Flooring Substrates and Moisture
AN EPIDEMIC IN THE MAKING
-By Lew Migliore
When installing floor covering of any kind one of the most important areas of concern is the substrate; it must be clean, dry and free of any contaminants or foreign materials that will prevent the flooring material from being and staying installed. Moisture in the substrate is the greatest of these concerns. Every flooring dealer whether in the commercial or residential market must be aware of moisture. It is most important to be aware of moisture in the commercial market as this is where moisture in concrete exists. It is also a huge problem in hospitals and schools. In the past two weeks we’ve had four installation failures reported all concerning moisture in concrete – three in hospitals and one in a school. All of the installations were with homogenous sheet vinyl flooring with welded seams and in each case the flooring was lifting off the substrate. In one case the cause is linked to the make up of the concrete itself, in another the building was not properly acclimated prior to testing of the concrete and installation of the material. And in another the building was built over a marsh, the concrete extraordinarily thick, the spec not followed for testing and communication went awry. In total these four cases alone, not yet into the New Year by two weeks, are worth over $2 million dollars in liability. Lurking out there in the mine fields of flooring installation you can conservatively multiply that number by factors of 10 and that’s being lenient.
What does the type of flooring have to do with these failures? Welded sheet vinyl is not permeable therefore any moisture build-up will be trapped beneath it looking for a place to escape and pushing the material off the floor in the process. What does being installed in hospitals and schools have to do with these failures? This is where welded sheet vinyl flooring is used extensively. Why is moisture in the concrete such an issue in these types of facilities? Actually moisture is an issue in all concrete substrates whether it’s a basement or a high rise and unless this is realized and consciously dealt with it will continue to create massive installation failures costing the industry tens of millions of dollars annually. Dealing with these issues is the fastest growing part of our business. The fixes are not easy, they are very invasive and interrupting to business and they are unbelievably expensive. These are situations that you want the most knowledgeable, experienced and reputed individuals involved to help bring a resolution and solution.
One of the biggest problems is that everyone’s in a such a rush to complete a project as if taking the time to do it right means the end of the world. Often the project is finished on time but more money is spent afterwards fixing things that should have been done right the first time. Common sense isn’t common in these cases. You could have the same problem in the basement of a home installing a few hundred square feet of Luxury vinyl tile that commercial dealers have installing thousands of square feet of sheet vinyl.
The problem is going to get worse. With new flooring materials being introduced to the market with recycled content backing that is non permeable – it does not allow anything to pass through it – more failed installations will take place. These new products include carpet as well. You owe it to yourself to learn as much about this issue as you possibly can. Research it on the Internet or ask us for help. This is an area where you must be proactive as being reactive is far too expensive. If you have comments, or questions we’d love to hear from you. This is a very involved and hot topic covered only briefly here.
LGM and Associates
Expert Flooring Services
519 Oxford Street
Dalton, Georgia 30720