3D self-leveling floors – a fairy tale at your feet

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In this article: Polymer floors in technical and residential areas; 3D floors – how an optical illusion is created; 3D self-leveling floor technology; 3D floor creation – nuances; care for self-leveling polymer floor.

3D self-leveling floors - a fairy tale at your feet

When preparing the upcoming renovation in an apartment, house or office, for some reason the greatest attention is paid to the decoration of the walls and ceiling, and the choice of flooring is linoleum, laminate or some kind of carpet. Meanwhile, it is the floor finishing materials that experience the greatest stress during operation, which leads to a decrease in their visual appeal. Various chips, in places swelling on the surface of the floor covering have become so familiar to us that they are perceived as an inevitable evil, which cannot be completely defeated. And yet there are floor coverings that can not only maintain their appearance for a long time and reliably, but also contain a 3D image – polymer floors.

Progress of self-leveling polymer floors

These floor coverings have come a long way before being used as flooring for living quarters, as they were designed exclusively for industrial floors. And that is why polymer floors are able to withstand repeated exposure to chemicals, severe mechanical stress, incl. the movement of forklifts and laden wheeled vehicles. Since the 80s, such floors can be found in food and chemical industries, agricultural enterprises, in factory shops and various trade and exhibition halls, medical and educational institutions..

3D self-leveling floors - a fairy tale at your feet

Over the years, the chemical composition of polymer floors has undergone a number of improvements that have made the finished floor covering not only reliable, but also beautiful – the previous turbidity has been eliminated, thanks to which the polymer coating has become transparent. What does beauty have to do with it – you ask? The first floor coverings made of polymer materials contained a filler, often sandy, which allowed them to withstand particularly high mechanical loads – industrial floors still contain filler. But for residential premises, colored coatings were offered, dyed in bulk, i.e. the polymer layer had a uniform color throughout the volume. With the advent of truly transparent polymer self-leveling floors that do not grow cloudy under the influence of ultraviolet rays, it became possible to create an amazing coating called 3D self-leveling floors..

What is 3D floors

Before moving on to the device of polymer 3D floors, let’s look at the history of graphic 3D images. The creator of the volumetric image technology is the American scientist Adelbert Ames, who studied the natural effect of optical illusion more than 70 years ago, which is manifested everywhere in different parts of our planet. So, periodically published by the world press reports, photos and videos about amazing natural phenomena, allegedly refuting physical laws – for example, a stream flows uphill, and not under it – in reality do not represent any phenomenon, just an optical illusion. In confirmation of his theory, the scientist created the “Ames room” – if you look inside this room, then visually it has a cubic shape, walls perpendicular to each other and right angles, but in fact the shape of the room is trapezoidal and its walls are not parallel, but are located under different corners. As a result of an optical illusion, two people of the same height, who are inside such a room, seem to the observer to be a giant and a dwarf, although the first is only at the unfolded corner formed by the walls, and the second at the acute angle. Optical illusion in both the Ames experiments and in 3D images is based on an imaginary horizon line where it actually does not exist.

So, to create 3D floors, two main elements are required – the 3D image itself and a transparent coating that does not lose transparency over the years and reliably protects the material with the applied image from any damage that violates the optical illusion.

3D self-leveling floors - a fairy tale at your feet

In principle, a 3D drawing can be drawn by an artist who is familiar with the technology of building a graphic illusion – only polymer or acrylic paints are used that are resistant to fading in the sun, and the finished work is covered with a layer of transparent varnish. However, it is easier and cheaper to order the creation of a picture with its subsequent thermal printing on matte satin in a design agency.

The material with the finished image must be glued using PVA dispersion to the floor surface in the room where the 3D floor is created. Since it is impossible to achieve a perfectly flat surface from a concrete screed, its surface is dedusted before gluing the pattern and covered with a self-leveling polymer floor, which acts as an underlying layer one millimeter thick (its actual thickness depends on how smooth the concrete base is). When the image is ready, a finishing polymer layer with a thickness of 1–2 mm is formed on top of it, after which the surface is covered with a layer of transparent two-component varnish, and the work on creating a 3D floor is completed..

Nuances in creating polymer 3D floors

Let’s find out which materials should be used when creating 3D flooring and why:

  • self-leveling floors can only be installed on a concrete base. The reason is simple – the liquid polymer mixture will pass through the smallest cracks in the wooden floors, so any holes in the concrete floor must be tightly sealed before pouring;
  • it is necessary to use only a self-leveling floor on a polyurethane base, since a polyurethane coating is more elastic than, for example, acrylic, i.e. it resists mechanical stress better. In addition, epoxy flooring turns yellow when exposed to ultraviolet light; after curing, multiple cavities form on its surface, which are difficult to completely eliminate;
  • when creating a 3D floor, it is necessary that the banner with the image is smaller than the floor area in the room. When applying the finishing polymer coating, it is required to eliminate air bubbles with a needle roller, moving around the room in shoes with special needle soles – the banner can be pierced;
  • saving on polymer material and laying a polymer layer less than a millimeter thick is unprofitable, because such a coating will last less than one would like. The thicker its layer, the higher the performance characteristics..

3D self-leveling floors - a fairy tale at your feet

When creating such a coating, it is reasonable to use the products of the largest Western brands – for a high-quality self-leveling floor, the price is determined by the characteristics of the components spent on its creation, and they are not at all cheap. Only high-quality liquid floor coverings allow you to create a 3D floor of a large area, since the components in their composition are capable of independently eliminating air bubbles that have penetrated into the material when mixing and pouring it, i.e. the likelihood of damage to the pattern by a needle roller, usually used to eliminate air during the formation of the floor covering, is completely eliminated.

At the end

3D images are embedded in the polymer flooring in the center of the room not only because of the difficulties arising with the elimination of air – they simply will not be visible when closed with furniture. Speaking of furniture, especially chairs – it is better to protect their legs with soft felt pads, otherwise the surface of the self-leveling floor, especially made of relatively inexpensive materials, will cover scratches, which can only be eliminated by applying a new polymer layer.

Care of a self-leveling polymer floor consists in periodic wet cleaning using warm water and liquid detergents – cleaning agents containing abrasive particles cannot be used. Once a month, the resin floor should be covered with wax and mastic, applied with a soft and clean cloth.

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