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Decking materials for mezzanine floors

October 4, 2010

What decking material should you use for your mezzanine floor and why?

Decking for mezzanine floors

Mezzanine flooring decking

The successful selection of a working surface for a mezzanine floor depends primarily upon having a thorough understanding of the proposed application, the available materials and any other external factors such as product sustainability.

What materials are available?

38mm particle board

The most widely used and versatile decking material for mezzanine flooring is 38mm particle board. The reason is that it is economical, robust, readily available, easily trimmed on site making it cost effective in many applications that are dry and not subject to large point loads. There are subtle differences between the 38mm particle board manufacturers products that make some better suited than others for certain applications.

All 38mm particle boards are bonded using resins. Different compositions of board give varying performance characteristics. Some manufacturers use only virgin chippings, whilst others rely on recycled timber chippings, consequently offering different degrees of sustainability and load capacity.

Another factor to consider when selecting 38mm particle boards is the design of the tongue and groove. There are a range of designs, some offset, others symmetrical. Symmetrical designs enable the board to be fitted either way up, whilst offset designs can only be laid with one face upwards. Tapered tongues make location easy whilst square tongues can be harder to fit. An arced tongue enables trimming around obstructions such as pipes to be undertaken neatly as the board can be rotated into place whereas tapered or square tongues require a fitting gap when laid against an obstruction.

Tongue design also affects boards ability to transfer load. Board failure or overloading manifests itself by breakage of the board at the tongue where the thinner sections around the tongue break whilst load is moved from one board to the next.

Moisture resistant 38mm particle board grades are available which are suited to areas that may suffer from occasional leaks in roofs or condensation or unheated warehouses.

Damp or wet areas will require at the very least sealing of the boards such as coating of the 38mm particle board with an epoxy paint system.

38mm particle board is available pretreated with finishes such as acrylic coating, epoxy coating, melamine coating, surface spread of flame protection, saving cost and time of applying finishes after floor installation. One should note that these finishes do not extend over the tongue and groove, and continuity of the coating will not be 100% at board edges, so whilst these finishes are suited to dry environments they will not protect or seal against fluids.

38mm particle board manufactured for the mezzanine floor industry is produced in a range of lengths to suit the construction centres of the joists – typically boards will be 600mm wide x 2400mm long to suit 600mm joist centres, however 2100mm boards are also readily available and some imperial equivalents can be obtained.


Plywood used to be a popular alternative to chipboard prior to 38mm mezzanine floor grades of chipboard being introduced in the 1980’s. Plywood gave better structural performance than the 18mm flooring grade chipboards then available, but was expensive by comparison. The widespread use of 38mm particle board still makes it more cost effective than using ply. In a limited amount of applications marine grade ply may offer a suitable level of moisture/water resistance cost effectively. It has the disadvantage of needing to be tongued and grooved in a separate process for use as flooring and then being in a non standard size leading to wasteage.

Steel plate

Steel plate has the advantage of being able to cope with high loads, both of distributed and localised nature, and, when suitably prepared and painted, moist or wet environments. It is expensive in itself and is heavy to move around making delivery and handling and installation expensive. Manufacture and installation is time consuming due to the need to bolt the steel down. Plain steel tends to be avoided as it becomes slippery if damp or wet, and chequerplate is more common. Galvanising makes for a durable surface for wet environments or external applications where timber is unsuited.

Aluminium plate

Aluminium is similar to steel plate but is suited to lighter loads, does not need to be painted, and can be easily washed down making it suitable for food applications more cost effectively than stainless steel. It is lighter and more easily worked than steel making it less expensive to install.

Fibreglass mesh and sheet

Fibreglass mesh and sheet are suitable for chemically corrosive environments, can incorporate slip resistant aggregates, are light weight and are extremely low maintenance.

Material selection

Many standard duty applications will be suited to standard P6 38mm particle board in 2400mm x 600mm panels. This is delivered in large packs of approx. 1.5 tonnes which will need to be loaded by forklift onto the mezzanine structure.

Where light occasional moisture may be present, moisture resistant (P5) board should be specified. Prefinished boards should be considered if decoration or surface spread of flame is necessary. If there are many obstructions are to be trimmed around, an arced tongue will enable a better finish to be achieved.

If the area is wet then consideration should be given to sealing moisture resistant boards or using alternative finishes.

If loadings are high or the site is external then steel is more suited, possibly galvanised.

If there is risk of food contamination then aluminium or stainless steel will minimise risk.

If there is a corrosive chemical present then GRP may be the way forward.

Get advice

This general information relates to the selection of decking materials for mezzanine flooring and is intended for guidance only. Each project needs to be assessed on its own merits.

It is always prudent to discuss your specific project with an approved inspector or building control officer prior to commencing work, a task with which your mezzanine floor contractor will be prepared to assist.

Mezzanine floor advice and support

If you would like advice regarding the specific requirements for your project, someone to liaise with building control on your behalf, or a quotation for your project call Llonsson Ltd on 01883 622068.

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