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On the Floor

From basic marquee floors to temporary helipads, there are many options available from a wide range of suppliers, writes Duncan Moore.

When it comes to organising an outdoor event, the hire of the marquee can be just the beginning. Yes, the marquee will provide a venue for the event and protection from the elements, but there is another equally important consideration – the floor. Most marquees are just that – four walls and a roof, but what about the ground beneath?

The simplest option may be not to cover the ground on which the marquee is standing. However, if the surface is grass then the weather can be an issue, and if the weather is dry the ground may still be uneven, providing an unstable surface on which to place furniture etc. Other factors to consider are: will the landowner seek retribution if the grass is damaged?; will there be dancing at the event?; or are the guests likely to be wearing heels? The answers to these questions will dictate whether a floor covering is needed and what type of flooring that might be.

According to Marcus Sanger of Gala Tent, the factors that should be considered when deciding which type of flooring to choose include the number of people that are expected at the event and whether the surface to be covered is soft or hard, which dictates the need for a ‘wet’ or ‘dry’ floor. “If we are covering grass, we recommend using a breathable mesh, but if it’s a hard surface and bad weather is predicted, then it is better to use a solid tile floor that will let water flow underneath it,” he says.

If a marquee is pitched on a hard surface, such as concrete, the problems associated with bad weather are lessened, but there can still be issues. Bare concrete does not provide the most attractive of finishes and this is where alternative floor coverings can be used to change the appearance of the venue or to raise the level of the surface to prevent rain collecting on the ground.

Another factor to be considered is how level the ground is. Finding completely level ground can be difficult, but this problem can be overcome using a variety of suspended flooring solutions, as discussed below.

Carpet and matting

The most basic, simple and least expensive option for covering level ground is traditional coconut matting, which is usually laid over a waterproof membrane such as Eventfloor, supplied by Archers Marquees. Eventfloor is a hard wearing, plastic rollout flooring which allows air to circulate and water to flow under it. Due to its substantial construction, it is also impervious to the impact of stiletto heels and provides a good surface for use with tables and chairs. Eventfloor and similar ‘under floors’ are a viable option if the surface they are being laid upon is level and the amount of movement upon it will be minimal.

Carpet can be also be used over the under flooring in a choice of colours and designs. Unfortunately, if the weather turns bad and rainwater starts to flow heavily, using coconut matting or carpet, even with a waterproof membrane, can be problematic.

An alternative is a flexible synthetic covering such as Gala Tent’s Gala-Tex, which is strong and durable, rolls out in seconds and is then pegged down to provide an instant floor covering. It is available in green or burgundy. Gala-Tex is also environmentally friendly as it allows the grass beneath it to breathe, so even if the flooring has been down for weeks or even months, the grass will still be green and in good condition when the matting is removed. Gala-Tex is made from waterproof material, which is gloss coated so dirt doesn’t stick to it, making it easy to clean, and it can be quickly and conveniently hosed or wiped down after use if desired.

Wooden floors

If tables and chairs, a bar or catering facilities are expected in the marquee or a dance floor is requested, then a hard, level surface is needed. For a budget surface that is suitable for both dining and dancing, wood is a popular choice and there are a number of options as to how it is laid.

The most basic wooden flooring uses interlocking panels that are laid upon a membrane. Janet Fletcher of Tents and Events (Scotland) recommends direct lay wooden flooring as a simple and efficient floor for flat sites. “It is the most cost effective and affordable flooring for level ground, which means direct lay flooring is a popular choice for marquees on flat, level sites with easy access,” she says. Tents and Events manufactures its own direct lay flooring using pine, which is given a coating of light oak stain varnish.

Alternatively, Weblok from Portable Floormaker can be laid directly on the ground. Weblok Dance Floor is a boarded, portable floor system made from 18mm exterior plywood which has unique interlocking lugs that enable installation and removal times to be reduced, saving on labour costs. Interlocking connections prevent the boards from separating and are self-levelling, allowing for minor irregularities in the ground.

If the floor is expected to be in place for a long time, Ikadan, which is distributed by Portable Floormaker in the UK, may be a better option. Ikadan comprises 50cm2 injection moulded panels that can be supplied in almost any colour. It is described by the manufacturer as much more durable than wood and very hard wearing.

A new direct lay solid flooring, which has recently been introduced by Gala Tent, is Roller Track. It was originally developed for use in the motorsports industry and is anti-static, non-slip, oil and UV resistant. It is also described as easy to install and works well in walkways. However, if a client wants a hard surface to use as a dance floor, then the company suggests a wooden-look or black and white portable dance floor. The tiles it uses are made from low maintenance, blow moulded ABS resin, which means the flooring will not be damaged by spilt drinks. Aluminium edging adds durability and protects the edge of each floor panel, while the non-slip base protects and secures them.

Uneven ground

The flooring types discussed so far are laid directly on the ground and therefore rely on it being a relatively level surface. If the ground is very uneven or slopes dramatically, a suspended floor is required and this is an area in which Tents and Events specialises.

Its first suspended floor option, for use on uneven ground, is a steel sub-base floor. This consists of a steel frame that is levelled at strategic points and forms a rigid and secure base for the marquee, which is erected onto brackets that are part of the floor system. The floor itself is varnished pine and needs no other covering, but carpets can be used in addition if required. Steps and ramps can be added to provide easy access.

For steep slopes, or where the ground is extremely uneven, Tents and Events can supply the Floorstak cassette flooring system, which consists of modules with cassettes laid on aluminium beams. According to the manufacturer, the high standard of engineering used in the design means that it can offer a solution for the most challenging of sites, allowing builds of up to two metres above ground, so it can be used to span obstacles such as flower beds and small fountains. No further covering is needed here either but it is also suitable for carpeting.

Walkways and car parks

With the interior flooring of the marquee taken care of, there are still the outside areas to consider. Walkways to the marquee, car parking and driveways to the car parks are all potential high wear areas that, if they are on soft ground, will need to be protected.

Eco Track & Access not only offers an extensive range of flooring options but specialises in outdoor ground coverings including a selection of trackway (temporary roadways), pedestrian walkways/hardstanding and emergency access solutions.

ECO Terra-Tech and Eco Gridmat are versatile, non-metal, interlocking systems that are suitable for all types of terrain and will protect the ground from any long-term damage. ECO Terra-Tech instant roadways have a static loading of up to 100 tonnes and a mobile loading of 44 tonnes (the legal European limit). They can be used to go around bends and obstacles and can be installed to most requirements.

By utilising systems such as these, event organisers can avoid the problem of vehicles becoming stuck on wet ground when constant traffic movement creates heavy and deep mud. The same situation can happen with pedestrian walkways, especially where there is heavy footfall. The use of such walkway systems also helps to keep people’s footwear clean, which in turn helps to keep any temporary flooring used inside the marquee free of mud.

If the event is high profile with guests making use of helicopters, ECO Terra-Tech Heli-tiles can be used to create instant helipads. When laid, the pad is bedded into the ground surface and can support the heavy downward loading of helicopters landing or manoeuvring, or vehicles and personnel transiting to and from the helicopter.

The ‘over and under’ edge profile on each panel secures the tiles to each other on all six sides, and the design allows the downwash from the helicopter blades to escape, says the manufacturer. If the helipad is to be operational at night, fully integrated, wireless remote control LED lighting beacons are available for take-off and landing.

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