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How “Live” Raised Access Floor Replacements Work


“You guys can actually do that?” It’s a question we often hear from data center managers, server room technicians, facility managers, and others that are new to the concept. “Live” raised access floor replacement is an impressive feat, admittedly. With this method we can hoist multiple server racks, cubicles, and other pieces of then replace all or part of a raised access floor.

As pioneers in the field of live raised access floor replacements, Critical Facilities Solutions often fields questions about our innovative methods. In this article, we will attempt to answer the “what,” “why,” and “how” of how our system works. Read on to learn how our system saves time, money, and is a safer alternative to traditional methods.


What Does the Process Involve?


As the term suggests, a “live” or “zero downtime” raised access floor replacement means essential equipment remains up and running while the flooring below it is repaired or replaced. Using a specially designed platform system and even some of our own patented tools, we can carefully lift ganged servers, cubicles, and other equipment off the floor. Three to five inches of clearance is all the space our team needs to replace flooring components such as tiles, stringers, and pedestals. Since we are typically working on a floor that is in a compromised state, we leverage the strength of the subfloor for all lifting.

It’s a manually intensive process, too. Each of our crew members performs a specialized task that they carry over from job to job. The main reason we use a manual approach has to do with unreliability of synchronized pieces of mechanical lifting equipment. Having a team of personnel perform the essential processes gives us a higher degree of control over the accuracy and precision of a project. During each phase, we can check our progress, make adjustments, and then repeat the process, millimeter by millimeter, until we have enough floor clearance to conduct our work.


The Benefits: Why You Might Consider this Method


Previously, replacing a raised access floor was a labor-intensive, time-consuming, and expensive process that involved shutting down and moving equipment to another area of the facility. The ultimate goal of choosing live raised access floor replacements is to eliminate downtime entirely. But, there are other benefits to be gained using this method.

• Zero downtime. Eliminating downtime was among the primary motivators for developing the process of live raised access floor replacements. With this method, equipment can remain powered on and accessible. Of the many projects completed by Critical Facilities Solutions, we’ve never had to take systems offline — even when it meant hoisting 23 ganged server cabinets simultaneously.

• Less hassle. Coordinating a time, place, and team to move multiple server cabinets and other pieces of equipment can be a hassle (to say the least). Critical Facilities Solutions’ services allow facility and data center managers to focus on their primary roles; we handle everything.

• Time savings. Using a zero-downtime approach comes with considerable time savings, compared to other methods. In many instances, project durations can be cut in half, ultimately saving clients a good deal of time and money. On average, Critical Facilities Solutions can complete a full raised access floor replacement in just 1 to 3 months.

• A safer method. No matter how extensively you prepare, there is always a safety risk when it comes to moving heavy equipment — especially moving heavy equipment over weakened flooring. We eliminate the most common safety risks to personnel and equipment by using time-tested, proven techniques. To date, we’ve never suffered an injury on the jobsite or had an incident that placed equipment at risk. That’s not just good luck; it all comes down to experience and proper planning.


The Signs of a Failing Raised Access Floor


Have you spotted any of these signs in your server room or data center?

• Warped/sagging tiles
• Buckling tiles
• Gaps between floor tiles

There are several cases of failing raised access floors that we’ve received about customers or personnel (employees and/or vendors) falling through the raised access floor when tiles collapse underneath them. Extreme cases of floor failures have seen equipment cabinets fall (and nearly fall) through the floor as an entire section of raised floor collapses around a weighted load.

Some of the early warning signs that a raised access flooring system is compromised are warped/buckling tiles and gaps forming between the tiles.


Tile Damage is Usually Internal


Most tiles are constructed using a metal frame filled in with either concrete or wood core. This makes it sometimes difficult to identify tiles with damage or defects that occur during manufacturing, transportation, and installation.


When to Repair, When to Replace


The only way to determine the condition of a raised access floor is by hiring an inspector. If an inspector determines the floor (or section of floor) is in eminent danger of failing, we will recommend that preventative measures are put into place, which can include either a repair or replacement. As a company that also provides data center cleaning services, there have also been instances where a cleaning crew notes warping floor tiles or other systems of a flooring component failure.


Raised Access Floors are Designed to Last 20 Years


A significant number of facility operators we talk to are unaware that raised access floors have a limited lifespan. Tiles, stringers, and pedestals all lose strength over time. These parts are usually rated to last 20 years. But, that’s 20 years under ideal conditions. Rolling weight, excess weight, unbalanced loads, and other factors can significantly cut into that 20-year figure.

Depending on the circumstances, a live raised access floor replacement may not be necessary. If during our inspection we find that only a few tiles (or a section of tiles) are compromised, we may be able to source the necessary replacement parts. We offer a tune and level service that tightens up and realigns floors that still have a decent amount of serviceable lifespan left.


Have a Question?


Critical Facilities Solutions is here to answer your raised access flooring questions. Contact us by phone at 719-660-2912, or via email at info@criticalfacilitiessolutions.com. We also recommend checking out our raised access floor page to learn more about the process and how it might be a suitable option for your organization.


Request a Consultation


Critical Facilities Solutions offers on-site inspections to server rooms and data centers around the world. To request an inspection, please contact us at your convenience.