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Mezzanine Construction – 9 Things You Should Know
A mezzanine is a good investment. A mezzanine floor is a very simple way to create additional, very inexpensive productive space. Building your mezzanine should be very simple in engineering terms, but there are differing opinions on the design. People with vested interests in wanting to pursue your project, often as part of other jobs they may be doing at the time, can easily convince you to take a course that is far below your expectations. This shouldn’t derail you, there are certain basics that if applied will ensure you don’t fall into the trap of going with popular opinion which is not the same as expert advice.
There are over 40 combinations and benefits that a mezzanine can bring to your business and they can be costly in the wrong hands causing delays and unnecessary frustration. A mezzanine floor should provide flexible, low-cost office space, and with these eight essentials, your mezzanine structure is more likely to maximize its contribution. My fastest payback time for a mezzanine floor project was less than 3 months. These are eight useful things to know to get fast results.
First thing to know: Why would I want a mezzanine? The mezzanine makes a great space for people, so showrooms, retail, restaurant, office, warehouse, manufacturing, workshop, exhibitions, museums, schools, libraries, gymnasiums and leisure are good examples to work with. They fit easily into a retro model and can be removed again with relative ease, making them suitable for landlords, tenants and private property as an obvious choice for developing temporary or permanent security premises. Landlords will often provide these facilities by incentivizing the cost of the lease.
Another thing to know: is there potential and how much will the mezzanine cost? Once you’re in your building, warehouse or factory unit or even a mall or out-of-town location, if no one has occupied it before you, then you might have some basic hospitality and some service and plenty of space. Here in the UK it is common place for architects and property developers to use steel frames as they can be more economical. In warehouses, the structure is often a series of frames called gantry frames to which cladding rails and building cladding are attached. If your property is not already partitioned for you then you will be staring at rafters and in a portal frame building you should have up to 6m at the eaves and a meter or more of extra height at the top in the middle. If you look up at the roof rafter on the inside side of the building, you’ll see a funny little triangular bracket between the rafters and the post – we call this a footing and it’s usually about 5m plus from the bottom.
Anything above 5m is fine, below 5m you will need professional help. If you are building this structure, make sure you have at least 6m to this point and then you can install a mezzanine floor if you ever want it to be completely unrestricted. There are many reasons not to build to this height, but the low-level production units won’t work as storage later on, so unless you really can afford to go higher, use the height, as you’ll add value through wider appeal than if it’s quiet. Anyway, all that said, why it’s free space is because you bought or rented the space so the head space is technically free in property terms. Mezzanine floors range in price from £90 to £250 per square metre, which is less than half the cost of a new build, so relatively cheap to develop. Not only that, unless it represents more than half to two-thirds of the total area, it can be exempt from municipal tax, especially if it is a structure that can be removed because it is considered a plant part. So read on…
The third thing to know: Do I need planning permission for a mezzanine? No, you don’t need planning consent, unless, for example, you’re changing the exterior of your building with windows, but you do need building regulations in England and Wales and an order in Scotland, and here’s what you need to know about them:
- You need proof that the bearing concrete floor structurally supports the imposed loads.
- To meet fire regulations, you need to have a marked approved route from the floor and out of the building.
- You must ensure that the floor can withstand fire for up to an hour if people are working on it.
- You need drawings of the proposed works.
- You need a block plan and a site plan.
- You must provide structural calculations showing that the steelwork and floors will support the design loads.
There are a few more things that come out of this, but these are the main ones. In England and Wales you can get on with building regulations, but be warned that if changes are ordered during this statutory process, it can lead to expensive re-works that you will be billed for. In Scotland you first need a warrant and any qualified civil engineer can sign a warrant. If you are in the design phase, you will need to provide footings for all support columns, which are lowered before the floor is poured. If you don’t have this facility, you’ll need to make sure the ground can support the weight without cracking your floor.
Fourth thing to know: How long will it take to build the mezzanine? Well, if there is no problem with receiving approval 2 to 4 weeks for small floors 8 to 12 weeks for floors up to the size of a football field and somewhere in between for the rest. Planning will take 6 weeks if you know what you’re doing, longer if you don’t, and building regulations 2 to 3 weeks if you use an agent, 6 weeks if you don’t. Add design and planning time for yourself and you get pricing etc. If you have a weak field, you may need to add 6 weeks for design and 6 weeks for earthwork, so you don’t start shutting down your support teams around deadlines. It takes 28 days for concrete to reach a specific hardness no matter what pressure you are under, unless you add expensive resins, which is not always recommended. In addition, sampling and design will be required to allow sufficient time for orderly progress and a job well done. Even with all this, it will still be an economical solution for you.
Fifth thing to know: who should I buy it from? There are specialists. You can install a concrete mezzanine at the design stage, they can be quieter, better for wet processes or plant rooms and cover larger spaces, but they usually cost a lot more. For heavy items or special design ranges the contractor may have a good solution. I would avoid contractors for all subsequent installations and go to a specialist instead. I would also encourage you to thoroughly research the merits of separating the mezzanine from the main shell, 9 times out of 10 it will serve you better. Buy them from a storage specialist or better yet a material handling engineer, then you will get help with all other aspects as well.
Sixth thing to know: Should I buy a used arm? Particleboard flooring rarely lifts well when removing the floor. There are at least three construction methods and several material specifications, all of which do different jobs. Once the materials are removed from the main structure, even experts have problems with them. Hot-rolled sections are designed for a range to withstand specific loads with specific properties. I have yet to meet anyone who has purchased a used floor that can take this information into account or who knows if their construction is 360, 250 or center construction, what the service or load is, or provide any structural calculations for the floor other than very rarely original calculations given case specific to that application, not the current application all after it’s apparently been sitting in someone’s backyard for six months.
If you move the floor, the manufacturer needs to re-approve the calculations and issue a verification certificate. You are unlikely to find a second floor owned by someone qualified to provide this support. I have found that people actually pay more for used flooring than for new. It costs about 25% of the cost of a new floor to be stripped and properly packed for dry storage, properly inspected and labeled. It costs the same to reinstall it. You’ll spend an additional 30% to 40% with a reputable salvage company that will rebuild the spec for your application including the correct structural information. Unless you are prepared to do the work yourself and know the location and history of the floor and restore it exactly the way it fell, avoid it. The only real value is scrap or architectural salvage for reuse by experts.
Seventh thing to know: how do I know that I am being sold a new mezzanine, not a used one? Yes, I’m afraid this is happening. All you can do is get references, ask the above questions and always get 3 quotes, remembering that if something is too good to be true, it probably is. If in doubt, you cannot hide the tracks and damaged materials and do not part with the money until you have all the correct technical information for the authorities.
Eighth thing you need to know: How do I know if my mezzanine design is correct? Often the floor will be made to suit the application, this can vary from packaging materials to nightclubs. Whatever it is, if you are assisted by a material handling engineer, then plans will be drawn up illustrating the activities with specific loading information that will be implemented in detail during the production phase of the project. Specifically, this will include:
- Floor covering finishes to adjacent structures without gaps
- Floor supports and hot-rolled profiles are nicely and properly arranged
- Turn ratings estimated for you for the app (you don’t want it to feel like a trampoline)
- Methods of feeding goods, services and facilities needed on or off or on and off the floor
- Full access statement and floor personal welfare provision
- The height of the finished floor and all technical details about the construction are taken care of for you
- Finishing details for doors, carpets or special surfaces coordinated with existing structures
There are many other things too, all of which fall into the category of attention to detail.
Ninth thing to know: What type of equipment should I consider to go with a mezzanine? The easiest answer is the list of equipment usually supplied with mezzanine applications:
- Steel, stainless steel and wooden and steel staircases
- Steel fire escapes
- Cat ladder
- Elevators for goods
- Wheelchair lifts
- Lifting tables
- Storage systems including racks
- Gates for loading pallets
- Mobile pallet trucks with electric lifts (cheaper than lifts)
- Grab the handrails
- The door
- Fire-resistant materials
Some more storage ideas These 9 guides will help you decide how you want to proceed with your new mezzanine floor project, but there are alternative ways to use headroom, such as raised platforms to store bulkier items that can’t be conveniently stored on shelves or pallet racks. Two-tier systems are also alternatives, you can use pallet racks or shelving sections to create storage space and floors in the upper part of your building.
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