How to build a false floor for use in an art gallery?
April 16, 2009 3:40 PM   Subscribe

I need help with building a false floor.

I am an artist and I am needing to build a false floor in the future in which to plant this work in what appears to be a concrete floor. Google-fu has failed me in only bringing up how to build a false floor in reference to cars to conceal stereo mods, so I am wondering if any MeFis have had any experience in building a false floor for art gallery use. Thanks in advance, and my apologies if anyone has asked this question before!
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Knowing nothing about what you're actually looking for, try this search in Google:

"false floor" art -cars -stereos -audio

It brings up all kinds of things that sound like they could possibly be helpful to you. I find Google as useful for what it can leave out as for what it includes.
posted by Gerard Sorme at 3:48 PM on April 16, 2009

Are you thinking of a low platform that appears to be cement?

If you can describe what you want it to look like I can probably suggest how to go about it.

Are you false flooring an entire room? Just bigger than the piece? How do you want it to help present the piece?
posted by snsranch at 5:01 PM on April 16, 2009

Response by poster: Yes, snsranch, I'd like it to be a low platform that looks like cement. I just had a review in front of my faculty at my university and since I was not allowed to just drill into the cement floor with a masonry bit, I had to just install the work on a wooden platform (and for portability's sake). I don't think I'd be doing the whole room just yet, but I would like to know how to do it for my next review in the fall.

In my link, you can see that there's a wooden platform underneath. Basically I just want to create the illusion that the pieces are just mounted directly into the floor, and the faculty suggested a false floor/wall/ceiling. Since my piece is floor-based, I figured that would be the best place to start.
posted by ThaBombShelterSmith at 6:52 PM on April 16, 2009

Best answer: OK, there are two major issues -- the structure, and the walking surface. The structure is what gives you your 6-9" of "rise" (it's hard to judge from the photos). The walking surface is the seamless "floor" that provides the illusion.

You can either build the structure, or you can rent it. Do you have any construction experience? If you go with the "build" route, you are basically just framing "sleepers" over a slab-on-grade -- sleepers being 2x framing that rest on the floor slab, rather than being supported at the perimeter. Shim the sleepers every 16" to 24" along the length of each framing member, both to level the tops of all the sleepers, as well as to eliminate opportunities for squeaking/shifting. Over the sleepers I would glue and nail plywood, 2 layers of 1/2" or 3/4" maybe. Since this will be supporting people, I would not go the "DIY framing" approach unless you have some carpentry experience, or friends who do.

If you choose to rent the structure, I would start by calling companies that rent staging and platforms for theaters -- they should have heavy-duty platforms/risers that you can push together to create a temporary raised floor surface.

To create the "concrete" walking surface, I would use some sort of leveling compound i you want an authentic look -- it will require that the floor is pretty much dead level, as it is liquid enough that is seeks its own level (hence the name). but if you get the right kind/color, it looks sort of like concrete, and definitely looks "permanent", i.e. like a floor. You could also get 12"x12" vinyl floor tiles (they have them with peel-and-stick backings, so no messy adhesives to apply) if you want something that is not a huge mess and a huge hassle to remove afterwards.

With any of these, you also will need to deal with the edge transition -- either make a step or series of steps, possibly a little handrail if you think older people may attend your show, or if your school or gallery has requirements in terms of providing handicap accessible shows.

If you have a better idea of what you want it to look like, or what the room/setting for the installation is, I can go into more detail on specifics if you want.

wall-mounting may be a whole lot easier...
posted by misterbrandt at 7:13 PM on April 16, 2009

It sounds like you want to camouflage your existing wood base into the surrounding cement floor. That's pretty easy using misterbrandt's suggestion with the leveling compound.

You'll still have edges though, that give away the illusion or preferred view.

Have you thought about using a carpet as a transition? I'm imagining it bigger than your piece, over the wood with the wires going through the fabric.
posted by snsranch at 7:57 PM on April 16, 2009

I don't think you need to have a frame underneath the plywood. All you need is the plywood to rest directly on the floor and then painted to look like a cement floor. The pieces can be seamed together to make it solid and in easily assembled. Keeping each unit about 4x4 feet will ensure it is not too cumbersome to install. See "floating dance floor" for a similarly constructed application.
posted by JJ86 at 8:19 PM on April 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

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