What are raised floors?
Raised floors are interchangeably known as “access floors“ or “raised access floors“.
Wikipedia offers a good general description:
“A raised floor (also raised flooring) is a type of floor used in office buildings (such as IT
data centers) with a high requirement for servicing to carry cables, wiring, electrical supply, and
sometimes air conditioning or chilled water pipes. Additional structural support and lighting are
often provided when a floor is raised enough for a person to crawl or even walk beneath.
This type of floor consists of a gridded metal framework or understructure of
adjustable-height legs (called ‘pedestals’) that provide support for individual floor panels, which are
usually 2×2 feet or 60×60cm in size. The height of the legs/pedestals is dictated by the volume of
cables and other services provided beneath, but typically arranged for a clearance of at least six
inches or 15cm.”
Where are raised floors typically installed?
In our years of experience, raised floors are most commonly installed in data centers,
server rooms, and office buildings. These floors are typically installed to alleviate cable congestion
and provide cooling and ventilation solutions via underfloor air (i.e. HVAC systems).
Although those locations are by far the most common, raised floors have also been used in
clean rooms (i.e. technology manufacturing), universities, banks, casinos, hospitals, military bases
and even oil refineries. Raised floor installations can be found in virtually every type of commercial building throughout San Jose, Santa Clara, Silicon Valley, and Milpitas, CA, and although rare, they have even been installed in residential properties.
What benefits do raised floors offer?
A raised floor is more than just a floor. Not only does it elevate a room’s floor level to allow
space for underfloor cabling, critical services, and cooling capabilities, its modular nature provides a
great deal of flexibility. Moving data equipment, cabinets, and their associated cabling is made
easier, both above and beneath a raised floor.
In addition to flexibility, raised floors offer:
- Tough builds to support demanding environments
- Greater energy efficiency by directing airflow only to where it is needed
- Convenient access to underfloor cabling and critical services
- Leveling of uneven floors in sites with graded surfaces
- Reduced future costs tied to layout reconfigurations
- A large variety of surface options to create the look you want
Is it difficult to maintain these floors?
Not particularly. These panels and surface finishes are very durable, although we still
recommend that customers follow maintenance instructions of the appropriate manufacturer.
We also recommend a great little company named Mainframe Environment for raised
floor maintenance because they have been doing it for well over 20 years. They certainly know how
to keep these floors in optimal shape.
What types of surface finishes are available for these floors?
There are many different surface finishes you can choose from, such as HPL, vinyl, carpet,
and rubber to name a few. These finishes are laminated onto bare panels using a high quality
adhesive. Although these surfaces sound somewhat common, they are specifically built to endure
wear and tear that often accompanies the tough environments for which raised floors are intended.
What is the most common surface finish? Which one would work best for me?
The most common surface finish requested by our customers is HPL, or “high pressure
laminate“. Its popularity arises from its durability, its relative low price, its static dissipative
nature, its ease of maintenance, and its pleasant aesthetics.
Wikipedia’s general explanation of HPL is: **
“High pressure laminate (HPL) has become ubiquitous in the modern industrial world. HPL
is formed of a resin and paper components under high pressure (ordinary wood does not sustain
such pressures, and can readily be crushed to less than half its natural thickness in a hand
operated arbor press). The high pressure confers a density and a resistance to damage simply
because any utensil, tool, or other object that may come in contact with, or strike, the HPL will not
impart a force greater than what was employed to form the HPL itself. In effect, the HPL has been
‘dented’ in advance. HPL can be decorated in any pattern and is applied […] and pressed in place
[…]. HPL is cut slightly larger than the panel on which it is to be installed and ‘trimmed’ using a
router-like laminate trimmer along the edge. It may also be filed to obtain the final edge.”
Many times an environment will dictate what type of surface finish will be used, such as the
use of ESD (electrostatic discharge) vinyl in clean rooms, and all of the surface finishes we sell are
fine options. There really isn’t a “right choice” of a surface finish — the right type of finish can only
be determined by the end user’s preference and/or needs.
** Note: The above explanation from Wikipedia references HPL for kitchen cabinets, however the same general
description can be applied to HPL in flooring **
How long does it take to install raised floors?
Installation timelines can vary quite a bit depending on several factors, and we cannot
provide an accurate timeline without knowing exactly what a particular customers’ needs are.
Raised floors can take anywhere from 1 day to several weeks depending on a project’s
complexities. If you contact us, we are more than willing to walk you through the process and
address the timeline for your specific project.
We can tell you however that the most common variables affecting our timelines are:
square footage to be installed, site conditions (prepared for our work to commence), and having
the necessary materials in our warehouse (we often must order the appropriate materials for your
Why are there different types of panels?
Different panels serve different purposes, and when people normally think of raised floor tiles, they are thinking about a solid panel because a raised floor system is mostly comprised of
them. There are 2 general categories of panels: “solid” and “airflow”.
Solid panels serve the purpose of holding up equipment and/or personnel, and have 3
primary build types: concrete-filled, hollow-steel, and woodcore. Each panel possesses a steel
housing, but each differ in their centers, or “cores”. Concrete-filled panels are the most popular by
far due to their outstanding price-strength ratio, followed by hollow-steel, and finally woodcore.
Concrete-filled: just like it sounds, the panel has an outer steel shell and its center is
filled in with concrete. The added strength of having a concrete core over a hollow panel along with
its cheaper price drives its popularity. This type of panel provides a superior “feel” when individuals
walk on its surface — in fact, they are so solid that many people do not even realize they are
walking on a raised floor. A minor drawback to concrete-filled panels are their weight (30-40 lbs
each), but most customers overlook this in favor of their greater strength.
Hollow-steel: steel outer shell with a hollow, or empty, center. Although these do not
have the strength of a concrete-filled panel, they remain popular in office environments due to their
lighter weight and reasonable strength. Many office maintenance personnel appreciate lifting these
lighter weight panels over trying to muscle up a concrete-filled panel. In equipment-rich data
center environments however, their strength may be insufficient.
Woodcore: steel outer shell with a composite wood center. Woodcore panels were very
popular until the early 2000s, when the price of wood caused them to fall out of favor (in
comparison to prices of concrete-filled and hollow-steel panels). There are many facilities that still
use these panels because of their popularity throughout the 1980s and 90s, but most facilities
today prefer the use of concrete-filled panels. At present, these panels are mostly installed as
replacements in sites where woodcores already exist, however if customers prefer them for their
new sites, we can certainly provide and install them.
In addition to solid panels, there are airflow panels. These panels have perforations to
permit air passage, and are conjunctively used with solid panels throughout most raised floor
systems. There are a few different types of airflow panels that range in material, design, and price,
but they all serve the same basic purpose: allow passage of underfloor air to cool the environment
What kind of panel/system is right for me?
The type of panel you will use is likely going to be dictated by a combination of price and
need. Each site is unique and the sheer number of variables involved prevents us from generalizing
a single recommendation for all situations. There are considerations for equipment weight,
personnel, activities, seismic zones, etc, etc.
Heavy equipment in data centers will generally require a more robust type of panel, such
as a conrete-filled 1250 lb or even a concrete-filled 1500 lb. Usually in those environments, a
concrete 1250 will suffice, but there have been cases where customers chose the concrete 1500 for
added strength even though the 1250 was determined to be sufficient by an engineer. It was their
choice and we gladly obliged.
In other instances, only hollow-steel panels were necessary. And then again, you may find
that your office requires a concrete-filled panel even though a large number of office environments
typically employ hollow-steel panels. Each project is unique and we are happy to consult you about
your needs and the options available to you.
What are pedestals and why are there different types (i.e. standard,
low-profile, heavy duty)? And which one will I need?
Pedestals are understructure components that support the panels and equipment above.
You may think of them as specialized stanchions that hold up a raised floor. Generally they are
made of varying thicknesses of steel (which influences overall strength), and the type you need for
your project are typically determined by a structural engineer. They will base their calculations and
recommendations on a number of factors, including the seismic zone your site resides in, the height
of the building and its foundational strength, and the weights and types of activities the raised floor
is expected to support.
Does RFI Inc warrant its work and its products?
Absolutely. Every installation we perform comes with a standard 1 year warranty on both
materials and labor. We want our customers to be happy with their installations, and we certainly
aim to please.
For materials-only sales, we warrant our products for 1 year from the date of sale,
regardless of whether the materials are new or used. We believe in our products and we stand
behind them. Contact us at RFI Inc to get started today!