edge by providing a visual contrast with the remainder of the tread and riser material along the full width of the stair.

BS8300-2:2018 and ADM state there should be at least 30 points’ difference between the stair-edging Light Reflectance Value (LRV) and that of the adjacent floorcovering.

It’s important to note that visual contrast is about tone, not just colour – two colours may look different but have the same LRV. Tonal contrast is particularly important as people with visual impairments may not be able to see some or all colours but can perceive light and dark.

Using LRV measurements when selecting floorcoverings and stair-edgings takes the guess work out of the selection process and ensures a safe specification.

When specifying double channel edgings, both inserts should be of the same colour and should visually contrast with the surrounding floor finish. With multiple channel edgings, the front insert should always be a contrasting colour to the remaining inserts to ensure definition of the step edge. The remaining inserts should be of the same colour and ideally match the LRV of the surrounding floorcovering.

Achieving the correct LRV difference doesn’t mean stair-edging choice is limited and cannot be incorporated into the design scheme. Gradus stair-edgings are available in a wide choice of colours giving the specifier multiple design options to choose from.

In addition, illuminated stair-edgings are available for highlighting step edges in dark, interior environments, such as auditoria, where light is required for safety but shouldn’t detract from the primary function of the installation.

In line with guidance in ADM and BS8300-2:2018, each step-edging should incorporate a permanently contrasting material. Temporary solutions such as paint or tape should be avoided as paint can wear off and tape can come loose and cause a trip hazard in its own right.

Patterned highlighting, such as sharks tooth, should also be avoided as this type of finish can distort the visual image for some and lead to confusing messages that could compromise safety.

Step 4: Fixings
The stair-edging profile, application and the type and condition of the substrate should all be considered when selecting the fixing method between the stair-edging and the step.

Traditionally, stair-edgings are installed using screws and adhesive, however, adhesive only fixing options, such as Gradus Grip, are now available which eliminate the need for screws and screw head cover plugs, providing a neater finish.

Skirt around the edges
PVC skirtings, cove formers and capping strips are used to provide clean, neat solutions for junctions where the floor meets the wall.

Selecting the correct type of skirting profile will ensure that product performance matches the requirements of the environment and will result in a functional, low maintenance alternative to traditional timber skirtings.

Profiles are available in four options: set-in, sit-on, flat and capping strips and cove formers. Set-in skirtings provide an impervious seal when welded to a resilient floorcovering such as vinyl and linoleum and are ideal for critical clean areas or areas subject to wet cleaning. Using longer lengths also reduces the number of vertical joints.

Sit-on skirtings are typically used with hard floorcoverings in areas where a neat, clean finish is required but an impervious seal is not needed. Whereas, flat profiles are used primarily with textile floorcoverings such as carpet and carpet tile.

Finally, capping strips and cove formers are used when floorcoverings are continued up the wall. The cove former ensures a consistent cove is achieved and supports the floorcovering at a weak point while the capping strip forms a neat edge.

In addition to the type of skirting required, consideration should be given to the colour used. The use of a skirting that contrasts visually with the floorcovering can assist visually impaired people determine the borders of a room.

BS8300-2:2018 states that skirtings should have the same LRV as the wall so the junction between the skirting and floor marks the extent of the room. As a guide, skirtings should match the wall colour (especially if they’re over 100mm in height), or completely contrast with the wall and floor.

Gradus skirtings are available in a range of colours and finishes to complement most interior environments and have been measured for LRVs to ensure accurate visual contrast can be achieved.

Smooth transitions
When correctly specified and installed, floor trims provide solutions to common problems that are encountered when different floorcoverings are used together. Floor trims are designed to protect the edges of floorcoverings from damage and create neat transitions between different materials and heights. They provide safe joins to allow pedestrian and wheeled traffic to move freely, providing access for all.

There’s a myriad of floor trims available from cover strips, joint trims and finishing trims, to ramp profiles, wet room transition strips and feature strips. The key is to find the trim that offers the best solution in terms of safety, functionality and aesthetics.

Floor trims can vary in terms of function and suitability so should always be specified in relation to the demands of the environment. Key factors to consider include the application where the trim is being fitted, the type and condition of the substrate, the type and thickness of the floorcovering installed, maintenance routines and aesthetics.

The application can influence the selection of floor trims in several ways. For instance, in dementia care facilities transition strips can be hazardous to people suffering from dementia as visually contrasting strips can be perceived to be a step.

Designers can avoid this by specifying a strip that is matt in finish and blends with the surrounding floorcoverings. Alternatively, in environments such as retail settings, trims are often used to demarcate walkways and aisles, and are therefore selected to contrast with the adjacent floorcovering.

The type of trim needs careful consideration too. For example, ramp trims are vital to joining floorcoverings of different heights but the greater the height difference, the wider the ramp trim required. It’s not feasible to join a 30mm floorcovering with a 3mm one using a 20mm wide trim. The trend is for specifiers to use the smallest trim possible so it ‘disappears’ into the floor. However, a realistic approach is needed for floor trims as incorrect specification can create trip hazards.

Trims should always be selected to match the height of the surrounding floorcoverings. As with stair- edgings, trims should be selected to be a flush finish with the adjacent floorcovering and when used with carpets, it’s the compressed thickness that must be matched.

Trims also need to be selected for their durability. Heavily trafficked areas usually require metal trims such as brass, stainless-steel or aluminium as opposed to PVC. Finishes should also be carefully selected as anodised or laminated finishes may wear off over time and will be more prone to aesthetic damage.

= Gradus is a member of NBS, providing a comprehensive library of pre-written specifications supported by guidance notes for all of its flooring accessories range. In addition, BIM objects are available for the entire range of Gradus XT stair-edgings.

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