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Trend for Higher Coves in Pharmaceutical Facilities

April 15, 2021

Cove base has long been a standard for resinous flooring installations. The cove base provides a seamless extension of the flooring system onto the wall. This transition has the same chemical resistance as the floor and eliminates a seam between the floor and wall for bacteria to harbor. Cove base also increases the ease in which the floor can be sanitized which is why coving is often standard practice in sterile environments.

In the past, standard cove base height has ranged from four to six inches high. As the needs for more sterilized environments have evolved, we are seeing new details calling for eight, ten, and even up to eighteen inch high base. These trends are being seen more and more in the pharmaceutical industries. The floors in these environments have to be able to withstand constant use while holding up to aggressive cleaning regiments.

The floors and walls in laboratory environments are exposed to aggressive conditions. They are required to hold up to constant use, foot and wheeled traffic, as well as the abrasive cleaners and sanitizers used to keep them sterilized. To achieve this level of durability and cleanliness, in addition to extending the resinous cove base higher up the wall, incorporating a seamless wall system is recommended.

The transition from the floor to the wall can present many challenges. Attention to detail is essential to providing the finish the end user is expecting. When installed correctly, quartz and chip base should be smooth with no burrs or holes that could possibly harbor dirt.

  • To ensure a smooth finish when installing quartz base, it is important to stone the base prior to the grout coat.
  • Chip base requires attention to the scraping of the chips between broadcasts as well as sanding before the final topcoat is applied.  
  • A glove test is a good way to see how smooth your base is before the final topcoat.  With a nitrile glove on your hand, use the palm side of your hand to drag across the face of the base.  If the glove snags, there is a burr or chip that needs to be sanded down.

Along with a taller cove base, increasing the size of the radius is another recommendation to accommodate easier cleaning. The standard cove base radius is three quarters to one inch depending on the cove trowel used. Increasing this radius to two inches provides a more gradual transition to the base that is less likely to trap dirt and allows water to actively flow back to the floor. (This increase will also ensure that you do not lose the radius when tying it into a self-level.) 

The sole purpose for cove base is to create a seamless transition from the wall to the floor — increasing the level of cleanliness in a space. By itself, coving doesn’t add structural strength. For example, if coving is applied to dry-wall and a cart slams into the wall hard enough, it can still dent or damage the drywall. The same is true for wall coatings. If increased impact resistance is needed, a fiber glass reinforced wall system, such as Dur-A-Wall FGR, can be used. 

Ease of cleaning and the ability to sterilize the floors in pharmaceutical facilities are very important aspects to consider when choosing the floor and wall finishes. In general, it is best practice to identify which type of chemicals a floor will come in contact with before determining a topcoat. This is extremely beneficial in laboratories where floors have an increased chance of chemical exposure from production and also from the cleaning protocols.

Dur-A-Flex has several performance topcoats which have already been tested against many common-place chemicals. It is recommended to discuss any untested chemicals with your local Dur-A-Flex representative; they can arrange to have the topcoats tested for chemical resistance against the chemicals.

For pharmaceutical laboratories using wall systems, the Dur-A-Wall HP System is an excellent choice. The available Dur-A-Wall HP performance topcoat will give the space a truly hygienic and easy-to-clean room that will withstand stringent cleaning protocols. These wall systems are available in colors to coordinate and compliment with any of Dur-A-Flex’s decorative floors.

To recap, cove base can be the most important part of a resinous flooring installation. This has never been truer than in the pharmaceutical industry. High traffic areas using aggressive cleaners, (which cannot afford to be shut down for constant maintenance), need solutions that can perform up to these high standards. Higher cove base with larger radiuses and ensuring the finish of the base is smooth are all great ways to meet the needs of these environments.

Author: Dylan Snyder
Dylan is a Technical Services Manager in the West. His role involves working with customers to answer technical questions, troubleshoot issues and recommend the proper flooring system for their application.

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