Weâ€™re in the process of constructing a new collection facility. Our upper floor will be archives storage, with (secured) access to researchers. Iâ€™m looking for recommendations on flooring, is low VOC laminate better? Does anyone recommend vinyl? Our (cost sensitive) committee members want to use sealed plywood. Has anyone dealt with flooring options recently? Itâ€™s nice to see more low VOC options these days but is one better than another?
Thomas Wilsted has a two books on the topic of building archival facilities and you might find them helpful. They are available through the SAA bookstore. Neither wood floors nor floors that require adhesives that off-gas seem to be recommended for storage areas.
One common safe flooring for storage rooms is cement sealed with epoxy paint. Another possibility is cheap light-colored vinyl tile. Cheap tile doesn’t have a lot of plasticizers, which is what makes vinyl off-gas, and light colors means there’s a lot of calcium carbonate, which buffers any acidity. Plywood – even marine plywood, which off-gases less than regular – shouldn’t be used in storage. Storerooms are often built with little ventilation, which makes them easier and cheaper to keep at a steady RH. So anything that off-gasses can build up in the space. Sealing plywood doesn’t work over the long run; sooner or later the coating will start to crack and then all the fumes that have built up will start to come out.
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