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Claims file: Not ready when they are

By Lew Migliore

The most problematic segment of the floor covering industry today is hard surface flooring. This is not because the material is defective but because people want to do things that defy its ability to perform.

I’ll use a recent example of a flooring dealer who called the other day, wanting to know how he could successfully install three types of hard surface flooring products on a concrete slab that was only 60 days old in a building with no operating HVAC system. His moisture test results all exceeded manufacturers and industry minimum standards.

First, the concrete has to be at least 120 days old to install anything on it. Second, you can’t successfully install any flooring material in a space that is not acclimatized; that is having an operating HVAC system. Third, you can’t take moisture tests in a space unless the HVAC system is and has been operating normally.

Nothing he can do up to this point is going to allow him a successful installation. The flooring material will not relax in the space and if he should proceed with conditions as they are at the wishes of the end user, failure is inevitable.

He asked if there was a sealer that could be applied to the floor to allow him to install. There isn’t and there is no magic pill that would allow installation of any flooring material under these conditions. Just because the end user or general contractor is ready to go ahead with an installation doesn’t mean the space or the substrate is ready when they are.

Patience is a not a virtue

This rushing of jobs is getting crazy and I fear it is going to get worse. We’re getting more calls with cases of failure due to floor covering material being installed before the space is ready. You can’t even paint a floor and expect success if the space and substrate aren’t compliant.

Why is it that so much hard surface is failing? Simply, more of it is being used. One thing you have to understand is that hard surface flooring is not permeable so when installed over a slab with moisture in it, regardless of how old the slab is, the risk of failure occurring is increased exponentially.

The risk is also true for wood, maybe greater. Wood will expand and contract with the gain and loss of moisture, so it goes through several changes at an installation site. Now imagine the site is not suitable to maintain the integrity of the wood or its installation. Furthermore, if the installation space HVAC system is not kept at levels conducive for the wood to maintain its integrity the wood can cup, dome, curl, lift, crack, check and come off the floor. Carpet stretched over a cushion, both being permeable, is less susceptible to substrate problems but will react to uncontrolled environmental conditions, as in buckles and wrinkles. If the carpet is glued to the substrate or has a non-permeable back, like on carpet tiles, it can fail. The product may come off the floor or curl at the edges.

You may say that you didn’t have these problems years ago. You’re right. The biggest problem is that no one wants to wait anymore so flooring materials are installed long before they should be in spaces they shouldn’t go in. There are more types of hard surface flooring materials. More of you say yes to installing flooring in less than ideal conditions because you want the business.

Heed this information and learn to say no when conditions aren’t right. If you don’t, the profit you thought you were going to make on that job will wind up sucking the life blood out of you.