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Emergence of spray, roll-on adhesives taking hold

by Louis Iannaco

Until recently, when it came to laying down flooring, installers had to literally get down and dirty. Down went the floor, and down went the installer with it, leading to a litany of aches, bruises and, in later years, a retirement filled with chronic pain. “There has to be a better way,” was a phrase muttered by mechanics everywhere. Well, now there is a solution.

With the advent of spray and roll-on adhesives, installers have increasingly had the opportunity to get off their knees. In a growing number of applications, no longer do they have to bend or kneel down to apply the glue.

According to Tim Davis, CBC Flooring’s technical services manager, the benefits of spray adhesives are many. “It speeds up the installation process and is also much easier on the installer since he’s upright instead of bent over.”

Another benefit, Davis said, is reduced callbacks as a result of less traffic on the new installation before the adhesive has set, causing less adhesive displacement and fewer indentations. “The floor can be placed immediately into service after installation, and sheet flooring can be heat welded the same day.”

As an example, he noted CBC’s EcoSpray has better working qualities than trowel-applied adhesives. “It provides excellent resistance to lateral movement (shear strength) while providing sufficient bonding to keep the floor down (peel strength). The benefit of less peel strength is found when a repair is needed or when the floor is removed as there is less likelihood of pulling up floor patch.”

Fred Land, president and CEO of Spray-Lock Eco Adhesives, agreed the primary advantage of spray glues is the elimination of injury-related trowel applications that damage knees, backs and shoulders. “Installers can work over the top of a freshly installed floor immediately, never having callbacks because the floor is being accessed too soon.”

He also feels spray adhesives are generally superior. “Spray-Lock Eco Adhesives offer high moisture and pH tolerances.”

John Lio, marketing manager, DriTac, said although most installers continue to prefer the traditional method of trowel-applied adhesives, spray and roll-on glues do offer some benefits. “They offer an ergonomic advantage and an easier application. These glues are most often used in commercial jobs when increased productivity during high-volume installations is preferred.”

Floors installed using spray or roll-on glues, such as DriTac’s Eco-5200 Premium Green Pressure Sensitive adhesive, typically offer a transient bond that allows floors to be removed and repositioned. “This high-quality adhesive can be rolled on for fiberglass sheet vinyl and trowel or rolled-on for carpet tile,” Lio said.

As for any green concerns, Land noted, Spray-Lock Premium Eco Adhesives have 0.0 g/ml VOC content. “Spray-Lock water-based adhesives are non-flammable and use 80% less adhesive than trowel-applied adhesives.”

Dave Doherty, technical sales for XL Brands, believes the environmental attributes of spray adhesives are key. “XL has developed the most widely accepted water-based spray system in the industry—Stix Spray. We were able to take a 3½- to 4-gallon pail worth of adhesive and consolidate it into a 38-pound spray cylinder.”

Other environmental advantages of Stix Spray include cylinders made of steel, spray cans made of recyclable aluminum; pre-pressurized large and hand-held cylinders, negating the need for a power source on the jobsite, and they contain nitrogen—an environmentally safe propellant.

According to Greg Wood, AAT’s president, the green concerns regarding spray adhesives are all are positive. Spray applications involve increased efficiencies in shorter turnaround times and most often a reduced consumption of glue. “The coverage rates are greater versus troweled applications and there is less waste.

“With AAT’s unique low pressure system,” he added, “there is no fogging or overspray that dogged conventional sprayers. The increased efficiencies of our system provide shorter turnaround time, and the truly low-odor adhesives make installations in occupied areas less noticeable.”

While many are proponents of spray adhesives, others warn of the cons. “While the installer does not have to get down on his hands and knees for the application, it takes him away from direct contact with the substrate so he may not notice when the porosity of a substrate changes, an area was not properly prepared, a weak surface area or an area where a sealer exists,” said Michelle Swiniarski, QEP’s director of product marketing for adhesives.

Roller and spray applications require an installer must be knowledgeable in these methods, she noted. “The speed and application of the product must be tightly controlled, which can be difficult. Yet, many novice installers choose these methods because they believe them to be faster and easier, saving time and money. Many find they applied the product too rapidly without enough thickness, and the installation is bubbling and failing. There have also been reports of some costly clean-up or replacement of items that were damaged from overspray.”

She also believes these systems are limited to the type of flooring being installed. “Some carpet backings have so much texture they don’t allow an adequate amount of adhesive to be applied to get completely into the backing and ensure a strong bond. Spray and roller applications lend themselves to smooth-backed products such as carpet tile or vinyl.”

Art Palmer, Mapei’s technical services representative for flooring installation systems, is in agreement with other executives that spray adhesives have their advantages, but, he noted, some of the cons include any foreign matter left on the substrate may not be detected if the installer is not on his knees close to the surface. “It is also more difficult to ensure a uniform film of glue on the substrate. And, if there is a thin film of adhesive—as sometimes happens with sprays or rollers—a textured carpet could have a less aggressive bond strength than if the adhesive was troweled.”

Not all carpet or vinyl manufacturers will recommend a spray/roll-on application due to different backing types, he noted. “It is ultimately up to the flooring mill to recommend which adhesive type it feels should be used to install a particular product, and the installer should always check with the manufacturer when using a product for the first time.”

Mapei’s Jeff Johnson, product manager, floor covering installation systems, believes probably no more than 2% to 5% of the total market share for adhesives are spray or roller applied. “True, there are several systems out there in the market, but the heavy preference is still trowel applied.

“In my opinion,” he explained, “the biggest application for spray adhesive is with carpet tile, followed by VCT and then maybe some limited application for vinyl plank, all of which are heavy commercial, fast track construction practices. The use of these types of adhesives residentially is based on impulse purchases at home centers where the novelty of the installation method sway the uneducated customer to try the product.

“Factors including cost of spray adhesives, equipment/delivery issues and availability all seem to be a heavy price to pay just for the privilege of standing up when applying glue,” concluded Johnson. “You still have to be on your knees to lay the flooring in place anyway.”