MORE ON MOISTURE
-By Lew Migliore
The interest in this subject is overwhelming. Moisture issues affecting floor covering obviously involve floor covering dealers all over. The three flooring materials affected most often by moisture issues are sheet vinyl, wood and carpet. There is a common denominator between these three products that makes them vulnerable to the affects of moisture in substrates, beneath and above grade floor and in the environment. Let’s qualify this so no one goes off the deep end thinking none of this material can be installed without the threat of a problem. Sheet vinyl flooring with welded seams used most frequently in hospitals, schools and health care facilities is non-permeable, which means it doesn’t breathe. This means moisture vapor or pressure beneath it won’t pass through it, becomes trapped and lifts the material off the floor after destabilizing the adhesive that holds it in place. Oddly enough, if there is a VCT tile floor directly adjacent to the compromised sheet goods it very often is unaffected. Why? Because the tile has a “seam” or gap all the way around it that allows anything beneath it to volatize (evaporate). Certainly if the moisture vapor emission rate is high enough it will eventually overwhelm these tiles as well but by the very nature of them being “pieces” they have a better chance of survival. Sheet vinyl isn’t the only sheet goods susceptible to failure. Sheet linoleum and large vinyl or rubber tiles are equally at risk.
Carpet products, whether carpet tiles or wider width goods such as six foot products with non-permeable backings, can be as easily compromised as their vinyl flooring brethren because these backing don’t allow moisture vapor to pass through either. If there’s moisture in the concrete slab on which these products are installed there is strong likelihood of an installation failure. There’s going to be more carpet products in modular and six foot goods available in the market place because these are the products made most often with recycled content backings that don’t breathe. This is not to cast aspersions on these types of products but it is meant to warn you of impending doom if you don’t have the substrate tested to determine whether it requires remediation before installing the flooring product. So the common denominator in these two products is the non permeable nature of the material. Just for comparison “regular” tufted carpet with a woven synthetic backing will allow moisture vapor to pass through it. This means the carpet won’t be affected but the adhesive holding it in place eventually will be. If the carpet is stretched in you may never know moisture is present.
Wood floors are most susceptible to moisture because, once having been a tree they inherently absorb moisture and not only from the substrate but also from the air. Not controlling what’s above and beneath wood flooring will have you wishing you were marooned on an island where no one can find you. So the common denominator for wood floors is the fact that wood absorbs moisture.
Moisture to flooring is like a toxic gas is to humans, to use a stretched comparison. You can’t see it but if it’s there and if it is you’re going to be very sick from its effects. Always assume moisture is present and deal with it accordingly. You have to test for it or have someone trained and certified by the ICRI (International Concrete Repair Institute) conduct the testing. You may want to take advantage of this certification yourselves as a profit center for your business or if you’re large enough to keep yourselves out of trouble. Research as much as you can about moisture issues in substrates, beneath them or in them and above them but be careful of the misinformation which there is a lot of. This subject is more complex than you think and “experts” who aren’t are springing up all over. If you really want to know about the truth about this subject and the effects of moisture you can contact us at LGM.
Moisture issues are right now the bane of the industry. Too many people believe moisture is an excuse for predicting failed flooring installations and running from them. Others don’t heed the danger and proceed full speed ahead and then want to blame someone or something else for the failure and still others don’t know or foolishly don’t care about it. This is a dangerous and potentially costly attitude because this problem is real and can result in huge losses. Remember, if you have a flooring installation or material failure resulting from moisture the evidence to prove the cause will be stacked against you. These are not the kinds of problems you want to have. This issue is not going away anytime soon. As mentioned in our previous blog there is technology that will actually thwart the effects of moisture such as EnviroStix and Freelay. And remember, with flooring issues, the evidence never lies, people do but the flooring doesn’t. If you know how to interpret the evidence, and we do, it will point you to the cause every time. It’s hard to hide from the truth.
LGM and Associates
Technical Flooring Services
519 Oxford Street
Dalton, Georgia 30720