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raised floor

Raised Floor. Is yours in danger of collapse?

Raised floor. Many people are not aware that the major raised floor manufacturers, such as Tate and ASM, have a published life cycle for raised floors. That life cycle is 20 years. After 20 years it has been noted that raised floors have a greater rate of failure. These failures can range from a few tiles falling in the floor to catastrophic failure and collapse of entire sections of raised floor. Critical Facilities Solutions has been called in to address problems ranging from floor panel(s) falling out from under customer personnel to a section of the floor collapsing and server cabinet(s) nearly falling, or completely falling, into the sub-floor. It should be noted that 20 years is an average. We have seen floors in very good shape that are 30+ years old and floors that are failing that are less than 15 years old.

So if you have a legacy data center here are some questions you should be asking regarding your raised floor.

  1. What is the age of both the substructure and/or access tiles?

With the life cycle at 20 years this means the potential for floor failure increases near, and beyond, the 20 year mark. Raised floors are designed to work as a system, both the tiles and the substructure have weight bearing responsibilities. The life cycle encompasses the entire system, not just the tiles. New tiles can be installed but the substructure still fail under the weight and stress of server cabinets and rolling loads.

  1. What weight bearing (both static and rolling) loads has the floor been under during its life cycle?

Static and rolling loads cause the weight rating of a floor to deteriorate over time. So, if you started with a 1250 lb. floor 15 or 20 years ago, you no longer have a 1250 lb. rated floor. The more weight that is put on a floor, both static and rolling, the less weight the floor can hold as it gets older.

  1. Is your floor a wood core tile that was manufactured prior to 1987?

If so these tiles have the potential for zinc whisker growth. Zinc whiskers are a known contaminant that causes shortages and outages, especially in power supplies. The only way to fully eradicate zinc is to completely remove the source from the environment. Zinc grows in stages, breaks off and becomes airborne, and the process begins all over again.

  1. Is your raised floor showing early signs of deterioration and/or failure?

Uneven corners, grid misalignment, warping tiles, gaps between tiles and ‘sinking’ tiles (tiles at pressure points that are lower than surrounding tiles) are all aspects of a floor that is under pressure and beginning to show potential signs of failure. Some tuning and leveling can be done to realign the floor and close some of the gaps. This is a short-term fix to make the floor safer, reduce tripping hazards and get the most life out of the floor as possible. It is not, however, a long-term fix that should be continually performed on a 20+ year that shows signs of deterioration.

  1. Do you have more than one raised floor system (maybe of two or more different ages) installed in the same room? Or, do you have a new floor system installed in the non-equipment areas with the legacy flooring still underneath the equipment?

Raised floors are designed to be installed and work as one continuous system. Floors that are installed with different systems, or operating independently of each other, have a much more difficult time of withstanding the pressure and torque applied from the weight load. ‘Floating islands’ of legacy flooring supporting heavy equipment racks that are not properly tied into the independent system surrounding them are in more danger of collapse. Meant to be a fix this often causes more long-term problems than it fixes. The independent systems are pushing against each other, actually working against instead of with, each other. Adding equipment weight, or rolling loads on the paths near these islands of equipment, can lead to a floor failure and collapse.

If you answered yes to any of these questions your next concern is what to do. Turning off equipment and moving cabinets around is not a reality in most of today’s data centers. Not to worry, Critical Facilities Solutions has a proven system that allows us to hoist multiple server cabinets at a time and replace the raised floor with no downtime required.

For more information, or to have a full assessment of your raised floor performed by one of our experts, please contact us at 719-660-2912 or via email at rbishop@criticalfacilitiessolutions.com.