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Claims file: Using another adhesive

by Lew Migliore

Recently, we had a question from a reader that had never been asked before. “Do you know what the legal position is on manufacturers that will not warranty their product if an installer uses another adhesive?”

First, let’s explain why companies specify their own adhesives. Not many manufacturers produce their own adhesive. They are usually made by one of many very good adhesive manufacturers and are formulated for use with a particular product, for example a hard backed carpet tile, sheet vinyl, wood, etc. By selling the adhesive with the flooring product, manufacturers ensure the correct glue is being used and they tie their warranty to the use of that adhesive. Knowing the correct glue was used, it can at least be assured a quality product was supplied and applied.

Manufacturers have special identifiers in the adhesives to prove it is the specified product; you can’t escape the evidence. This does not mean the specified adhesive was applied correctly or that substrate conditions may have compromised the installation but it does guarantee the proper glue was used.

Historically manufacturers know—and so do you—that installers, if allowed to supply the adhesive themselves, are likely to buy one that is less expensive. Being less expensive compromises the quality of the adhesive but it usually guarantees the installer extra profit, to which he is more than entitled.

All adhesive manufacturers producing these specified products for the manufacturers also produce their own line of adhesives. Products in those lines are equal in quality to that developed for the manufacturer or better. If you use a product equal to or better in quality than what the manufacturer specifies, it can be argued in your defense. We have to take into consideration the nature of the complaint that raised the question in the first place. If there is no failure or compromise to the installation the question of which adhesive was used will never come up. If there is an installation issue or even a complaint on the product, the job may be called into question raising the flag of which adhesive was used. If it is proven the wrong adhesive was used, then the manufacturer has cause to deny the claim. If an equal or better glue was used—and that can be proven by certified laboratory ASTM testing, which we are asked to do often—then the argument for not using the manufacturer’s specified adhesive can be successfully argued.

Remember that the catalyst for the question and argument being raised would have been instigated by an installation concern. Was enough adhesive applied with the correct trowel? Was the adhesive allowed to dry too much or not enough? Was the substrate clean, dry and tested? Was traffic allowed on the flooring material too soon? Was the HVAC system operational? Were weather conditions favorable? Was the installer familiar or experienced working with the flooring material? Had he done this type of work before in the conditions that existed? All these questions and more will be asked and if the answer to any of them is no, you have a problem regardless of the adhesive used.

Remember what I’ve always said: The carpet or flooring material never lies. It will always tell you what’s wrong if you know how to interpret what it’s saying.

Even though it can be argued an adhesive used was equal to or better than what the manufacturer specified why would you want to put yourself in that position? Certainly it could cast doubt on you and it would be expensive to defend. It is easier and safer to just use what they specify and avoid any trouble.