With the increase in investment in modular and offsite construction techniques, Managing Director at Fibo UK Scott Beattie looks at how waterproof wall panel systems can provide an answer to common issues associated with traditional tiling.
There are now a growing number of local authorities and housing associations investing in modern methods of construction, such as modular and offsite building processes. These techniques have a range of benefits including greater consistency and quality control, speed of construction and improved safety. It can also help social housing providers to utilise small sites where the available space does not allow a traditional build.
When considering the wall finish for bathrooms and kitchens, tiling is often the go-to method and may be assumed to be the only viable option. However, wall panel systems can provide an alternative that supports offsite methodology and helps reduce post-delivery issues.
High quality laminate wall panels manufactured with a strong plywood core are an ideal product for modular construction. These robust products provide a smooth and strong surface that can withstand both direct water spray and large temperature fluctuations. They are also quick to dry, easy to clean and warm to the touch — ideal for social housing or care home projects in particular.
Working with a trusted and reputable supplier will ensure the longevity of the finish. For example, Fibo panels have a 25-year guarantee that they will not delaminate, stain, fade or crack as a result of defects of its materials or manufacturing methods and, when installed in accordance with the instructions, are guaranteed fully waterproof. Some wall panels, in fact, are also certified with a Class 1 Fire Rating.
One of the key advantages of wall panels is the speed and simplicity of installation compared with tiling, making them easy to incorporate into the offsite build process. When compared to traditional tiling methods, wall panel installation is up to five times faster, saving on both time and money when it comes to construction. Wall panel systems allow large areas to be completed quickly with the standard 2,400 by 600mm panels covering the full wall height in most bathrooms and a variety of widths available to best suit the dimensions of the space.
Easy to install
The installation is also straightforward as there are no specialist skills required and the panels can be easily cut to size with standard carpentry tools. This means the build is not delayed by the lack of availability of specialist tradespeople. Also, the laminate wall system does not require the wall surface to be prepared to the same extent as with tiling. Providing the surface is clean, dry and flat, the panels can be glued directly on to the plasterboard. Alternatively, the panels can be screwed onto battens or studs. This also eliminates the majority of mess onsite associated with plastering, tiling, and in some instances, painting.
Furthermore, for modular projects, wall panels can help minimise post-delivery issues as the robust finish can easily withstand the move from factory to site. Cracked or dislodged tiles are a common issue that can be costly and time consuming to fix once the modules are placed.
The look of the bathroom or kitchen is an important consideration. Laminate panels are available in a wide variety of patterns and finishes, including classic marble, wood and polished stone effects, alongside soothing pastels and eye-catching blues, greens, greys and whites. The Fibo system also offers the option to choose panels with tile patterns routed into the surface to recreate the traditional, tiled look.
Heaton Street, Hockley
The advantages of a wall panel system over traditional tiling were clearly demonstrated on ModPods International’s delivery of a pioneering factory-built home for Birmingham Municipal Housing Trust (BMHT), the housebuilding arm of Birmingham City Council. BMHT had identified a small area of disused land in Hockley that was ideal for development and approached modular housing specialist ModPods International to develop a solution that would utilise the space.
Our waterproof wall panel system was selected as an alternative to ceramic tiles for both the bathroom and kitchen areas. In designing these areas, ModPods International was looking for a wall finish that would suit the design it was developing for the site and that could be integrated simply into the volumetric modular manufacturing process.
Andy Cornaby, Managing Director at ModPods International explains: “This approach both saved us time during the manufacturing process and prevented time being lost on post-delivery work required to fix any issues in those areas. We estimate that in total we can save about 2.5 hours per pod; and when scaled up this has the potential to save us thousands of pounds per year in improved productivity.”
The two-storey, two-bedroom pod was delivered, complete with a fully fitted bathroom and kitchen, last summer and was ready for occupation by the new tenants on the same day.