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Installments: When you can’t wait for concrete to dry

April 29/May 6, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 24

By Jason Spangler

 

When installing finished flooring materials over concrete, general contractors on a tight construction schedule often face a catch-22 situation. They know a concrete slab needs to be sufficiently dry before installation, but they also realize the drying process can be a slow-moving affair.

Due to schedule pressures, finished floor surfaces are sometimes installed when concrete is too wet—often resulting in flooring failures, costly repairs and even legal action. Fortunately, several options are available to speed up the drying process.

Use the right mix. The more water you put in a concrete mix, the more must come out. If the mix has a high water-cement ratio, it produces more capillaries for moisture to exit quickly. But since more water must leave, the concrete takes longer to dry.

On the other hand, concrete with a low water-cement ratio has fewer capillaries to transport moisture to the surface. This not only delays drying time but also causes cracks to appear in the floor once the concrete dries. Desiccation agents or synthetic aggregate substitutes may help reduce the initial water content, but each comes with the risk for cracking or shrinking. Other admixtures such as silica fume work well, but their higher cost may outweigh the benefits.

Trowel with care. Avoid slick, hard-troweled finishes as they can actually seal the surface of the concrete and prevent moisture from escaping. Using a high blade angle, high blade speed or attempting to burnish too quickly can also have the same effect. Rushing the troweling will increase drying time.

Manage ambient conditions. Managing the ambient conditions surrounding the concrete slab can also helps speed up the drying process. These conditions include:

Air temperature—Warmer temperatures hold more moisture vapor than cold air and can speed up drying.

Airflow—Evaporated moisture often resettles on the surface of the slab. Using dehumidification equipment to extract moisture out of the air allows for a continuous drying cycle.

Relative humidity (RH)—When the air outside the slab has a low RH, more moisture can escape to speed up drying. When the RH outside is higher than the internal RH, the concrete may reabsorb moisture and slow down drying.

Dehumidification. Three dehumidification processes are available to accelerate drying. First,the condensation process uses cooling-based dehumidifiers to cool air and drop the dew point so moisture can be collected and drawn away. Second, the heating process raises the dew point of the surrounding air so it can absorb more moisture from the surface and send it through a collection system. Third, desiccant drying involves moving humid air across a desiccant material that binds and holds the moisture before venting it away.

Mitigation system. A last-ditch effort to speed up a slab’s readiness entails using a mitigation system. These types of products encapsulate the moisture in the slab, allowing amounts of moisture to escape that won’t negatively impact the installed flooring finish.

Concrete moisture testing. While these drying measures can help speed up the drying process, at some point you must measure the slab’s current moisture condition. The only accurate way to assess a slab’s overall moisture condition is to test below the surface of the slab.

 

Jason Spangler is the flooring division manager for Wagner Meters. He has more than 25 years’ experience in sales and sales management across a broad spectrum of industries.

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Installments: Vinyl sheet makes commercial comeback

April 1/8, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 22

By Jerry Lee

 

Commercial-grade vinyl sheet goods were once one of the most popular commercial flooring options on the market. These goods have been regarded for decades as functional, durable, decorative and relatively easy for contractors to install. These flooring products have been used in a wide variety of commercial applications in which the color, pattern and size could be customized to fit specific project needs.

However, over the past 10 years, commercial-grade vinyl sheet goods have lost some market share due to the introduction and rising popularity of vinyl composition tile (VCT), luxury vinyl tile (LVT) and luxury vinyl planks (LVP). These new flooring options offer a wider range of sizes, colors and patterns as well as ease of installation for the end consumer. While these products certainly have many of the same benefits as vinyl sheet goods, it is unclear if they possess the durability needed in high-traffic and demanding areas. For those applications, vinyl sheet goods are still the best choice for consumers.

There is little question surrounding the durability of commercial-grade vinyl sheet goods. These products have been used in the most demanding environments, including commercial kitchens in restaurants, schools, stadiums, elder care facilities, walk-in coolers and freezers, animal and pet care facilities and even in garages and oil change areas. And the number of applications in which vinyl sheet goods are used continues to grow as consumers look for flooring with improved durability and longevity but minimal maintenance. What some consumers fail to realize are the additional benefits of choosing commercial-grade vinyl sheet goods for their facility.

When considering a new commercial floor, many consumers today are unaware that there is a new standard of commercial-grade vinyl sheet goods. There are many manufacturers in the United States that have made a number of improvements to these products and thereby increased the benefits of installing them. Some of these added benefits include: comfort underfoot (eliminating the need for anti-fatigue mats), noise reduction and a new rolled cove base accessory product.

In addition to the above benefits, some manufacturers have made significant advancements in the installation process of vinyl sheets goods, leading to increased efficiency and decreased required installation time. One of these advancements is the use of a liquid welding system in place of traditional heat welding. This system can decrease installation time by up to 70% and reduce the opportunity for installer error that can often occur when using heat welds.

These new advancements, combined with the durability of commercial-grade vinyl sheet goods, are why these products are slowly gaining back part of the market that was lost to VCT, LVT and vinyl planks. As consumers become more aware of these improvements and their current commercial flooring begins to show wear due to demanding environments, commercial-grade vinyl sheet goods will emerge once again as the prominent choice in commercial flooring.

 

Jerry Lee is national sales manager at Oscoda Plastics: Protect-All and Proflex. In this position, he has developed various teams in regional sales, technical sales and business development, and created a national distribution model for Protect-All, which has received two patents under his name.

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Installments: Factors that motivate quality flooring installers

February 18/25, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 19

By Paul Stuart

 

One of the most important questions we can ask in our industry is what drives quality installers? What really makes them tick? Not what makes them quality or great installers—that’s easy. Great installation, on schedule, dependable, on time, highly trained to work with and has all the products and tools necessary for a beautiful project.

These are the symptoms of being a quality installer, but if we can find what motivates them to be this way then there might be some nuggets of information that will help the industry as a whole in recruiting and retaining new blood and how to properly treat the current guys.

When I first started installing, I was 19 and blown away that I could make so much money. That’s what got me started but not what kept me in this industry. I found love in the finished product, which transformed into passion and a high level of respect for the mechanics and installers that I had the pleasure to learn from. Eventually, I built a crew and started subcontracting for several commercial contractors around the city, and then I started my full-service flooring company in 2003.

I have spoken to my installers and reached out to many others across the nation with the hopes of starting a conversation around this topic. Based on 100 installers’ replies and input, these are the things, in order of importance, that motivate installers.

  1. Taking pride in what they do and in their ability.Pride is only achieved through the experience of doing a good job, which is a result of training. Make sure your installers have access to good training. This produces quality work, which results in proud floor layers.
  2. The appreciation and admiration of the finished product.As flooring installers, we love the feeling of completing the project and providing the finishing touch. This is something that is inherent in each individual. I am not sure it can be taught, per se, but training certainly helps.
  3. Appreciation, notoriety and praise.This is where I think many managers, salesmen and employers get it wrong. I certainly have not been perfect at this, either. Craftsmen in any field want others to appreciate their work. When a job or project done well is noticed and rewarded, it really makes the person performing the work feel great. All people want to be appreciated; it is a basic human need. There is a tendency to think that since they are being paid that appreciation is not needed. However, this could not be farther from the truth. Money often ranks behind appreciation as a primary driver. Fair compensation is a given—a good installer knows he is going to get paid, he knows he can make money. However, the appreciation, notoriety and praise are not a given and much less common than the money. Think of a time when someone showed you sincere appreciation. That feeling is one of the biggest drivers that quality installers work for.
  4. Fair pay.Of course, we all have to eat, and installers love steak. Obviously, everyone works to provide for themselves and their loved ones, but isn’t it interesting that this is not factor No. 1? Being paid well is important and nearly a guarantee for the high-quality installer, but the good installers know it is just a by-product of doing great work, being dependable and having a good attitude and work ethic.
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Installments: Cork tile—New standard, same old methods

January 21/28, 2019: Volume 34, Issue 17

By Christopher Capobianco

Some of my friends call me “the cork dork of New York” because of my passion for this flooring material that’s been around about 100 years. I’ve been involved with cork flooring for a long time. I’ve seen cork forests and factories in Europe, watched bottle stoppers get drilled out of tree bark and saw the waste become tile. I’ve worked on some cork tile projects for floors and walls. I am in regular conversation about cork with designers, installers and dealers. I always stress the importance of proper specification, installation and maintenance.

Cork flooring comes as traditional tile, which is glued down, and as engineered “click” planks. Let’s talk about tile.

I chaired the ASTM task group in 2013 for ASTM F3008, Standard Specification for Cork Floor Tile—the first ASTM standard for cork. This document helps differentiate product types and calls out manufacturing and performance standards, just like other ASTM standards. For example, Class I “homogeneous” is a very durable “through color” tile that can be sanded and refinished. Class II “heterogeneous” is made with veneer and may not be recommended for heavy traffic or may need different maintenance. Other parts of F3008 call out test methods (squareness, thickness, size, density, resistance to curling and flexibility) that can be used to analyze product quality. The performance requirements section specifies tests for durability such as resistance to rolling chairs, indentation, shrinkage, abrasion and chemicals.

The ASTM F3008 clears up many product questions, but what about installation? That’s still pretty old school. Start with a smooth, dry substrate, test concrete for moisture and acclimate the material. Like most flooring products, cork needs to be onsite a few days ahead of time at “in use” temperature and humidity. When it comes to adhesive, the traditional method—using water-based contact adhesive applied to the back of the tile and to the substrate using a paint roller and allowing it to completely dry—is the way to go. Tile is set in place and a rubber mallet is used to make contact between the two adhesive films. The tile can be coated the day before and, since this is an instant bond, the installer can work on top of the tile right away and the floor can be walked on immediately. Many cork tile failures I’ve seen were caused when trowel-applied adhesives were used instead of the contact method.

Although classified as resilient flooring, cork is more like wood with regard to handling and maintenance. Most tiles are prefinished with polyurethane and it’s not uncommon to add another coat or two of urethane to a new floor for extra protection. From that point, maintain the cork floor like a wood floor. Make sure furniture has proper glides and take care to protect the floor from damage. Use walk-off mats to keep dirt off the floor and window coverings to minimize fading in bright sunlight. Sweep regularly and damp mop as you would a wood floor.

As cork flooring continues to grow in popularity, flooring dealers and contractors who understand this product can become cork specialists. They’ll be the ones who get the orders while others are intimidated by this beautiful, sustainable material.

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Installments: An introduction to loose-lay LVT

October 29/November 5, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 10

By Graham Capobianco

 

If you’re anything like me, the concept of installing a resilient floor tile or plank without adhesive likely made you scoff the first time you heard it. However, when installed correctly, loose-lay LVT can be a problem solver for many projects, especially in commercial environments.

Loose-lay LVT has many of the same attributes of traditional glue-down or click-and-lock LVT. It has a durable wear layer that provides surface protection, a UV-cured finish that allows for ease of maintenance and a wide array of color and format options. What’s more, loose lay also has many other performance benefits that make it stand out when compared to traditional LVT.

Loose lay can be installed over existing floors. While there are some restrictions, this is easily the most useful attribute of loose-lay LVT. It’s especially useful for existing flooring materials that may be dangerous, difficult or costly to remove.

It can easily be removed and replaced. This makes loose-lay LVT ideal for temporary flooring installations, as removal and replacement will not damage the substrate or the flooring material.

Loose lay can be used over raised access floors. While there are also some restrictions here, loose-lay LVT can be installed directly over most raised access floors. Since loose lay can be removed and replaced whenever access is needed, it’s the ideal flooring for raised access floors.

It has a higher sound rating than traditional LVT. While traditional LVT typically doesn’t contribute to sound reduction, loose-lay LVT is a thicker product that offers improved sound testing results.

It can also butt up to thicker products. At approximately 5mm, most loose-lay LVT can butt up directly to a number of thicker products that would normally require a transition. Approximately 3⁄16-inch carpet, rubber and thin, hard surface products can usually be installed flush with the surface of loose-lay LVT with minimal preparation.

Though loose-lay LVT may be a problem solver, it is only as good as the substrate it’s installed over and the installation practices used to install it. With that being said, here are a few precautions that should be taken to ensure a successful installation.

Loose-lay LVT does require adhesive. Despite the name, loose-lay LVT typically does require adhesive in order to provide a tight installation. However, it requires significantly less adhesive than traditional LVT—typically, it only requires a band of adhesive around the perimeter of the installation. Loose-lay LVT installed with spray adhesive is also easier to remove and replace.

It requires a flat substrate. Just like glue-down or click-and-lock LVT products, loose lay  requires a flat substrate prior to installation. While thicker than traditional LVT, loose-lay LVT will still telegraph divots, low/high spots, wide substrate voids and other substrate imperfections—this could also cause edge-lifting or gapping.

It also requires a solid substrate. Because loose-lay LVT is generally not glued to the substrate, it’s important that the substrate be fully adhered, solid, sound and supportive. Softer substrates may cause edge-lifting or gapping over time.

When done correctly, loose-lay LVT installations combine unique flexibility with an ideal visual aesthetic that meets the needs of many commercial flooring projects.

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Installments: Tackling the issue of moisture mitigation

September 17/24, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 7

By Marlene Morin

It’s a given that a high content of moisture in a concrete slab will damage a floor. But where does the moisture come from? How can it be tested and measured? More importantly, how do you solve a moisture issue?

Following are a few answers to these critical questions.

Where does moisture come from? Concrete is made of five elements: cement, sand, aggregate, air and water. Water is used to help the chemical reaction between the different elements and support the workability and the placement of the concrete. The latter takes between four to six months to evaporate, while other sources of moisture can then influence the concrete that was poured. Moisture can come from below grade, earth or water table, to name a few.

Testing the moisture content. Each floor covering you intend to put down can handle a certain amount of moisture. This limitation is given by the manufacturer and varies from one floor to the other.

Understanding moisture limitation will help you avoid mold and bacteria, blistering, delamination, swelling and debonding.

How to measure moisture content. There are five ways recognized by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) to measure the moisture content. Two of the ways produce qualitative measurements and tell you if there is a moisture issue. The other three ways are quantitative and tell you the amount of moisture content.

The qualitative methods include the plastic sheet test (ASTM D4263) and concrete surface pH testing (ASTM F710). You can also use the mat bond test to identify if there is a moisture issue, but there is no ASTM standard for this.

The quantitative methods are the MVER test, also known as the calcium chloride test (ASTM F1869), the relative humidity test (ASTM F2170) and the electrical impedance test (ASTM F2659).

I recommend performing a quantitative test. You can easily compare the amount of moisture content to the moisture limitation of your floor and decide if you have to treat the substrate prior to application.

How to solve a moisture issue. Now that you have identified a moisture issue, you have to mitigate the moisture to avoid further problems.

There are different types of moisture mitigation solutions. The reactive penetrants products will react with the chemical inside the slab to reduce the porosity of the concrete and reduce moisture transfer. In order for the products to perform, it is important to know if there are enough possible chemical reactions within the concrete.

You can also use high-performance adhesives. However, you need to make sure the concrete is in great shape and check what “high performance” means. Be sure to read the moisture limitation.

For wood floors, you can use an all-in-one adhesive. The chemistry behind these adhesives allows you to glue down your wood while preventing the moisture in the slab to escape. This solution is a great alternative when you are gluing down engineered wood floors.

And last but not least, you can use epoxy solutions. These products offer a very high level of moisture protection and are usually easy to apply.

Marlene Morin is a marketing manager at Sika Corp. In this capacity, she oversees the marketing activity of the floor covering division of Sika USA. Morin is also a certified ICRI Concrete Slab Moisture Technician.

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Installments: Avoiding hardwood installation pitfalls

August 6/13, 2018: Volume 34, Issue 4

By Jeff Johnson

Wood and bamboo flooring are natural products and, as such, are probably the most moisture-sensitive flooring products we deal with in this industry. Moisture problems can literally destroy a perfect wood floor by causing it to cup, buckle and warp, leaving no other solution than to remove and replace it.

Following are some dos and don’ts that can help save time and money on wood floor installations.

Check for moisture vapor emissions or relative humidity (RH) of the concrete subfloor. Traditional adhesives that do not offer moisture control are often less expensive than multifunctional, moisture-controlling solutions. A simple moisture test could save the homeowner some money per square foot if the concrete turns out to be dry. Checking for moisture vapor transmission through a concrete slab using calcium chloride test kits or RH meters may take time but aren’t complicated to do.

Make sure the floor is smooth, flat and defect free. Wood flooring is a fairly rigid material that does not conform to the subfloor over which it is installed. If the substrate has low spots, the adhesive will not contact the back of the wood flooring properly, thereby creating a hollow spot or even a noisy, creaking surface when someone walks over it. If the substrate has high spots, the adhesive layer may be too thin or can seep through the tongue and groove, causing cleanup problems. These high and low spots are a problem no matter which type of adhesive is used. The only way to correct this is to inject glue under the hollow spot and, in some severe cases, actually remove part of the flooring to re-adhere it.

The remedy: Use a self-leveling underlayment or other subfloor-preparation product to ensure the installer is working on a flat surface. If the concrete slab is dry and shows no signs of moisture vapor issues, traditional self-levelers can be used. If the concrete is damp and a moisture-controlling adhesive is going to be used, then the subfloor prep requires the use of exterior-rated products. Traditional self-levelers can only be used in moisture conditions maxing out around 8lbs MVER (ASTM 1896) and 90% RH (ASTM 2170).

Make sure the flooring to be glued down is approved by the manufacturer. Wood flooring manufacturers have justifiable reasons why their flooring can either be nailed/stapled down or adhered to a subfloor. Always read the manufacturer’s recommendations that come with the flooring to ensure the planned installation is within the installation guidelines for any particular wood flooring.

Don’t forget to leave an expansion joint around the perimeter of the floor installation. Wood is a natural product and, therefore, is sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity. Forgetting to leave the required expansion joint around the perimeter of a wood floor installation can lead to very complicated problems. A general rule of thumb is to always leave a gap at the perimeter of the wood floor equal to the thickness of the floor itself.

Don’t leave adhesive residues on the surface of the prefinished wood flooring. When gluing wood flooring to the substrate, be sure to remove all adhesive smudges from the surface while the adhesive is still wet. Always keep a clean rag around to make sure finish on the floor remains pristine.

Jeff Johnson is the business manager for Mapei’s floor covering installation systems line. He has more than 25 years of experience in floor covering installation product development and marketing, and he is also a bench chemist.

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Installments: Proper subfloor prep requires the right tools

May 14/21, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 24

By David Stowell

When it comes to a challenging subfloor, you don’t just need the right team for the job; you also need the right materials and tools. Incorporating the right tools and equipment can make a monumental difference in job productivity, application ease and, ultimately, subfloor quality.

Choosing the best tools can be tricky. Luckily, there are some tried-and-true recommendations from flooring industry experts.

Stainless steel smoother. The Smoother’s 24-inch blade allows for clean, even coverage of material. This stainless-steel blade smooths underlayments for a seamless, flush finish. A sturdy laminated wood mounting can also be used to apply and spread material, ideally self-leveling material. An aluminum bracket can be easily attached to the Smoother using the included hardware. This bracket fits onto any standard broom handle making it an extremely practical tool.

Gauge rake. The 24-inch gauge rake allows for an even distribution of materials, such as self-levelers. This rake is designed to be durable yet lightweight. It’s the ideal instrument for long hours of spreading. The two adjustable steel T-Skates attach directly to the rake and can be moved according to the desired depth of underlayment. This easy-to-assemble rake includes all of the necessary hardware upon purchasing. Its aluminum bracket is also designed to fit a standard broom handle.

Standard spike roller. The spike roller is used to easily achieve even surfaces in the self-leveling underlayment process. This particular rolling method breaks the tension in the material, allowing the smoothing agents to self-level. Each spike pierces the surface underlayment with a depth of 1¼ inches.

Gunite shoes. Wearing a flexible spiked shoe allows you to work on gunite, epoxy and sealers with ease of movement. The shoe protects the fresh surface from footprints and gaps while forcing air bubbles out of the application. Thirteen firmly attached ¾-inch (overall length) steel spikes cover the bottom of the shoe. Two adjustable nylon straps hold the gunite shoe in place. These shoes are multipurpose as they can also be used for aerating lawns.

Foam tape. This is essentially the ultimate barrier to stop product overflow. It acts as a dam in transition areas such as doorways. When working with Portland self-leveling underlayments (SLUs) or synthetic gypsums, contact to vertical structures can be avoided by installing a foam tape. It is important to prevent direct contact with metallic constructions, such as heating pipes, which can lead to corrosion.

Self-leveling kit. This all-inclusive kit holds every necessary element for a self-leveling installation: measuring and mixing utensils, gunite spiked shoes, a gauge rake, a stainless steel smoother and a standard broom thread handle. A self-leveling kit is an excellent asset when first establishing your tool assembly.

As you can see, many of these tools are practical and yet essential to the overall project plan. Incorporating the right tools and materials can directly affect the extent of physical labor and project timeline. Many of these items are available for purchase through distributors, manufacturers and supply outlets. For the best advice and tool recommendation for specific substrate material, contact your local company rep. The more you know, the better equipped you’ll be for a seamless job well done.

David Stowell is the technical director at Schönox, HPS North America. He has 30 years of industry experience, beginning as an installer in 1988. Over the course of his career, he has worked for several manufacturers, including Pergo. For more information, contact Stowell via e-mail: dstowell@hpsubfloors.com.

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Installments: Vetting a certified floor covering inspector

By Paul Pleshek

 

“We are sending an inspector,” are not always the most comforting words an installer or retailer hears. Some are concerned the inspector has a bias for the manufacturer, others don’t have high regard for certain inspectors in their area. Whatever the concern, how can a materially invested party know the inspector will handle the claim in a fair, thorough and neutral way?

A commonly expressed concern about inspectors is whether they are intentionally biased for the party that is paying; however, that is the least likely cause of bias. It is the prejudice that comes from past experiences as an installer, retailer, manufacturer or cleaner that undermines an otherwise well-intentioned inspector. This is called confirmation or my-side bias. It is the tendency to search for, interpret and recall information in a way that confirms one’s hypotheses while giving less consideration to alternative possibilities. People display this bias when they gather or remember information selectively, or when they interpret it in a biased way. This type of bias affects every party involved in a claim, even the inspector.

A qualified inspector avoids bias thorough application of the scientific method employed to make observations, develop related questions, formulate a hypothesis, test the hypothesis and conclude or refine the hypothesis until it is consistent with most/all of available data. Proper application of the scientific method requires an in-depth understanding of the entire flooring industry including manufacturing, specification, installation, maintenance and environmental conditions. The qualified inspector has a network of connections in each of the inter-related industries and attends educational events from a wide variety of sources to avoid communal bias which comes from only interacting with people of the same opinion.

Second, when looking for a qualified inspector, it is important to know his experience, certification and continuing education. Inspector certification can come from private companies or industry associations like the IICRC, NWFA or CFI. Ultimately, the certification is simply proof of the minimal training and understanding required for the inspection process and report writing. For that reason, the most important factor in becoming a professional inspector is continuing education. The flooring industry changes constantly and keeping up with new developments is imperative. Most certifications require two credits per year, which translates to about 12-16 hours of classroom time. That amount of training is insufficient to stay abreast of industry advances and changing inspection techniques. In addition, the greater the number of inspector certifications means more education is required. Therefore, the highly qualified inspector attends training frequently throughout each year and varies that training from different associations, manufacturers and professional organizations.

Ultimately, personal interaction with the inspector is the best way to determine his qualifications, knowledge base, problem-solving abilities and possible bias. Get to know the inspectors in your area. Conduct an interview, debate issues and try to determine the inspector’s ability to reason and explain complicated concepts. See if he or she possesses an understanding of all segments of the flooring industry and how each can affect the other. Are they certified for substrates, maintenance, repair/installation or do they just have a few days’ training for several complicated floor coverings?

When investigating the qualifications of an inspector, commissioning parties should look for how long the inspector has been certified, what type of continuing education has been attended each year, how many hours of continuing education, what associations and committees the inspector participates in and whether the inspector is advancing their industry through education with written articles, convention presentations or as a certification instructor. Proper vetting of the inspector’s qualifications will give a materially invested party piece of mind knowing the inspection will offer resolution to a claim, not further complicate matters.

 

 

Paul Pleshek is the president of the National Academy of Floor Coverings Training (NAFCT) and the owner/president of Floor Claim Solutions Inc. Paul has been in the floor coverings industry since 1990 and was first certified by the IICRC as a senior carpet inspector in 1995.

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Installments: Moisture mitigation

November 20/27, 2017: Volume 32, Issue 12

By Elliot Gordon

 

Screen Shot 2017-11-27 at 1.38.09 PMContractors are under pressure to complete projects on ever-shorter schedules with ever-tighter budgets. The imperative to get the job done quickly and efficiently may overshadow the need to fully test concrete slabs to determine whether moisture remediation is required. However, if moisture testing is not conducted and moisture content sneaks up on you in the middle of a project, it can be extremely disruptive to schedules and it can be costly.

So, how do you overcome the tricky balance of scheduling around unforeseen moisture in a flooring project? Consider the following four best practices:

Test early and test again. Excess moisture in concrete slabs is a common issue. One of the biggest mistakes flooring contractors make is to not plan for the possibility of moisture at the time of sale. Get a moisture test done well in advance of installing flooring by a certified professional. Anywhere from a year to a month beforehand is ideal for conducting initial moisture testing to start planning for the “what ifs.” This early testing will give you the big picture of what you are dealing with; if moisture levels are low, you know you will not need to allocate resources for moisture mitigation and you can free them up for other projects. For higher levels, continue monitoring moisture levels closer to installation time to make a final decision on the best moisture mitigation strategy. If you leave the first moisture testing to days before installation, and there is a moisture issue, you will have to delay the project to submit change orders and adjust schedules.

By testing early you can plan for what products are needed and schedule the right pros on the job at the right time. If you find there’s a moisture problem, you can order the right materials and submit a change order.

Select products to speed up timeline. The traditional approach to moisture mitigation is the use of a two-part epoxy to seal the slab surface, providing a dry substrate for the floor. While effective, this method requires multiple coats and a long cure time, potentially delaying the project schedule.

Newer technologies can help expedite the timeline when mitigation is required, freeing up labor for the next project. These innovations also help flooring contractors feel more comfortable maximizing their number of projects while still meeting customers’ timelines.

A proven moisture mitigation strategy is to apply a moisture barrier prior to installing the finished flooring. (Moisture barriers are sheet membranes designed to be laid down above the concrete slab but underneath floor coverings.) When working on a renovation, moisture barriers can also be placed over intact existing flooring to avoid demolishing the old flooring. The latest sheet membranes for floor protection are designed to offer significant advantages over liquid epoxy. Contractors and building owners can enjoy reduced installation time and easy application, saving time and labor.

Training. It is vital to spend the time and money to make sure your team is educated properly. Remember: A well-trained team works efficiently and avoids costly mistakes that can cause time-consuming delays.

Communication. Another important element to keep a project running smoothly and on time is daily or at least weekly communication between the general contractor and the flooring contractor, even before the flooring installation begins. Be sure to document all communication as well.

 

Elliot Gordon is product marketing manager, flooring, at GCP Applied Technologies, where he leads all product development and marketing initiatives for GCP’s flooring underlayment, tapes and tools product lines.