Live Data Center Floor Replacement

Johnston Technologies recently completed a full replacement of the raised access floor at a large data center in Nashville. This job, however, came with a caveat. The caveat was that we needed to replace the floor tiles underneath the racks, while the equipment was live.  As data center personnel are aware, servers are expensive, time consuming, and sometimes impossible to shut down.

Live racks raised to replace the raised access floor underneath


The objective of this job was to not only replace all of the raised access floor underneath the rack, but to do so safely, and without losing any power or communication to the equipment in the racks above the floor tiles. The majority of the job would need to be done after hours since that is the time period in which the data center was least critical.


This job required weeks of planning and adjustment. While planning, Johnston Technologies had to consider the weight of each rack, how far apart the rows were, and any obstructions above or beneath the rack. The environment changed from rack to rack and to each different row in the room.

We had to account for the heaviest rack in the room and for the most expensive rack in the room, as well as, whether the racks were bayed together with adjacent racks.


To begin, we had to physically lift the rack higher by a few inches. To accomplish this, we used hydraulic lifts placed on the front and back side of the rack. We then placed steel joists underneath the racks to hold them in their elevated position while we replaced the floor and understructure underneath.

Rack raised over chilled water piping

To complicate matters, each rack sat on more than one floor tile. Therefore, the steel joists had to be short enough to fit between the rows but long enough to support the racks on tiles that would not be removed in that lift. These joists were tested prior to this job to ensure that there was no flex and could support far more weight than the heaviest rack. The answer was to telescope the joists and have them double their length after being placed under the rack.  This allowed us to remove and replace all tiles surrounding each rack.

Some obstructions above and below the racks we encountered were chilled water lines, wire volume, cable tray, fire alarms, electric receptacles, and more (some supported by the access floor). All obstructions had to be considered prior to each individual lift. 

Once the floor and understructure were rebuilt under the rows, we then removed the steel joists and carefully lowered the racks back down.


Johnston Technologies is proud to announce a successful replacement of the floor in its entirety. None of the equipment moved lost power or communication and the customer is very satisfied with the result.

This data center has been in use for decades and because of the work we completed can be used for decades more without fear of collapse or injury to staff. 

If you have any questions or would like for us to come out and look at your data center, feel free to give us a call at (615) 661-6261.

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